Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Stone Tone Rock Block

 Stone Tone Rock Block

In a era where musicians are all looking for the best tone for your music, upgrades have become a must for most to get the best performance out of there gear.  Musicians are flocking to change out pickups, strings, pots, sustain blocks and tuners etc to get the most bang for there buck and take there instruments into new places of tone almost unheard of not that long ago. Myself like so many musicians play guitars loaded with tremolo's and have always just run out and picked up the normal brass block cause it seemed like that was just the standard (I personally do not like titanium blocks cause they are way way to bright and seem to hinder instead of help tone). I met a guy by the name of Rob from Naples Florida a while ago promoting his company Stone Tone and his main product the Rock Block what instead of using the normal brass block he is using Granite. I honestly have been on the fence about this cause like most always thought ''We are supposed to use brass'' Right???????? Well lets talk about it and see!!!!!!!!!

This is a straight up product that is a beautifully produced piece of granite. It is a 37mm Rock Block installed on a Floyd Rose Original (My personal favorite Floyd Rose).

I installed this on my main metal guitar that I have talked about on this blog more then once my Carvin V (The Purple One). I could almost instantly notice a difference with sound and clarity. Taking a couple weeks and really taking in all the aspects from the cleans having a more acoustic brilliance (Even Unplugged), The leads have more definition and harmonics almost jump off the guitar with ease. I am more of a rock/metal guitar player so I was the most impressed with the richness it added to my distortion end with tightening up my chords and being able to not just hear the chords but each string much better then I could have ever hoped. I was really impressed with my overall tone to my ears far above anything I have ever got with brass!! (Keep in mind each guitar is made a bit different and you could have a bit different experience but I can tell you that it will be a good one!)

My Opinion
I am not a scientist by any means and I can in no way explain how this product works but I can honestly say it not just works but kicks ass!!!! I know some players have been on the fence but I honestly think it is more cause we have been taught for so many years that brass or other products are the option we must do and for my personal tone I have totally Re thought what I knew about Sustain Blocks. The Rock Block installs just like anything you might have used in the past but depending on your grounding of your guitar might have to put a tiny strip on your guitar to add extra grounding (Stone Tone has the strips). I was able to install this pretty fast and set it up in no time.

I know this product is more expensive then the average cost of a brass block but the gains it provides far more impressive to my ears and well worth the time and money. Compared to the cost of pickups and other upgrades it is a small price to pay!!! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue

Epiphone Nighthawk custom reissue By Kris Martens

We got a message from Charles from Texas asking us about the Epiphone Nighthawk.

Hey Jon,

I am a musician on a budget and I was wondering if you or any of your staff have played the Epiphone Nighthawk? Are they worth the money? Would you recommend them?

Lucky for us our very own Kris Martens was happy to step up for this one!!!!

 This guitar is is the weirdest guitar I own. Part Gibson and part fender. It covers a lot of bases tone wise and is extremely versatile.


25.5" scale length
Mahogany body with AAA maple top
Mortise and tenon set neck
String thru bridge (fully adjustable)
Rosewood fretboard with pearloid crown inlays
12" radius 22 fret
Slanted NHT bridge Humbucker
NSX single coil in middle
NHR mini humbucker in neck
Volume and Tone with push/pull coil taps
5 way pickup selector
1.68" nut width

The first thing I noticed when I first picked it up is the weight. This guitar is very light! Probably around 7.5 lbs. I thought it would sound thin but it is really balanced tone wise. The slanted bridge humbucker is extremely balanced and super chunky! It has the perfect balance between the low strings to the high strings. The coil tap works great and adds some strat like quack especially when combined with the middle single coil. The mini humbucker is really smooth and gives a nice warm tone.

The neck was perfect. No warps and the fretwork is great. It feels a little thinner front to back than your average Les Paul. It plays effortlessly and is pure joy to play.

