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Posts Tagged ‘picks’

Australian Bulloak Pick

When I first heard about these, I was admittedly rather incredulous about the prospect of a wooden pick. But after going to the Polarity Sound page, and checking out their offerings, I’m extremely intrigued. I’ve played with all sorts of picks made with different materials from milk-protein polymer to acrylic to high-velocity plastic to ceramic, etc. Can’t say that I’ve played anything made from wood, so this pick really makes me wonder.

They currently make a single style of pick that is similar in size to a Dunlop Jazz 3 – they call it the J3. And at first blush, you might think, “Ho-hum, just another pick,” but there are two things that distinguish this pick from others:

  1. The picks are made of extremely hard wood; either Lignum Vitae or Australian Bulloak
  2. The picks are magnetic. Yup, magnetic. They even come with a magnet that you can put on the inside of your guitar body, so you can place the pick when you’re not using it.

From what I could tell from the video, the picks produce a nice, chime-y, bright tone. I thought it would be a bit warmer, but given the hardness of the wood, it’s not too surprising. In any case, I’ll hopefully get one of these in for review, and I’ll let you know what I think of it, plus a bit more technical stuff in detail.

A question in my mind is: Just how durable are these picks? I’ll have to flesh that out once I play one, but chances are with the hardness of these woods, they’ll probably hold up for a long time and so long as you care for them properly. I imagine they’d be similar in durability to Red Bear picks (made from milk protein polymer).

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It’s called the Firefly pick. It’s the first flashing pick. They’re still in development, but they just got enough startup funding to go to production, and sure, while it’s a bit of a novelty, I think it’s totally cool!

Interestingly enough, they funded the project using KickStarter, and they reached their goal of $30k just recently. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these. Check out their crowd funding page here.

Yeah, yeah, seems like a gimmick, but I have to admit that when I first saw this, it put a smile on my face, and it’s so unique that I just have to have one. No, it won’t make me a better player, nor will it make my performance any better. But it sure is neato and the neato factor is pretty big with this.

The Firefly pick is a lot like those kids shoes with the LED’s in the sole. Why should the kids have little flashing things? While I wouldn’t where shoes with LED’s, I’d play a pick with an LED. 🙂

 

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V-Picks Bb Pick
Summary: Nice and thick at 4.10 mm, but this pick glides over the strings!Pros: As with all V-Picks, “smooth” is the key, but with this bevel, you get great note articulation and control! As thick as a Snake, but slightly smaller in diameter, I’m finding I like this pick even better than the Snake!

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Laser Cut
  • 4.10 mm thick
  • About the size of a quarter

Price: $10

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ I’ve been a Snake user for quite some time, and it has served as my “go-to” pick. But the game has changed with the Bb.

Yet another new favorite pick?

I do need to clarify that as I’ve reviewed other picks, they haven’t necessarily become my favorites. For instance, I dig Wegen picks. They play great and they really glide over the strings, and for acoustic they’re a dream to play. But for electric, they just don’t feel entirely comfortable. With my Red Bear Tortis picks, I absolutely love them for their tone on both electric and acoustic, but they wear pretty easily and they’re also kind of expensive.

The Bb isn’t cheap at $10, but it’s half the price of both the Wegens and the Red Bears, and more importantly, I it’s a durable pick that I can use with both acoustic and electric. One thing that I didn’t mention about the other picks is that I have used them with both electric and acoustic, but I’ve found that I’ve had to adjust my attack slightly when moving from acoustic to electric and vice-versa. It wasn’t too much of a problem, but with the Bb, I attack the strings the same way, whether I’m playing acoustic or electric.

More comfortable (to me) than a Snake

The one thing that struck me, the first time I held the Bb was that it was immediately comfortable – more comfortable than the Snake that I had in my pocket (please don’t read anything into that). 🙂 When I first looked at it in the bag at the shop, I was a bit dubious of its smaller size. But all I had to do was hold it, and I was immediately hooked! The shape is perfect to me: Imagine a quarter with three protruding, rounded points, and that is the Bb. You can see what I mean in the picture to the right. Out of all the thick picks I’ve played – even the Snake – this is the absolutely most comfortable pick I’ve ever played.

