Elliott Capos. Time was, there were only a couple options in guitar capos. They tended to be inefficient at times and often downright destructive to neck edges and guitar neck finishes. No more. Today there are literally dozens and dozens of varieties out there with a new one seeming to hit the market every month or so. I’ve tried most of them. What I want in a capo is quite simple: ease of use, slim profile so it doesn’t get in the way of my hand, little or no affect on the tone and intonation of my guitar and long-term durability. The Elliott products fill all those needs. The maker – a small family run shop in Texas – calls them works of art and I can’t argue with that, they are elegant and beautiful. They make a variety of designs, including a reproduction of the legendary McKinney model used by Tony Rice and others. I own two, the Elite and the Hybrid and I love them both. They come with a nice satchel and replacement sleeves and have a lifetime warranty. But be prepared for sticker shock. I’ve paid less for a guitar than I paid for both those capos. You can even get them engraved. Their customer support is superb. To me though, they are worth it and I don’t anticipate ever needing another capo.
(First runner up, only due to popularity): Kyser Capos. Probably the most popular brand out there and until a few years ago they were THE capo used by both recreational and professional players; many, many players still use them. They are relatively inexpensive, quick and easy to use and come in a big variety of colors, if that’s important to you. The downside is that they are quite bulky and some players feel they negatively impact the guitar’s intonation. But they continue to be very popular and are very durable. Also, easy to clip onto the guitars head stock when not in use.
Ear Trumpet microphones: Oh, man, I love these things! Very cool retro design, made in a small shop in Portland, Oregon. These are large diaphragm mics designed for both studio and live performance. Beyond their striking looks is their amazing sound reproduction that combines a wide field of pick-up with excellent off-axis sound rejection. Ear Trumpet mics are designed to be used by one, two or more musicians gathered around one mic as was common practice in the “old days.” Just go to their web site and check out a You Tube performance by the wonderful Milk Carton Kids using the Edwina model (the one I own). I have yet to use my ETL mic in performance but it works GREAT in my studio for recording both my guitar and vocals. You’ll also see ETL mic used on the fantastic Tiny Desk Concerts on NPR and Elderly Instruments (from whom I purchased mine) uses them for on-line demos of all their high-end acoustic guitars. Not cheap by a long stretch, but oh my, what great reproduction of sound. And I guarantee you’ll get looks when using one. Their customer support is also great and each mic comes in a very cool retro “lunch box” case.
Charmed Life guitar picks. OK, this is a bit embarrassing. I vowed the day would never come when I would spend $30 for a guitar pick. All the hype just screamed to me – really? REALLY??? Why the heck would anyone spend that kind of money on a …… pick!!!! But after owning one for only a few weeks, now I get it. I bought two, the nf-75ss and the clf-75. My immediate reaction after using them for a few minutes was, n’eh. What’s the big deal? Nice, yes, but I couldn’t discern any remarkable difference from the standard Fenders I’ve been using for years. However…. After a few days I noticed something. My attack was cleaner and faster than maybe ever. And there was no problem with the pick moving in my fingers if I moistened my thumb and index finger before playing. Best of all it was easier than ever to employ correct technique with my wrist and forearm. A week passed and things just got better and better. I love this pick!!!! I found that I preferred the slightly mellower tone of the nf-75ss over the clf-75 but both sound great. The “75” refers to the thickness, which is 75mm, putting it somewhere between a medium and heavy gauge, which is perfect for me. This is another small company with a passionate owner who will readily answer any question or concerns and he stands behind his products. He makes quite a wide variety of designs and uses a few different materials (go to their web site for complete info) and while his inventory is pretty good you may have to wait a bit if he’s out of stock on specific models as each and every one is hand-made. I like my nf-75ss so much that I just ordered two more! Not that I’m worried about breaking it or wearing it out but picks have a way of vanishing from my pockets. I just don’t want to be without this thing!
(First runner-up) V-picks. I used these for the last year or so. They are another small company with a big variety of shapes and designs. The main reason I went with them for a while is that they are made of some sort of proprietary lexan-type plastic that absolutely sticks to your fingers when they are moistened so the pick does not move as you play. I tried quite of few of them in various shapes but finally settled on the “Chicken Picker,” which is a more traditional design. Unfortunately, the maker only makes something in the 75mm thickness rarely; his standard Chicken Picker is closer to 100mm and most of his picks are much, much thicker. I do not like thick picks. All the V-picks cost $5 - $7 each. The tone of my special order “thin” – not really a traditional thin pick, for sure, but I don’t like those anyway – is very bright, perhaps too much so. And they will break if I strum too aggressively so I will stick to my newly discovered Charmed Life picks in the future I think, despite the cost differential.
In my next post I’ll review a few more cool thingies I’ve discovered in the last year or so.
Peace & good music,