V-Picks Have Landed. Some thoughts, and a clip!

February 16, 2011

All v-picks have arrived. Work very busy this week, but nonetheless I am going to try to at the very least do an audio demo quickie to show that they bring out different sounds when strumming and when playing single notes, both clean and overdriven.

Ah, I may be passing on the Medium Rounded and Medium Pointed next week, since the 4.1mms really, really do it for me, I guess I’ll try to get clips of them done soon so the $4 lineup has a part in the thing. They’re nice, but the $10 ones are pricier for a reason imo, really, really comfortable to play. It takes a bit of getting used to, and A/Bing between a Big Stubby and the acrylic V-Picks (of any variety) shows that it isn’t that the Big Stubby sucks or anything, it’s just that the V-Picks are way more comfortable for me and have a sound I like.

My general impression so far is that the 4.1mm V-Picks’ sound is similar or different as follows:

A.) pointed or rounded tips sound more like other pointed or rounded tips. The strongest difference of kind is here; within the “pointed / rounded” distinction it’s more difference of degree, and can be subtle.

B.) there is a sonic quality to the attack that buffed picks have, and a notably different one that unbuffed have. The buffed picks slide the string out of the way while the unbuffed picks are rougher and drag/push the string out of the way. You can feel the difference playing and it’s pretty noticeable to the ear, too.

C.) specific bevel characteristics beyond just “pointed” or “rounded” influence the sound, but less so than “pointed” in general and “rounded” in general. So a slightly rounded bevel sounds different than a really rounded bevel, and a slightly pointed bevel sounds different than a really pointed bevel, but they will sound either “pointed” or “rounded” first.

So, for example, I have a Snake Pointed Buffed that has a very similar bevel to the Diamond Pointed Buffed, and the main difference between them is that the Diamond is a smaller pick while the Snake is a larger pick, not a huge sonic difference. The part of the plectrum that makes contact with the string is similar on the two and so there’s not a whole lot of difference in the sound. But I have a Snake Unbuffed with a more rounded edge, and it sounds totally different than either of those. I have a Dimension Buffed and it sounds pretty different since it is less pointed and also has a built-in offset to the plectrum’s sharper edge, sort of like you’re tilting the pick but without tilting the pick. That imparts a difference. But for straight-up “pointed edge” picks, probably more a question of comfort. If you like bigger picks, the Snake Pointed is preferable to the Diamond Pointed for comfort reasons.

Here’s what I was thinking for the demo, something like the following clip but with a video to show what’s being played when, going through all 8 of the ones I have here (the two $4 ones and the 6 $10 ones). In this clip, I have just two – a Pointed Diamond Buffed followed by an Snake Rounded Unbuffed. This isn’t the most prominently differing pair but these are two of my favorites. The Diamond is little, somewhat bigger than a Jazz III, while the Snake is bigger than a Big Stubby. Both are 4.1mm thick.

Format is straightforward – first I play something with the Diamond, then I play something with the Snake. Have a listen.

V-Picks Part Two: I got chills, they’re multiplying!

February 10, 2011

Alright, I’ve had the 4.1mm ones in for a few days now. Vinni really takes care of his customers. He surprised me with an unbuffed Dimension as part of the delivery (which would normally be another $10; regardless of what you think of the economics being justifiable or not, the fact is he gave me something I’d otherwise have had to pay a tenner for, which is pretty cool of him I think). I am very glad he did, because there’s something really cool about the sound of the unbuffed versus the buffed.

I think that the unbuffed variety might actually be the ticket for anyone who thinks they have too much pick noise, or that they have a too mild sound or feel. The tone with them is way more aggressive because they have more going on in their interaction with the string. Rather than sliding over it as you dig in, they momentarily vibrate it. Vinni refers to it as a “violin bow” sound. I don’t think I’d call it that exactly, or a vowel sound or anything like that… but it is an extremely different attack sound, and it digs in harder too. You’d have to be deaf not to hear the difference. I fully intend to put my money where my mouth is on that one, so to speak, by recording some demos, more on that in a sec.

The 4.1mm picks are definitely the sweet spot ones for me. They’re super comfortable to grip while not being so wide that they compromise the space between strings (even on narrower necks), and they make moving the string very precisely out of the way pretty much effortless.

Right now, I have the Medium Rounded, the Medium Pointed, the Snake Pointed, the Dimension Unbuffed, and the Dimension Buffed. Based on a few days playing with them and my total inability to pick a favorite but clearly preferring any one of them to my old standby picks, I decided to order some more. Hey, its my money, take it easy 😉

Coming my way, I’ve got a Diamond Pointed and a Snake Unbuffed, and Vinni added in a Diamond Pointed Unbuffed (which isn’t a listed product, just something he wants me to try out given my positive reaction to the unbuffed Dimension). I think there’s something very cool about the unbuffed picks, so I’m really looking forward to trying that one. You’ll be surprised at the difference between the buffed and unbuffed versions of the same pick, I think.

As far as the demo goes, here’s what I plan to do: a clip where I play the same rhythm and then lead thing with each pick in turn, first clean, then with distortion. Simple enough, yeah? I figure this’ll prove you don’t have to have some kind of magic golden ears to hear the differences in the picks, they are really prominently different based on the shape, bevel, and whether they’re buffed or unbuffed. The clips will speak for themselves with regard to that, and people can make up their own minds as to whether the difference is worth $4 for the two Medium (2.75mm picks) or $10 for the 4.1mm picks.

Not sure how the winter weather will affect the delivery of the newcomers, but I’m quite interested to get them in and try them out. When the ones I have coming do get in, I’ll record the demos and this time diverge from my usual audio-only or audio with narration demo to put together a quick video to upload to Youtube so I can display the information visually and use that time for playing. With 8 picks to demo and a few things to go through with each, I’ll need the time.