Another thing that I love about the size of the Bb is that I can easily get pinch harmonics with it. I could achieve them with the Snake, but its overall diameter actually made it quite difficult. Plus, there were a couple of times during gigs where I’d get to a place where I’d like to do a pinch harmonic, and because I had to shift the position of the pick, I’d actually drop it! Not so with the Bb. With its smaller size, I can simply bend my forefinger and thumb a bit more, get to the harmonic, and voila! Pinch harmonic!

Tone

Like the Snake, Vinnie Smith describes the Bb’s tone as producing lots of midrange. But my experience is a bit different. To me, with either pick, the tone you get depends heavily on your attack. With a light attack, the bevel produces a ringing, chimey, tone. Bearing down, the thickness of the pick comes into play, and you can get a super fat tone that has a bright finish due to the bevel. I guess that’s where Vinnie gets the “midrange” from, as the fatness from the thick body and the ring from the bevel balance out. But no matter how you want to describe it, the tone this pick produces is fantastic.

A New Convert

Interestingly enough, the guy who recommended the Bb to me was a guy named Jordan who runs the guitar department at Gelb Music in Redwood City, CA who was a total non-believer. I showed him V-Picks ages ago, and he was pretty skeptical at the time. But Vinnie being such a great salesman got a V-Picks case into the shop, and Jordan then had a chance to play them. He is now a convert.

I was in the shop yesterday to get a One-Spot, and I realized that I was short of picks. Since they were having a big sale, they didn’t have the V-Picks case out because they couldn’t police the picks area. But all I had to do was mention V-Picks, and Jordan said, “By the way, I’m diggin’ the Bb. It just glides over the strings, and the bevel is perfect!”

I just laughed and said, “This coming from the biggest skeptic of all time! Welcome to the thick pick club!”

“Yeah,” Jordan replied, “Once you go to a thick pick, you’ll never go back.”

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Well you know me, I LOVE thick picks (2mm and above), and you probably also know that it’s dangerous for me to go to a guitar store because more likely than not, I’m going to walk out with something. 🙂 Today was no different…

My good buddy, Jeff Aragaki, of Aracom Amplifiers came over to the house to drop off some gear for me to evaluate: a ’59 Les Paul replica (I’ll have a review of that guitar in a few days after I’ve played it a bit) and a new Jensen 1 X 12 speaker. In turn, I was going to give him a pair of Groove Tubes Gold Series 6L6’s (GREAT f-in’ tubes). After that, we’d go get some lunch and catch up as we haven’t hung out in awhile.

We ended up going to a great Japanese curry place in downtown Los Altos. After lunch, we got in my car and Jeff said, “It’s too bad there’s not a guitar shop around here.” I of course know where all the shops are and replied, “You know, there’s one that’s about 10 minutes away. Let’s go there.” So I took him to Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto. It’s a high-end acoustic guitar shop that has been around for years, and in addition to having a great stock of Martin, Collings and other high-end acoustics, plus a limited selection of electric guitars and some VERY nice vintage stuff including a 1960 Telecaster for $17,500,  they have high-end picks. It’s the place where I discovered Red Bear Trading pics.

I did have a motive for going there as I needed a good stage stand for my guitar, and Gryphon carries the very awesome Hamilton guitar stands. After my guitar almost got knocked over by a gust of wind at my gig yesterday, I knew I needed to get a good stand, and it was a good excuse to go there with Jeff so we could jam for a bit as well.

So the sales guy rang up my stand, and then I made the mistake of looking into the case to see what picks they had. Mistake. I didn’t know they carried Wegen picks, and there they were: Three cases full of ’em. I couldn’t resist. I had to try them out. Now I had learned of Wegen picks from various forums, but never had the occasion to play one until today. So the verdict?

Well, I liked the material enough as I ended up getting the Trimus 350, which is 3.5mm thick. That’s just a bit thinner than my V-Picks Snake. So what’s so special about this pick that I was willing to drop $20 on it?

First of all, it has a different feel than V-Picks or the Red Bear picks. The material feels softer than either the Red Bear Tortis and the V-Picks acrylic, which makes for a nice, smooth tone. The points are beveled, so you do get a snap that brings out the highs.

