The Maker’s Dozen – Corey Bell of Dragon’s Heart
Literally the reason that Heavy Repping even exists, I’ve been wanting to interview Corey Bell since I started this crazy thing. Dragon’s Hearts were the very first picks I reviewed on Instagram, so if you want to blame anyone for the last 2-and-a-bit years of plectrology, it’s this guy. Read on!
HR – Thanks for talking to Heavy Repping! For those who haven’t met you, can you introduce yourself?
CB -I am Corey W. Bell, creator, owner, and operator of Dragon’s Heart Guitar Picks.
HR – What was your background prior to the foundation of Dragon’s Heart Picks?
CB -Before I started my business I spent about 13 years on active duty with the United States Marine Corps. For the last three years of service, I was serving as an Aviation Electronics Maintenance Work Center Supervisor and Black Belt Martial Arts Instructor for the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
HR – How did you come up with the distinctive shape that you’ve become known for?
CB -The material I use is quite expensive and so are molds for manufacturing parts. When I decided to make my hobby into a business I only had enough funds for one mold and one run of the material. I took my three best, most popular playing edges and incorporated them into one design. This approach yielded an asymmetrical heart shape that I felt was the single best plectrum I could possible make.
HR – What was the initial feedback like when you launched?
CB -Mixed, but with pretty clear delineation. The high price tag and unconventional design drew a lot of criticism but if I could get someone to sit down a play with one they would usually buy one. In the earlier days of this venture when I was attending every guitar trade show I could, I kept a ticker log of those that tried and those bought. 84 of the first 100 that played with one, paid to take one home.
HR – How did you decide on the material you’ve ended up using?
CB – I decided on polyamide-imide (PAI) because it is the highest grade thermoplastic that can be injection molded. It has a higher tensile strength and erosion resistance than some metals.
HR – What materials did you try out before deciding on it?
CB -Yes. (the comical answer). As many as I could get my hands on but I focused on materials that were not currently being used to create guitar picks.
HR – What were the picks that inspired you growing up? Can you remember what your very first plectrum was?
CB – Confetti colored Fender Medium was my first pick. I tried some others early on but I pretty much stuck with those until shortly before I started making my own.
HR – Did you have a specific style or tonality in mind when you were developing the Heart? What styles do you lean towards when you’re playing?
CB – I personally range from blues to metal, but my aim in developing this pick was the broadest possible range I could produce. Hence the three very different playing edges and four material variations.
HR – What made you decide to infuse the picks with different materials – carbon/glass etc? Was this by design or an experiment that you followed to its natural conclusion?
CB – The various PAI mixtures (usually referred to as “grades”) were already in use for manufacturing parts in other industries when I started experimenting with the material. Each one had certain tonal and mechanical differences which lent advantages to various playing styles. There wasn’t really a clear best choice to fit all styles so initially I decided to use the three grades I thought were best and later added a fourth after some further testing and feedback.
HR – What was it that led you to develop the Wyvern Series? Have you got any plans to make the more elongated shape in your harder materials?
CB – A lot of players like thin picks. I developed the Wyvern series so my design would be available to a broader range of player preferences. I included my Dragon’s Scale design in the Wyvern Series because it was a very low cost addition and at the time I thought I was close to being able to launch it in the harder materials as well. I do still plan to produce a thicker version of that shape in the PAI, but mold engineering issues and life cycles of other equipment have prevented me from being able to fully fund that project.
HR – How has your experience been of the pick community? What do you think of the designs and new makers emerging at the moment?
CB – Good. All of the other pick makers and aficionados I have met have been very welcoming and friendly. I have to admit that I have not been paying a lot of attention to new designs for the last couple of years. In the first few years of this venture I was all guitar and guitar picks all the time. Seven days a week it was mostly all did, talked about, read, listened to, etc. Eventually I realized that wasn’t paying enough attention to the other things that were important to me so I decided to incorporate some clear boundaries with my time. Keeping everything running here takes up all of that time; making picks, filling orders, fixing equipment, customer service, accounting, etc. If I do get a little extra time I usually try to work ahead on things. My dedicated non-work time is focused on the other things in my life that I value; family, friends, and occasionally actually playing a guitar.
HR – What’s been your proudest moment in the life of the company?
CB – Hard to say really, I am not big on pride. I feel that pride can distort my sense of self awareness and distract me from things that still need attention. My proudest moment is probably everyday that I get up and still get to do this. Every order that comes in makes me happy; taking care of every customer makes me happy; every mention in articles, videos, and social media makes me happy.
HR – As we hurtle towards 2021, what’s next for Dragon’s Heart?
CB – Get through these trying times, ship picks to customers, and maybe one day finally get the Dragon’s Scale Pick into production.