Archive for the ‘Tuff-Tone Picks’ Category

Just got home from my weekly gig at the restaurant where I was really able to put the Tuff-Tone Tri-Tip through its paces. I’ve never played with a Tri-Tip shaped pick, let alone gigged with a Tuff-Tone, so it promised to be interesting – especially if I didn’t like the pick – because like a dummy, I forgot to bring a spare! Fortunately, I didn’t need a spare. The Tuff-Tone worked out great!

Admittedly, I was a little nervous, not because of the Tuff-Tone material itself but because it’s a lot thinner than what I’m used to playing. If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know I’ve been using a V-Picks Snake and also a super-thick prototype Red Bear Tortis as of late. The Snake is 4.1 mm thick and the Red Bear is 4 mm. I believe the Tuff-Tones are only 1.75 mm thick. I really didn’t know if I could make a clean adjustment. All my nervousness was washed away within a few bars of the first song I played. The pick felt so natural in my fingers, I just played without thinking. Whew! That was a relief!

So how did it perform? Practically flawlessly. The Tuff-Tones feel a lot more rigid and dense than their Tortis counterparts, but the material seems to weigh much lighter. That perception could be due to having played with thick, weighty picks. But to be perfectly honest, I really loved playing with this Tuff-Tone. As I mentioned above, it felt very natural in my fingers, and all the accuracy that I’ve come to expect from rigid picks was there from the get go.

Dave mentioned that in blind tests there was no difference between the tones of the Tuff-Tones and Tortis picks produce. But I noticed a definite difference. The Tuff-Tone produces a much brighter, jangly tone than the Tortis picks. Tortis picks, on the other hand, produce a smoother, more evenly balanced tone. Neither is better than the other; they’re just different. For me, when I want a brighter tone, I’ll use a Tuff-Tone. But when I want a fatter tone, I’ll use a Tortis.

I played all sorts of tunes tonight, ranging from full-on strum songs to songs that combined strummed chords and single note runs. I could be as expressive as I wanted with this pick, and that’s really the test. Lighten up your grip and let the pick glide, and the tone it produces is marvelously bright and ringy. Dig in and be greeted with a nice snappy tone. Want to do some quick alternate picking runs? No sweat!

This is a great pick, people, and a pick I highly recommend trying out and adding to your arsenal! I know that kind of goes against the common thought of using one pick for everything, but I’ve come to realize that using different picks will produce different kinds of tones, and different “moods.” It’s kind of hard to explain, but I’m now a multi-pick player.

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Classic H

Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Classic H

Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Picks

Summary:Made from an entirely new pick material, Tuff-Tone picks provide the same, high-quality sound you expect from Red Bear picks, but are much more durable than standard Tortis picks.

Pros: Get ’em wet, put ’em in your pocket with all your keys and change, put ’em in the washer and dryer. They won’t break or warp.

Cons: None.

Price: $10 direct from Red Bear Trading

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 – The totally unique sound and feel of a Tuff-Tone pick makes it a winner in my book.

I love it when I get gear in the mail, and I especially love it when it’s a padded envelope from Red Bear Trading. I came home early from work yesterday afternoon to get ready to go to a gig in the early evening, and much to my extreme surprise and pleasure, a padded envelope from Red Bear Trading what waiting for me on the kitchen table. I immediately opened the envelope, poured out the contents into my hand and out dropped three pick packages: Two Tuff-Tone picks (a Tri-Tip and B-Style – both heavy gauge), and a super-super thick C Style Tortis measuring 4mm. I’ll be covering the Tortis in another review, so I’ll just mention it here.

I’ve been anticipating receiving these Tuff-Tone picks ever since I spoke to Dave Skowron – maker of Red Bear Picks – about them a few weeks ago, after I saw the announcement on his site. Rather than have me paraphrase the announcement, here’s an excerpt:

After a few years of research and development we have finally come up with a material which is an alternative to our standard pick material. The requirements we sought for this new line of picks were simple – deliver the same great tone and have the same comfortable feel as or regular picks while possessing unbeatable strength and warp-resistance. We feel that we have found that material. After months of beta-testing by some of the industry’s top players, we are ready to roll out the new line. The tone and feel have been confirmed in our tests. These picks are as good sounding as our standard line. They last and last, and are basically worry-free. In blind tests they were indiscernible from our standard line.

