Meet The Maker - Social Distortion to Luthiery, a chat Drew Walsh of Walsh Guitars

Meet The Maker - Social Distortion to Luthiery, a chat Drew Walsh of Walsh Guitars

I began to notice a bit of a transition in the guitar market over over the last few years. One that saw guitar buyers yearning for something a little different to the norm. Instrument designs that perhaps break the conventional molds, and I think the times we are in at the moment, those alternative choices available have never been better. 
Only a couple days to wait until The Guitar Show 2016!

Only a couple days to wait until The Guitar Show 2016!

It's almost time! 
This has come along very quickly, which to be honest is a great thing as we're itching to get started. We've got so many things planned for this and it's shaping up to be a great show.

We're taking along a real nice array of new and vintage guitars, even Mandolins & Lap Steels too! Amplifiers, Slides, Straps & accessories too.

Some of the guitars we're taking have been fitted up with a range of McNelly Pickups for you folks to get stuck into, I'm really looking forward to seeing and hearing your reactions to them, it's going to be fun! I also have a wide array pickups to have a look at, see the quality and the detail that makes them so special. 
Two of the guitars fitted up with McNelly's, are our own shop built guitars! The HoT 'Fifty & 'FiftyFour. Those I'm excited to share!

We're proudly showcasing the awesome Overdrive Straps. These retro vibe straps have caused a stir and are gathering a huge following. We're taking a nice range of their designs so pop by and have a look!

Shows like this are great to get your hands on items you've heard lots about, but are yet to see in person. One of those items may well be Gravity Picks, and we'll have hundreds with us! 

Diamond Bottlenecks have been super super busy making lots of their beautiful Lead Crystal 'Ultimate' model guitar slides for us to showcase, so if you're after a quality slide and want to try a few to see which fit nicely. Come and visit us! We have lots to try, and also some demo models of my own to try out on the variety of slide guitars we'll have with us.

We're also proudly housing the great hand forged items from 'Elder Sign Forge'. All of these items are unique, hand crafted & forged locally and Jake, the owner & maker has put together some great music/guitar related items for us to showcase! 

We're really looking forward to hanging out with everyone, meeting new people and sharing what we do. It means a great deal to us to be there, amongst the sea of fantastic names in the guitar world. It's going to be a great experience! Make sure you pop along to meet us and see what we do here, I promise we'll make you feel at home! (We have coffee & biscuits, we know how to look after us both!)

Tickets are still available in advance direct from The Guitar Show website or on the door on either day. 

See you Saturday & Sunday!

James, Emma & the Home of Tone team!

Product Test - Gravity Picks 'Classic' Master Finish

Product Test - Gravity Picks 'Classic' Master Finish

I think I should start this particular 'Product Test' blog post by telling you a bit of back story into my pick choices, and it's a simple one. Trust me.

I'll be the first to admit that I was very ignorant as to what difference a pick could actually make. In terms of both feel and tone. I used to just purchase Fender Medium Celluloids, for over 20 years I did that in fact. The furthest I ventured away from those picks, were the slightly smaller teardrop Gibson shaped picks or at a push Dunlop Tortex (but I hated the feel of those, so they were a last resort). I always felt it was just down to how it 'played', & that a pick couldn't really affect tone. Oh innocent me, how I was wrong. It certainly never crossed my mind anyway, in over 20 years of playing guitar. I settled with medium purely because chunky picks felt too cumbersome and I kept splitting thin ones, simple as that.

So, actively thinking about stocking picks left me feeling a bit 'meh'. The chain stores dominated the Pick choice world anyway, stocking hundreds of variants of the usual brands. So I felt that if I should stock something, it should be in keeping with my usual stock ethos, and speak for quality, uniqueness and preferably be handmade to boot. What that meant was, I needed to cast off my past ignorance and learn more about picks, more than just celluloid mediums that's for sure!  What I discovered was a very in depth world, one that was full of choice, materials & styles. My search lead me to a few brands in particular, one of which was Gravity.

