The Maker’s Dozen – Corey Bell of Dragon’s Heart

John Tron Davidson
November 5, 2020
February 10, 2021

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.

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