D’Addario XL (and EXL) Strings – Time Proven Favorites – Great strings for many venues

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I originally wrote this review on April 26, 2009 – I still use these on 2 humbucker instruments… always great quality…

This is an opinion review, not a religious or fan-boy review… This is an experienced view of a high-quality brand and string… I play MANY brands of strings, including D’Addario XLs – I believe my review presentation is objective…

As a musician, a guitar nut, and a recording artist, I’m always exploring different things to get different sounds. I’m always trying out strings, picks, pickups, electronics, and much more… always looking to see what something sounds like or feels like.

Strings are a fundamental of music with stringed instruments. Just as a stylus is important to the audio output quality of a fine phonograph, strings affect the sound quality of an instrument. Also, the feel of strings is important to the way the musician interacts with their instrument. There are many, many things about strings that are very personal in nature…

So, what do we feel about our strings? It seems as though every musician with whom I speak has a completely different view of their strings. It’s truly amazing. Musicians, from pro to novice, all express divergent views on their strings.

Some folks are so fanatic about their strings that they will spend long periods of time going through identical sets of strings to get just the perfect string or set or pairs or sets of strings. Yet there are others who have the attitude of “it doesn’t matter to me, just make sure they’re nickel-plated 10s” or “I guess I should change my strings – they’re a year old now.”

And yet others are somewhere in between. What’s right? The right answer is, if the strings do what you want, then they’re the right ones.

So, enough about the philosophy of strings… let’s talk about a particular brand and type… I’ll write more reviews about other brands and types down the road a bit. Today, I’m going to ramble about D’Addario XL strings.

There are lots of kinds of excellent D’Addario strings. Read more about them and browse them at zZounds. I like zZounds – they’ve been great for me as a customer.

Briefly: I don’t beat my strings, nor do I pick/pluck extremely hard or firmly. But, on the other hand, I don’t have the light touch, either. Suffice it to say that I am somewhere in the middle when it comes to being hard on my strings. Also, I do like fresh strings – both from a cleanliness point of view and from a sound point of view. I change my strings when they feel icky or they begin to “darken” my instrument’s sound. I don’t like blackened rough strings or strings that are smelly and dull-sounding… with that in mind, let’s do some exploration…

First of all, I love these. They’re super-consistent quality. I’ve opened, installed, and played hundreds of sets of D’Addario XL guitar and bass strings – and I’ve NEVER had one with a bend, a “funny place”, or with a largely unreliable sound.

D’Addario strings, in general, are extremely consistent and extremely reliable. I’ve never had one break. I’ve never had one “go dull” on me before the rest of the set. I’ve never had one feel strange when I’m playing. The quality is good and consistent.

Here’s one of the main things about strings… how do they sound? Not all strings are the same manufacture, not all strings sound the same, and not all strings are musical in the same way.

D’Addario XLs sound generally bright, whether you’re playing nickel-plate, pure nickel, or acoustic brass/bronze strings. They have a nice growl to them that sounds like freshly wound metal – very nice. I’ve played strings from other manufacturers – strings bearing virtually the exact same specs as the XLs I’ve played. In general, the D’Addarios growl a little more, sing a little more, and produce a mellow tone when played easy on clean.

D’Addario XLs are generally priced within a half-dollar of all of its competitors. I don’t feel that D’Addario XLs are expensive or cheap – they seem priced just right… I feel as though they are the “workhorse” type of string – a brand and type musicians can count on.

They’re a great value and will please a large percentage of the string-instrument-playing population…

Long Lasting:
D’Addario XLs last a fairly long time. There are other brands and types I’ve used that stay close to “fresh” feel and sound longer than the XLs I play, but not many. I have also played brands (brands that I DO like, mind you) that don’t last nearly as long.

In general, D’Addario XLs seem to last well past average, and are consistently in the top range of long-lasting uncoated strings.

Closing opinion:
I love D’Addarios. I install them on customer’s guitars very frequently. I have a couple of guitars that get nothing but D’Addario XLs (generally 10s). I REALLY like the phosphor-bronze sets I use on my Ibanez acoustic.

I love the quality and the general sound of them. I like the multi-pack options to save some coin, and I like the way they feel even up to the time when they start to get grimy.

They’re great strings. Give them a try.

