The Gibson ES Les Paul Memphis Electric Guitar Review – The new Classic “ES”

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The Gibson ES Les Paul Memphis Electric Guitar Review – The new Classic “ES”

In all the years I’ve been playing guitar, I’ve levitated towards Les Pauls, SGs, Explorers, Strats, Teles, and so many more iconic bodies and configurations. The Gibson ES series (Electro-Spanish) has always been a desire, but something out of reach. The ES lines of guitars are premium instruments, generally priced north of most nice Les Pauls and even some LP customs. I think the stuido ES models are OK, but they just aren’t like ESs to me… I love neck and body binding on them and I love the great lacquer finishes Gibson offers on the non-studios. As such, I’ve really kind of stayed away from new retail ES guitars… until 2014.
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I was surprised one day to be trolling the Gibson guitar home site (opens a new window) and saw something I’d never seen before: a Les Paul called the ES Les Paul – best of both worlds. It wasn’t long before I’d saved up and bought a 2014 ES Les Paul in Light Caramel Burst. Wow. It hit me like a ton of bricks and I really fell in love with the whole idea, right away.

Quick Opinion:  I think describing my first hour with my special-order 2014 Les Paul could be best described in a “first impressions” kind of format. I was really blown away.
* First thought: WOW this thing is seriously light compared to any Les Paul I own of any kind. What a delight.
* First strum (acoustic) felt as though I had a living thing in my hands. The resonant feedback to my hands and my chest was truly sensuous. I was delighted with the way the ES LP sang with open strings and fretted notes!
* When plugged in amplified, I found the ES LP to be somewhat similar to the ES 339 and ES 127, but lighter and more airy. It could be pushed to get blues snotty, caressed to be jazzy and new-agey, picked to be either rock or country. Name your poison: it does it to the nines.
* After fiddling with tone, volume, tunings, and general noodling with sound, I took time to just take the instrument all in with my eyes and hands: It’s really quite beautiful to behold.
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I’ll go into more detail in the rest of the review. With that said, suffice it to say that I not only loved the new design concept, its execution is pretty much flawless. I love it so much so that I regretfully sold my first (the Caramel 2014) and took the time to find just the right cherry burst 2015 on the market almost two years later. My newer one, the 2015 “Memphis Belle” is in my sound library until it is passed on to my family after my time has come.

Playability: To be clear: each neck is hand-shaped and finished from a pre-form blank. Not all Gibson necks are the same… That’s one of the great reasons to own MORE THAN ONE of the same kind ;-). My first ES Les Paul, the 2014, and my current ES Les Paul, the 2015, have virtually the same neck carve, except that the 2015 is definitely thicker feeeeeelingggggg. Your mileage might vary, depending on what you like, the size of your hands, and the actual neck shape at the time of manufacture. Gibson calls it a “Rounded C Profile neck.” With that said, let’s describe the ones I’ve actually owned…
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If you like the traditional old-school 50s thicker neck, the ES Les Paul is for you. It’s a nice hand-carved shape that resembles the neck thickness of my 2010 LP Traditional, my 2016 LP Traditional, and my Gibson Les Paul Custom. I like almost any kind of neck, but this one is my favorite, right up there with the Stratocaster 50’s V neck and my Fender Soft-D Tele Deluxe neck. The ES Les Paul 50s neck is substantial, but doesn’t feel like a baseball bat or bass neck at all. If they made these with 60s necks or even slim-taper Firebird necks, that would be fine… I just prefer the thicker kind…

Nicest play-ability thing when you play standing for hours? It’s LIGHT. WOW is it light. You see it and think “heavy like a non-weight-releived body or heavy like a big ol’ ES 335 with maple ply”… and then you strap it and put the strap on your shoulder and feel like it’s an acoustic in weight. VERY nice. I can play Memphis Belle all day long and my shoulder is none the more sore.

I do play finger-style mostly, with some picking styles and lots of hybrid claw styles (pick and fingers are REALLY fast for some things!). Given the traditional neck width and nut width, the ES Les Paul is a finger-picker’s delight, without costing the pick-picker to lose her/his mind when sweeping, economy-picking, or alternating up-stroke and down-stroke. Memphis Belle has a GREAT balance of string spacing to fingerboard width.

