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Posts Tagged ‘V-Picks’

Vinni Smith is such a great guitarist. He just released a new video entitled, “Why should you play V-Picks?” Yeah, it’s to hawk his picks, but everything he says is true. Having played V-Picks for a few months on my electrics, I just gotta say that these picks are the absolute bomb! I use only V-Picks on electric guitar. And that electric guitar he’s playing? That’s right, it’s a Saint Guitar Benchmark. 🙂

For more information, go to the V-Picks site!

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Every once in awhile, I contribute blog entries to JemSite, the largest Ibanez gear site with over 750,000 members. It’s an old board. With this installment, I talk about the virtues of using a high-end pick. Check out the article!

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It’s a huge step for that little shop in Fresno, CA called Saint Guitar Company. I’ve really gotten involved with Saint Guitars over the past several months, and I think Adam Hernandez on the verge of making the big time with his guitars. So to help him out, I asked Vinni Smith of V-Picks if he would do demo video of a Saint Guitar guitar to help get the word out, and he’s given it an absolutely glowing review! Check it out:

For more information go to the Saint Guitar Company web site.

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I recently started a friendship with Vinni Smith at V-Picks – what a cool dude! Not only does he make great picks, but that man can make an axe sing! Anyway, I was e-mailing him this evening about how his “The Snake” pickup has changed my life, and it got me to thinking about specific pieces of gear that have had a drastic effect on how I approach the guitar. I’ll share them here in kind of a loose chronology:

1. The Kyser Capo

Yeah, lots of people call ’em “cheaters,” but screw ’em. I couldn’t play lots of songs without one. But the Kyser capo in particular really changed my approach, especially after I saw James Taylor playing with one. For years, I used a standard nylon strap type of capo that just basically stayed in place. But then I saw JT playing with a Kyser. I always wondered how he did his mid-song key changes. I used to think he just changed his hand position and played barre chords. But I’ll be damned if he didn’t just slide the capo up, then just played open chords in another key. That was it! I was sold.

2. Ovation Celebrity Deluxe

After my beloved “Betsy” (a Yamaha FG-335 acoustic) broke in a terrible fall, I immediately went in search of a new guitar. I played all sorts in this used gear store and came across this gorgeous sunset burst Ovation. I wasn’t much of an Ovation fan – thought they were really tinny sounding. But when I played this one, it had a much deeper sound than the Ovations I’d played up to that point, and it was a shallow body, no less. When I plugged it into an amp, it sounded even better! That guitar got me into amplified sound. So of course, in addition to buying the guitar, I also got a small Roland 25 Watt practice amp. What a life changer that was.

3. Fender Hot Rod Deluxe

This was my very first tube amp, and an amp that I still use because of how good it sounds… er… I’ve had some modifications done to it, but nevertheless, being my first tube amp, it exposed me to a whole new world of tonal possibilities. Up to that point, I’d played only solid state amps from a Roland JC-12o to a Line 6 Flextone III to a Roland Cube 60 (which I still have – it’s an awesome amp). The Hot Rod showed me the wonders and beauty of tube amp distortion which is nothing like what you get with solid state amps.

4. Ibanez Tube Screamer

There are overdrive boxes, and there are overdrive boxes. But the Tube Screamer is THE classic overdrive box, and the oldest pedal on my board. I’ve of course fallen in love with other OD’s like the Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire, but the Tube Screamer had a real huge effect on how I looked at tone and established what pleases me the most with respect to breakup. It’s a great pedal (though I’m really psyched about testing the Tone Freak Effects Abunai 2).

5. Blizzard Pearl Fender 60th Diamond Anniversary Stratocaster

I love that classic, vintage sound, and this guitar delivered it from the moment I played it. Yeah, it’s made in Mexico, it cost me less than $400 new, but I chose it over Strats five times its price. Why? Because it kicked the shit out of the other guitars. It was THE guitar that convinced me that it’s not the price you pay but the tone you produce that matters. Since I’ve gotten her, I play “Pearl” every day. She’s the first guitar I go to when working on a new song. What a wonderful instrument.

6. Saint Guitar Company “Baby Blue” Benchmark

This isn’t my guitar, and I no longer have it in my studio, but this was the very first guitar that was made to my personal specifications. There is nothing like playing a guitar that’s made to order. The experience is surreal, and started me down this path of playing a custom guitar. Adam’s going to be building me one in the next few months – I’m keeping that one. 🙂

7. Reason Amps SM25 Combo

Even though I love my Hot Rod, the SM25 marks a time when I’ve gotten super-serious about my tone. I’d played a bunch of amps, but this amp showed me that sometimes you do have to pay to get stellar tone – and it’s worth every penny. Lots of manufacturers have created amps that run their channels in series, but I haven’t come across one amp yet that does it as well as Obeid Kahn and Anthony Bonadio. They’ve come up with an amp, cab, and speaker combo that’s like nothing I’ve played before – and I’ve played some awesome amps.

