Does a Coiled Guitar Cable Make a Difference?

Over the years the argument has come up time and time again – does the coiled guitar cable make any difference?

The first guitar I ever had was a Squier Bullet for $99.  The first amp I had I bought from the neighbor.  It had a homemade 4×12 bottom that was giant, and a cheap (maybe 50 watt) solid state head.  A fuzz pedal and a coiled guitar cable came with it.  That was my first guitar amp.  The few times I played with that rig, people said “you’ve got the Hendrix guitar cable”.  One of the pieces of gear that Jimi Hendrix was known for  was the curly coiled guitar cable (in addition to the fuzz and the wah).

When it comes to the coiled guitar cable – there are really only 2 main things to talk about.

1. Does it affect the tone?

I’ve heard the argument a lot.  My initial reaction was usually “how can the mere shape of a cable affect the tone”?  I does seem odd, doesn’t it?  Many claim that part of Hendrix’s actual tone was that cable.  If you talk to someone that knows what they’re talking about they’ll say that the curly coiled cable has added capacitance.

What this really means is that generally speaking, a well-made coiled cable of the same length as a straight one usually has more copper wire in it.  Capacitance occurs when something has the ability to store a charge.  A wire with an insulator (guitar cable) carries the electrical guitar signal and can store a charge.  The higher the capacitance (the more charge it stores) the more the “highs” in your guitar tone get rolled off.  So the Hendrix guitar cable did affect his tone, because the coiled cable had the affect of rolling of some highs.  If you use a low capacitance cable (which many are), your tone may seem “brighter”.  D’addario has a little article about cable capacitance here.

2.  Are there other benefits (easier to use)?

A lot of coiled cables seem to have at least one, and sometimes two right angle plugs (which is convenient).  The coil seems to keep the cable out of your way (a bit), and is also a little less prone to getting tangled up.  There’s also that factor that “people think it looks cool”!

Now that you’re a little bit more “in the know” – are you going to try a curly coiled guitar cable?  Every guitar player should have one in his gig bag – in only to give it a try!  You can usually buy them anywhere from $15 – $35.  The only advice I would give is if you’re going to get one, get one that is of good quality that will last for years (like Lava, GLS, or Vox).  Check the auctions on ebay for coiled guitar cables.

If you don’t find what you are looking for there Amazon is always a safe bet.  I guy a lot of guitar accessories there because it’s easy, quick, and I can use PRIME for free shipping.  Picks, cords, strings – usually get them all on Amazon.

If you want the highest quality, then this Lava cable will run you about $60+.

Lava coiled cable

This vox runs about $35 (but it is a 30 foot cord).

vox coiled cable

Finally this GLS curly coiled cable is only $15.

gls coiled cable

Is Flamenco Metal a Thing?

Short answer is – yes it is!

Years ago (in my younger days) when I started on guitar, my parents would only let me switch from violin to guitar if I agreed to take classical guitar lessons.  So I did.  That was even my major in college for a brief time.  My father even took me to see Segovia once in high school (before he died).  Because I played a nylon string guitar, I had also picked up some Flamenco tapes (because it was pretty cool).

I also liked heavy metal (as guitar players did in the 80’s).  I’ve been listening to a lot of guitar podcasts lately (shout out to No Guitar is Safe with Jude Gold), and one that was really cool was with Ben Woods.  You can find Ben on YouTube here.  Ben invented a style, and recorded some records under “Flametal”.  Flamenco metal.  Basically he’s playing a metal cover with a Flamenco guitar.

It’s easier to show you than explain it:

Have you ever seen anything like that before?  I sure hadn’t.  I guess sometimes he also calls it “acoustic Flamenco shred”.  I think that Flamenco is cool anyway, but listening to your favorite Dio, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, Ynwie, Ozzy, and other metal bands “Flamenco style” is just that much better!

We have the Amazon Echo in our house – with Amazon music on it.  So it’s great to just tell Alexa to play “Flametal” – you can find most of Ben’s stuff streaming on Amazon here.

