As the world moves more toward eco-friendly materials, the average person more commonly wants to know what household items are made of. This kind of thing has even affected the guitar-playing world.
For instance, some eco-minded guitarists ask what are the environmental impact of their guitar picks and strings (more on that in my article on string toxicity), and whether they’re vegan or not. This probably wasn’t the case even 10 or 15 years ago, but what can I say, times have changed.
Most guitar picks are vegan because they’re typically constructed from a single type of acetal plastic called Delrin or nylon. That said, there are some guitar picks that manufacturers have made out of materials such as shell, bone, leather, tortoiseshell, and wool although these are less common.
Vegan means that it is not made of animal by-products. Unfortunately, it’s not always advertised as vegan, so you have to look at the ingredients and where they source those ingredients too! While I’m not a vegan myself, I know this kind of thing takes work. So let’s try and shine a light on it.
What Does Being a Vegan Mean for Guitar Picks?
Veganism has become more than a trend at this point. It has been gaining steam with tons of vegan and plant-based options popping up everywhere, including in the world of musicians.
Some people even ask about recyclable guitar strings which I wrote more about in this article here. Essentially, a vegan is someone who doesn’t consume or use animal products in their everyday life.
As you can imagine, this is a difficult task because the entire world runs on oil which – according to Wikipedia – is just large amounts of dead organic material subjected to heat and pressure.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re responsible for killing an animal or some other life form whenever you use products that have used oil in the production process, including guitar picks.
Guitar Picks Are Usually Vegan – But Not Always
Most guitar picks are, in fact, vegan because they’re made out of synthetic materials – usually oil-based. However, it depends on how you define vegan and how far you intend to break down the manufacturing process.
As I said earlier, you could probably make the case that oil is not vegan because it’s a collection of dead organic material, some of it probably including fossilized animal carcasses. On the other hand, a guitar pick is rarely made directly out of an animal.
Some do make the case that Delrin is not vegan because animal fat is used somewhere along the way in the manufacturing process. Animal fat is used so the plastic doesn’t stick to the machines during its creation.
Additionally, there was a time when people would use wool from sheep to make a felt pick. Manufacturers, at one point, formerly used materials such as shell and bone, but governments have outlawed these – at least in the Western world.
How to Make Sure I’m Using A Vegan Guitar Pick?
There are options for vegan guitarists who want to be eco-friendly and as vegan as humanly possible. What’s the best choice for a vegan guitarist? Nylon picks are an excellent option because they’re entirely synthetic and don’t use animal products.
Manufacturers usually make them in many shapes and sizes that really bring out nice-sounding tones of your guitar, much like Delrin picks. But some would say they have a softer tone because Nylon is a softer material.
Dunlop has a great selection of picks, and even though they got away from the tortoiseshell, they still manufacture their new Tortex plastic with Derlin which some claim is non-vegan.
I find the Tortex pick kind of cool as well because I think it’s interesting how Dunlop is carried on in the tradition of at least acting like their picks are still made out of turtle shells.
Due to my background and upbringing, I don’t find animal products that offensive to be honest with you. They’re a big part of people’s lives all around the world and have been for thousands of years, but I digress.
What Guitar Picks Are Vegan?
Considering the guitar’s popularity, there are so many different products out there for us. Like I said earlier, however, many animal products have been totally banned by Western governments, but some still persist.
Additionally, there are some guitar pick materials that are completely vegan, while others sit on the middle-line kind of like the aforementioned Delrin picks. Let’s take a look at some of the types out there.
Types of Guitar Picks – Vegan and Non-Vegan
Most guitarists rarely choose a guitar pick based on what it’s made of; it’s more based on how fast the pick will allow them to play and how it feels in their hand. Price could be a determining factor as well although they’re usually fairly inexpensive.
According to multiple sources, modern guitar picks are typically made of synthetic materials like celluloid, acrylic, Delrin, and nylon. Very rarely do we see picks that are made from bone, shell, leather, or wool.
Non – Vegan Materials Used for Guitar Picks
Non – Vegan materials that are sourced from animals include the following:
Note: Some are highly illegal to source now because they were not sustainable resources.
Made from the bones of animals.
Made from the marine mollusk Abalone shell. Many guitar inlays are also made with this highly reflective, colorful shell.
Made from animal horn
Made from wool and other animal fur resources
Made from sheep and goats
Made from a Liam hide
Made from tortoise shells, which are highly banned.
Made from silk or wool on animals
Natural Vegan Materials Used For Guitar Picks
Made from trees
A crystalline rock formation
Sourced from copper material
Has properties of copper and zinc
Made from Silver.
Sourced from Nickel.
Made from sand and heat
From Agate crystal formations
From the Tagua plant
Mixed Vegan & Non-Vegan Materials Used for Guitar Picks
Plastic – Made from artificially grown, organic material – Vegan
Made from chemicals like nitrocellulose and camphor – Vegan
Synthetic material – Vegan
An engineering plastic made with Derlin – Mixed Vegan
A thermoplastic polymer – Vegan
Synthetic fabric made from a polymer called acrylonitrile – Vegan
Very thin strands of fiber – Vegan
Made from Clay – Vegan
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Important Things To Mention About Guitar Picks
1) Most Guitars Contain Animal Products and Are Not Considered Vegan
If you really want to go vegan, you’ll have to be aware that guitars are made with animal parts in some cases. The nut, for example, is sometimes made with bone although TUSQ is becoming more and more popular all of the time.
Whenever I go into guitar or music shops, I find they most commonly have TUSQ products for sale and not bone. Additionally, there was a time when inlays were made from abalone and pearls, but that would be far too expensive now for most consumers.