Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Ben and Jake's stuff

I am about to sound like a fanboy, so for full disclosure: Ben and I are friends since I started learning from him. Other than that, I have no affiliation and do not benefit in any way from Ben’s store successes. With that out of the way…

I am browsing through Ben’s store and it was STUNNING how many things Ben stocks that are staple items for me. There are a bazillion picks in the world, most of which do me no good. There was only ONE pick at the store that I know I don’t like (Golden Gate flat pick… just not the tone I look for). But more to the point… EVERY pick that I have used normally for many years are available (BC, Ultex, Ultex Primetone and Wegen). I know of no other stores that stock all those… I suspect they exist, but I haven’t been there. Many oddballs that I found useful for a purpose over the years are represented (Fred Kelly speed pick, felt pick). Not much fluff there either. It is like the pick selection is a “Best of” album. If I decided to start playing banjo, I have high confidence that I could avoid a bunch of trying different picks and just ask Jake to send me what I need. That is a huge benefit.

On other items, it’s all good stuff. For strings, you have the Honda Accords for guitar (EJ17) and mandolin (EJ74). There are a ton of strings to do different things, but those are the strings I recommend to folks if they are looking for a great, all-purpose string (along with EJ16 for more strumming oriented folks).

Accessories, same deal… all my favorites are there. Instruments… check, I wish Ben had the store years ago when I was in accumulate mode or even when i was doing group lessons.

I haven’t been in the market for much so I hadn’t spent much time in the store as it ramped up, but now that I have, I gotta say that it is really impressive. You can’t stock everything in the world, but the “best of” mentality makes it seem like a no-brainer place to get stuff. I look forward to trying some things from the store I haven’t yet experienced (monel mando strings, some different capos, etc.). I’ll be steering folks to the store for instrument purchases as well. I haven’t played Jake’s setups, but I have heard nothing but great reviews (which is a huge factor in how much new players will spend with their instruments).

One suggestion for an item to stock: Cut capos (my personal preference on this is Kyser). Seems like a bunch of worship folks around here, and cut capos are a perfect fit for many of the worship songs in A or E. Cut capos are tough to find, and folks often ask me where to get them.

Ben and Jake: well done!


Wow, man…thanks a lot! You have described what we have been going for. Let me give a little background into the store. I don’t have time to give the whole story, but here’s a short take.

I had a dream to start the store years ago but didn’t have the retail/product knowledge or capital to pull it off. I officially met Jake just after JDMC had closed its doors, and lots of other changes were happening in both our lives. We hit it off as friends, and I just threw the idea out. If I found the money to invest in inventory, would Jake come to work for me and help build the store like he knows it should be built? He decided to take the plunge with me.

Since then, a little over a year ago, we’ve had one big overarching mission–make the General Store the best possible experience for the picker, regardless of how experienced the picker is. That means we do not carry fluff and we only sell things that we would want to play. As far as inventory growth goes, I made the decision to pour all profits right back into inventory, with Jake guiding me greatly on what he thinks will meet pickers’ needs. He hasn’t been wrong yet.

We also depend on you, our customers, to help shape the inventory. If there is something you want, just tell us and it will be in the next expansion.

We have had nothing but great feedback, which is good, because we do nothing but try our hardest to please. When we grow, it will be because the market demands that we grow, and we have extremely high standards for what and who we spend our money on. I think there are more good things to come.

Making a living in this business is hard. It’s gotten much harder in the last few years with the growth of places like Amazon and But this is what we depend on–we depend on people wanting more than just a product. They want an experience, and they want to be able to trust the people selling it to them. Y’all wouldn’t believe how picky we are with the inventory we receive. Our vendors have learned that they can’t just send anything to the General Store…it has to be their best stock. Therefore, my customers get the best stock produced by these makers, then a free and thorough setup done by Jake, with a guarantee of satisfaction from me.

Thank you so much for your support!


Great write up Mike! I couldn’t agree more.

Am I to understand that you haven’t boarded the Bluechip Pick train yet?


im gonna ad my expericence here, feel free to move it. if it belongs somewhere else.
regarding bluechip picks.
i too started but dunlop finger picks, they did work great, tho my fingers turned somewhat blue.
i thought like everybody else that they was on to tight. so i loosent it over and over until it almost fell off, still was blue efter i played an hour. since the worked i used them for 8 months or so.
then i thought well maybe its the material , im allergic too. so i bought dunlop brass version. not much difference.
so i thought ok lets spend some more and see, i bought nationals picks that so many like. to get them here was 30-35$ but i only tried them for 10 min. for the love of it i could not get any tone or volume out of those picks.
i tried to lay it straight too the string. dont ask me why it dident work for me.
after that i took the leap and bought bluechip finger picks after i saw ben used them. which is really alot of money. no dealers here.
but man best investment i have ever done. can play for hours great tone. and my blue fingers are gone.
just wanted to add my story to beginners that have that money. i know they cost a fortune.

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Great post Mike… except for the Honda Accord thing…UGGHH! How about a Ford or a Mopar? Just kidding… maybe…I know what you meant. I do love D’Addario strings though.

I feel the reason the store is so good and getting better is because you have real players running it that really care about what we want to purchase. That goes a long way with buyers, not to mention their knowledge of what pickers are in the market for.

As far as picks… Elderly doesn’t even sell Blue Chip, nor for capos do they sell Elliott. BTW, what is a cut capo?

Mike has Blue Chips, I know that for a fact from our pick comparison contest years ago. That was fun. We all need to do some more of that. I believe his favorite at the time was a TP-50.