Wedgies Rubber Guitar Picks Review – Even after 5 years, I’m still using them every week

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I originally posted this on February 10, 2007. I still use Wedgie Rubber picks a lot when recording in particular. They have a great way of making an acoustic bass sound like finger plucks (which is great when my nails aren’t just right or my fingers are sore). They also make for some cool electric guitar sounds – particularly with rapid up-down pick strokes. Try some! I still love them five years later… I have a box or three of all the weights and thicknesses.

I still keep a Wedgie Rubber Pick in my pocket for everyday use…

Jim Pearson of Vivid Peace's Pocket Picks

Pocket Picks for everyday use

Wedgie Rubber Picks Review

It’s definitely time to return to my Uncle Ricky 25th anniversary pick tray for a new pick review.

I do like to have tons of different picks around to try, to use for recording, and to have for experimentation. Lots of particular picks end up being grabbed out of my pick tray on a frequent basis.

My Wedgie rubber picks are a frequent winner in the pick-grab of the day.
There are times when you want some punch out of your bass-guitar attacks, but not the aggressive, bright attack of a regular 351 celluloid or plastic pick. You want expression and a clearly-defined attack point instead of the warm and broad sound from your fingers.

Also, I’ve found times when my finger-style playing on my 6-string guitars is too warm and my pick sound is too bright –
Those situations are ideal for Wedgies. Wedgies combine the best parts of using a pick with the subtlety of finger plucks.

Quick Opinion: Wedgies are well-made, consistently-made, and (for rubber picks) long-lasting. They are an excellent addition to anyone’s pick arsenal.
Remember, picks are sometimes the least expensive way to change your sound… give them a try…

You can have a blast browsing to your hearts content seeing the different ways you can inexpensively change your sound with different picks here at zZounds.com.

Playability: Wedgies are comfortable and they are easy to grip. The rubber of which they are made is midway between tire rubber and really soft pencil eraser – from a feel perspective. The design has a little cupped place that makes your fingers feel right at home.

Playing with a rubber pick does take some getting used to. It feels a lot like a squishy pick at first, but the attack on the strings isn’t slippery (it grabs the string a little). You have to adjust a tiny bit when you’re going from a hard pick to a rubber pick. On the 6-string, in particular, you start out with a tiny delay of the sound attack until you adjust to the way the pick feels against the strings.
With the bass guitar, the Wedgie pick feels wonderful. If you don’t want to use picks, but want that super-clean attack, try a Wedgie. If you’re new to the bass after playing guitar, you can get right into the groove of playing with a Wedgie. I don’t think there’s any replacement for a well-played finger-style bass technique – but I think the Wedgie makes a great alternative sound.

Features: Wedgies come in three types: Hard; Medium; Soft. They also come in two thicknesses: 3.1mm and 5.0mm. The two dimensions offer you a couple of things… the hardness gives you more or less punch when the string is plucked. The thickness adds more warmth on the thinner one and more volume on the thicker one.
In addition, the thicker and harder picks last longer. Rubber picks have a finite lifetime. I’ve found, after several years of playing them, that Wedgies last longer than many felt picks, and are a reasonably good value. I’ve only worn one or two out. The rougher windings of bass strings produce more pick wear than the finer windings 6-string strings.

I prefer the harder picks for playing on acoustic 6-strings and basses, and softer picks for electric bass and guitar. You may find you like the opposite – but at $.50 each, you can buy several different ones and try to see what you like.

Sound: Next to comfort and grip, sound is the real reason for buying Wedgies.
Plastic, celluloid, and Delrin picks have their distinct sounds. They have similar feel and texture. But rubber picks are a different experience and sound.
Wedgies have an interesting balance between attack and warmth of tone. Their sound is clean – and at the same time mellow.

Value: Although Wedgies rubber picks are more expensive than their plastic-like brethren, their value is quite high. You get a lot of bang for the buck with these, and the manufacturer has done a great job of making them very consistent in material, thickness, and sound. Kudos to the Wedgie folks for giving us a nice blended sound in such a comfortable package.

Wishes: One wish: I’d like to see them come out with an extra-hard. Something that still gives that Wedgie sound, but an earlier and more defined attack. I’d be sure to buy several.

