(Image credit: Shigeru Fujino)
Unless you’re a devout fingerstyle player, chances are you have a favorite type of guitar pick, be it a particular gauge or specific shape. Having said that – and despite the subtle differences between each pick on the market – conventional plectrums are usually made out of the same material.
Yes, there are some anomalies on the market – some are made from steel, wood and bone – but the majority of guitar picks are made from some form of plastic.
However, researchers from Kyushu University in Japan have now meticulously engineered an entirely new type of guitar pick, one that is apparently capable of harnessing harmonics that are unobtainable for regular plastic picks – and it’s made from glass.
Silica glass, to be specific – the same type of material that was used to construct the jewel in Tutankhamun’s scarab brooch.
Whether Tutankhamun’s scarab brooch could be used to conjure up otherworldly sounds from the fretboard of a six-string is another question altogether, but Kyushu University’s own glass pick is apparently more than capable of doing so.
Developed by Professor Shigeru Fujino of the University’s Global Innovation Center, the glass pick was created to celebrate 2022, which was deemed by the United Nations to be the International Year of Glass.
But the technology for producing a silica glass pick dates back to 2018, when Fujino’s lab pioneered a way to process silica glass into various shapes and contours, which was reportedly “untenable by conventional methods”.
To demonstrate the capabilities of this technology, a one-of-a-kind guitar pick was made, which made its live debut at the United Nations International Year of Glass closing ceremony in the hands of jazz guitarists Joshua Breakstone and Satoshi Inoue.
Of the pick’s performance, Fujino commented, “The molecular structure of silica glass makes it more durable, has better light transmission, and is highly heat and chemical resistant.
“Silica glass has higher mechanical strength and density than celluloid, the common material used in guitar picks,” he continued. “Its unique properties produce gorgeous and glittering high-frequency sounds that cannot be obtained with conventional guitar picks.”
Unfortunately, footage from the closing ceremony can’t be found online, but there is a brief demo video plus a SoundCloud account that features music composed using the glass pick.
As a feat of engineering, it’s undeniably a pretty impressive creation, though as for whether it’s really redesigned the sonic possibilities of a guitar pick, we’re admittedly skeptical. The demos sound great, and the pick definitely has a certain – for want of a better – “glass-like” edge to it, though we can’t help but think similar tones could be achieved with a regular ol’ Dunlop Tortex Standard.
Plus, we’d be petrified of getting a shard of glass stuck in our hand if we got a tad carried away while engaged in some hefty riffage, even if it is said to be robust enough to withstand such playing.
Having said that, it might not be a bad piece of kit to have in the arsenal and, according to multiple reports, that might be possible in the near future – Fujino is now in talks with Ikeda Picks and Kohoku Kogyo regarding making the glass guitar pick commercially available to all guitarists.
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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.