The neck, the fingerboard, the binding on the body’s front edging: all are comfy and make the guitar feel like it was made to be played. As a guitar player with joint issues, Memphis Belle is really so very pleasant that I forget I’ve got a guitar in my hands sometimes – the ES Les Paul is just an extension of my musical mind…
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Sound: There are many components to sound quality in an instrument. The “sound” portion of this review deserves a little more depth than usual because the ES Les Paul’s sound is complex and very versatile – it can be different depending on how you play it and how you amplify it.
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods, body, neck
3) Semi Hollow with just enough of a center block

Pickups and Electronics The Gibson ES Les Paul for 2014-2016 has Memphis Heritage Spec humbuckers (also called MHS Humbuckers). The MHS humbucking pickups are true to their name in that they are virtually self-noise-silent in the signal chain. Nice. From one of Gibson’s own pages, it lists the pickups as “MHS unpotted humbuckers.” I don’t get in front of a 100wx2x4x10 Marshall Stack any more, so I’m not really worried about microphonics. I don’t have one any more, so sorry, readers, I can’t test it out for you to see if the humbuckers will allow feedback. Since they’re covered with nickel Gibson covers, I don’t know if it would be much of a problem.
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The wiring in my ES Les Paul is hand-soldered point-to-point old-school wiring and solder and capacitors. The potentiometers are non-splitting and feel and act like older unbalanced tone-to-volume resistance. I like it just like it is. It sounds fantastic and I wouldn’t have it wired any other way. (By the way, I put speed knobs on mine because I have a terrible time gripping slippery smooth-edged top hat/witch hat knobs.)
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The sound. Oh! The sound! I can dig in with a thicker pick or metal pick through some hotter pre-amp 12ax7 tubes and get bluesy snotty snarly sounds in a skinny minute. The mid-position (both neck and bridge humbuckers {or treble and bass humbuckers for the old-school folks}) sounds the most balanced for most kinds of playing. The neck is decidedly jazzy and very thick and creamy. The bridge, when played alone, likes to honk a little like old unpotted PAF vintage, low-resistance pickups. With that said, you can dial in the tubes and your playing style and get a nice rock or country or blues lead from slapping the pickup selector towards the floor. The bridge isn’t quite right for jazz unless you thicken it up with a chorus, phase, or flange pedal. Stereo pedals all the more.

When finger-picked, I can get DELIGHTFUL jazz and new age sounds out of clean channel stuff with the 12ax7s dialed down and using a nice clean boost such as a Beano from Analog Man or the unsung hero the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster. (Funny, I have four different pickup boosters/clean boosters for varieties of punch and clean stuff and for rock and blues… I like having a choice…) I can use any of the three switch positions to benefit song-like melody passages, bird-like counter-melodies and “color tracks,” and the beautiful mellow warm sound of a cleanly-played and not-over-effects-pedaled neck pickup. I love the electronics in my ES Les Paul. It’s VERY different than my BurstBuckers, 57s, 59s, or moderns.

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When I hybrid-pick, I can get varied sounds out of the same amp/pedal/pre-amp settings, just by the shape of the pick motion, the difference between finger flesh and fingernail, and pick. More so than just any guitar with those different picking styles and parts: it’s VERY expressive and can be really coaxed into very different sounds when amplified or run through a great modeler.

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Tone woods: The Gibson ES Les Paul body is made in the traditional ES Memphis way: Pressed 3-ply woods with a carved top and lovely flamed maple on the top. The back and sides are invidiual pieces, much like the way an acoustic is made, with a flat surface on both. The wood is nicely thick with maple-birch-maple ply layers. The body’s box is made, then a mahogany center block with Les Paul weight relief for feedback protection, anchoring the tail piece and bridge, and enabling a thicker, more sustaining sound. The neck is a lovely mahogany one-piece unit with a nice chocolaty-red-brown rosewood fretboard. This overall combination gives you a hybrid between the playability of a Les Paul, the weight of an acoustic, and the sound basis of an ES 3-series Gibson. It plays and sounds like the woods were lovingly picked out by a master luthier for their appearance AND tone.

Speaking of the neck, the 2015 ES Les Paul has a bone nut, replacing the modern corian nut. It tunes, plays, and sounds nice!
Re-imagining Semi-hollow Guitars: Since the ES Les Paul has the open design of a hollow body blended with the sound block of a solid body, sustain really comes to call in this guitar. Compared to either of my (truly hollow) hollow body guitars, the open strings sing noticeably longer with the ES Les Paul. Nice balance of mellow open sound combined with good sustaining while lacking the (not friendly to most guitarists) floating bridge on my true hollow body guitars.

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Quality:Frankly, I have not found a single flaw with either my 2014 or my 2015 Gibson ES Les Paul. The finish around the body where the neck is inserted lacks the somewhat (unfortunately) typical bumpy spots I see on many set-neck guitars. The consistency of the wonderful nitrocellulose lacquer finish on the back and sides is superb. The fret shape, cut, and thickness is just right. I had no string buzz at all, even after I changed the strings out to some D’Addario half-flat jazz strings. This, even without having too high an action…

The case is above par, smells great, and does a nice job fitting this odd bird. Great! The tuners are REALLY old school, with green keystone keys and old-school push-in bushings. You’d think the ES Les Paul was built back in the 50s. The fingerboard inlays are super sharp-edged, and feel great. The nickel (or chrome, I can’t tell) finish on the hardware is perfect: hard, smooth, and mirror shiny.