The Venerable Fender 351 Pick! A long-term review with old friends: The first and current favorite picks

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I originally posted this review about 6 years ago on 3.12.2006. Not much has changed in my bag o’ picks, but this review still rocks what I feel…

Fender 351 Pick Review

This week, I am dipping into my Peck O’ Picks to review three of my most used flat-pick plectrums. In this case, the picks are Fender™ 351-shape that fall into the “thin” or “light” category.

LOTS of variety and information about Fender picks here at zZounds.com! Browse and have fun. So many choices from which to choose to change your sound…

Picks (for those that use them) are probably the least expensive and least considered, but most important parts of guitar playing. Certain types and shapes of picks are best suited to playing a given type of guitar or even a given type of playing style. The thins covered in this review are generally used for soft strumming (particularly with acoustics), and for certain types of fast picking.

However, one of the least-considered and least-understood parts of picks is their affect on clarity and brightness of attack. Most folks seem to focus on comfort (important, yes) and whether or not the pick lasts through hours of playing (also important, yes). In this review, I’ll consider these factors, but will focus more on how picks make attacks sound.

Of the zillions of styles, picks and materials I have for picks, I go through the thins the most. Part of the reason is that thins/lights cause a very clean, precise (if not bright) attack on a given note. If the pick is held with only a little tip exposed to the string, the guitar’s sound becomes very clear and concise. If the pick is held far back away from the tip, the sound is a little softer, but gives an interesting “clicking” sound when recording a mic-ed acoustic. It is the brightness of attack that brings me to use a thin or light pick in certain of my tunes. At times, when I’m recording one of my acoustics (particularly when I double-mic from the front of the guitar) I like to use thins to give a nice “live” effect when I’m doing strummed chords.

The main disadvantage of most thin picks is that they shred, crack, tear, or outright break fairly often. Most (not all) common pick materials (celluloid and clear plastic included) will tear or break, particularly with fast or hard playing. My son cannot use a celluloid or clear plastic thin pick when he’s shredding – he’ll tear the pick within about an hour of playing something loud and hard. However, there are thin picks made of materials that will last significantly longer. In particular, the Delrin™ picks (and other brands, too, like the Dunlop™ Tortex™ and Ultex™ picks – covering those in another review sometime) last a very long time and are very hard to tear or break.

In short, if you want a bright note attack, use a thin or light pick. If you need durability, use one of the other materials, such as Delrin. Note that the Delrin picks have a slightly more warm-bright attack than do celluloid or clear plastic picks.

The Fender Celluloid Thin (medium pictured here): These picks come in neat “moto” colors and even some faux shell/pearl/abalone colorings. They’re generally low-cost, and can be purchased at almost any music store/catalog (an advantage). The lifetime of the celluloid picks is medium, and the attack sound is medium-bright. I like these picks for strumming 12-string guitars and my warmer-sounding guitars (Sycamore and Cedar). These particular picks are a very old standard, and are reliable enough to play through a jam set (most of the time) or a few weeks of light casual playing. I have only broken a few of these picks in the past couple of years – remembering that I have hundreds of picks and rotate through them frequently based on sound, style, and mood.

The Fender California Clear™ Light clear plastic pick (medium pictured here): These picks have a delightful, bell-clear attack that is better than any other brand or type I’ve tried (when it comes to a bright attack). They come in lots of neat clear colors, and have a cool palm tree motif on the front. These picks are bright, but are extremely fragile. If you want brightness, and 1) have lots on hand or 2) are a very light picker, these are the picks for you. I regularly break (or more appropriately, tear) one of these picks in any given recording session or Jammin’ Rug jamming session. These picks receive awful reviews, mostly based on their short life spans. However, I always keep a dozen or so of them around specifically for their sound. I just assume that they are throw-away picks – they’re indispensable in my arsenal of sounds.

The Fender Delrin Light pick (medium pictured here): This pick generally comes in plain, bright colors, and has a delightful non-gloss, very grippy texture. When these picks are new, they are great for sweaty paws – they don’t slip around much. As they age, they shine up a bit, but don’t lose their edge. I have yet to break one of these, in any type of playing situation. My son has never broken one of these, either, even in two solid hours of hard rock playing and shredding. The Delrins have a bright attack, although not as clear as the Clears. These are more expensive (by a few cents) than the plastic and celluloid picks. They are also very hard to find in even mega-stores. I tend to buy these online by the dozen.

We’ll dive back into the Peck O’ Picks again soon to look at Nylons, and some other great brands of picks.