I tested the nighthawk through a Hughes and Kettner Grandmeister 36 tube amp. You can play pretty much anything with this axe. It is equally suited to molten metal and delicate cleans. It sounds amazing for blues and classic rock and I think that is what it was designed for.

This is the cheapest guitar I have bought in years but at $425 it's a steal!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

December Gear Spotlight

December Gear Spotlight FU-Tone

I honestly think that the guitar is the greatest invention in the world. Lester William Polsfuss or better known as Les Paul was one of the pioneer's of the electric guitar in 1940 with a 4x4 piece of pine in the Epiphone factory. Little did Les know at that time he was throwing fuel on a fire that was about to explode generations of of people to express themselves in totally new ways. There have been so many great guitars to come down the line since then using the best woods and materials each giving its own tone and sound. Adam Reiver and his company FU-Tone has taken it upon himself to not reinvent the guitar but to take the guitar and make it better. It can be the entry level guitar to mid level all the way up to the most custom guitars made to date, Everyone can afford to get rock star tone at a price that even the poorest guitar player can usually afford. 

                                                            Adam Reiver from FU-Tone
We caught up with Adam and chatted all things about him his gear and his amazing company!!

When did you start the company and what made you decide to tackle the world of upgrades?

I started in 2007. Ever since I was a kid, I just had to tinker with my guitar. I wanted to know how everything worked and why. While I was on a constant quest for answers, I was always finding ways to make my guitar function and sound better. In 1981, my first guitar was a $150.00 Hondo Flying V purchased at a Sam Goody record store. Not exactly a hot rod shredder guitar… But I was determined to make it rock! On my very limited budget (VERY limited…), I started to pimp out my prized axe. Over the next few months I was sporting a Kahler tremolo, Dimarizo Invader pickup in the bridge position and a Mighty Mite triple coil (trembucker) in the neck position (that sounded like crap but it looked super cool! Right around that time I was taking metal shop in high school. I loved metal shop and excelled in the class. Little did I know at the time that these two things would collide and change my life forever.

We are a music and gear blog so I have to ask first what music lit your fires and made you want to be a musician.

I was a teenager at the perfect time! It was the age of guitar heroes! When it was cool to be a gunslinger. The hair on my arms would stand up and I was mesmerized by cats like EVH, Warren DeMartini, George Lynch, Vivian Campbell, Jake E. Lee and the entire movement. I could not get enough of these kind of players, going to every show that came to town and basking in the glow of the early days of MTV (not only did MTV play music back then, they played great music! Van Halen, Def Leppard, Queensryche, Dokken, Ratt, Motley Crue – 24/7!!!) Life was good.

I have seen some of your posts on Facebook and know you have a pretty impressive collection of gear I would love to hear about some of your favorite guitars and gear in general.

I am lucky enough to have collected some cool gear over the years. I have gone through phases of different types of gear over the years. I am not a vintage snob by any stretch – I have a really cool 54’ Les Paul Jr. that has an insane history and is just a smoking player! I tend to favor “parts” guitars as I love to tinker and shape things into what feels and sounds right to me. My main axe is a purple Music Man EVH model. I have had about 25 of these go through my collection over the years – there is something special about my purple – it’s “THE” one. One of the coolest things I have is a Mu-Tron Bi-Phase. It is by far my favorite effect. If you ever get a chance to play a Bi-Phase through two amps (on a clean setting), you will fall in love with it and go on the hunt for one just like I did. Also – during the 70’s “lawsuit era” Ibanez guitars, they did an acoustic (in addition to the V, Explorer and Les Paul) – the Acoustic was a knock off of a Martin. They did it in 3 models (low, medium and high) – I fell in love with these mutts… I have all 3! They are not expensive or vintage pieces but they play and sound amazing! If you ever see one – grab it!  

The list of artists that have chosen FU-Tone is beyond impressive everyone from Slash, Scott Ian, George Lynch, Mick Mars, Warren DeMartini, Phil Collen and on and on. What is it like to not just work with great musicians from around the world but the people that set the bar on music in general.