Choosing a Shape, Finish & Thickness:
What struck me most about Gravity was initially the look, very cool and eye catching they are indeed. Then as I delved deeper it was that the vast majority of the range started at the thinnest being 1.5mm. Quite a bit thicker than what I was used to, which got me intrigued! They do offer 'thin' picks, but their main range interested me most. Why were they all quite thick? in comparison to the big name favourites anyway, with some models going up to 5 & 6mm thick.
So I ordered one, I went straight for a familiar shape to me due to the Fender Celluloids and ordered the Classic 'Standard' 1.5mm 'Master Finish'. This is one of their most popular models and I would say it's because of it's familiarity in shape, hence it's model name. The Gravity Picks range is fairly vast, with lots of choice. Different styles of point & sizes of pick will give you more than enough to think about. So I would perhaps recommend going with something similar to what you are used to, then experimenting from there. As you'd be very surprised how the various shapes can affect your playing and technique. I've since found the 'Sunrise' model to really suit me, but I digress.

The Master Finish refers to how the edges are polished. For Master Finish, they are hand shaped and the edges are filed to a bit more of a sharper point. Whereas the 'Polished' models are completely, well, polished! So are much smoother to the touch, and rather surprisingly, affect more than just feel in your fingers, it affects the tone too.
The Master Finish picks have a bit more 'drag' on the string giving it a very accurate feel whilst playing. I've been very very surprised how my first master finish pick has improved my picking accuracy, which is never a bad thing. The Polished picks seem to glide across the strings much easier, more effortlessly, so perhaps if strumming or rhythm etc work is your forte, then the polished might be a better choice. It's all down to personal taste, neither is 'wrong', so to speak, both have their merits.

Thicknesses, this is the one I thought I would struggle with most. Having been a medium pick kinda guy, the idea of using this chunky (well for me initially) 1.5mm pick seemed daunting almost. But man, how wrong was I! How it responded when I dug in for single note runs or for big SRV esq riffs, or if I held it a little lighter in my grip for bringing it down a notch just blew me away. Very reactive to your actual playing. My old picks were just 'there', doing it's job and being noisy whilst doing so. Gravity picks have very little pick noise against the string, leaving you to actually here to nuances in tone. Acoustically and electrically. Also worth noting here is the material Gravity Picks are made of. It's a specially selected high-grade thermoplastic called Polymethyl Methacrylate. EH?! Well, what that means in non geeky terms, is that it reacts with your finger temperature so that it seems to almost stick to your fingers. Less chance of dropping it mid face melting solo is a good thing in my book. So with that material, the thickness, and the finish, you're left with a pick in your grasp that really feels like it's meant to be there. Designed with a guitar player in mind. It reacts to your playing, helps you to improve technique a little, and they sound great too. 

First thing my wife said to me when trying it out at home when it arrived, was that it sounded like I was playing using my fingers. Which is a welcome change to the old celluloid picks I used in the past, as all you could hear acoustically was the pick flapping around against the string. So suddenly you get to hear what the guitar is doing, how the pick affects the tone. BINGO! So picks can affect tone after all huh?! An apiffany moment was had right there ladies & gentleman. I read that the thinner the Gravity pick, the more on the treble side of things it was. Which I guess is common sense, so 2.0mm 3.0mm etc will sound a little fuller than the baby 1.5mm. But I was sold already, it brought out lots of sounds I didn't think were possible with a pick. I'd resorted to using my fingers quite a bit the past few years, predominantly because of the tone. Pick noise, without realising it, had drove me darn crazy. But with these it was great, back to enjoying using a pick again, with the added bonus of it even sounding a little like using my fingers when playing more delicately. When you dig in, it sounds so much more fluid. What's not to like.

Over time
So I've been using this single Classic 1.5mm Master Finish for 4 months or so now with daily use, and it is still doing it for me. Although the sharp point has rounded ever so slightly, it hasn't worn away much of the material at all surprisingly. I have photographed it alongside a brand spanking new Classic 1.5mm MF and it's the feature image for this post. As you can see, it has dulled a little in colour which is to be expected from general use I suppose. But the size remains and only the point has rounded a little. For over 3 months use, I can't grumble at that considering the feel and tone is all still there. Due to the material, you can re-shape that point a little should you want to, with a small file or emery paper.
I have also experimented briefly with other shapes from the range, in particular the Sunrise Standard 2.0mm. Which is absolutely awesome! A nice broad feeling pick, with a slightly sharper point than the classic. I've really felt at home when I've tried that one, so I think I'll be switching to that model when I finally retire this Classic! I've also tried a Classic Standard 3.0mm, VERY different to what I would have played years ago and It felt great, and the tone was to die for when using it on an archtop.