I love the new “F Hole” stamped truss rod cover!

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Value: Dollar-for-dollar, the Gibson ES Les Paul is priced right for its quality, appointments, the Memphis manufacture, and position in the ES and Les Paul product lines.

To be sure, the Gibson ES Les Paul is a premium-value and mid-premium price guitar when purchased above $3000 new at retail. It’s a real heirloom guitar, so I think it’s worth it. It will, however, be unreachable by some guitar enthusiasts. For those who can’t pay the “new” price, you can VERY patiently watch the used market for just the right color and condition. My first ES Les Paul was $2999 out the door, my second was used and was $1999 (a very good price for the new condition of the Memphis Belle).

VividPeaceGibsonESLesPaulBodyBack2If you want an ES and have enough money for an ES, the delightful ES Les Paul is much lighter and easier to play than the traditional ES-335. It’s worth a lifetime of playing.
Wishes: Gibson, I love thee and I love all my favorite American guitar builders: please offer the ES Les Paul with traditional nibbed binding-over-fret-end neck binding. Gosh! The one thing that made me sell my 2014, only to find that subsequent models have the same design. I’ll live with it, but that’s really my ONLY wish for this guitar. Maybe, just maybe it would be nice if the bridge pickup had a little thicker sound somehow.
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2015-Correct Features: Just a quick jog into the specs for those of you who might not know where to find them or if the original page is gone:

Top Wood Species:    Maple, Poplar, Maple
Pieces:    3-Ply
Grade:    Figured
Binding:    Cream

Back Wood Species:    Maple, Poplar, Maple
Pieces:    3-Ply
Density:    Plain
Binding:    Cream

Body Rim Species Wood:    Maple, Poplar, Maple
Pieces:    3-Ply
Grade:    Plain
Weight
Weight Relief:    ES-LP Center Block
Average Weight (body only):    1.3925 kg / 3.070 lbs.

Body Contour
Carve:    ES-LP (Semi-Hollow)

Neck
Wood Species:    Mahogany
Pieces:    1

Details
Truss Rod:    Historic
Profile:    Rounded “C”
Thickness at Fret 1:    21.59 mm / .850″
Thickness at Fret 12:    24.13 mm / .950″
Other Materials:    Franklin Titebond 50
Average Weight:    544.31 gm / 1.2 lbs

Headstock
Type:    SP-1
Inlay:    Mother of Pearl
Logo:    Mother of Pearl “Gibson”
Silkscreen:    Gold “Les Paul Model”
Headstock Angle:    17 degrees
Tonal, Resonant, and/or Technical Effect:    The rounded neck provides an ergonomic feel and the mahogany adds a rich tonal quality

Neck Fit
Joint Angle:    4 degrees
Joint Angle Tolerance:    0 deg 0 min 15 sec
Type:    Mortise and Tenon

Nut
Style:    White
Material:    Bone
Width:    4.318 cm / 1.700″

Fingerboard
Wood Species:    Rosewood
Pieces:    1
Shade:    Dark

Fingerboard Details
Radius:    30.48 cm / 12 ”
Frets:    22
Nut/End of Board:    4.318 cm / 1.700″ @ nut, 5.6007 cm / 2.205″ @ end of board
Scale:    62.865 cm / 24.75″
Binding:    Cream
Side Dots (Color):    Black

Fingerboard Inlays
Style:    Trapezoid
Material:    Pearloid
Dimensions:    16.51 mm x 29.718 mm / 0.66″ x 1.17 ”

Electronics
Pickups    Rhythm MHS Humbucker Lead MHS Humbucker
Winds/Coil: Screw side/Slug side:    4900/5100        5200/5400
Material of Wire (gauge):    Enamel (42)        Enamel (42)
Coil Dimensions (per coil):    6.6294 cm x 1.7272 mm / 2.61″ x 0.68 ”        6.6294 cm x 1.7272 mm / 2.61″ x 0.68 ”
Coil Material:    ABS        ABS
Coil Winding Process:    Scatter Wound        Scatter Wound
Pole Piece Material:    Nickel plated steel        Nickel plated steel
Pole Piece Position from Nut:    47.4218 cm / 18.670″        59.5173 cm / 23.432 ”
Slug Material:    Nickel plated steel        Nickel plated steel
Slug Dimensions (diameter x length):    4.7498 mm x 1.24206 cm / 0.187″ x .489″        4.7498 mm x 1.24206 cm / 0.187″ x .489″
Magnet Material:    Alnico III        Alnico II
Magnet Position from Nut:    48.26 cm / 19″        58.42 cm / 23″
Magnet Dimensions:    6.35 cm x 1.27 mm / 2.5″ x 0.5″        6.35 cm x 1.27 mm / 2.5″ x 0.5″
Polarities:    Screw side is the south pole of magnet        Screw side is the south pole of magnet
Cover:    Nickel plated        Nickel plated
Qfactor:    3.21        3.2
ResistanceDC:    7526 ohms        7963 ohms
Resonant Frequency:    2859.84 Hz        2695.19 Hz
Tonal & Resonant Advancements:
Historically accurate “Patent Applied For” replica with airy tone and unbalanced coils. Slightly under wound.

