TTK NAMM Picks: The Big Pick-ture

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On my recent jaunt to Summer NAMM 2015, I had the good fortune to peruse a plethora of potent plectra.  We here at TheToneKing.com leave no tonal stones undisturbed, and even though this writer figured he had been around the block a few times when it came to picks, it was an education checking out what kind of difference pick thickness, shape, and material could do for sound and feel.

Finding Your Pick

When we checked in with Harris Musical Products71AjrfWX3UL._SL1500_ out of Waltham, Mass., we were treated to a mega-buffet of cool U.S. Blues picks made from just about any pick-appropriate material one can think of.  Want to get really crazy with the whole tonewood internet shouting match?  U.S. Blues can set you up with picks made of maple, rosewood, teak, bamboo, bubbling, or a host of other finely sculpted wood picks in a variety of shapes.  We also got to check out picks made from “vegetable ivory,” which is really a material derived from a tagua nut, and picks crafted from other exotic materials such as buffalo bone and horn.

This writer’s favorite from U.S. Blues was an amber horn pick, in a traditional shape (the famous “351” shape), with beveling on the point.  Despite being very thick, I was amazed at how easily I could run between and across strings, and it’s light weight and glossy, grippy surface meant I could relax my thumb and forefinger during intricate parts.  To my ears, the notes gained an interesting round pop, with a strong fundamental tone that is great for crunchy rhythm and acoustic parts that mix chording and single-note lines.

 

Expanding Your Horizons

Another cool plectrum we got to pummel is the increasingly New-Insanity1popular V-Pick.  Handmade in Nashville, Tenn., V-Picks have ended up driving the tunes of folks like Carlos Santana, Billy Gibbons, and Aerosmith.

V-Pick creator Vinni Smith started making V-Picks, which are made from a special proprietary acrylic blend, way back in 1980 and started the V-Pick company in 2004.  The feel of the V-Pick is an interesting mix between tough, battle-ready plastic and highly polished glass.  It’s this unique feel that contributes to the stability of the pick in your picking hand: as the player warms the pick up, it becomes grippier and less likely to slide around, giving the player’s picking hand excellent control.

This writer came home with a “Freakishly Large Pointed Lite” model, which is a much bigger pick than I normally use.  Despite it’s size, which only further enhanced the natural grip of the pick, I have no problem conjuring swift, articulate single note runs from any of my guitars, acoustic or electric.  The pick has a very strong attack, resulting in punchy, authoritative notes and double stops that cut exceptionally well.  The large surface area and sharp, beveled point also made artificial harmonics a breeze for my clumsy thumb, taking me right into Gibbons-Wyldeville.  The more I play the V-Pick, the more I dig it.

 

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Other Cool Picks Making A Splash

Though they weren’t at Summer NAMM 2015, we here at TheToneKing.com would be remiss if we didn’tchicken-picks give a shout-out to one of TTK’s new favorites, the Chicken Pick.

TTK first encountered Chicken Picks at Winter NAMM 2015, and since then has been digging what the Netherlands-based pick makers have been churning out.  Made from very high quality plastic and beveled for speed and smoothness, Chicken Picks are designed for the long haul.  That is, they are so durable that a player can expect to get a solid year, maybe more, of use out of us one Chicken Pick.  And over time, a Chicken Pick will subtly wear in just the right way to conform to your playing style.

 

The Basics Still Rock

I’m still enjoying the new pick experiences I’m having with the V-Pick and the U.S. Blues amber hornTortexRed pick I picked up at Summer NAMM 2015.  Changing something like a pick really can open your hands, eyes, and ears to new and different sounds and techniques.

But I also still love that good ol’ Tortex that I’ve been using since the dawn of my guitar playing days.  As cool as those other picks are, they’re pricey (though not the priciest, believe it or not) for a plectrum.  And while I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth, other players can be harder to convince if they haven’t tried them.

And so, we salute the good folks at Dunlop and Clayton, who make durable, affordable, no-nonsense picks that you’ll find on the microphone stands, and in road cases and tone lounges of players everywhere.  Big picks, small picks, fat picks, thin picks, sharp picks, round picks…Dunlop and Clayton have it.

 

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