Review : Pick Punch – Make Your Own Customized Plectrums!

The Pick Punch looks just like any old paper punch at first glance, however upon closer inspection you’ll notice the great big plectrum-shaped hole in the bottom.  With this little gadget you can take almost any piece of flat plastic material and turn it into some custom guitar picks!

We featured the Pick Punch in our Xmas Stocking Fillers article last year and I have to admit that I almost instantly wrote it off as a fun, novelty item.  But once you start to see the possibilities for custom pick creations it quickly becomes a very useful (and incredibly addictive!) tool.  Read on to find out how…

What’s In the Box?

Inside the attractively designed box you’ll find the Pick Punch, ready to start pumping out custom plectrums.  I also picked up a small selection of plastic sheets from the Pick Punch website to get started with, as well as a sanding block for shaping and buffing the picks – these are an extra purchase, but very inexpensive.

Pick Punch Custom Guitar Plectrum Review

The punch itself is very heavy and feels incredibly well built and solid in your hand.  When you first see the size of the hole on the bottom you really wonder how on earth it manages to cut such a large area from your material.

The plastic sheets are all of a similar thickness, but are of varying colors and opacities.  Pick Punch sell a variety of different plastic sheets directly from their website should you need a good supply.

Review : Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuning Machines

I’m a big fan of locking tuners and try to have them on all of my guitars where possible, so when I recently received my new Gaskell AllRounder the very first thing I did was to upgrade the standard stock tuners.  D’Addario were kind enough to send out a set of their Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuning Machines, and I was only too glad to give them a test drive!

These tuners are a little different to most in that they negate the need for string cutters by incorporating a trimming mechanism directly into the tuners themselves.  The design is so simple and innovative that they really don’t look any different to any other locking tuner on the market.  They come in either a 6 in-line set or a 3+3 set in a variety of different finishes. Read on to find out how the magic happens…

What’s In The Box?

Inside the beautifully designed packaging, the tuners are artfully displayed in their cardboard mount.  Underneath you will find six screws, and your nuts and washers, as well as a brief information pamphlet which details how the tuners function.

DAddario Planet Waves Auto Trim Locking Tuners Review

The packaging is a very elegant affair, clearly Planet Waves has also put a lot of thought into the smaller details such as this. The tuners themselves are incredibly solid and feel very well made – they also look fantastic!

Locking Tuners?  What Are They?

For those of you who are new to guitar and perhaps haven’t come across locking tuners yet, let me tell you that they are a godsend!  A large screw on the bottom of the tuner controls the height of a clamping pin inside the post where you thread your string through.  So the idea is that you thread the string through, pull it tight, and then tighten the screw to clamp the string firmly in place.

Review : D’Addario EXP Strings and Planet Waves Pro-Winder

D’Addario very kindly sent me a sample of their new EXP coated string range as well as a pro-winder from their Planet Waves brand.  I am a long time user of both of these companies so I was only too happy to test-drive a few more of their excellent products!

For those who aren’t in the know, Planet Waves is also owned by D’Addario.  I was sent a set of super light (EXP120) and regular light (EXP110) strings for electric guitar, and a set of light (EXP16) and medium (EXP17) strings for acoustic.

D’Addario EXP Coated Strings

I’ve been using D’Addario’s EXP range of strings for probably a year or two now, and they are superb!  These strings do cost a little more but they come with a special coating which should hopefully extend the life of the strings quite considerably.  If you’re like me, get fairly sweaty during a good guitar session and never bother to wipe down the strings afterwards, these are absolutely ideal.  I used to be able to turn a set of strings brown within a couple of weeks, but with these I can easily stretch them out for months of use if need be.

D'Addario Coated EXP Strings

Fair enough if you play live or do session work you will want a fresh set of strings on for each and every gig, but for home practice these EXPs will keep you going for longer without sacrificing tone.  A further bonus on the electric packs is the extra high-e string that comes bundled inside – something that you see less and less of these days.

Will you notice the coating on the strings?  Sure, at first.  As you make your first bend you will be able to feel the string grind against the fret, but this is only temporary and will quickly disappear as you continue to play.  Once you’ve worn off the coating beside the frets the EXP’s feel like any other set of regular strings.

