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Posts Tagged ‘plectrum’

4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite

polarity_j3

Polarity J3

Summary: Made out of one of the hardest woods in nature, the Polarity J3 pick produces a warm, but also “spanky” tone that is perfect for leads.

Pros: I’m a big fan of natural materials for plectrums, and the J3 doesn’t disappoint with its feel in the hand. Natural materials also tend to not squeak when striking a vibrating string. As far as sound is concerned, I dig the sound that this pick produces – A LOT!

Cons: My only concern with this pick is its lifetime. I took the picture I supplied to the left after playing with the pick for about an hour on various guitars, strumming and playing solos. If you click on it, you can see where some of the Carnuba wax has already started wearing away, so I’m not sure just how long the pick will last. However, I’ll have a better idea after I gig with it this coming weekend and will post a follow-up article. NOTE: This is a fairly small nit because I only put a few hours of playing on it, and note that the only wear was the wax coating. The wood itself didn’t have any wear on it.

Price: $29.00 ea

Specs:

  • 1.3 millimeters thick
  • 7/8″ wide X 1″ long
  • Handmade
  • Magnetic

Tone Bone Rating: 4.75 – If I didn’t have the initial concern that this pick might have a short lifetime, I’d give the pick a 5 Tone Bones as it plays and feels and most importantly, sounds great.

As with most gear I write about, how good it feels, plays, and sounds is a matter of personal preference. That also affects what I’d be willing to pay for gear as well. So based upon my initial experience with the Polarity J3 pick, though the pick is on the pricey side, I’d make an investment in it just the same. It plays and feels and sounds fantastic. Is it something I’d use for general use? Probably not, simply because despite the wood being extremely hard, it’s still wood, and will most probably wear at a quicker rate than harder materials. I certainly wouldn’t use it for rhythm playing with a Strat that has vintage-style pickups with the poles that protrude. I nicked several Red Bear picks on my Strats, so I never play a Strat with a Red Bear pick.

But for leads? This is a great pick for that. Here’s a little ditty I put together last night to demonstrate how it sounds (I used my Slash L Katie May through a Fender Twin AmpliTube model):

I already have the perfect application for it. As of late, at my solo gigs, I’ve been making a lot of use of my looper to create live tracks that I can improv over. The “backing tracks” are usually recorded finger-style or using a variation on a clawhammer technique, and most of the time, I just hold my pick in my hand. This is a perfect pick to use for that application, and it’ll get a lot of use; especially this Friday and Saturday. So I’m looking forward to playing with it!

I love a number of things about this pick.

  • Being a rigid pick, it has a relatively fast attack, as compared to standard flexible picks. Even for strumming the quick response helps to stay in time.
  • The pointy tip produces a nice, bright tone, but the wood helps balance that out with some warmth in the mid-range.
  • Amazingly enough, I was expecting to have a bit of friction because of the wood. But it’s so hard that it slides over the strings quite easily, but the awesome thing is that it’s just soft enough so you don’t get that ugly squeak when you’re hitting a vibrating string, as you often get with hard plastic picks.
  • I was a little dubious about its size when I first got it, but after playing with it for just a few minutes, it’s extremely comfortable to hold plus, there’s a lot to be said about holding natural and natural-feeling material.

Will it last?

That’s really the big question, isn’t it? Despite being made of a hardwood, it’s still wood, and wood is somewhat delicate. Only time will tell if it holds up. As I mentioned above, I was a little concerned about the wax coating wearing so quickly after just a little bit of time playing the pick, but the wood was absolutely intact, so my feeling is that as long as I keep the scope of how I use it fairly narrow, this pick should hold up for a long time.

Overall Impression

I’m diggin’ this pick, and will use it this coming weekend at three gigs, so I will get a really good idea about its durability. But as it stands now, I’ve put in a few hours of playing with the pick on acoustic and electric guitars, and even used it with my bass. This is not a pick that I’d use for strumming; not that I’m concerned that it’ll break, but because of its size and shape, it just seems to be made for doing solos.

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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!

Wegen "The Fatone"

Click to enlarge

Wegen’s Picks – The Fatone (Fat Tone)

Summary: This is now my new favorite pick! I had misplaced my Wegen GP 250 and wanted to get another GP 250. The store that I bought the last one at was out of GP 250’s so I dug in the Wegen pick box and found this beauty! The grip is awesome!

Pros: Beefy (5mm) pick that is amazingly accurate despite its thickness. Despite its thickness, this is tonally versatile pick!

Cons: Though it doesn’t take anything away from the rating, my only nit about my pick is that it’s black. Black gets lost easily on a dark stage. But Wegen makes them in white, so I’ll probably order a few of the white ones.