Guitar Pick Punch

Have you ever wanted to make your own guitar picks?  Probably not, but it’s actually a thing.  I have heard of people that make their own guitar picks from old credit cards before, but there’s actually a little device you can buy on Amazon to punch them out on demand.

The guitar pick punch (well, this is called the “Pick-a-Palooza) basically looks just like a stapler.  You stick your credit card (or any plastic material) into it, and it just punches out standard sized picks.  You can even buy “pick stock” blanks in various colors to make your own picks with.

I think the “create your own pick” movement started as an effort to recycle old credit cards.  But now it’s morphed into something more.  Although there are slightly cheaper alternatives, I like the Pick-a-Palooza version better because you get extras with it.  You get enough pick blanks (in various styles) to make about 100 picks.  You also get a little keychain pick holder, and even an guitar shaped emery boards to file them a bit (if you want to shape them).

You can DIY all kinds of things – who knew you could also make your own guitar picks?  Check it out, you can buy the Pick-a-Palooza guitar pick punch on Amazon, it makes a great gift!

Eric Gales Unbelievable Little Wing Cover

Here’s a name that you might not have heard for a few years – Eric Gales.  If you go back in time to the late Eighties there were tons of new guitar heroes coming out each and every day.  Because of the influence of mainly EVH and SRV (and all the hair metal heroes), every label was looking for the next 6-stringed rock god.  We all remember guitar prodigy Jonny Lang coming out with his CD when he was only 16.  But that was the late 90’s.  His hit Lie to Me didn’t come out until 1997.  Eric Gales got his first record deal at at 16 in 1990.

I remember hearing him on the radio with Paralyzed and Sign of the Storm.  He just never had that breakout hit, but I did get his Eric Gales Band CD in 1991.  He’s what I call the unsung hero of guitar heroes – and you can see what I mean in the video below.  All these years and decades later he has just played, and played, and played all over the world.  He has never stopped, and he is now an unmistakable virtuoso.  SRV’s rendition of Little Wing has always been my #1 favorite (I like it even more than Hendrix).  Eric’s live version always has crazy intense cascading arpeggios (in key of course).  I mean, in pure theory it’s shredding.  But (to me) it’s not Yngwie or Gilbert like.  Your opinion may vary, but to me it’s like shredding – but with soul.  If you weren’t already listening, I hope I made you rediscover (or find for the first time) Eric Gales.  You will not be disappointed.

 

Unique Guitar Player Gift – Pick Wallet

If you’re looking for a cheap and affordable gift for a guitar player for Christmas or other occasion, a pick wallet can be a really cool thing to give.  Sometimes as a musician you don’t know you need something until you see somebody else use it, or until it’s given to you.

As a guitar player, or if you use a pick on any kind of stringed instrument (like a bass or mandolin), you leave picks all over the place.  If I had a nickel for every guitar pick my wife found in the dryer, I’d have enough money to buy a new dryer.  Sometimes I need a guitar pick and I can’t find one, or if I’m on a gig they are all in the bottom of my gig bag just floating around.  A pick wallet organizes your picks all in one place, keeps them clean, and allows you to make sure you have a good supply on hand (and you know when to buy more).  Consider getting a pick wallet for that guitar player in your life – they will love it!

Click here to get the guitar pick wallet on Amazon

There are more than a few guitar pick wallets with different styles, designs, colors, and even shapes on eBay right now for as little as $5 or $10.  These would make great gifts for any guitar player or musician in your family.

 

What Guitar Pick is Best for Playing Rock?

I never thought that something as simple as a pick could control your playing style as much it does…until I started experimenting with different guitar picks. For YEARS I’ve used the exact same Fender medium picks (celluloid) – and ALWAYS the tortoise shell ones. I’ve used those since I was a teenager in high school (and I’m 42 now). I guess it’s one of those “stick with what you know” things.

So I’m in a cover band and we play 6 decades of music, dance rock, pop, classic rock, disco, country, alternative – everything. We picked up “Panama” by Van Halen recently and I noticed that it just eats up my picks (from the pick slides). I’m complaining about it every time I practice so my wife googles “what guitar pick is best for playing rock music”? I never would have thought of something that simple, and the thought of changing picks just never came up.

