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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.
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!
I got in touch with the guys at Guitar & Bass magazine to see if they were interested in spotlighting some of the great McNelly Pickup models now I'm offering them here in the UK and they jumped at it! I'm a big fan of what this magazine is achieving these days, their approach is truly representing the direction of the guitar world right now. Both favouring the usual big name brands as much as the boutique makers, which is great to see.
After discussing some of the range of pickups available, they decided to go with three sets which was great news. The T-Bar Tele P90 set, the Stagger Swagger & the Sparkletron. The man set to review them was their all round tech man, Huw Price. He was fitting the T-Bar into a tradition Tele, maple neck, Swamp ash body etc, The Stagger Swaggers into a Les Paul and finally the Sparkletrons into a La Cabronita, so a real nice mix!
After a few chats about the finer details of each model, I was really looking forward to reading what Huw had to say about these models. He picked up on all the details I was hoping he would, those tones, nuances and build quality details that make McNelly so great.
If you get chance, make sure you drop by a newsagents, super market etc and pick up this months copy. It's a great read, aside from the pickup review! I particularly love the original '56 feature too. Really proud to see pickups we offer from Home of Tone featured in this great mag. If you're interested in reading what a well respected magazine think of McNelly pickups, then it's well worth a peek!