Overall I can honestly say, it really is worth thinking a little more about what Pick you use. My ignorant (and maybe a little stubborn) previous ways have well and truly been put in their place. I'm glad I checked out Gravity Picks for myself and this 4 month road test has been worth it. I jumped at the opportunity to offer them here and will proudly do so for a long time to come. I'm not adverse to trying others out there, but man, What Chris at Gravity is making over in the US of A, really is great. 
Check one out, I'd love to hear your thoughts too! We stock a wide range and we'll also be showcasing them at The Guitar Show 2016 in Birmingham on the 27th & 28th Feb, so come along and have a look!


11 February, 2016 by James P Gascoigne
Product Test - GraphTech 'String Saver' Saddles

Product Test - GraphTech 'String Saver' Saddles

I'm very keen on product testing as many of the items I plan to offer on the store. There are a few good reasons behind that thought, with the main one being that I like to have a personal experience of a product. Try it for myself, not just read what the tech specs say and relay that onto others. Also, see if they are as good as they look! 
One of those items I wanted to talk about in particular, was the 'String Saver' Saddles made by GraphTech. I'd seen a few well known players swear by them, and fit them to each guitar they use. Players like Kenny Wayne Shepherd & Simon Neil for example both equipping each and every guitar they play with these very saddles. So I thought I'd check them out for myself once I secured the opportunity to offer them here at Home of Tone. I've had these fitted for a couple of months now, with daily use, so I felt now was a good time to share my thoughts.

First Impressions:
First of all the material and quality struck me first. The Graphite material unique to GraphTech really does look purposeful and is very smooth to the touch. I also liked the recessed saddle height grub screws, a nice touch. Quality of finish was bang on, no nasty factory mishaps, so a nice clean product all round really. These came with different length screws for use on a Tele also, if you wanted to convert your three saddle bridge to become a 6 saddle model. 

As simple as can be when it came to fitting these saddles. Obviously a single screw per saddle removed the old units, and popping these on required the same in reverse. You can reduce a little bit of set up time here by marking using masking tape, where your old saddles were positioned before removing. But I knew this guitar needed a bit of attention with a full set up anyway, so a simple out with the old, in with the new for me. 
Adjusting both intonation and string height is the same as usual saddles, with a Philips head screw at the tail end of the bridge for intonation and a small Allen key (also supplied with the saddles) to adjust the string height. 

How do they sound!:
After getting the guitar strung and tuned up, the first thing that hit me was the difference in volume and resonance. Wow! This Strat had the usual standard Fender steel vintage style saddles, which of course are a staple design to this day. But these are notably louder over the stock saddles, making the guitar feel very lively. Acoustically I could notice some lovely harmonics introduced, which is always welcome to my ears. Plugged in, there was a difference in tone, but not a bad thing. Those acoustic harmonics were of coursed transferred through the pickups also, meaning there were some lovely mids that weren't there before. I personally didn't notice a drop in treble that some people report, not one worth mentioning anyway. The bass end sounds very full, which for the strat tone I go for is perfect. Although not a direct part to affect tuning stability, I do feel that because of the material, whilst using the trem bar it seems to settle in tune a lot better than before. One thing that used to drive me crazy with the previous saddles, so I'm glad I can now use the trem and trust it'll stay in tune. 

Overall I'm really impressed! I think they look great, even on a vintage style guitar like my no.1 Strat that I tested them on. Okay, if their styling isn't to your taste, then perhaps looking at an uprated cold rolled steel saddle swap may be better suited to you, but If you're not fussed about looks and just want them for the tone, then you will not be disappointed. They make a nice & noticable improvement to the tone of the guitar, and help with tuning stability whilst using the trem (in my experience). What's not to like!
So as a result, I decided to offer these here at Home of Tone, a GraphTech product personally used and tested by myself and one I'll happily recommend to my customers.

Thanks for reading our first 'Product Test' blog posts, keep checking by to read more!