Now Wegen claims that the material feels a lot like real tortoise shell. I’ve felt real tortoise shell, and this feels nothing like it. But that’s not a bad thing. What really turned me on about this pick is really the feel. It’s not as smooth in feel as either the V-Picks or the Red Bear, which have glass-like finishes. In contrast, the Wegen pick has a bit of a texture. But amazingly enough, that doesn’t translate to stickiness on the strings. Whatever Wegen I tested, it just glided over the strings.

Another nice feature of the Wegen picks I tested were the grooves cut into the body of the pick. Add to that a depression in the body, and what you’ve got is a pick that you can really hold onto!

I chose the Trimus 350 because I like the shape – it is very similar to my V-Picks Snake and my Red Bear B-Style Gypsy Jazz. It’s also thinner than both – not by much – but still just a bit thinner. But Wegen has a lot of different picks. If you get a chance, check one out!

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As GuitarGear.org has gotten more of following, from time to time, I get random e-mails from folks who share gear and what-not. It’s cool. If it’s interesting stuff, I share it here, and like in the case of Jeff Aragaki of Aracom Amps, their contact initiates a close friendship.

Anyway, I got a notification from YouTube that someone sent me a private message – I’ve gotten those before and they’ve been from users with names like “PoleRider69” or something to that effect, telling me to go to their adult porn site – but this one was different because the person who sent it was sharing a video about a glass guitar pick. Ah-ha! Gear! Now, you know me, gear slut that I am, I just can’t resist checking out stuff related to gear; especially picks!

So without further ado, I’ll share the video. It’s very short, but how this pick was used really compelled me to share it and find out more about the pick.

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4 Tone Bones - Excellent gear, that exceeds expectations of its performance, value, and quality. Strongly consider purchasing this.

Pointless Picks

Pointless Picks

Summary: Really out-of-the-box approach to picks. They’re perfectly round with a raised bevel in the center so you don’t drop ’em.

Pros: Really easy to hold, and strumming with these picks creates a nice ringing tone – not nearly as fat as I thought, but that’s okay! Works great as rhythm guitar pickup or for playing acoustic guitar where a lot of strumming is involved. Great to use as a strummer!

Cons: I found picking out individual notes only okay, and if you’re one of those folks that holds their picks at a 45 degree angle to the string, it’ll take awhile to get used to this pick. It works best straight on, and it’s not that bad. But it’s also kind of big. If it was a smaller diameter, I’d probably love it!

Features:

  • Made from Acetal, which is similar to nylon, but very durable.
  • Raised bevel makes holding onto the pick easy
  • Comes in three thicknesses: .58mm, .72mm, 1mm

Price: < $1.00 ea. through various retailers

Tone Bone Score: 4.0 – These aren’t bad picks, though they do require that you spend a bit of time with them. I actually thought that I’d like the 1mm pick the best, but actually, the thinnest one actually worked best for me.

If you’re a regular visitor to GuitarGear.org, you’ll notice that I rarely review name-brand gear. My thought is that mainstream gear gets lots of coverage, so I tend to gravitate to either the novel or less well-known gear manufacturers. Pointless Picks definitely fall into this latter category!

When I received the envelope from Pointless Picks today, I opened it up in anticipation, and was surprised by them. The pictures you see online really don’t prepare you for the real thing. They’re totally weird looking in a good sort of way. But I’ve learned to keep an open mind, so I took one of each pick (I got several), and went out to my studio to try them out.

I systematically tested each thickness of pick. As a thick pick lover, I thought that my favorite would be the 1mm pick, but the exact opposite was true. The one I liked the most was actually the .58mm pick. I believe this is because of how large a diameter the pick is. When you strum, the pick hits the string with a lot of surface area. With the thicker pick, there naturally isn’t much give, and with my heavy strum technique, the thicker pick didn’t really work well for me. But with the thin pick, it was a different story. I could dig in and the give of the pick made for much easier strumming.

If you’re the type of player who turns their picks around to play with the fat end of the pick, you’ll probably like this pick. Me? I’ll be honest. I like these picks, but I’m not sure I’d like them enough to switch to them exclusively. I even gigged with them this past weekend. As an acoustic pick, I dug them – or at least the thin pick. I was able to get some nice, fat, but also ringing tones from my acoustic. Not sure that I’d use them for electric though. The feel is a bit too heavy for my tastes. You see, I like playing with the pointy end. 🙂

All in all though, these are pretty cool picks.