The strings come with colored ball-ends to allow for easy identification and are packaged in a sealed bag to keep them factory fresh forever.  If you go through strings like nobody’s business I would absolutely recommend test driving a set of these strings out, both for acoustic and electric.

Planet Waves Pro-Winder String Tool

If your guitar doesn’t have locking tuners then a good string winder is a complete necessity.  It will shave minutes off of your restring time and saves a lot of  unnecessary strain on your wrist.  I’ve been using a Planet Waves string winder for nearly 10 years now and it’s still going strong!  This winder also features a string-cutter to help speed up the removal of old strings and tidy up the new ones.

 

D'Addario Pro-Winder NEW vs OLD

Guitar Review : Jaden Rose Series 2

Jaden Rose Guitars is a relatively new UK based company which is very quickly making a name for itself within the guitar playing community.  Jaden very kindly sent me one of his excellent left handed Series2 models to play with and review this week.

The UK-made Series2 represents a stripped down version of Jaden’s Original Series design, where most of the bling has been removed in order to offer drastic reductions in price.  The result is a much more refined looking guitar which still offers the supreme playability of its bigger, more expensive brother.

I was sent the 6-string hardtail model from the range, but also on offer are a 6-string Floyd Rose and a 7-string hardtail version.  Various different finishes and options are available, check out Jaden’s website for more information.

Body

The two-piece centre-joined body is made of grade-A premium African Sapele, which is a lower cost alternative to the increasingly endangered mahogany species more commonly used in guitars.  Thanks to the fine grain of the Sapele and Jaden’s superb oil/wax finish this guitar has a smooth as satin feel to it.  Apart from the arm-cut and rear tummy-cut the body is perfectly flat.

Jaden Rose Series 2 - Lightly Distressed Black Left Handed Lefty

One of the first things you’ll notice about the body of this guitar is its similarity to the incredibly popular RG design from Ibanez.  However, whilst the Ibanez has sharp edges around the curves of the body, Jaden has applied a small curved radius on the top and bottom which makes this guitar slightly more comfortable to play when sitting down.  In comparison the Series2 body is also slightly thinner but still has a decent amount of weight behind it.

Grip Studios Guitar Hanger Review

A quick review of the rather quirky Metal Mayhem guitar hanger from Grip Studios. Definitely something a little different!

Timber Tones Exotic Wood Guitar Picks Review

Timber Tones Plectrums are a new type of luxury guitar pick which are designed and sold within the UK.  What makes these picks different from most others is that each one is finely crafted from one of 18 different exotic woods from around the world, with each having their own unique tone.

Each pick is shaped by machine to exacting specifications, which ensures that the only difference between each one is the wood that they are created from.  Once they come off the production line each Timber Tone goes through a quality control checklist to ensure that they are up to scratch.  After passing this initial scrutiny the picks are treated with wax which seals the wood and gives them a more grippy texture.  Finally each pick is given a generous coating of Tung oil to help enhance the wood’s natural beauty.

“You’ve treated yourself to high end guitar equipment, now treat yourself to one of the best plectrums money can buy…” – TimberTones

I was sent a couple of sample packs of Timber Tones to try out and I’ve been busy putting them through their paces over the last couple of weeks.  I was given an electric sample pack which contained four picks for electric guitar, and an acoustic sample pack which contained four picks for acoustic guitar…

The Electric Timber Tones

The Timber Tones included in the electric package were made from some of the harder woods on offer.  The hardness of each wood is calculated using the Janka scale which measures the force required to embed an 11.28mm steel ball into wood to half the ball’s diameter.  Included in the electric package were Lignum Vitae (4500), African Ebony (3320), Sonokeling (3080) and Bloodwood (2990).  Take a look at some more detailed images below…

Timber Tones Electric Guitar Picks Wooden

The hardest of the lot is the Lignum Vitae pick – my dad told me they used to make ship propeller shaft bearings out of this!  It’s also very, very smooth, despite the rather crazy looking patterns and ridges running over it.

Most people will know what the African Ebony will feel like considering that it is used on many fingerboards.  Due to its very tight grain it is as smooth as a button between the fingers.