I have to disagree with Dave on the last line of the paragraph. To me at least, they aren’t indiscernible from the standard line. They’re similar in tonal response, in that they produce sound very quickly, but they are resoundingly not the same. I’ll get into more detail about this in just a bit. Where they are indiscernible is in their build quality. One of the things that has always impressed me about Red Bear picks is Dave’s attention to detail with respect to the build quality of his picks. To date, I have never received a single pick from Red Bear with any flaws. The bevels have always been perfect. Dave takes quality seriously, and all the picks I’ve had and evaluated have been flawless…

What about the sound?

In a word, awesome! But as I mentioned above, Tuff-Tones aren’t tonally indiscernible from the standard Tortis picks. Frankly, to me at least, they have a sound all their own. The material is much harder than Tortis, and to me sound just a bit brigher tonally. Or maybe I shouldn’t say brighter. The tone they produce is much more “chimey.” They produce the same rich tone you’d expect from standard Tortis, but I believe they bring out the high frequency tones much more than Tortis picks. If I were to make a comparison, tonally they sit right in the middle between a standard Tortis Heavy and a V-Picks heavy; the V-Picks heavy being the bright side.

But even then, these picks are tonally distinct, and no recording is going to capture the sound properly. I actually tried this morning, and it just didn’t work, probably due to my microphones, which double as stage mics, so the EQ tends to stay in the midrange. I could hear the differences in my amp, but just couldn’t capture the sound – sorry. You’ll have to buy a couple to see what I’m talking about. 🙂 Which you should – these picks rock!

How they feel…

Make no bones about it; not only are they tonally distinct they have a totally unique feel. Unlike Tortis or V-Picks picks, these aren’t glossy at all. They have a flat finish, and a rougher, almost tackier feel. But they feel so good! When I first held one of the Tuff-Tones I got, I was a little doubtful about them because of how they felt. I was wondering if they’d be slower. I’ve been so used to playing gloss-finish picks, that these were like sandpaper by comparison (mind you, that’s just flowery language – they actually have a smooth finish). But all my concerns were laid to rest when I started to play. Like Tortis and V-Picks picks, they just glide across the strings. I really love how they feel!

Even at the heavy gauge, which is 1.7mm, these have got to be the most rigid picks I’ve ever played. I love that about these picks. They really don’t give, so they give you immediate tactile feedback while you’re playing.

Overall Impressions

Talk about being torn! I love these picks. I kind of lean towards brighter tone, and these totally give it to me. But I also love the super-rich tones of my Tortis picks, and the chimey tones that my V-Picks Snake gives me. I’m chuckling right now because I would have never thought I’d look at a pick as a tone-shaping device. Most people just use a single pick – I was the same until I discovered the virtues of using high-end picks. But the thing with high-end picks is that they each bring something different to the table with respect to tone and feel, helping you dial in just the right kind of tone for the song you’re playing. I now look at picks much like a painter looks at brushes. I now have yet another brush to add to my collection of tone “brushes.”

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Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Classic H

Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone Classic H

I occasionally browse Red Bear Trading’s web site to see if Dave Skowron has come up with anything new, and much to my surprise, he has! Red Bear has come up with a new pick line called the Tuff-Tone line that apparently sound just as good as his originals. But the big difference is that these picks are made of a material that is much more durable than the Tortis material of the original Red Bear picks! Apparently, they also sound just as good as the originals. Could this be a death knell for Tortis? I doubt it. Dave’s Tortis picks are the absolute bomb, and the natural feel of the Tortis when you’re playing is absolutely to die for!

In any case, here’s an excerpt from the Tuff-Tone web page:

Are they tough enough? You bet. These picks aren’t going to warp or break on you anytime soon. They will pick up some discoloration from your guitar strings. When this happens, simply wash them with soap and water. Go ahead and run them through the washer and dryer! No problem! Keep them in your pocket full of change – see if we care! These picks are really tough!

Not only are the tougher, they cost half the price of a regular Red Bear pick at $10.00! This is something I’m going to have to check out – and soon! For more information, check out the Tuff-Tone information page at Red Bear Trading!

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