Readers had a lot to say about a recent post on high-end guitar picks. I focused on some of those ultra-hard picks made from natural materials, such as stone, bone, wood, and horn, plus ones made from synthetics designed to mimic those materials, such as GraphTech’s Tusq series. I’d concluded that, while these picks cost a lot more than garden-variety plastic picks, they offer unique benefits, including stronger fundamentals, more low-end mass, and varying amounts of percussive treble “slice” that can help a guitar track stand out in a mix.
Anyway, several readers spoke highly of V-Picks, a small handmade pick company from Nashville run by Vinni and Nancy Smith. I bought a few, and was deeply impressed. So I got a bunch more and made the set of reference recordings included here. Have a listen!
Unlike the Pearse picks covered in the first “expensive picks” article, the variations among V-Picks has less to do with their materials (they’re all made from acrylics) than with their varied shapes. They’re thicker and denser than conventional picks, which once again translates into stronger fundamentals, fewer irritating “clacky” artifacts, and varying amounts of glassy treble percussion. I particularly love the rounded-style picks, which produce more pure tone and fewer noisy artifacts than any picks I’ve tried. They sound deep and fat without getting dull.
After some experimentation, you can guess how the varied shaped effect the tones of picked notes. The sharper the tips, the sharper and more trebly the attack. The smaller the total mass of the pick, the more restrained the lows. The fascinating Dimension series picks combine the fatness of the rounded picks with a edge of the pointier ones, with remarkably little midrange clatter. The Nexus, with its high-friction, unbuffed edges yields a similar effect. Meanwhile, pointy models like the Switchblade and Stiletto sound a bit thin and harsh as demoed here on my bright-toned, 000-sized Lowden acoustic. But they might be perfect for shred players who want to recapture some of the edge sacrificed to the compression, low-mid wooliness, and treble loss imposed by high-gain amp settings.
Some V-Picks are extremely fat, such as the Insanity model, which measures 11.85mm thick (imagine a dozen or so standard medium gauged picks stacked atop each other). I didn’t try any of the super-fat models, but they might be useful for players battling arthritis, or any other issues that makes it difficult to maintain a small, tight grip.
The fat picks are the most expensive ones — the Insanity with set you back $34.99. But many models go for $3.99 each, including my my favorites, the medium rounded models. I bought myself a few dozen.
This time around, I recored only acoustic examples because
I’m so lazy they reveal more about the picks’ character than electric guitar examples.
Ruby Red Tradition Ultra Lite
Tradition Lite Sapphire Blue
Nite-Glow Medium Round
Pearly Gates Medium Round
Dimension Buffed Smokey Mountain Series
Ruby Red Medium Pointed
Dimension Junior Buffed
Pearly Gates Small Pointed
Small Pointed Lite