V-Picks Guitar Picks Review

Six months ago I would have had no idea what a V-Pick was, but right now it is damn near impossible to visit a guitar website or forum and not find someone raving over these seemingly magical little picks.  I recently contacted Vinni at V-Picks.com and he was kind enough to send me over a sample pack to try out for myself.  Let’s see what all the fuss is about!

V-Picks are made from a special type of acrylic which gives them a very slick, transparent appearance.  But aside from looking great, the main advantage to this material is the grip, or ‘grippage’ as the guys at V-Picks like to call it.  These little chaps have grip by the bucket load, but that’s not to say they’re too sticky – the balance is just perfect.  Their tagline of ‘never drop your pick again’ seems to be spot on!

A further innovative feature on most of the V-Pick variations is their three-sided composition.  The pick is designed so that you can hold it from any one of the sides, as each corner is the same as the other.  A typical model will cost a little more than your average brand name pick, but when you consider that you are actually getting three picks in one, these suddenly become excellent value for money.

So let’s take a look at these wondrous plectrums already!  My sample pack included five different picks and I have given a brief outline of each below.

V-Picks Guitar Picks Review Plectrum Left Handed

Medium Ultra Lite Pointed

At 0.75mm this was the thinnest pick I was sent.  Its slight flexibility makes it great for acoustic guitar and the pointed tips help to provide a bright, snappy, well articulated tone.  These are also available in small and large sizes as well as in a beautiful ruby red color.

Thoughts: My new acoustic pick of choice!  This little gem sounds absolutely dreamy both for simple strumming and more complex arpeggios.  The added grip makes them ideal for those times when you really let rip and are going to town with your strumming.

Medium Lite Pointed

This pick is very similar to the Ultra Lite series with the main difference being that they are twice as thick at 1.5mm.  They produce a tone which is slightly fuller than the Ultra Lites as you would expect from a thicker pick.  A fantastic jack-of-all-trades!  Also available in small, large and freakishly large sizes.

Review : Snark Clip-On Guitar Tuner

Last Xmas I was fortunate enough to unearth a crazy looking new Snark clip-on tuner beneath my tree.   Now that I’ve had it for a couple of months I thought it was high time to write up a little review on this excellent piece of kit.  We don’t have to talk about left handed guitars ALL the time do we? ;)

The Snark tuner is currently available in two different flavours – the blue SN1 is optimized for guitar and tunes via vibration only, whereas the red SN2 is a general purpose model and can tune any instrument by vibration as well as via its built-in microphone.  I have the red SN2 model, not so much because I wanted the extra versatility but because the SN1 is very hard to find within the UK.  Conversely, the blue model seems to be the most readily available choice in the USA…strange!

The design of the Snark is quirky, it has a very modern, curvy aesthetic but somehow also manages to appear almost retro styled at the same time.  The clip is a strong, well-made affair and has rubber pads to ensure that it won’t damage your guitar’s finish.

Once clipped onto your guitar’s headstock the display head can be pivoted and rotated from two separate points in order to allow you to position it at an easily readable angle.  The display itself is large and well lit to allow for comfortable reading.  A limited range of vibrant on-screen colors makes the unit superb for dimly lit environments.  The tuner is powered by an easily replaceable 3V lithium battery which should really last you forever due to the Snark’s clever power saving features.

The Snark also has a nifty little transpose feature which allows you to tune normally when using a capo.  For example if you have a capo at the first fret the lowest note on the E-string would become an F, however through using the transpose feature on the Snark it will read out the note as an E, allowing you to tune as if in standard tuning.  This is obviously also handy for straightforward tuning on drop-tuned guitars.  The Snark also allows you to change the pitch reference to anywhere between 415 and 466Hz.

The final trick up the Snark’s sleeve is the built in metronome. The tempo of the metronome can either be set by tapping the required timing or via the up/down buttons on the back of the unit.  Unfortunately the metronome has no audio and is a visual reference only, but it’s still a nice little extra to have.  Great for songs where you don’t have the drummer to play along with!

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3…

As far as I’m concerned a tuner such as this one should satisfy three separate criteria – it should stay put, be accurate, and it should be easy to use in a dimly lit gig venue.  The Snark scores highly in all categories.