Price: $15.00 ea

Specs:

  • 5 millimeters thick
  • Hand-made
  • Perfect bevel that makes your strings really ring!
  • Don’t know the material, but it’s a VERY hard plastic that does not scratch. You will never need to buff or resharpen Wegen picks!

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 ~ Though I still love my V-Picks Snake (pointed), this pick is now my primary. It’s the perfect pick!

I’ve been searching for the perfect fat pick for a long time; or perhaps I should say that I’ve been looking for a pick that I could use for both acoustic and electric, but I never could. So I used a V-Picks Snake for electric and a Wegen GP 250 and a Red Bear Gypsy Jazz for acoustic. But all that changed when I got the Wegen “The Fatone.”

Admittedly, I discovered this pick not because I was looking to add to my collection of picks, but because I lost my GP 250, which had served me well for the last couple of years. I simply wanted to replace it. Unfortunately – or fortunately – the shop that I bought my GP 250 at was all out of them. So I looked through the case to see if I could find an alternate. That alternate was the Fatone. I knew from the first moment I held it that I was onto something with that pick. Then when I strummed it on a guitar in the shop, I was completely sold! Playing it at my solo acoustic gig an hour after that sealed the deal for me. I’ll be hard-pressed to use another pick.

This is a FAT pick at 5mm. But the inset, thumb-side grip, combined with the beveled tip make this pick feel so much thinner. It’s truly a joy to play.

What is it about fat picks for me? Well, having used them for a few years now, the most significant effect they’ve had on my playing besides tone is how they make my right hand relax. The way that works is that in order to make the pick glide over the strings effectively you have to hold the pick a lot looser in your fingers. That looser grip affects the whole hand. Granted, it took a little while to get used to, but once I was comfortable with a fat pick, going back to my old nylon picks seemed absolutely foreign to me. But relaxation made my playing much more fluid, and I was actually able to play a lot faster because my hand was so relaxed. In any case, I’m hooked on fat picks, and I’ll never go back to conventional picks.

Now I know that I normally do a “How It Sounds” section, but I’m actually on the road right now, writing while my son is driving the car (I’m taking him to college). But also, I don’t know how useful that section would be in this case. All I can say is that the fat pick produces a big sound, but in the case of the Fatone, because of the nice pointy bevel, it produces a nice, bright ring in addition to the deeper tone. It’s a bit hard to describe. It “feels” so much more full than other picks. For instance, though I love the sound my V-Picks Snake makes, it’s definitely a lot more mid-rangy than the Fatone.

One thing that is significant about the Wegen pick material is that it has a texture that feels softer than tortoise, but it’s actually a VERY hard material. The cool thing is that it’s a lot more damp on the strings than either acrylic or tortoise (or natural material). But it doesn’t produce a damper sound. It’s a feel thing. 🙂 In any case, I’m hooked on this pick. Also, tonally, this is a VERY versatile pick. By simply changing the angle and depth of attack, I can get thick, warm tones to nice bright tones. That’s extremely cool!

Overall Impression

As I mentioned above, I now have a new favorite pick. Not sure what else I can say about it. I won’t be getting rid of this one any time soon!

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TC Electronic comes out with the Corona Chorus (announced at Winter NAMM 2011). From what I’ve been reading and watching about this chorus pedal, it’s a winner! Very tweakable, with three different modes including their classic SCF chorus, Tri-Chorus, and TonePrint, which allows you to download settings directly into the pedal via a USB connection to your computer.

I have never owned a TC Electronic device; though I’ve tested a few of the Nova line pedals, and they sound great, one thing that has turned me off in the past is the size of the pedals I tested. Now with TC Electronic’s new compact pedal line, all that tonal goodness TC Electronic is known for can be had in a more standard form factor!

I don’t have a lot of chorus pedals; in fact, I only have two (BOSS CE-2 and a Homebrew THC), and I love them both. I use the THC for acoustic guitar, and use the CE-2 for electric. But I was just thinking that I’d like to have a more tweakable chorus to accompany my CE-2, as it’s kind of on the bright side, and sometimes I want something much darker, plus the versatility of the Corona would be awesome to accompany the CE-2 on my board. And no, I wouldn’t remove the CE-2 because it has a very distinctive tone that I have not been able to duplicate with any other pedal – ever.

From the techie side of things, the Corona is true bypass, and as TC Electronic puts it, Analog-Dry-Through, which simply means that the dry signal through the pedal stays dry and the effect is blended in. Very nice. That would definitely make it easy to put in front of an amp.

In any case, as usual Andy at ProGuitarShop.com has created a demo video. It’s pretty sweet:

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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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