This is obviously the coolest part of my job. I totally play it cool on the outside – but on the inside I am pinching myself and still freaking out a bit. The posters on my bedroom walls and MTV have come to life right before my eyes. I am totally blessed to have these guys as clients and friends. Once the shock value wears down, the real fun begins. I love to tinker and A/B stuff with my guitar heroes. I love to discuss tone with them and try new things. I learn so much from these guys! I am totally blessed to work with such amazing cats! It is really a dream come true. It is a total Twilight Zone moment when one of my guitar heroes is making me a turkey sandwich while I am sitting in his living room tweaking his iconic guitar… Is this fucking real??? I am blessed!

                                                         Adam and metal legend Zakk Wylde

You offer so much more then just upgrades customers can actually build their dream tremolo what made you take it to that level and will they fit right into a Floyd setup guitar?

I always use myself as a barometer to see if something is a good idea – “would I buy it?” As FU-Tone grew, I really wanted to make the custom bridge option a reality – and I did. It was very important to me. Who knows which bridge is perfect for you…? YOU DO! So why should some cat who does not even play guitar tell you how your bridge should be? Just as everything else, the hacks try to copy FU (poorly I might ad…). Actually – the next version of the FU-Tone Bridge is coming out very soon – it will be called “FU2”!

                                 FU-Tone tremolos are some of the best on the market today!

The PMS (Pickup Mounting System) is such a brilliant well thought out design where did the idea come from and how does it work.
The real credit on PMS goes to my partner in the project – Mike Learn of Learn Guitars and Airbrush. Mike is an amazing guitar maker and the sickest airbrush guy in the game! The PMS is a patented product that takes the concept of direct mounting pickups even further. When a pickup is in a mounting ring it is just hanging there “listening” to the strings vibrate. When you direct mount it to the body of the guitar “a-la Ed Van Halen”, the pickup is being fed from direct body vibration. Now – add in a bar of bell brass between the pickup and the body – supercharging the vibration feed! We are very happy with the PMS!

                                                    FU-Tone PMS (Pickup Mounting System)

I have had questions from people after my write up I did last month about my FU-Tone upgraded guitars and one of the main ones are the theory behind most of the upgrades and how they add the tone (Brass Blocks, Clamps etc). For the people that are still on the fence for these cheap ways to really add massive tone would you explain it to us?

The easiest and best example flat out is the brass Big Block. Mass = increased vibration. Plain and simple! Add in a quality material like bell brass and you can’t miss. With brass Big Blocks starting at 34.95, I can’t see a bigger bang for your tonal buck then just swapping out your block for an FU-Tone block. I see guys doing everything under the sun… new pickups that cost hundreds of dollars, neck replacements, this and that… I will put a brass block up against any upgrade and I am willing to bet that you will not find a bigger improvement period – and especially not at 35 bucks! I also tell the skeptical guys: try it – if you are not 100% satisfied, send it back for a full refund. What do you have to lose? ) I have never gotten one back… 

Do you have any more products you sell or any other companies you are involved with that the modern musician can benefit from

My three companies are: - Of course FU is based around tonal upgrades for locking trems but I also cater to Strat bridges, acoustic guitars with my brass and titanium bridge pins, stop tail pieces and more! which carries replacement necks and bodies. Lot’s of fun stuff there – check it out and build your own guitar! - Dtuna is my baby and was my jump off into the professional guitar universe 22 years ago! (And it does not hurt having EVH as your partner!) 
FU-Tone gives people the impression that your upgrades are for Floyd Rose equipped guitars do you have upgrades or blocks for other tremolo's from other makers? (Ibanez, Fender etc)


Yes! Of Course! I make blocks for Ibanez bridges, Schaller, Gotoh, Jackson, Strats, etc. As I said before, I also to pins for acoustic guitars, Les Paul parts, accessories, tools, tuners, all sorts of swag and other fun stuff! Stop by the FU-Tone site and snoop around a bit.