After reading some of the links she found I saw that most of the famous players that play fast don’t play with the larger pick sizes. Comparing my Fender medium to what they play with is about a 40% difference in size. I’ve always gone with the Fender medium because I have big hands anyway, the pick was easy to hold between my thumb and forefinger.

Comparison of Dava Control Picks to Fender Mediums

I got my guitar magazine in the mail that same day and saw an ad for these Dava control grip picks – so I ordered them (6).

dava guitar pick review

Once I got them in the mail I played with them about a week at practice, and a gig. The rubber overlay makes it easier to grip them. I never noticed how the Fender mediums slip in my fingers until I used these. They’re slightly harder then the Fender medium picks, and I did notice that if you pick too hard or aggresively the rubber does grab on the strings if you stick it in too far every now and again. Playing things like pickslides does eat on the picks a bit, but only about half as much as the Fender mediums. They also wear about 40% less than a Fender Medium, and they’re about 20% less in size with a more focused tip then the Fenders. All in all, these picks were better than the Fenders by far. But I was buying Fender Mediums for $25 / 144 (a gross) and these Dava control picks were $3 for 6. Fender picks are about 16 cents each in bulk, and these are 50 cents each. I wouldn’t regularly pay that much for them.

Different Types of Guitar Picks

At least ordering the Dava picks got me out of my norm and showed me that different (and better) alternatives do exist. I spent some time online looking at different picks and these are the ones I decided to order and try out:

Dunlop Tortex pick review

Dunlop tortex pick review

One of the first picks I tried was the Dunlop Tortex. It comes in varying degrees of thickness, and I believe my Fender mediums were .70mm. I don’t like heavy picks, but the Dava was heavier then my Fender and easier to use. I ordered the Tortex picks at .88mm (more than a medium, less than a full heavy). They are about 1/3 smaller than regular standard guitar picks with a pointer tip. They are smooth, and when holding them it feels kind of like a painted surface. I don’t like that feel so much, but they were much easier to pick with – and I was a more accurate player when using them. Better than Fender, but not my ultimate choice. They just make my fingertips feel weird.

Dunlop Ultex pick review

Dunlop Ultex Pick Review

So I tried the Dunlop Ultex pick next and I got this one at 1.14 thickness. I like this pick because it’s the same size roughly as my old Fender mediums, and the tip is slightly pointer. I found that in comparison to the others the larger size made me play sloppier and slower than with the smaller tortex picks. Better than the Fender picks for sure, but again not my final choice. This might be good for acoustic guitar for some people.

Big Stubby pick review

Big Stubby Pick Review

The next one I tried was the Dunlop Big Stubby pick. I think I ended up trying all Dunlop picks by accident, they just had more choices with different options than anybody else. The big stubby pick is about 15-20% smaller than a Fender medium but twice the thickness. This is the first pick I ever played that had rounded edges. This isn’t really possible on standard picks because they’re too thin. It has an indent in the center about the size of a dime slightly to make it easier to grip. The rounded edges actually make it easier to alternate pick, but the tip isn’t as pointy. It’s also still a bit too flexible (despite the thickness) – seems like more of a pick for using on acoustic guitar or for rhythm guitar playing than for lead. Nice, but just not that suitable for my everyday playing.

Dunlop Jazz III pick review

dunlop jazz iii pick review

Finally I tried some Dunlop Jazz III picks. These are not to be confused with the Ultex Jazz III picks, which are the same size but made out of a different kind of plastic. I don’t like the way those feel.

The regular Jazz III’s are usually red or black (I use red, because they’re easier to find at a gig when dropped). They are a little more expensive (about 50 cents each or $12 for 2 dozen). However, I found over time that just one of these picks can last a month to 6 weeks, where a fender medium previously barely lasted me a week. So I don’t mind the added cost really.