Control Pocket Assembly    Volume
Type:    CTS 500K Linear
Peak Voltage:    1080V
Range:    0-500K
Power Rating:    1/4 watt above 100K ohms
Resistance Tolerance:    500K +/- 20%
Minimum Resistance:    100 ohms

Tone
Type:    CTS 500K Audio
Peak Voltage:    1080V
Range:    0-500K
Power Rating:    1/4 watt above 100K ohms
Resistance Tolerance:    500K +/- 20%
Minimum Resistance:    100 ohms

Capacitors:    Lead Value    Rhythm Value
Orange Drop .022 mF    Orange Drop .015 mF
Hardware

Tuning Keys
Style:    Kluson Single Ring Tulip Button
Material:    Body is stamped steel with plastic tulip button
Weight:    22.6796 gm / 0.8 oz

Tuning Keys Details
Tuning Ratio:    15:1

Bridge
Style:    Tone Pro AVR-2
Material:    Die cast alloy
Plating Specs:    Nickel

Tailpiece
Style:    Lightweight Stop Bar
Compensated:    No
Material:    Aluminum
Plating Specs:    Nickel

Output Jack
Style:    1/4″ mono with dual tip contact

Jack Plate
Style:    Les Paul Square
Material:    ABS – Cream
Weight:    2.0 gm / 0.07 oz

Plastics
Truss Rod Cover
Style: Black and white bell with engraved F-Hole

Knobs
Style:    Gold Top Hats

Dial Pointers
Yes/No:    Yes
Switch Washer
Style:    Cream with hot stamp gold

Trim Rings
Style:    Cream

The Gravity Guitar Pick Review: Set fire to your sound and your technique!

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The Gravity Guitar Picks Experienced Review

I like to change the sound of my music from one recording to another, and particularly from one album to another (I have recorded 15 albums to date now…). This often entails different instruments, different recording gear (or recording techniques), different ambient work, and different accessories.

Yes, accessories… Strings, Picks, Mutes, and more. This review addresses a great find in the accessory world that makes a big difference in the sound of my recordings – while adding better playability for most of my pick-based technique.

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This review is about the wonderful line of picks from the Gravity pick company. These picks are high-end picks at a moderate price, and have lots of options to make most pick-style players happy. And for those who are prone to floccinaucinihilipilification of arcane terms applied to everyday objects, Perfectly Purposeful Pleasingly Playable Popular Plectrums…

Buy some today. You’ll be very glad you did. To know why I think so, read on!

The pick pictures in this review are of picks I’ve used extensively. The Classic, Razer, Edge, Sunrise, and Tripp have all seen play time in local acoustic gigs and in TWO of my most recent albums Halcyon Lullabies and the yet-to-be-released North by Northwest. To hear the direct influence of some of my favorites, listen to Halcyon Lullabies tracks Maggie’s Tone Poem (my red Razer XL), The Wandering Soul (my orange Sunrise), Evenfall three instruments with different edges of my blue Tripp XL, and Herman’s Song – a Father’s wish (a requiem for Maggie’s dad) for my blue Edge.

Why Gravity Picks are Great! (For the short attention span and executive summary types among us)

They are durable, affordable, and really comfortable.
My Biggest Reason(TM)? They sound wonderful. Since I gig with them and record with them, their consistent quality and consistent sound amongst identical picks is really great. Some premium picks are like different woods in the same guitar shape: you have to try lots of them to get the one that sounds the best. With Gravity picks, the sound is comfortably consistent and reliable. I need that when I flip on the mic pre or the DI.

I haven’t met a Gravity pick I don’t like. I’m hoping to buy a Gold and some new Thins soon so I can upgrade my pick arsenal.

Sound

The different edge finishes give you striking combinations of attack and release – even amongst acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve found that the smoother edge sounds nicer on acoustic, particularly with coated strings. The more course edge gives REAL bite and mix-cut-through for electrics, particularly when you’re playing with low gain or low distortion.

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The sound of these picks is superb. That’s the 75% of the reason why I love them so much.

I can get really great warm sound with the super-thick smooth-edge picks and get nice bright attacks and releases with the thinner picks with the rougher edges. There’s a lot of variety, so there’s likely to be one with which you will fall in love!

Lots of Varieties, Grips, Thicknesses, Finishes, and Colors

The Gravity guitar pick line comes in a dizzying array of options. I’ve not found a type of pick I play that can’t be ordered as a Gravity pick. Now with the new “Thin” line of Gravity picks, you can now get down to .60mm to at least 6mm. Almost all pick varieties, from the basic Thin pick to the lovely acrylic picks to the gold series all come in a variety of styles and sizes. I won’t enumerate them all here, but I’ll bring up a few of my favorites to give you an idea of what I’ve used and what I like about Gravity picks.