Brass is usually what a person hears about but I have seen Titanium really taking off with players what is the difference between using brass and titanium on guitars with upgrades?

That is a question that I am asked every day… What is the difference between brass, copper and titanium? I could write a book on the subject! I could do demo after demo… And none of it means anything! It is all selective. I can give you my opinion – and it is just that – an opinion! Tone is in the ear of the beholder! Anyone who tells you “this is the best” is trying to sell you something! Here is an overview – All of the Big Blocks give you more sustain. Mass = sustain. Size does matter! That being said, Brass gives you a nice warm sound with big bell like tones that layer nicely and wrap you in a warm blanket of tone. Copper is similar to brass with an accented scooped mid section that will take you back to the 80’s! Titanium is all of the above with a note separation that cuts through the mix like a laser gun. Think Phil Collen…

                                   Copper/Brass/Titanium Tone Blocks From FU-Tone

What words of wisdom would you give the musician out there that is dreaming of being the next Metallica or Black Sabbath.
Be yourself! Learn everything that you can from your heroes and march forward to the beat of your own drum! When people tell you that you can’t do it – march harder and faster! Somewhere down the road those same people will eat their words (and most likely copy your shit and try to pass it off as their own…) – Be innovative – do not be afraid to set your own mark. It is better to take a shot and fail then to have never tried at all. Where is the next guitar hero? I am totally waiting for him (or her!)! We are all waiting for this… Maybe it’s you!

Any last words to all the amazing people reading this?


Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to read this! Thank you for all of the support and love! Thank you for making FU-Tone the company it has become! I could not do any of this without you! I am just a regular guy who loves guitar – playing it, building them, chasing tone, talking about them, sharing ideas, trying new things. I love talking “tone chasing” with the biggest players in the world or a kid from Kansas who is just getting started. It’s all the same to me – we are all just guitar dorks! I love it, and I would not have it any other way!

                                  FU-Tone's Brass Claw - Tremolo Stopper - Brass Block

When Warren Demartini, Phil Collen, Slash, Eddie Ojeda, C.C Deville, Mick Mars, Micheal Wilton, Scott Ian, Scotti Hill, Dave ''Snake'' Sabo, Tommy Shaw, Wolf Hoffman, Zakk Wylde, Vivian Campbell, DJ Ashba, Erik Turner, Joey Allen, Orianthi, Rick Nielsen, George Lynch, Alex Lifeson, Nuno Bettencourt, Phil Demmel, Micheal Sweet, OZ Fox, Gus G and so much more all back these products then you know there is something about them that stand up beyond all the copies or the other products out there. These guitar players are the ones that defined tone defined music and defined what it is to be a rock god and they all use FU-Tone in there guitars cause no other product can give them the tone they need on stage or the studio!!! 

I also use FU-Tone products to get my tone, I have three of my top axes locked and loaded from top to bottom cause I cannot trust my tone to anything else!! I did a talk about one of my guitars that are FU-Toned out you can read it here.
Link for RBJ FU-Tone Equipped Guitar.

                                              Guitar World Demo Of The Brass Block Contact:

Carvin X100B Series IV Guitar Amp Head

Carvin X100B Series IV Guitar Amp Head

Carvin has been around for over 60 years and is known today for there gorgeous high quality guitars and basses but there amps do not get talked about as often. Back in the 80's there X100B amp graced more stages then I or anyone can count. With bands like Frank & Dweezil Zappa, Starship, Missing Persons and Steve Vai using this amp to give them the tone and balance they was looking for in there tone. With the Series IV that is the latest and greatest version of this amp it is better then it ever was and well worth taking another look at. I have wanted one for a very long time and being a long time player of the V3 and V3m this was a nice addition to my already huge heavy Carvin collection. I have to mention also this was a awesome Christmas present to me from my wonderful wife Kathrine and Carvin.