The funny thing about these picks is that they are way harder and less flexible than anything I ever would have chosen on my own (without reviewing a bunch of picks at once). And when I play with them, I can barely see the tip of the pick when I play – my fingers cover up 90% of the pick when playing. But because they are so small I play more accurately then I ever did before. After doing a little research I also found out that both Eric Johnson and John Petrucci use these picks – which I guess is no surprise (how accurate they are as guitar players).

*UPDATE*

Since I first wrote this article, I have never used Fender medium picks again – and I have been using the Dunlop Jazz III picks exclusively for 5 years now with no issues. It was probably the biggest single change to my playing in more than 30 years. Also, since Dunlop has written an article entitled “Inside the Cult of the Jazz III”. It turns out a who’s who of guitar plays with these, such as Mick Thomson, Kirk Hammett, John Bonamassa, and more.

Guitar Player Gifts under $50

I wanted to write this page of Guitar Player gifts – because people often ask me what to get a guitarist for Christmas. Not just for me, but people I know as well! I got the Guitar Center catalog the other day, and a lot of times I don’t see much, but they did a pretty good job on their X-mas version this year. I found some really cool gifts right away, and they were all pretty much under $100!

First – let me introduce you to a guitar player’s friend – the string winder! Everyone needs to have a good string winder, but the Planet Waves folks were very smart because they built a string cutter right into the string winder! This is awesome, if I had this I guitar gadget I could throw away both my old nasty string winder (that falls apart when you use it), and my side cutters from my gig bag! Great budget gift under $10!

Planet Waves String Winder / Cutter

A string winder and cutter is one of the most indispensable tools that you can give to a guitar player. The funny thing about this tool is that most musicians (that I know) don’t have a good one. They probably have a cheap string winder that they bought at the music store checkout for $3, and a pair of general purpose wire cutters in their gig bag. Planet Waves makes quality gear for reasonable prices, and the great thing about this tool is that it’s both a cutter and winder in one! Makes a great musician stocking stuffer or small gift. I have this tool in my gig bag at all times – and it works great! Get the Planet Waves String winder/cutter.

planet waves string winder cutter review

Snark Tuner

Another great guitar player gift idea under $10 would be a Snark SN-1 clip-on tuner. It runs on a small watch battery (lasts forever), and you can just clip it to the headstock of any acoustic or electric guitar (or bass) and tune in seconds. I’ve found that I usually end up passing it around at practice (prompting me to tell the other guys to get their own), and I’ve even used it live in a gig while playing. Not bad for a little $7 device. This is also always in my gig bag at all times. Get the Snark tuner.

snark tuner review

Proline Fretrest Guitar Hanger

This next gift is for any guitar player that has his own little studio or music room. Chances are that he has more guitars than shoes, and there are just way too many guitar stands all over the place! What he needs are these Proline Guitar Wall Hangers so he (or she) can just hang the guitars right on the wall! Awesome guitar player gift under $15! why not display all your best axes on the wall?

proline fretrest guitar hanger review

Beyution Bluetooth Headphone Review

This one may seem weird, but I’m telling you this is a great guitar player gift idea! Every guitar player can use a good set of headphones. More and more players are using iRig and other devices to plug directly into their tablet or phone to practice. Why not have a decent pair of bluetooth wireless headphones? Recently, at Christmas, we found a really great (and highly reviewed) pair of Beyution headphones on Amazon for only about $20. We have these in the house, and they’re a really good deal.

beyution bluetooth headphones review

Mini Marshall Stack

Here’s another really cool guitar player gift idea – it’s the Mini Marshall amp MS-2! It runs on a 9v battery and has a belt clip! Complete with distortion, tone, and volume knob! You can have a lot of fun just walking around with this thing on your belt! A very cool gift for the Marshall loving guitar player! It’s cool to have around the house or take on the back porch.

Marshall MS-2

Here are some other guitar player gift ideas posts I wrote:

Personalized Guitar Straps
Guitar Pedal Stompbox Cord Saver
Shure SM58 Microphone

Washburn X50 Review

This is my review of the Washburn X50 and X50 Pro FE guitars with the Buzz Feiten tuning system.