Ask Chris at Gravity about pick finishing options. You’ll be glad you did!

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To Grip or Not To Grip. That is the Question

Some players love it when they find a pick with a grip option. There are several grip options with Gravity picks, including holes in the picks and engravings on the pick surfaces.
I vacillate between grip holes and no grip holes. It’s a fun feast of feelings that forever fascinates facilitation of my sound experimentations.
There are ellipse grip holes, single round grip hole, and “little round hole group”” grip holes. I like all of them.

Pick Categories

  • The new Thin Picks
  • Acrylic Picks
  • Gold Series Picks
  • Signature Series Picks
  • and Custom Shop Picks

Most (not all, mind you, but most) of these are offered in a handful of great shapes, combined with excellent size choices

Shapes

  • The Classic (The good old Fender 351-style pick shape)
  • The Striker (Great for three nice easy rounded tips)
  • The Sunrise (A top arch combined with pointy grip edges and a pointy end point)
  • The Stealth (A more triangular pick with three rounded sides, two sharp-ish grip points, and a striking tip similar to the Sunrise)
  • The Razer (One of my often-played favorites, with nice rounded grip points and a nice long sharp-ish striking tip)
  • The Tripp (What a Trip! Deceptive in shape: semi-triangular with three distinctly different points)
  • The Classic Pointed (Like a classic, only more pointy :-))
  • The Axis (My mellow-sound FAVORITE: Three nicely rounded points on a triangular pick)
  • And my absolute go-to Gravity pick
    The Edge (Not, U2’s MR. The Edge, mind you, just “Edge”)

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Sizes

  • The XL ( Great for those arthritis-hand days 🙁 )
  • The Standard (My favorite on three of my different Gravity pick shapes)
  • The Big Mini (A surprisingly nice minor difference to a Standard that feels like a million bucks when I’m playing a Floyd Rose trem-based guitar or a Fender with wide string spacing)
  • And the Mini. I like Mini Coopers (I drive an R59 these days): I like the Gravity Mini, Too.

And there are colors that coincide with thicknesses, too (depending on the style and such)

My personal favorites?

  • Standard
  • Razer
  • Mr. The Edge
  • and Tripp (great for local live acoustic gigs when I need lots of different sounds out of 2 or three guitars)

Currently, my “favorites pick tin” has a Razer with a grip hole, a Tripp without a grip hole, and an Edge with a grip hole. These generally get rotated from my great big giant pick stashes: always a few gravities in the favorites…

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Durability and Ease of Use

Gravity picks have been a real mainstay for me this past year. I still use some of my previous go-to picks (Dragon’s Heart Pure, Dunlops, Claytons, Fenders, and such): still, my wide assortment of Gravity picks has taken over much of my playing. Bear in mind that I am still largely a finger-style player – but great picks make for great sound!

When I play with a pick, I do a hybrid finger-pick style, something close to a claw or chicken-pickin’ approach. I’m comforted with the clear and precise attack of the Gravity pick combined with the sensory input and varieties of sounds I can get in combination of pick and fingers.

Gravity picks last a LONG TIME.

Go to the Gravity Custom Shop page here to design your own combination!.

Price and Quality

The price of all the different echelons of Gravity picks is very reasonable. From the very inexpensive Thin Pick to the moderately-priced but very premium Gold Series – Gravity is a great choice for picks. I think of them as Premium Boutique picks at an everyday price. With so many players entering the Great Pick array, Gravity is in the very sweet spot of Excellent quality and playability at an Excellently low price.

The variety pack at http://gravitypicks.com/products/packaged-deals?variant=1399124483 is an excellent place to start. For about $30 you can get your hands on a bunch (Eight Premium Picks!) of excellent plectrums at a very nice simple price.

Buy some. Play them all. Feel the joy of a great pick that feels great too.

Wishes and Wants

I think it would be a blast for us to be able to upload a graphic to the Gravity site and order a pick with the graphic etched on it. I am aware that there are technical and legal challenges with this approach – it would just be a lot of fun.

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Have fun with Gravity!

The C. Whitney Guitars Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks Review

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The Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks (C. Whitney Guitars) Review

Before I begin with my write-up, I wanted to say that I was delighted to have an opportunity to review the Dragon’s Heart picks. I have (literally) jars of picks I’ve accumulated over the past decades of playing guitar, bass, mandolin, (the extremely occasional) banjo, and world instrument. I’m always on a quest to see what new or better sounds I can make with the instruments I have or use.

