For me, August 8th was a day of technological wonder and a study of human advancement on two fronts. First, I was able to watch man reach Mars with the intent to hopefully discover life and further our understanding of our galaxy’s history and evolutionary process. Second, I received in the mail an assortment of tools to assist my technical growth on guitar AND give me better tones in the process. Not only that, but they’re incredibly sexy. Would you believe I’m talking about guitar picks?
Vinni Smith and his team at V-Picks were kind enough to send me a tester kit of some of their handmade, heat tempered, acrylic picks with the promise that I would “never drop my pick again”. I was about to learn more about my right hand in one hour than I had in 5 years of alternate picking practice.
V-Picks are constructed with unique blends of acrylics that are heat tempered with a 1500 degree flame. Adding to the dynamic design aesthetics, most styles have edge beveling for ergonomic motion and note articulation. The blend of materials creates a natural surface grip quality that is extraordinary. The grip sticks to your skin in a way that you don’t even notice. It just simply stays put comfortably without abrasive ridges, resin, or gimmicky grips or handles. This element of the design was not only refreshing but absolutely crucial when you consider that these picks are designed in part to help you examine and improve your technique.
Upon playing with the V-Picks, the first and most profound aspect I encountered was that these picks will keep you honest. By that, I mean if your technique needs work in any one area, these picks will expose that area. The best part is, I was able to “feel” my attack more acutely which allowed me to very comfortably adjust my approach on the fly. It was almost like a magic bullet. The pick was actually guiding me into an more effective posture - in real time – without becoming cumbersome. In fact, quite the opposite.
The second thing I noticed was how robust my tone sounded. In my experience, some picks like the Stiletto and Switchblade gave an edge and punch to distorted rhythms. The Screamer and Dimension picks gave crazy articulation to my picking passages while the candy pink colored Chick Pick added a fatness to jazz style leads without losing percussive nuances. Each pick I tried brought something new to the table in terms of tone. Going back to my small jazz picks and traditional size synthetic tortoise shell sounded very dull in comparison to the V-Picks version of the same shapes.
Lastly, I was impressed to find out that I was able to adapt very easily to almost all the styles of picks in my assortment. I felt that most of the picks were allowing at least one advantage or more and the more versatile picks were either exploiting my strengths or exposing me to things I needed to work on. It was the first time I had used a tool that was able to show me specifically how to practice more effectively to improve my personal approach.
Out of the 20 picks Vinni sent me, I found 11 of them to complement my style. I was able to narrow the field down to 3 that were absolutely perfect for my approach. That in and of itself is a huge relief considering that it sometimes takes players months of trial and error to find just one pick that become the “go to” plectrum. Visiting the V-Picks website you will find dozens of designs and styles. Most have very striking and artistic designs without losing focus on functionality. There are even picks designed specifically for players with injuries that assist in fluidity and economy of motion. There are also the Colossal and Insanity picks that are handmade by Vinni himself and at 8.85mm and 11.85mm respectively, they’re worth a visit to the site to visualize. V-Picks has you covered if you play the Electric or Acoustic guitar, Gypsy Jazz, Bass, Mandolin, or Dulcimer, with gauges ranging from .75 to an incredible 11.5mm.
For my approach to rock, metal, and extreme metal, I recommend checking out the Dimension and Dimension Junior for an all-around percussive attack, BIG tone, and ergonomic styling that made picking and sweep picking a breeze. For jazz and blues I recommend the Chic Pick for darker tones, comfortable size, and medium-aggressive attack. For Acoustic strumming I really enjoyed the Tradition UL and for Acoustic leads I felt that the Euro picks added bright articulation without harshness in the attack. I ended up playing mostly with the Dimension Junior. After two days and about 3 hours of playing on .10 and .11 gauge strings, the pick remains in perfect playing shape retaining it’s ergonomic and musical qualities without developing ridges or worn areas from string contact.
So it’s fair to say that these picks develop a relationship with the player the longer you use them. I didn’t feel like I had to convince myself to be open minded in that the pick just took over! In my experience with the Dimension Junior, I was able to spotlight aspects of needed improvement that I would’ve never otherwise noticed. I find my approach slowly becoming more relaxed and fluid. For aspects of my playing that I did not want to change, the V-Picks added clarity and much bigger tone than the picks I was used too. So if you’re looking to critically analyze your picking improvement or simply looking for a more comfortable approach to your existing technique, definitely visit the V-Picks website. If you want to concentrate on what’s important, grip the un-droppable V-Pick.