I didn’t know Blue Chip made finger picks KB1.

Ben and Jake, I hope all this goes better than you ever dreamed… Now I need to buy something and help support this!


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It’s a capo that only covers a few of the strings. Useful for various strumming voicings.

I believe he’s talking about the Sammy Shelor fingerpicks that are sold through the Bluechip site.

FYI, many times the reason why places don’t carry Bluechip or Elliott is because the margin is so low for dealers. If someone buys a Bluechip from me alone, I make essentially no money after paying shipping. But, I carry them because I think they’re great, and I know you want them. And, the guys at Bluechip are fine family folks and I like to see folks like that do well. The same is abundantly true for Elliott.

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First and foremost, how are you feeling? I hope you are healing well and feeling even better than your ole self!

Ben, I want to thank you for the Gold Picker selection during my B-Day week! Very special.

I chose to reply to this thread because of the excellent support from Jake and the store. I did select a Eastman MD315 for my special B-Day present. @Jake was exceltional and very supportive and it sounds like the Store is really taking off like a ROCKET!

CONGRATS TO YOU BOTH! I am equally happy to support you guys with my purchase!

I expect my Mandolin to arrive TOMORROW!

God Bless and thanks again!


I am a BC guy, and those are in many of my instruments. I like both the rounded tip TPR (40 or 50… I can’t recall which I have) and the CT-55. BC are great in tone and feel, and absolutely unmatched in durability. I have never had to shape an edge on one of them. Like Ben said, they seem to be good folks as well.

Sounds like they are worth every penny.

Sorry bud… how about “the Charmin of instrument strings”?

I thought about going with a peanut butter brand, but I didn’t want to start a war :smiley:

Like Ben said… to add a bit more info: It is a capo that is used for both getting a key and for an alternate tuning. In normal tuning and position, it makes your guitar basically like a DADGAD tuning raised a full step. Sounds complicated, but makes for some lush voicings and frees up fingers to do many things.


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Thanks Mike and Ben for answering my questions, really appreciate it!

Yes they are! My wife and I were in Tennessee (one of the many times) a couple years ago visiting her parents. Before we left I had called Mr. Goings (I think that’s the way they spell their last name). I told him we would be in their state and would like to try out some Blue Chips. He said come on over, so we did and they made us feel like family… you know… the kind of family that like each other. We probably stayed for three hours or more (I couldn’t put down his Rick Hayes Dreadnought he let me play, what a guitar)!

Anyway he brought out probably 25 or 30 different picks and laid them out on the coffe table for me to try. I picked out one I liked and told him I’d like to order one just like this and have a Bible verse inscribed on the back. Now remember, I thought I was ordering one. I can’t remember which one, the son or the father ( I only remember Alan’s name), but he said he would be back. So I kept on playing the Haye’s while my wife talked with Mrs Goings. Next thing you know, he walks in with my pick!.. With the inscription!

I was shocked and thought, now that’s service! They made a life long customer that day and we made some new friends. They took time out of their busy day for us and made us feel important. Also, they don’t make just picks. That’s only part of their business. I can’t recall what else it is they manufacture. So, I thought I’d share this, so people would know the kind of folks that our Blue Chips come from.

Much better! Charmin is great! She sings bluegrass… right?

Creamy Jif, of course!

Congrats Will, enjoy it!


Ben and Jake will definitely get all of my business. They only carry the good stuff, and I don’t have to go out and shop for it. It’s real nice to see those strings arrive at my house!


I was doing some more shopping today. I hadn’t seen the bundles before… those are pretty sweet. The “gift” bundles with the Lakota straps are very nice. Perhaps the bundles could be featured a little more prominently. I’d certainly want Santa to be aware of it.


Creamy Jif… mmmmmm

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All this talk about the Blue Chip picks. OK, I’m just gonna ask… What’s so great about the them? I’m intrigued. Tell me why I should spend $40 on a pick.

Hey @Maggie, since Ben was nice enough to send me a Bluechip CT55 in the Buffalo Gals Contest awhile back, I do have some experience with my Bluechip. I had very small horizons and didn’t know that picks got any better than Dunlop Primetones. Since, I have learned the error of my ways, and yes, the Bluechip is shined to a mirror sheen, plays a smooth as butter, and sounds so smooth. There is absolutey no noise of friction between the pick and the string. Whether I would spend $40 for another if I would chance to loose this one, I really can’t say, because I haven’t lost it yet. :thinking::grinning:

I keep hearing everyone speak highly of the Bluechips, but I never really knew why or how they’re so great, so thanks Michael.

It boils down to this… if you want to do so, go for it. If not, it isn’t the end of the world. In my opinion, it is about the best thing out there that is not illegal (and in terms of durability, they are the absolute best I have seen). With that said, it is not going to allow you to play 10 times better than pick X. I have 4 or 5 blueChips and I don’t regret buying them.


I have several different flatpicks I use, though I love the Bluechips. To me, the thumbpick for banjo playing is where I see the most value. When I tried it for the first time, I knew it was the best–both speed and tone was markedly improved.


Because it’s awesome! And it makes you feel more like a professional musician! I wouldn’t know: the picks I use came free with a capo (well some of them did :roll_eyes: ) :joy:


They are definitely smooth, but it took me a while to adjust to the Chris Thille flatpick. It’s just not shaped the way my old picks were. After a while I adjusted to it and love it now. If I bought another one I would probably look for one a little more pointy.