Back in August, I wrote the first part of my (ongoing and infrequent) Jef’s Guitar Tone Tips series based on my own experiences over the years. For me, the humble plectrum has been a large part of my journey to achieving the sounds that I hear in my head. In this second part I delve deeper into the mysterious world of boutique plectrums with the V-Pick.
To me, ’boutique’ just means that an item is made in relatively small batches and is usually from a smaller one- or two-person company. I first discovered guitar picks made in small numbers at a guitar show in Hammersmith, London back in the mid-’80s. There I was introduced to plectrums made of stone, wood and bone. And from that moment on I found that these materials had a substantial effect on my tone.
Little did I know that other materials would also make a regular appearance in boutique pick manufacturing. I had never thought that some would be viable as a plectrum. Amongst these were things like aluminium, perspex, casein (more on this one later in this series) and various man-made plastics.
Thick = More Tone?
For me, the thicker the plectrum, the better. If it has little to no give then I find it easier to play fluidly and maintain consistency of my single note runs. By this, I mean that I have greater control over dynamics and also bring in (pinched) harmonics when desired.
For this article, I’m going to share with you my findings on polished acrylic and what it can do for your guitar tone.
The diminutive but thick Dunlop Jazz III was my first love. But then I discovered V-Picks, a small family-owned plectrum manufacturer from the USA. They use a type of highly polished acrylic material. It made my old Dunlop Jazz III look thin by comparison and had an amazingly neat trick up its sleeve. They just won’t slip out of your hand, so there’s less chance of you dropping them mid solo.
There may well be other companies using polished acrylic, but when I found V-Picks I had never come across anything like them. Tonally, I had no idea how useful this material could actually be for me as a guitar player.
The V-Pick range also comes in various styles. One or two are similar in dimensions to my beloved Jazz III. Okay, they cost a touch more than a regular plectrum, but they are well worth the price of entry for their crisp and consistent tone. I also adore that they almost glide off my strings and have little resistance or drag.
Vinni Smith is the guy behind V Picks. What I really like about them is their consistency and build quality. Put it this way: I’m still using the same one I acquired years ago and it shows little to no sign of wearing down.
Recently Vinni sent me some more of their plectrum range to try out, as I reached out to him and asked if he would mind if I talked about his unique take on the humble plectrum.
Here in England, I had only managed to find the Screamer and one of their variety packs at a UK guitar show around 7 or 8 years ago. I’m actually still using the original small-pointed one from that show to this day and it is still going strong!
Even though these plectrums look super thick and sometimes impossibly huge (check out the Insanity below in the video), they can actually be great for rhythm playing. That lack of drag means you can play fast, tight chord styles and your pick doesn’t get slowed down by the strings.
Tonally, they are well balanced and make it far easier to control my playing dynamics. I never knew a bit of acrylic could be so useful and would never have thought it would be such a good material for guitar picks.
I’m going to cover more of my favourite boutique plectrums over the coming months, as I think picks are often overlooked as a component of your guitar tone. If you are not experimenting with this aspect of your playing, you should be.