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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 Style B Heavy Pick

Red Bear B Style Gypsy Jazz Gauge Pick

Summary: At 3mm, this is the thickest gauge that Red Bear offers (though you can get thicker ones by special order).

Pros: All the tactile goodness of a Tortis pick, but with real beef. At this gauge the speed bevel is very pronounced, and that is a good thing!

Cons: Cons? What cons? None.

Price: $30

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 – This is my favorite Red Bear pick yet!

I love both Red Bear and V-Picks picks so much, that I give them away – and I gave my last Red Bear pick away last Tuesday to my friend and fellow musician Christy Martin of “Four Shillings Short,” a very long-lived Celtic band. It was great to see her reaction to how good my B Heavy felt to her! But that left me with no Red Bear!

As work has a tendency to make forget things, I was on my way to my weekly gig today when I realized that I didn’t have a pick! Luckily, my gig was a few minutes away from Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto, so I resolved to go to the shop and pick up a new Red Bear. Once I entered the store, I went right to the pick case, and asked the sales guy to pull out the Red Bear tray. I was all set to get my normal B Heavy, when I noticed a Red Bear pick that I hadn’t seen before, a B-GJ! The sales guy said that the GJ stood for “Gypsy Jazz.” Well, of course I had to take it out of its pouch, and feel it. Mistake! The damn thing was beefy – nice and beefy, just how I like my picks.

I asked to try it out, and picked up a Martin dreadnought. From the very first strum, I knew this was the pick for me. But I also compared it to my beloved B Heavy, and there was just no comparison! I really loved the B Heavy, but since I’ve been playing with the V-Picks Snake on electric, I’ve developed a real penchant for super-thick picks, and at 3mm, this B-GJ felt just too good to pass up. So I returned to the case, pulled out my bank card, bought the pick, and went to my gig.

All I can say is that tonally, this had to be the best gig I’ve had in years! At this particular gig, I play solo with just me singing and accompanying myself with acoustic guitar and piano. I think I only touched the piano four times tonight! I was loving playing with this pick!

First off, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles about thick picks, you actually hold them lighter, which relaxes your hand muscles; thus you play faster. But from tone standpoint, I was in total heaven!

As expected, light strumming with the B-GJ produces wonderful, chimey and ringy tones. But the big difference I found between my old B-Heavy and B-GJ was when I dug into the bottom strings with the pick while simultaneously partially palm muting on the saddle of my guitar. What that usually produces is a subdued low-freq boomy kind of sound. With the GJ, it produced that tone, but it was much more pronounced. It was freakin’ awesome.

Moreover, I could ellicit all sorts of different tones by changing the angle of the pick. I could do that pretty well with the B-Heavy, but the tone was so much more full and rich with the B-GJ! I was really at my creative best tonight. A customer, who said he was also a guitarist, walked up to me at the end of his meal, and remarked how good my guitar sounded, and that it sounded nothing like an Ovation. I told him it was the pick, and let him hold it. “You could do all that with this pick? Damn! I gotta me one of these.”

Folks, this is just a dynamite pick, and it’s worth every penny of the $30 you pay for it retail (though it’s $5 cheaper if you buy direct from Red Bear Trading). For what this pick does for my acoustic tone, I just can’t think of using any other kind of pick for playing my Ovation!

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Gear-aholic. Tone Freak. Gear Maniac. At least that is what I have been called. I like to think of myself as a “Tone Crusader.”

I comb the ethers in search of implements to try to catch the unicorn called “Tone.” And since tone has so many faces, I need different kinds tools to help me catch the unicorn.  Thus, I have an arsenal of axes, both custom and commonly available; a bank of sound amplification devices to announce my presence with special foot pedals to alter my sound to affect a different response.

I spend hours upon hours developing and honing my skills, and learning how to most effectively use my tools. I am a warrior who must constantly be at the ready to perform.

And like the Crusaders of old, my quest for the tone unicorn is a life-long pursuit that has been fraught with both times of extreme joy and with days of dark dispair. But despite its ups and downs, I cannot even begin to imagine abandoning this pursuit! I’ve seen the unicorn! I have even come close to touching it! And until I do touch it, I will never give up. Never!!!

I fully realize that I may go to my grave without ever catching the unicorn. But it is not the goal that matters to me in any case; it is the journey that matters.

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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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