Dual Channels: Clean & Lead
Master Volume with switchable boost
Bass, Mid, Treble, Presence and Reverb Controls
5 band graphic EQ assignable to clean or lead channel
25/50/100 watt output switch
Bias switch for 5881, 6L6 or EL34 power tubes
Cabinet voiced XLR balanced output
Foot switchable Effects loop
Four EL34 & Three 12aX7 Tubes
25.25 wide x 10.5 high x 9.5 deep
(I have the Jungle Red Tolex put on mine like all my amps)

This amp has the best clean channel I have ever used on any amp to date with headroom that bursts the roof off.  I can get everything from country and bluegrass chime to blues and that beautiful almost acoustic sounding ballad sound. The lead channel is really bold and allows to take my sound from a very well almost non distortion to blues, rock, classic rock, hard rock and even a very heavy sound. The amp is one of the best all tube amps I have used (I am a bit of a old school purist I prefer all tube amps) getting that natural breakup that musicians adore.This is kinda a jack of all trades amp that will allow you to take and make any tone with the easy to dial in controls. The sounds are very rich and robust with clarity on all sides of the most sought after amps in the world.

My Opinion
Carvin has taken this amp and over the years tweaked and peaked it but kept it very close to the original keeping purists like myself very happy. It seems that most of the people that have used any version of this amp have loved it in one form or another and still play it or have it in there studio today. This amp reminds me of the most cherished Marshall's of the 80's but with more options and tone variation. It does not quite amp up to reach the Hardcore and Death Metal sounds but besides that it is a amp that can do it all and still stands up to any amp out there on the market today. With the tone and watt options on this amp you can use it in your bedroom, stage or studio and with the easy to dial in sound spend much more time playing then switching knobs. With the switchable EQ it takes a two channel amp and you can work it into a four by how you adjust the EQ and flip it in and out what is really genius. I fell in love with this amp with about 2 min of playing time making this one of my main amps I use now for just about everything I do. This amp is very pedal friendly using the effect loop what is one of the quietest loops in a amp I have used to date. I love everything about this amp and honestly would not change anything about it. It is rare this day in age to get a amp of this caliber for under 600 bucks that is made in the United States!!!


Dean Micheal Schenker V

Dean Micheal Schenker V

I got a letter from a reader a while back asking me not only about a nice V for under 800 bucks but also asking if I had played or owned one of the Micheal Schenker V's from Dean.

Dear Jon

I am a huge fan of Micheal Schenker from back to the old UFO days. I have been playing guitar for five years now and was wondering if you had played the Dean signature MS guitar? If not could you help point me in the right direction of a V that is in the 800 dollar or less range?
                                                                             Rachel (San Diego California)

When Micheal Schenker was born in Jan 1955 he had no clue he would make such a impression on millions of guitar players around the world. He has graced the stage under so many banners from Scorpions, UFO, MSG and his solo material. He is known for playing V's and most of them with the white and black of some form almost a Yin & Yang feel to them. Micheal was known for his Gibson V's and some still feel his place is among the guitar giant. Micheal started working with Dean guitars sometime ago not only putting a fresh face on his signature V guitars but also helping design the pickups that grace these axes. My personal favorite out of the line was the flame MS signature and I bought one a while back to add to my ever growing collection of V's.


Top: Mahogany
Body: Mahogany
Scale Length: 24-3/4 inch
Nut Width: 1-11/16 inch
Neck: Set Mahogany C Neck
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Inlays : Pearl Block
Tuners : Grover
Hardware : Chrome
Bridge : Tune-O-Matic
Pickups: USA DMT Michael Schenker Lights Out
Graphic: Black and White Custom Flame Graphic
Case: Hardshell Case Included