Another manufacturer that I think is highly underrated is Washburn Guitars. For 100 years they have been making quality instruments, but since the 80’s Washburn has been known for making killer shredding machines at affordable prices. Gibsons and Fenders are great, but the cost is too high and they just aren’t very versatile. Their cheaper counterparts (Squier and Epiphone) are a laughable joke quality and price wise. In addition there have never been improvements made to essentials such as tuning and intonation or electronics.

It’s funny, even thought you can’t (currently) find a Washburn guitar in any Guitar Center store, you can still find them in small music shops all over. In addition, modern touring bands are using them every day – like Puddle of Mudd, Theory of a Dead Man, Sevendust, Anthrax, Goo Goo Dolls, Sammy Hagar, As I Lay Dying, Def Leppard, Toby Keith, Meatloaf, Kiss, Black Label Society, All-American Rejects, Neil McCoy, Shinedown, Fall Out Boy, Brooks and Dunn, Derek Trucks, Hawthorne Heights, and Breaking Benjamin.

The 2 guitars I’m going to talk about today are the X50 and X50 Pro FE.

Washburn X50 Pro
Washburn X50 Pro FE

You used to be able to get the X-50 Pro for between $400-$500 and and the X-50 Pro sold for $600-700. The X50 Pro comes with a Duncan ’59 reissue humbucker pickup in the next and a Duncan Custom Custom in the bridge. The X50 Pro FE comes with EMG 81 and EMG 85 active pickups. The X50 pros have quilted maple tops, and the X50 Pro FE’s have flamed maple tops. Each Washburn guitar features the Buzz Feiten tuning system, which you can read about here. The X50 series also uses Washburn’s patented VCC or “Volume Contour Control” system. Basically the volume control is a coil tap, and when pull it out it splits the humbuckers in half…but the way that the VCC works is that when you back off the volume control, once it reaches 50% the coil tap automatically kicks in chopping the humbucker down to a single coil.

There have been stellar reviews of both models, Washburn posted a 2004 review of the X50 Pro from Guitar World.
Both Harmony Central and Ultimate Guitar reviews were very high. The thing that has amazed me is when watching these models in eBay auctions for a few weeks, most of the auctions received 40+ bids – which is very high for most guitar auctions. Then, once I read of the features (like the electronics and the Buzz Feiten) – I now know why.

Pickups are a very personal choice, and I think that the Duncan Custom Custom and ’59 both are great choices for many guitarists and amp combinations. Lately though, I am very partial to EMG pickups (especially the 81 and 85) because I find that they work like “peas and carrots” with a POD (I have a PodXT Live). The active electronics just seem to give a certain extra “clarity” to everything that comes through my POD. Many players favor 81/85 pickups – like Zakk Wylde.

You don’t see a lot of X50’s on eBay, usually only a few at a time. They don’t sell them new anymore, so this guitar is a little more rare than it used to be. This page will always have the latest live auctions for Washburn X-50 and X50 Pro FE’s, bookmark it now!

There are usually a half dozen for sale on eBay most days, check what auctions are available now by clicking this link.  Prices can be $300 – $600 depending on condition.

If the X50 series isn’t for you – there are hundreds of Washburn guitars on eBay right now in different styles, models, and colors, check them out as well!

Here’s a good YouTube review as well:

Crate Taxi TX50DB Limo 50W Guitar Amp

The Crate TX50DBE Limo Combo Amplifier is battery-powered for outdoor gigs, or you can plug it in using the included adapter where there’s juice. Delivers 50W through a 10″ woofer with a piezo tweeter for full range sound. 2-channel operation with 1/4″ input, gain, level, and distortion modes on channel 1; XLR mic inputs on channel 2. Equipped with 8 digital effects, headphone and footswitch jacks, and dual RCA inputs for pumping up your CD player.

Crate Taxi amp TX50D

This thing has great reverb, and you can use it with or without a pedalboard. You rarely see them for sale anymore (maybe they just didn’t sell that well). You see street performers always using an amp with some type of converter to a car battery – and this thing has one built in!

