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Posts Tagged ‘V-Picks’

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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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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Fender 60th Diamond Anniversary Stratocaster

I’m normally very methodical in my approach to writing music. But sometimes, I just get carried away with playing that I’ll just create a riff, and jam over it again and again until my fingertips are numb. Writing my latest instrumental was exactly that experience. I came up with a riff, added some bass and a basic drum kit loop to it, and spent the next several hours trying to cop my best SRV. 🙂 Believe me, no one can play like that dude! He was special.

But the point of this is that after hours and hours of playing, I really got inspired to not just let it be a jam track, especially after I came up with a phrase that felt like it could define the theme of a song. So over the next few days I tweaked with the song, and this is the final result. Note that I had a version of this up as of a couple of days ago, but I remixed it, added an echo part for the last section, and removed a bunch of layered on effects from the first cut. I ended up with a much more raw sound, which was really what I was after. Here it is:

All the guitar parts were played with “Pearl” my 60th Diamond Anniversary Strat. After playing ‘buckers for awhile, I forgot how fun it was to play my Strat! My amp, of course, was my ever versatile tone machine, my Aracom Amps VRX22. For effects, I used a Hardwire RV-7 Reverb, a Creation Audio Labs Mk.4.23 booster, and a Voodoo Lab MicroVibe.

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I was noodling around the other day, and came up with a riff. The riff turned into a jam track, then the jam track turned into a full song. I’m still working on the song, but thought I’d post it for folks to give it a listen. Here it is:

Here’s what I used:

  • Rhythm Part: Clean Strat in Neck/Middle position. My Aracom VRX22 in the Clean channel, with the Master cranked and volume at halfway. Used a Red Bear Trading Tuff-Tone pick to get that percussive sound out of the chords.
  • Part 1 Solo: Strat in Neck Position into my MicroVibe and the same amp settings. Also, used the Tuff-Tone pick to get a more percussive attack to the notes.
  • Part 2 Solo: Strat in Bridge Position into MicroVibe. Amp was set on Channel 2 with the Master dimed and volume at 6 for some nice, but not over-the-top breakup. I love that 6V6 breakup! Here I used my V-Picks Psycho to smoothen out the attack and give the bright bridge pickup a bit of extra oomph.
  • Part 3 Solo: Strat in Neck position, nixed the Vibe, into the clean channel with Master and Volume fully dimed. Used the Psycho here as well, but used a percussive attack.

In order to get those kind of high power settings from the amp, I used a soon-to-be-released Aracom attenuator that’s like NOTHING I’ve played through before! This thing is completely transparent because it maintains reactance between the amp and speaker; something that a lot of attenuators have a problem with (please don’t get me started on the UA, which I think is the biggest bunch of hype I’ve ever run across as far as attenuators go).

Another word about the VRX22. When the Master is fully open, and the power tubes are getting lots of juice, this amp just oozes all sorts of tone. And as the rectifier circuit kicks in, this amp feels as if it has built in reverb! As you can tell, I love this amp! Check it out at: http://www.aracom-amps.com.

I know that you might think I’m a bit nutso for using different picks; obviously in a live situation I’d probably only use one. But the in the studio where I can do pretty much anything I want, using different picks to affect my tone is totally cool. Check out Tuff-Tone picks at http://www.redbeartrading.com and the Psycho pick at http://www.v-picks.com. I swear by these two brands, and while I don’t work for either of these companies, like the Aracom Amps, they’ll always be part of my “rig.”

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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!

V-Picks Psycho

V-Picks Psycho

Summary: It’s big. It’s fat. It’s humongoid! And it has TONS of tone!

Pros: Just a joy to play with! You can get big fat tones out of this, but its slightly pointy tip and sharp edges produce subtle harmonics that make notes ring.

Cons: None

Price: $20 (but it’s $10 right now as the June special!)

Specs:

  • 1 3/4″ wide
  • 5.85 mm thick
  • Slightly pointed tips and sharp edges

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 – With each new V-Pick I play, I fall more in love with them. This is by far my most favorite V-Pick to date – I even dig this one over my beloved Snake! That says a lot!

Just when I thought I found the perfect pick in the V-Pick Snake for playing electric guitar, I tried out the V-Pick Psycho. I must be psycho myself for loving a pick this big and fat, but I do! I’ve only played with it for a very short time, but I’m a believer! The big but ringing tones this pick produces are amazing. This is just perfect for playing leads, with incredible note articulation and clarity due to it’s pointy tips and sharp edges. Now you might think that would produce a fairly bright tone; it does, but the thickness of the pick also brings out the bottom end to bolster that brightness. The net result is a very balanced tone.