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There are different formulas and materials and prices for the varieties of the Dragon’s Heart guitar picks. I’ve been playing the three (current) varieties of the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts. This includes the Hardened pick (70% Polyamide-Imide/30% Glass Fiber), the Original (88% Polyamide-Imide/12% Graphite), and the Pure Dragon (100% Polyamide-Imide). These picks last 3-5 times longer than the standard plastic thick pick, and have largely different sonic characteristics than many other guitar pick materials.

You can see more about all the Dragon’s Heart Picks here at dragonsheartguitarpicks.com

It’s easy to say that many pick designs have come and gone over the years. After all, musicians such as me are always trying to find a way to make music in a fresh way. Many designs become staples (such as the plastic classic 351-shape teardrop pick) and others become used as useful and interesting novelties (such as custom-ground metal coins). My experience is that even more (probably most) actually fall somewhere in between. Each and every pick material, design, and use has its legions of fans and detractors.

Dragon's Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Dragon’s Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Let me begin my review summary by saying two VERY important things. Picks have a HUGE effect on the sound of an instrument (for those who use picks 🙂 ). EVERY musician is as individual as their fingerprints – and therefore their tastes and abilities vary almost wildly. We are all different: Vive la différence!

Quick Opinion

Buy some today

The Dragon’s Heart Picks are versatile, well-made, and sonically extremely interesting. Given that Dragon’s Hearts are fairly thick and rigid, they are different in their sound, playability, and player-experience feel from standard plastic 351 Fenders or even thick Steve Clayton three-sided Delrin picks.

You can buy Dragon’s Heart Picks here at http://www.dragonsheartguitarpicks.com/store/

Dragon’s Hearts have a rigid, extremely precise feel. They have a well-defined attack (varying slightly depending on which pick edge you use – see below). They are easy to grip and comfortable in the fingers both when they are new and after they have been used for a while.

Dragon's Heart Pick Original

Dragon’s Heart Pick Original

This review is written with an open-minded approach to picks: I don’t advocate anyone to play a particular size, material, shape, or type – rather, I look at picks as a VERY inexpensive way to help one’s playing style grow. It’s easier and simpler than almost any other technique to change one’s tone. And besides, it’s just plain fun to find new territory with a simple pick change.

The short summary of this review is this: if you want more control, more sound, better attack, and durability, you just can’t go wrong with Dragon’s Heart Picks. They’re fantastic! No matter your picked instrument, give all the Dragon’s Heart varieties a try. You’ll keep them around for a very long time.

Dragon's Heart Pick Hardened Style

Dragon’s Heart Pick Hardened Style

Sound and Playing Style

You can hold your Dragon’s Heart pick in three different ways (plus a bonus fun fourth way!) to get three different sounds and playing styles.

One main “point” is a sharp, almost talon-like picking edge and surface (see what I did there? ;-)). Another point is rounded and almost circular in shape, and the third is reminiscent of the old-fashioned 351 teardrop tip. If you hold the pick just right, you can also get a combined round-tip and sharp-tip to get a two-point picking attack that’s quite a bonus – it has a very unique feel and sound.

The sharp point gives a clear and concise attack with an incredibly quick release. It requires a deft touch to go fast and a gentle hand to go slow. This edge is excellent for high-speed shreds or really high-treble jazzy rolling fast arpeggios.

Dragon's Heart Pick Sharp edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Sharp edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “normal” style point is just as you’d expect. You get the kinds of attacks and string releases you’d expect from a beveled-edge teardrop-shaped thick pick. Very nice… intermediate between warm and clean.

Dragon's Heart Pick Triangular edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Triangular edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rounded point gives you that warmer approach with a very slow release and a moderately slow attack. It’s also useful for “swiping pick attacks” where the hand not only plucks the string with the pick but the pick is slid or swiped down the surface of the string a bit. One can truly get a sweet, warm, swishy attack and a lovely rounded-off back end of the release with this surface.

Dragon's Heart Pick Round edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Round edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, VERY nice… EXTREMELY flexible and easy to use for a variety of styles and sounds in one given playing session – all with one pick.

Dragon's Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Dragon’s Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Comfort and Durability

C. Whitney Guitars’ Dragon’s Heart picks are easily some of the most comfortable thick-ish picks I’ve played in my 42 years of stringed-instrument playing. I have long, medium-diameter fingers with moderately high hand strength. I don’t sweat in my hands much – although I’ve been known to have dry hands at times. For me, I don’t want to know that the pick is in my fingers. I just want it to be an extension of my mind: from mind to hand to pick to string. Overall, when I pick up a Dragon’s Heart, it just works. It just fits. It just feels fine. And that’s a good thing.

The Polyamide-Imide picks don’t get slippery or require me to give them the death’s-grip hold in order to keep them set at the right angle when I’m playing wrapped or even plain/wire strings. This is EXTREMELY important to me because I have arthritis and joint pain: I need my grip to be the LAST thing about which I must think when playing an instrument with a pick.