It’ll be fun to demo some stuff again. I do miss that. And this one’s going to be pretty easy, too, the concept isn’t exactly tough to get nor do the differences require a connoisseur’s ears to discern. Frankly I’d be pretty disappointed if I had got these in and they all sounded the same. Beneath the marketing phrases, there are very real distinctions and I intend to demonstrate them. There aren’t many comparison clips of them around. I am going to try to show that the “chirp” sound some people talk about can be more or less prominent with your picking technique as well, just as part of the demo playing. Lotta stuff to try to fit into less than 1 minute per pick to make it in Youtube’s time limit without being boring, but it should be neat.

I have become a V-Picks enthusiast, and if you like thick picks, you might too if you give ’em a shot.

February 4, 2011

I’ve got two V-Picks and I’m getting two more! Hooray, something I can post about!

(here is a picture I found of a bunch of them, why not?)

Background info: I’ve played Dunlop Stubbies and Big Stubbies pretty much exclusively for the last several years. There were some deficiencies in them – a tendency to get pretty slippery when you start really digging in, leading to me scoring whatever one I was actively playing at the time with a grid pattern on the “grip” of the big stubbies to try to give a little more for the fingers to hold on to – but I enjoyed the very deliberate articulation that their mass allowed, and so I put up with the issues. It seemed like a pretty fair compromise, since lighter picks and flatter picks just never played as well for me. But it did always still feel like a compromise.

Welp, done with that now!

It turns out I was compromising unnecessarily. I’ve known about V-Picks for a long time but never considered actually trying them until recently. I guess there are a few reasons, mainly that the actual plectrum edge on the Dunlops wears out more quickly than I like and then makes the pick as a whole less articulate and more susceptible to drag on the strings and move toward my wrist, despite my efforts to make them have a less slippy grip, but when I lived in central AR I was near music stores that carried them so I could just have them on hand for when the last one wore out and be good to go. Well, now if they wear out I have to either make a minimum of a three hour round trip to get new ones or order them online. The main advertised quality is that they grip extremely well, but apart from that the V-Picks are supposed to be less susceptible to wearing as quickly (I’ve got testimony from a couple people I trust that they’re more durable than most picks, and it makes sense, the material and the bevel on them are both very high quality). I’m down to two packs of stubbies now, which would last me a while but not forever, and anyway I was curious so I figured I’d try out the V-Pick thing.

I called Vinni and he recommended two to try out, the Medium Rounded and Medium Pointed. They’re part of the “standard” lineup of V-Picks and are equilateral, so while they do cost twice the individual price of a Dunlop Big Stubby, they have three times the usable plectrum edge. The rounded ones are rounded, the pointed ones are pointy, and “medium” in V-Picks language means 2.75mm which is pretty comfortable to me, just slightly thinner than I’m used to.

I got them in and was pretty much immediately sold on the whole idea. The whole “grip” thing is absolutely true. I don’t have to destructively mod them to try to get them to stay put, they just do. There’s some adjustment to the different shape, just to be expected with any new pick, but it wasn’t very long, and the comfort of the grip really knocked me out. The edge type makes a really distinct difference in the sound. It turns out that I like the pointed variety better, they are every bit as articulate as the Stubbies but they play much easier. The distinct tip is very articulate; I can get more motion but there’s nothing at all that prevents me from playing softly. The rounded version is clearly a high quality pick, too, but I just prefer the tip on the pointed one. I think this set would be perfect for anyone who wants to see what the fuss is about, because it lets you feel the difference in the grip, get accustomed to the thicker pick, and lets you hear and feel the difference between two especially distinct varieties of the tips that he offers in the product line, at safe-bet prices.

So, having received two picks with three identical edges for longevity, picks which are well-reputed to be very durable anyway, one of which has already proved awesome for my needs… the obvious choice was to go ahead and order two more from the $10 a piece, 4.10mm-thick premium line! I figure in for a penny with a boutique pick, in for a pound, and from talking to him I get the impression that Vinni’s a really nice guy who cares a lot about his product quality and wants you to be happy with your decision. He tried to talk me out of buying any premium picks before I had a week with the ones I’ve got, but where’s the fun in that? I could get hit by a flying toilet seat and end up a grim reaper or something, I want to step it up quickly. So, I’ve got two of the premium picks headed my way now:

A Dimension (Buffed), and a Snake (Pointed). I’m really looking forward to the thicker picks, as comfortable as the 2.75mm picks are I can only imagine how easy the grip will be on the thicker ones, and they both have a similar edge quality to the pointed one that I like so much.

I know initially the concept of “boutique” picks sounds silly, but the main line of products are perfectly affordable considering the advantages they have over the Big Stubbies and how much those have been costing me due to wear; maybe the $10 ones seem a little silly to some, but I for one am a big fan of thick picks and I finally got tired of some issues my pick of choice was giving me. I found a great option that’s durable with very nice qualities for not a lot more in the Medium Pointed V-Picks at $4 a piece (plus $3 shipping that covers as many as will fit in the envelope, buy a few to justify the shipping charge and you’re probably set for life so long as you don’t have guitarist friends who steal your picks). So I’ll spend my tenner how I want, and I really can’t wait to get in the premiums. I imagine they are going to be some seriously comfortable picks.

I’ll update when they get in to let you know what I think, and I’ll be happy to answer any questions about the ones I have, if anyone is curious. They’re really different from each other in how they feel and sound thanks to the very different edges, though the grip is more or less identical since they’re the same thickness and material.