Schenker had a direct effect not on just the woods but the actual guts of this beast with helping of the Lights Out Schenker sig pickups. This Mahogany loaded beast has all that classic rock brilliance so many of us cheer for. This guitar is basic in setup but loaded with tone and sustain for days. I was able to back off the neck pickup and have that robust full sounding blues and clean that guitars three times this cost cannot effectively get. When lighting up the neck pickup I could get them singing ballad leads to the snarling rock leads Schenker is known for without much effort. The bridge pickups is a great southern rock to a balls out hard rock beast. I found that using the tone and the volume knobs (depending on the setting) could really sculpt out sounds easily instead of reaching for the amp. I could not quite push this guitar into the hardcore or death metal arena without adding a pretty heavy distortion from a pedal but all in all this is a stellar bad ass sounding guitar that is brilliant, bold and simply bad ass!!!!

My Opinion

This guitar looks huge from the bottom of the Flying V to the reversed V headstock. I was shocked on how light the guitar was and holding it for long periods of time did not take a toll on my back or shoulder. This guitar is a breeze for them long nights in the studio and has the looks for them long stage sessions that will leave the crowd head banging and pointing on how damn cool it looks!! This is a jack of almost all trades guitar that anyone from blues to hard rock can easily adapt this axe into there rig cause of the dependable build and the looks of some of the most sought after axes of all time. Micheal would not have stuck his name on this guitar unless it was anything less then perfect. This is about the import version of this guitar cause after playing but the USA and the import version of this guitar I could not tell enough of a difference to shell out the 2 or 3k more for it. The hardshell case that comes with it is form fitted and built like a tank to protect your new V and keep it looking brand new for many years!!! I think anyone who tries this axe will fall in love with it as much as I have!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

November 2014 Gear Spotlight Swiss Picks

November 2014 Gear Spotlight Swiss Picks

                                  Swiss Picks
This day in age accessories are almost as important as guitars and basses themselves. With advancements in straps, stands, picks, strings etc it gives the modern musician the chance to turn up the knob on there craft. It can be hard to know what is best for you and your style cause of the massive amount of materials and components for either upgrades or just trying that new product on the block. Pete Punckowski from Swiss Picks has one of the most original designs on the market today aimed right at the heart of what the standard guitar player needs making some of the most amazing and fully functional guitar picks on the market today. Pete has worked with some of the most innovative musicians out there with adding guitar legend Rusty Cooley and his line of picks to the Swiss Picks family. Here at RBJ we did up a talk on the picks last month and we loved them so wanted to bring Pete back to talk a bit more about what makes him tick and what makes Swiss Picks one of the best on the block!!

This is a music/gear blog so lets talk about that for a second. What music really rocks your world and what was the band that really got you into music.

This could be a long reply.. Haha!  Currently, I'm a schizophrenic listener! Any given day it's been the new Mastodon, Cynic, Baroness, Puscifer, Neurosis, Symphony X, OSI (Jim Matheos & Kevin Moore) & Fate's Warning 'Darkness In A Different Light' which is just.... Amazing! In the Rock realm,  Dave Meniketti, Michael Schenker, John Norum, John Sykes & I've re-discovered solo Glenn Hughes. (Always a Deep Purple fan)  In Jazz, it's John Zorn, 70's Funk/Fusion Miles Davis & CTI era Freddie Hubbard. I'm also into everything metal from early Exciter & Venom to Meshuggah & Dimmu Borgir.  But let's talk guitarists!!  An endless list, but my 'bow to' guys are Shawn Lane, Rusty Cooley, Buckethead, Ron Thal, Scott Mishoe, & the great Jason Becker!!  As far as what got me into music, it was Deep Purple's 'Burn' LP which was my official 'first' record. My Dad had great records which are still some of my favorites such as Billy Cobham's 'Spectrum' (Tommy Bolin), Jeff Beck's 'Wired' Robin Trower's 'Bridge Of Sighs' and all Gilmour era Pink Floyd. Then on my own, I discovered Kiss, AC/DC, Maiden, Priest, Sabbath, etc. As far as guitar, while Van Halen, Gary Moore & Randy Rhoads were on the pedestal in '83, when Yngwie's Rising Force came out in '84, the whole game changed! I think that Yngwie was the 3rd most influential electric guitarist after Hendrix & EVH, as he changed the way almost everyone played guitar at the time... but it was EVH & Yngwie that made me say, "I have to do this!"