Just about the only way you can get them anymore is on Craigslist or eBay.

Light Duty ATA Case For CRATE TAXI TX50DB LIMO 50W 110 Amp-ID 14.5x12.5x24.5

USD 159.95 (0 Bid) | Buy It Now
End time: 2017-12-18 20:16:18

AC Adapter For Crate TX-15 TX500 TX50D Guitar Amp Battery Charger Power Supply

USD 16.98 (0 Bid) | Buy It Now
End time: 2017-12-19 13:49:58

AC-DC Adapter Power Charger for Crate TX15 Taxi Battery-Powered Amp Amplifier

USD 17.89 (0 Bid) | Buy It Now
End time: 2017-12-22 08:07:07

AC Adapter For Crate TX-15 TX500 TX50D Guitar Amp Battery Charger Power Supply

USD 16.98 (0 Bid) | Buy It Now
End time: 2017-12-19 13:49:58

AC Adapter For Crate TX-15 TX500 TX50D Guitar Amp Battery Charger Power Supply

USD 16.98 (0 Bid) | Buy It Now
End time: 2017-12-19 13:49:58

Headphone Guitar Amp Review

To practice guitar quietly you need a “headphone guitar amp”.  In the privacy of your own bedroom or basement you can have an entire Marshall stack between your ears!  There are bunches of headphone guitar amps on the market right now, and many are just, well….very cheap!  That’s why we recommend a couple different units for you to check out..

It’s not just a chinsy personal guitar amp, it’s a “modeling” headphone amp.  It’s got effects that include Reverb, Chorus, and Delay.  It even has Phaser, Tremelo, and Wah!  In as far as amp models you can get a jazz combo all the way up to balls out metal crunch.

The Vox Amplug

The first one is the Vox Amplug“. The first time I saw this a friend brought it band practice. He actually had purchased a Vox amp, and got this headphone amp for free with it. He lived about an hour away from our practice space, and he came right from work to practice. His work was 30 minutes from his house, so he didn’t want to go home and load up all his gear (traveling one way in the car) and then double back to practice (traveling another way in the car). And he didn’t want to leave his amp his car all day. So he used to leave one guitar in the practice space, and then bring this headphone amp in his pocket.

I thought it was pretty funny, actually, at first. He would plug his guitar into the Vox Amplug, and then we’d use a 1/4″ to 1/8″ converter and plug it directly into the PA. Guess what – it worked just fine! I was always amazed with the preset channels how easy it was for him to just plugin and go. He could sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers one minute, and Metallica the next. This unit I personally recommend for bedroom practice or situations like the one we had at practice. It’s nice because it plugs directly into your guitar, and you plugin the headphones into that. As an added bonus, it has a mp3 or 1/8” aux input – so you can plug your mp3 or CD player and practice alone with the music!

The newer versions have modes for vintage AC30 sound, classic rock, metal, and even bass.

Vox amplug headphone amp

Click here, you might be able to find one used on eBay too.

Joyo Tube Drive

While the Vox Amplug has been around awhile, there are some alternatives. The Amplug is $39.95, but you can get the Joyo Tube Drive for just $20 on Amazon. It has MP3 input and headphone out same as the Amplug. The quality may not be as good, but it’s less than half the price. It does have quite a few decent reviews.

Joyo JA-03 Tube Drive

You can find that on eBay too.

Electro Harmonix Headphone Amp

Electro-Harmonix makes a quality headphone amp too, it’s just a bit more money than the the Amplug. The difference between this and the Vox is the vox has amp models and effects built in. The EH headphone amp is about as basic as it gets – power and a single volume know. However, this means you can easily connect your pedal board or any effect you want (or just go dry). It only runs on batteries (no adapter), but it does have a cool little belt clip.

Electro Harmonix Headphone Amp

If for some reason you didn’t like one of those – like I said there are cheaper headphone amps out there, and you can get good deals on most of them on eBay – check out these auctions too…there are many other type of brands that sell them

Find headphone guitar amps here on eBay.