8. Creation Audio Labs Mk.4.23 Clean Boost

I used to think clean boosts were just to help punch a solo through the mix. I didn’t know that they could be used to slam the pre-amps of a tube amp to produce super-overdrive in an amp that no distortion or overdrive pedal can give you. But this one’s very special in that it adds no tonal artifacts of its own – it’s uncanny. What it does is boost the natural sound of your guitar, and when slamming the front-end of amp, gives you the true overdriven tone of your amp. This is a piece of gear that I cannot do without any longer, and it now has a permanent place on my board.

9. Red Bear Picks

I never thought I’d buy a handmade pick, nor pay $20 for one no less. But Red Bear Trading TortisTM picks truly changed my life. I now use Red Bears exclusively for playing acoustic guitar. They sound great with electric as well – I’ll get to that below when I talk about V-Picks – but no pick I’ve ever played has made my Ovation sound so good. These picks look and feel like natural tortoise shell, but they’re made from a polymer of milk protein. No matter, they’re awesome picks!

10. Aracom Amps RoxBox 22 Watt (soon to be released)

This diminutive amp oozes 6V6 goodness. It’s still kind of in the prototype phase so I can’t really write too much about it, but I think my friend Jeff Aragaki has hit a real sweet spot with this amp. Get this: It’s hand-wired, though it uses a solid state rectifier, and it costs less than $1000! The profound thing about this is you can indeed get boutique caliber gear at a great price. But for me personally, this amp is the very first boutique amp I’m buying. Oh, I’ll eventually get the Reason SM25 to run in parallel with this one, 🙂 but this amp is special because it’s the first boutique amp I will ever have owned.

11. V-Picks “The Snake”

As I mentioned above, I’ve befriended Vinni Smith, and I just dig the dude! He knows so much about guitar, and we’ve shared a lot of the same experiences, and love the same kind of music (his favorite guitar solo is the lead break in the middel of Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do – my favorite as well). When we first met, Vinni sent me a large sample of his picks, which I compared head-to-head with my Red Bear picks. Of course, I love my Red Bear Classic B-style Heavy, but when I played the comparable V-Picks Standard on my electric guitars, I just couldn’t believe this sound and action I was getting! So I decided to use my Red Bears for acoustic – as I said, nothing sounds better than a Red Bear on acoustic. But for electric, it was going to be V-Picks all the way. Then during a conversation we were having a couple of weeks ago, Vinni told me he’d send me his Snake picks. These are a whopping 4.1 mm thick, with a different bevel than his others. Since I’ve gotten them, I’m never going to use anything on electric guitar than the Snake! I use the rounded for a smoother, fatter tone, and use the pointy for bright attack tones – especially when I’m doing stuff on the bridge pickup! These two picks have totally changed my approach to playing electric. Thick picks in general did that, but these are the thickest I’ve played, and they absolutely ROCK THE HOUSE!

12. May 30, 2010 – I know, a bit late on the uptake here with this one, but life-changing nonetheless, and that is my Aracom Power Rox PRX150-Pro attenuator. This is the first attenuator that I’ve used that truly stays transparent down to bedroom levels. It is the only attenuator that accurately gives me my cranked up tone at low volume levels, and it is absolutely wonderful! I know there are others out there, but knowing that they’re modeled after existing attenuator designs that I know don’t sound very good at low volume levels, it was a no-brainer for me to choose this one. As Doug Doppler said to me in a recent visit to his home, “This thing has saved my ears!” Even Joe Satriani uses one of these units and loves it! That’s how good it is!

Okay, that’s it for me… Anyone care to share what gear has changed their lives?

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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 "The Snake" Pick

V-Picks "The Snake" Pick

V-Picks “The Snake” Pick

Summary: Thick at 4.1 mm, this is the beefiest pick I’ve ever played. But it’s uncanny just how fast and accurate you can be with this pick! Comes in both Rounded and Pointed corners, and Vinni also makes a hybrid that has both types of corners.

Pros: The bevel on this pick is perfect, and totally different than the other V-Picks I’ve played. Whether you go with the rounded or the pointed version, you’re gonna love playing this pick.

Cons: None.

Price: $10.00 ea

Specs:

  • 4.1 millimeters thick
  • Hand-ground
  • Flame buffed
  • Sharp, almost triangular bevel

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 – I REALLY love these picks for playing electric guitar!

In my previous review of the V-Picks Medium Rounded and Pointed, I shared how the tone that they produce just make my heart sing! But with “The Snake” Vinni just blew those out of the water! Within minutes of playing both the Rounded and Pointed versions, I knew I’d never go back to the medium rounded and pointed again. Damn, Vinni! You just keep on inventing great picks!

The big difference between “The Snake” and the standard picks other than the beefy 4.1 mm thickness is the bevel. It’s sharper than the standard picks, with a noticeable burm-like edge. When I initially took a close look at the edges of these picks, I have to admit that I was a little dubious. After all, Vinni had just told me the other day that The Snake was his “most outrageous pick ever.” That coming from a man who makes picks that are half and inch thick, for cryin’ out loud!