What is some of your favorite gear as a musician guitars, amps, effects?

Another long one.. I'm a gear JUNKIE! At this point I've owned just about everything. Through my years I've worked in stores and owned my own shop, so I've seen it all.  As for guitars I use a variety of 80's era made gems, including a '79 Boogie Bodies EVH Black/Yellow (#3),  an '83 Checkerboard Bullseye graphic San Dimas Charvel, a 1980 USA Dean ML, an '83 Valley Arts Tele, a '91 Tom Anderson Pro Am (Purple Bowling Ball finish) & most recently, a 1991 PRS Limited Edition w/a Redwood Top.  I collect anything uncommon from the elite builders era, and always looking for older Anderson, B.C. Rich, Schecter, Valley Arts, Boogie Bodies, Mighty Mite & San Dimas Charvel/Jacksons!

As for amps, I have sworn my allegiance to Friedman Amplification!! There's nothing better for organic high gain than Dave Friedman's HBE (Hairy Brown Eye). Dave has unlocked Pandora's Box and ruined my ears for anything else. Seriously, the hype... is REAL!! Other than the Friedman's, I have a '73 Marshall Super Lead that I run through a 70's Marshall Cab w/25watt Blackbacks for cleans. Say Whhhaaaattt?  Really, the best clean I've ever heard. Add the brilliant Nunaber 'Stereo WET' reverb pedal (youtube this one) and it's old school SRV Cleans! Spanky with a Strat!!  Another honorable mention is a '96 Top Hat King Royale 35watt combo w/el84's and Greenbacks.. with the Nunaber Reverb as well. All the vintage VOX tones with none of the hassle.

Effects, too many vintage ones to list, but I dig the VOX V846 Wah(Italy) EH Big Muff V5, Boss OD-1, CE-2, DM-2 & MXR's scipt (70's) Dyna Comp & Phase 90.

Current effects are Analogman's DS1 mod, Fulltone's original '69, the RMC Wah Wah, and... I have a Boss SD-1 modded by Diecast Electronics! Firebreather!!


When was the company made and where are you located at?


I officially started this in 2011 in Los Angeles, CA. (I'm originally from N.Y. so please don't hold that L.A. thing against me) j/k.


There has to be a story about Swiss Picks from the cheese design and mouse it is the most unique idea I have seen in the accessory field?

Thanks, Jon, I appreciate that! Yeah, it was a process. Like any other guitar player, I'm always looking for something better and through the process of punching holes in my picks for grips, I came across with the Swiss Cheese design. Bigger holes, smaller holes, etc. While it looked cool, it only functioned so-so. Break out the crazy glue and a bunch of plastic shards and I soon had make shift ridges and my fingers stuck together.. Haha. After about 70 to 80 prototypes which took a year or so, I experimented with different hole placement and design, and the final product was finally born. There's a reason that the holes are off-center. Using my guitar playing friends as Guinea pigs, I found the exact spot where our thumbs and index finger sit comfortably on the pick and then detailed the design around those certain points. As we took turns putting it into play, it was pretty mind blowing and I knew that I was on to something and had to pursue it. Of course, having a Cheese image pick led to anything to do with a Mouse, Mousetraps, etc. My guitar student Matt is a graphic artist by trade and actually nailed the mouse image on his second attempt! As soon as I saw it and knew it was right! It's like when you look at a company or band logo and it just looks PERFECT! Something clicks in our heads that says, "That's just awesome!" Though Matt scored with the mouse, I actually had to crate the lettered logo, using the hole pattern and side cuts. As a former desk artist, (when in school, I could cover an entire desk in metal band logos in 20 min... haha) I had it finished within' a few days. Wait 'till you guys see the new Sharp Cheddar shirt. I'll have it at NAMM this year. The mouse will be to Swiss Picks what Eddie is to Iron Maiden.


