V-picks have taken the guitar pick market by storm. Who have thought that picks could be so….sexy? These translucent, stick-to-you-fingers, easy-to-hold-onto, fat and toneful picks come in all shapes in sizes. No matter what style of music you play, these picks can deliver big tone, even for acoustic! Having given these picks a test drive for a few weeks at rehearsal & gigs, we can say that these picks really do stick to your fingers. They cannot be dropped due to finger sweat. Just not gonna happen. The fatness of the picks was a welcomed by guitarists using Big Stubby, Adamas and other 2mm & fatter picks. The tone was there, and the translucent color really fit the times in the style of modern simplicity. But enough introduction already. Vinni Smith, founder of V Picks, was kind enough to spend some time talking about V-Picks with us pick disciples.
SSS: What inspired the V pick?
Vinni: There were a couple of inspirations and needs that got V-Picks started. As a young guitarist I was very heavy handed and could not get used to any guitar pick on the market. I think I tried them all. Even metal and stone picks. I did discover that the thicker the pick, the lighter handed I played, allowing me to be a better player. I also fell in love with two guitarist’s sound, Brian May from Queen and Ed King from Lynyrd Skynyrd. I did not know this back then but BHM played with a sixpence coin and EK played the solo on Sweet Home Alabama with a seashell. Both of these players had a unique pick sound in their style and sound. I wanted a unique sound of my own as well. I guess I was not too far off by making a guitar pick out of what we called “Plexiglass” back then. I had tried all kinds of materials with no positive results until I was walking thru a hardware store and found this piece of clear plastic and that was it! I was fascinated by plexiglass because I had an aquarium made out of this material and I loved my salt water aquarium. So, we just came together way back then in ’85. The material I now use is much different from that old stuff and has even better properties like, warmer tone, faster gliding action and the wonderful V-Pick “grippage”.
SSS: What are some of the advantages of your pick sizes & shapes, and are they generally suited to certain styles of music/guitar playing?
Vinni: Well, the rounded corners create a very fast action that has almost no resistance over the string. It is carefully calculated to give each stroke a longer, slower, “point of release”. This makes for a better mid-range. The material also comes into play for the warm tone. Yet it has wonderfull highs. Not the brittle highs that you reach for your amp to turn down. It is more singing type of high end. I think that is why Carlos likes and plays our Freakishly Large Rounded pick. The thicknesss not only helps with this sound but is also very easily held on to. Just try this little experimentation. Hold your thumb and index fingertips together lightly like you are holding a thin pick or a piece of paper for about 5 seconds. Now, put a small space between your thumb and fingertip, maybe 1/4″ apart. Now you tell me, which position feels better and more relaxed. The second one of course. This is the same principle designed into V-Picks. Relaxation of your thumb, wrist, fingers and this all transfers up into your arm, allowing you to be more relaxed and more agile and loose. This is really how it works.
SSS: And then we have the pointed picks. They have the same bevel and material and thickness, however the points are much more pronounced. This really digs into the strings. Lots of snap and bite and yet fast, fast, fast action.
Vinni: Really, I have artists of all styles playing both the pointed and rounded picks. I even have Jazz players playing the pick I call the Shredder. It is a perfect triangle shape. Looks like a Ninja star! I would not have guessed a Jazz player would even try one, but they do, and some of them absolutely love them, and I originally designed this pick for the sweep pickers.
SSS: Do you plan on creating some thin pickers for rhythm & acoustic guitarists?
Vinni: Yes indeed! We already have a very nice acoustic pick called the V-Pick Acoustic. We also have V-Pick Lites that are 1.0mm that also make wonderful acoustic picks. AND, just this week we have released our new V-Pick ULTRA Lites. They are only .5mm thick!!! Made of the same cool material as the regular V-Picks and still sports the same “grippage” as their fellow models. They have a very cool sound and vibe. I announced their release before I received the material to put them into full blown production and the orders started rolling in like crazy! We were backed up with a LOT of orders and production had not yet started! It took some time but we are up and running now with the Ultra Lites and the reviews are just starting to come in via email and phone. Guys and gals are loving these V-Pick ULTRA Lites. They come in both Large and Medium sizes.