I’ve gotten used to playing super-thick picks, but this pick is a completely different story. It’s thicker than anything I’ve ever played before! But the pointy tip makes precision an absolute breeze. I’ve only clocked a couple of hours with this pick, and I only stopped because I had to write this review to share how much I just LOVE this pick!

The Psycho is CRAZY HUGE, but it’s by far the best pick I’ve ever played! I never thought I’d say that, considering I said the same thing about the Snake, but it looks like I’ve got a new favorite.

Yeah, I must be psycho to love a pick this huge, but I am after all, GoofyDawg, and I just dig goofy, crazy things! 🙂 And when it’s crazy, insane tone we’re talkin’ about, no way can I avoid it! I’m going back to playing right now!

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I admit it: I’m an incurable GEAR SLUT! I jones for vintage and vintage style gear, as the music I play leans toward the blues and classic rock. And to satisfy that never-ending craving, I pore over the Internet and various magazines in search of all sorts of gear; hence, the existence of GuitarGear.org where I share with you, dear reader, the things that I come across.

Now in my search for gear, I occasionally buy things. They tend to be vintage-style modern gear because I just don’t have the money to buy real vintage gear; and that usually means I gravitate towards boutique gear; but not just any boutique gear. Remember, I don’t usually have all that much money to afford the real high-end stuff, so I spend a lot of my scouring my information resources to find boutique gear that I can afford. That’s what gravitated me towards Aracom Amps.

When I saw the price of a VRX series amp, my jaw dropped! Here was a hand-wired, vintage-style tube amp for $895!!! When I finally hooked up with Jeff Aragaki (founder of Aracom), and got a chance to play the VRX18, he shared that one of the ways he was able to keep the cost down was by using a solid-state sag simulating rectifier circuit. When I heard the words “solid-state,” the purist in me started reeling a bit. But then that amp sounded so freakin’ good that I didn’t give a flying you-know-what about the rectifier!

And that’s the point of this article. When you’re looking for and buying gear, don’t let yourself be swayed by an instrument’s or equipment’s pedigree or “all-tubeness” or lack thereof. LISTEN to the fuckin’ thing, and see if it turns you on! If it sounds good, and it works for YOU, then that’s all that matters, in my not so humble opinion on the subject. 🙂 If I had let the purist in me take over, I would’ve never ended up with my VRX22! And for the record, I’ve listened to many, many, many amps, with and without tube rectifiers, and the circuit that Jeff Aragaki employs in the VRX series simulates the sag of a rectifier tube so well, I can’t tell the difference. And if there is one, it’s probably so minute that it doesn’t matter anyway. I’ll put that amp up against any other boutique amp in the same wattage range, and it’ll sound just as good, if not better. And I paid less than half the price of a similarly configured amp!

Give the following clip a listen. I’m playing my Strat plugged straight into the clean channel of the VRX22. In some sections you could swear that the amp has a reverb, but that’s the solid-state rectifier simulating the sag of a tube rectifier. Also, this is the raw recording of the amp: No EQ, no filtering. The master volume was flat out, with the gain control around midway. My mic was about about 10″ away pointed directly at the center of the speaker cone.

I originally recorded that clip with my Prestige Heritage Elite. But that guitar has so much inherent sustain, it would’ve been cheating. 🙂 A Strat on the other hand doesn’t have that much sustain, so it brings out the sustaining quality of the amp much better. The result is just amazing.

And as to the tube vs. solid state rectifier issue, at least in the Aracom VRX series, it doesn’t make one whit of difference, especially when you’re playing live at gig levels. When I’m gigging, I almost never use reverb unless it’s a song where I can really isolate my guitar. Sag gives the effect of reverb, but at loud gig levels, you’ll never hear it.

Another great example of buying what sounds good to you is my friend Vinni Smith of V-Picks. That dude is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever known, and he gigs all the time! You know what he plays through? A freakin’ Roland Cube 30 cranked all the way up and miked into the PA. When he told me that, I almost flipped. Here was a true pro guitarist,  playing through a $200 amp!

So don’t be taken in by pedigree. Buy what sounds good to you, and what you can make sound good. After all, 90% of your tone is in your hands.

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My friend, Vinni Smith of V-Picks is an incredibly talented guitar player, and one of the things that has really sparked our friendship is our love of Peter Frampton’s music. It was hilarious to find out that his favorite guitar solo in the world is the middle lead break in the song “Do You Feel Like We Do?” from Frampton Comes Alive. It has been my all-time favorite guitar solo since I was in junior high way back when. Now, after all these years, Vinni shows how to play the middle and ending solos in the following clips:

In this next solo, Vinni is demonstrating his new pick, the Dimension, while playing with Saint Guitar Benchmark.

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