When it comes to durability, the edge and angle of the edge of the picks stays consistent for a long time. I’ve not played any my three Polyamide-Imide picks for more than 1000 hours – with that said, they have held up as well or better than some of the thick “clear plastic hard” picks I use a good bit (including my gel Jim Dunlop >1mm picks).

The critical durability of the edge of the pick… It’s important to note that I am not a hard picker. I don’t bang the strings (I caress them, or at most pluck them). With that said, when I’m playing rock music I do the rare-but-inevitable pinch harmonics from time to time. I do play a HUGE variety of instruments and string materials (flatwound, half-flat, round-wound, coated, uncoated…), so I’ve run my Dragon’s Hearts through the ringer quite a bit. Now that I’ve played them quite a bit, I can say that I’m not getting the dulled edges and he numerous I have seen with other alternative-material picks by this point. I still get wear and little marks here and there, but I can assure you that they don’t cause any sound difference or playability difference for me. I suspect I’ll get the manufacturer’s approximate durability hours on my original three Dragon’s Hearts.

I’m looking forward to a long time of service from my Dragon’s Hearts. With emphasis on “looking forward to…”

Price and Quality

The Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Heart picks are a premium-price-point pick for most players. These don’t cost a quarter dollar each at your local store. That’s OK. they’re worth MUCH more. I’ve paid between $.10 for a pick and I’ve paid $12 for a pick, so I’m willing to try new stuff. These are WELL worth the money. The price is appropriate for a durable, long-view, ultra-versatile pick.

Even guitarists on a budget will find the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts to be a bargain in the long run. As one’s playing style is enhanced by the pick’s uses, and the durability of the pick is realized, the price is actually well worth the extra money.

Quality-wise, all three of my Dragon’s Hearts felt great on all the surfaces, were well-made, and had no crazy rough parts to them in their factory bags. As I played them, the overall consistency of feel and durability between the three current Polaymide-Imide picks was very similar.

Wishes and Wants

There isn’t much in my Jim’s Wish List for these, honestly. They’re as I’ve described and I probably wouldn’t change a thing, other than maybe a version with a dragon cutout in the center for those who need a little extra grip for sweaty or oily hands. Otherwise? Great!

The Awesome Right Honorable Squier by Fender Jazzmaster Vintage Modified Special Review!

TheGuitarReview.com is completely free for personal use, and it would help a LOT if you could help a little bit (you can change the suggested amount in the next screen) to assist me to run the site and the occasional set of strings!

Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special Offset Body Goodness Electric Guitar Review
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed the basic quality and variety of the Fender Squier brand’s offerings. They’re generally well made, generally sound great for the cash, and are always coming up with something interesting.
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The Vintage Modified Squier series has a breathtakingly broad set of guitars and basses that are actually lots of fun to play and VERY affordable for beginners and pros alike. I love my Fender USA instruments more than I can say: and I really enjoy kicking back with my Asian-made Squier instruments, too.

The subject of this review, the Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special, is a superb instrument with surprisingly big sound and nice build qualities. I found it to be a real bargain; and it is truly well worth the money, and more.

Quick Opinion:
Honestly, when I unboxed my brand new Squier Jazzmaster Special, I was really very pleased with the feel, the sound, and the quality. For the price, you get a real bluesy and rockin’ guitar with Seymour Duncan-designed Jazzmaster single coils and a nice easy-to-play neck. I didn’t find much, if anything, that I didn’t like right from the beginning.
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It’s a blast to play, a scream to play the blues or rock through a big ol’ tube amp, and a joy on the shoulder. Overall, I like it!

Buy it! You’ll be glad you did!
There are customer reviews and more specs for the Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster offset body guitar with Rosewood fretboard available here at zZounds.

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Features:
The Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special is an excellent blend of simplicity and features:
* Alder body
* Polyester smooth gloss finish
* Jazzmaster shaped body
* Polyester-finished C-shape maple neck and fretboard
* 25.5″ scale length
* 9.5″ fingerboard radius
* 21 medium-jumbo (I think) frets
* 1.65″ nut width
* Three-way pickup selector toggle switch:
** Neck
** Neck and Bridge
** Bridge
* Stacked concentric volume/tone knobs, one for each pickup
* Duncan Designed JM-101B Jazzmaster AlNiCo V bridge pickup
* Duncan Designed JM-101N Jazzmaster AlNiCo V neck pickup
* Top-loaded fixed non-trem bridge with saddle adjustments
* Vintage style tuning machines

This guitar (as of this writing) comes in two colors: butterscotch goodness like an old 50s or 40s Tele, and that tried-and-true brown sunburst – both with a maple neck/maple fretboard.

I am not only an affiliate of zZounds, I’m a major fan and customer. I really like their zZounds Guarantee “30 days to try out your dream guitar.”
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Playability
The Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special is an easy-to-play instrument. For beginners, it feels like a stop-tail Stratocaster in many ways, from the feel of the neck to the way the body smoothly cradles the picking arm and the ribcage. Its offset design is reminiscent of a Firebird and a Stratocaster combined – but with out the edginess feeling of a Firebird. Overall, the guitar is easy to play, and is a pleasure to hold.