SSS: You mention using the Big Stubby pick prior to creating V Picks. The big, thick purple picks. What drew you to the Big Stubby, and how has the V Pick improved upon it?
Vinni: I played the Stubby and the Big Stubby for some years. My wife used to buy them by the dozens for me. I liked the Stubbies because they allow for the open fingered position as described above. However, as much as I loved those picks, I did not like the material they are made of. They can become quite noisy and problematic in the mix. Also, they will literally squirt out of your fingers when you get sweaty. I was constantly readjusting my pick. All of these things were corrected with the V-Pick. They will get sticky feeling when your hands become sweaty and you will almost never have to readjust your guitar pick. They also have a lot less string/pick noise that is a natural thing any time you play with a thick plectrum. V-Pick can still create a bit of noise, however, it can be done away with by a simple pick angle change. Also, the material used in our picks create a warmer tone. Not as brassy or glassy sounding as Lexan picks can be.
SSS: What can mandolinists expect from your mandolin picks?
Vinni: Mandolin players ADORE our picks. I do not play Mandolin. I play guitar. However, at NAMM in Aneheim, CA this winter, Mandolin players were literally crowded around our booth! George Gruhn even came over to see what the fuss was all about. BTW, I am very proud and humble to say Gruhn Guitars in Nashville now carries V-Picks in their inventory! Anyway, these things are perfect for tremolo playing. The bevel and corners seem to be designed for this very way of playing! Some Manodlin picks out there are so rounded that they do not have tone anymore. I have quite a few of the most famous ones right here on my desk that customers sent to me. I honestly believe that our picks stack right up next to these very popular and expensive picks and I will be bold enough to say, I believe our picks do a better job! And my customers who sent me these picks will say the same thing. Yes, you have to have a round corner for action but it still has to be pointed enough to create some tone. That is where the V-Pick thickness and bevel come into play. You will have all the action of a very rounded pick and yet lots of nice tone and articulation. Also, we had a booth at Nashville NAMM this summer and some old timers came up to my booth after playing our picks for a day and raved about our material and our picks. We even had every member of the house band at The Grand Ole Opry playing V-Picks on that Friday night. Some of the old timers I met that week claimed that our cast acrylic sounded just as good as their tortoise shell picks!!! I am really sticking my neck out by telling you this because that is almost a holy term in Nashville. But, that is indeed what some were telling me. And again, these were some old timers making this statement! That’s all I have to say about that. (spoken in a Forest Gump voice).
SSS: For those guitarists who have settled on a particular pick for years, why should they try V-Picks?
Vinni: Well, first of all, remember this, a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out. If we are not open to change or trying things, then we are really going backwards because the world out there is passing us by. I am always fascinated in new amps and guitars. Oh, I don’t really like everything I try, of course, but I usually try them even if they don’t look good. I was talking to Robben Ford the other day and asked him to try my picks. He said, “Vinni, I am old dog”. Well, that’s all cool and fine but I think Robben would have been pretty darn surprised if he would have just grabbed one and played for about 1 minute. Carlos did and now he uses them and is still using them on both legs of this year’s tour. I have guys writing me quite often saying they saw Santana playing with a V-Pick on the big concert screens!
Almost every day I have converts from the Dunlop Jazz III camp. They play our Small Pointed and go nuts over it. They say the mid tones are better. They say the action is much, much faster. And they say they are easier to hold onto and almost no wear at all after months of using the pick!
There are a lot of reasons to try a V-Pick. But I think the biggest reason to try them is because, if it is true, that the guitar pick is the most intimate piece of equipment we use, then we should really evaluate what and how we are picking that string. I have found that the pick sets up our tone and technique. And not just the initial tone of the note, but the tone of the note in it’s entirety. From the beginning to the end of the note. It even sets up the sustain and lifetime of that note. I have proved these principles over and over. Both live and over the phone with my customers. Anyway, if it is indeed this important, then it deserves our closest consideration and attention. Also, the guitar pick is the cheapest most inexpensive way to improve your tone. Especially in these days when a buck does not seem to be a buck anymore. I always say, “You don’t need another guitar. You just need another guitar pick”.
For more information, visit www.V-picks.com.