But as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and I picked up a Saint Guitars Goldtop Benchmark, took the rounded Snake in hand, and started playing a riff. My expectation was that this pick would produce a sound similar to my beloved Medium Rounded. To say that I was completely taken by surprise by the tone that ensued from my amp would be an understatement. I stopped, picked up my Medium Rounded, and played the same riff. But it didn’t have quite the punchiness and roundness that the Snake Rounded produced. I just shook my head, and literally said, “That f#$kin’ awesome!”

Then I picked up the Snake Pointed, and started playing the same riff. Again, my preconception was that the pointed would play similarly to the medium pointed: A sharp, crisp attack that was great for playing leads, but not very enjoyable for strumming. From the first strum, my jaw just dropped. Unlike the medium pointed, this pick just glided over the strings! There was a little more resistance  than the rounded Snake, and I expected that, but I didn’t expect how well the pointed Snake would move over the strings. It’s truly uncanny! And unlike the sharp attack of the regular medium pointed, what this pick produces is an absolutely gorgeous ring. I could use this pick for both rhythm and leads – and that’s what I’m intending to do at my gig this weekend!

I believe the bevel on these picks make all the difference in the world, and what sets them apart from Vinni’s other picks! This bevel is special, and really the secret sauce behind the tone these picks produce. The thickness of these picks just add to the awesome vibe they evoke. I didn’t think a 4.1 mm pick would be very comfortable, but I love it even more than the regular mediums! By the way, these picks are about the same size as the regular mediums, so it was a good comparison. The funny thing is that I hold these thicker picks even lighter than the regular mediums. The Snake seems to grip you, as opposed the converse. I guess that’s why Vinni named the pick “The Snake.” It really feels like it’s holding me while I’m playing.

Okay Vinni, I have to agree. These really are your most outrageous picks! For more information, go to http://www.v-picks.com

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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 Medium Rounded and Medium Pointed Picks

V-Picks Medium Rounded and Medium Pointed Picks

V-Picks Medium Rounded and Medium Pointed Picks

Summary: Super-fast, super-responsive plectrums that will take your guitar playing to another level!

Pros: Whether you play with pointy or rounded corners, these picks will give you more technical accuracy, and sweeter tone than you can imagine!

Cons: None.

Price: $4.00 ea

Specs:

  • Hand-ground and hand-buffed
  • Various thicknesses available

Tone Bone Rating: 5.0 – Like Red Bear picks, once you play with picks like these, you’ll never go back to your old picks.

Okay, I’m sold. V-Picks are absolutely awesome! Yeah, I’m a Red Bear lover, but I love these equally, but for kind of different reasons and applications. For acoustic, my Red Bears absolutely rule. I couldn’t wait to get home to do yet another comparison test, and for flatpicking and strumming on an acoustic, my Red Bears (Style B Medium and Heavy), completely did it for me. They produce rich and warm tones, and chime like I’ve never heard from my guitar. They really are a strummer’s dream come true. But for all-around electric playing, V-Picks, especially the medium sized pointed and rounded picks, just make my heart sing! Not that the Red Bears sound bad on electric- they don’t. But there’s something about the brighter tones the V-Picks produce compared to the natural, warm tone of the Red Bears, that sound much more pleasing to me on electric guitar. Of course, this all boils down to personal preference as I mentioned in my previous article from earlier today.

So what’s the big deal? It’s all in the sound, baby! And to demonstrate, I created a sound sample. In the sample, I play a scale in E major starting on the 3rd string on the 9th fret. The first clip is with the Dunlop Tortex Medium (Orange), to provide a reference point. The second clip is played with the V-Picks Medium Rounded, and the third clip is played with V-Picks Medium Pointed.

If you listen carefully, the difference in how the clips sound is subtle, but important. With the Tortex, there is actually a very slight delay between when a string is struck and when sound is produced. It kind of screwed me up when I moved to the medium rounded, but the thing to notice there is that the tone is thicker and much more well-rounded. In the third clip, I moved to the pointed pick. I got the same bright tone that the Tortex produced, but the tone is much smoother and more refined and defined.

Another huge difference in playing the three scales was that with the Tortex, I didn’t feel like I had much control. Even though I stayed on tempo (I had a metronome set at 120bps that I was playing to), I no longer felt confident with that pick. On the other hand, with the V-Picks picks, I felt like I was in total control, and in fact, felt like I could go A LOT faster!

I could write more, but why? The sound bite says it all! And no, I didn’t purposely play bad with the Tortex. In fact, if anything, I tried to be as accurate as possible with the Tortex so I could give a fair representation. I was even a bit sloppy with the second clip, using the medium rounded, but the tone was so much smoother than the Tortex, despite my technical mistakes.

My days of buying bags of cheap-ass picks are over, folks! With my V-Picks and Red Bears, I’m now in tonal heaven! I can’t say enough about these picks, folks! You gotta go out and try them!

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