I find my Jazzmaster to be fairly well balanced, with a tiny bit of weight bias to the body. Interestingly enough, this guitar is like a blender guitar:
Take one blender and add:
* The switch location and feel of a Les Paul
* The offset-ness of a Firebird sort of married to a Stratocaster
* The general neck feel and look of a Stratocaster
* A fixed bridge that feels something like nowhere else
* The tuners of a Vintage Strat or Tele
* The control knobs of an old Fender bass
* And the jack of a Stratocaster

Mix thoroughly, put in a dash of Jazzmaster pickups, and you’ve got this unique and very satisfying Jazzmaster Special.
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This particular Jazzmaster lacks the array of fiddly switches found on its more expensive cousins. Although the lack of these switches does limit the sound shaping of this Jazzmaster Special, it does make it simpler and easier for the beginner or everyday player. Besides, it is a “special” after all.
I am not only an affiliate of zZounds, I’m a major fan and customer. I really like their zZounds Guarantee “30 days to try out your dream guitar.”

Sound
Sound is a VERY strong suit for the Fender Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special. The Asian-made Duncan Designed pickups really do sound awesome. They aren’t quite par with Fender USA Jazzmasters or Seymour Duncan USA Jazzmasters, but they are darn good. At this price range (Less than $299 US, street), one wouldn’t expect pickups to be hugely wonderful – and yet they are.

I like the sound of my Jazzmaster. The simple front-to-back three-way toggle switch feels and sounds solid, the volume controls are smooth and do an OK job (as with most guitars in this price range, the volume drops off with a huge curve with very little turning of the knob – the pots are “you get what you pay for” in this price range). Tone knob wise, these guitars have that old vintage-y clickety concentric tone thing going on. You spin the tone ring (the black ring under the chrome dome volume knob) and it clicks audibly and forcefully as you turn the tone up and down.

If you were to close your eyes and hear this guitar played by a great guitar player through a great tube amp, you’d have a serious amount of trouble telling that this is a sub-$300US guitar. It sounds great for its price range – and even for above its price range.
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When compared to a US-made Jazzmaster, there is actually a real tone difference, to be sure. The US model sounds like heaven – and the Squier is standing in line at the pearly gates on its way there.
There is a whole range of Fender Squier Vintage Modified guitars and basses at zZounds.

Fit and Finish
Other than the crazy-to-remove plastic pickguard plastic covering, my Jazzmaster is absolutely superbly made – more so than many MUCH more expensive guitars made by so many other brands.
* The neck sits in the pocket quite nicely.
* The finish on the neck is great. I can easily like gloss or satin necks: and this gloss neck feels like old school stuff right off the bat.
* The pickups sound fantastic and are just fine like they are. Although some would still take them out and replace them, I’ve found them to have a great sound that kicks very consistently.
* The paint finish is very nice. The sunburst-ing is nicely done, the coloring is good, and the finish is nice and even.
* I think the soldering is reasonable for this price range instrument. The components are as expected for an Asian-made guitar, and attention to detail for soldering, placement, and wire lengths are just fine: again, far better than many guitars costing a great deal more. Fender understands this part really well and does a great job of it!
* I am a major fan of the Vintage style tuners used on many Fender and Squier necks. The tuners used on my Squier Jazzmaster are similar to, if not identical to, those on my Jimmie Vaughan Strat – they’re smooth and easy.
* The nut is nicely cut and the strings are in good shape.
* I think a little bit more time could have been spent on string height and intonation at the bridge: it wasn’t grossly set up, but it could have been just a little better – such that our beginner guitar friends would get much more playing enjoyment out of the box.

The newest Squier 2014 models are now in stock at zZounds!

Wishes and Wants
As odd as this might seem for me to complain or remark, it was nearly impossible to get all the pickguard protective plastic removed. The material under the bridge and between the bridge and the bridge pickup is still there in little noisy crinkly shards. When I play the guitar I can hear and feel the little bits of plastic all under where the bridge and bridge pickup are. It makes me cringe to hear crackling while I’m playing, so I’m likely going to remove the strings, pop off the bridge, and maybe even pop up the pickguard just to get rid of the rest of the stuff… I’m very appreciative of getting to be the first person to scratch up (what my British friends would call) the scratchplate… But gosh – this is a real pain.

I like the “coolness” of the clickety tone rings on my Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Special, but it really gets irritating after a while. I’m not a purist, so I would not have missed the clickies at all if Fender had put in smooth-dialing concentric pots ;-).

Please visit my sponsor zZounds.com for more information about the wonderful Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster – click here! (Visiting my sponsor helps me fund more reviews! It makes a difference when you visit my sponsor and grab some great gear.)