Tell us about working with Rusty Cooley and how his signature picks come about?


Let’s talk about Rusty Cooley first. I believe it was in the late 90’s when Rusty's debut CD came out, and I have to say that my friends and I were just FLOORED by this guy. Y’know, there’s a player that comes around every once in a blue moon that is a leap above everyone else, and Rusty is THAT guy. We’ve joked that he must be bionic. But what separates Rusty is his creativity in the speed realm. He does it his way, with techniques that though I can comprehend, I cannot recreate. Then he released the Outworld CD which further solidified his legend. I consider him to be a benchmark player in the idea that he’ll always be technically untouchable and 5 to 10 steps ahead of all of us. His new band/project, Day Of Reckoning is a brutal guitar assault that sets the bar even higher than before! Check out his music at

So,when I made the Sharp Cheddar’s, I sent some to Rusty and he loved ‘em and they quickly became his only pick. Y’know, hearing that from one of your favorite players was just mind blowing!! But, there was an issue. Rusty felt the Delrin was too warm for his signature 7 & 8 string Dean RC models… So, to the drawing board I went and came up with a Polycarbonate base, which is a harder, glass like material that really brightened up & clarified Rusty’s low end. He was stoked & the Rusty Cooley Edition was born! Now, working with Rusty has been a blast! He's as intense as his playing. Super sharp, energetic & always has ideas and possibilities to contribute. It's scary sometimes to meet or talk to people that you admire musically, because in the event that they're complete tools, it can ruin your image of then or turn you off to what they do... But Rusty ended up being one of the coolest cats on the planet when we started speaking which was a great relief to me & it's always a great time when we brain storm ideas.

What separates Swiss Picks from the pack, There are so many styles of picks from metal, brass, wood, plastics etc. Tell us why Swiss Picks could possibly be the last pick they ever play?


Ask Rusty... Ohhhh, SNAP! Haha!  Seriously,  as much as it's interesting to work with metals, woods & stone, you have to ask yourself, "What material really works best for a pick?" And like alot of you players out there, I've tried different things, but always returned to a plastics based material. Aside from the grip and feel, I make these out of the best Dupont materials here in the USA which are not only longer lasting in terms of wear, but sound much better than the average made commercial picks that most players are used to and accepting of. Another big issue I had was the ‘clicking’ sound of other picks on high gain settings. The Swiss Picks motto, “All of the speed, none of the click.” When it comes to the grip factor, I tried picks with sandpaper style scoring, which while they did grip, readjusting the pick during play was restrictive. So, with the raised edge design and these strategically placed holes, I can have all my needs met of feeling locked in with the plectrum while still having the freedom to not only adjust, but loosen up on my grip. This pick feels like a natural extension for me. It just glides perfect.


Lets cut the cheese a second (Sorry about the pun) Lets do a quick break down of your product line and what separates the line so the reader can grasp a bit better what pick might be the one for them?


The long awaited Sharp Cheddar series, which have a sharp tip are thicker than the original yellow ones. They come in 1.10 Thick, 1.50 Ex. Thick, 2.0 Slab and Jazz Mini size (1.30) . The material base is actually the same Delrin base. Where the material changed is with the Rusty Cooley Edition Sharp Cheddar Series, which is a Polycarbonate base. I have a great fan base for the originals, so they will always be a Swiss Picks staple and come in .55 Thin, .80 Regular, and 1.10 Thick. The Delrin is more of a pure warm tone, while the Polycarbonate has a brighter attack, which is what inspired the Rusty Cooley Edition. I have options to order assorted gauges in both Standard and Sharp Cheddar styles.


On the website it says that Swiss Picks are made with the finest materials in the USA. So many companies this day in age are selling out to Korea or China why have you not sold out like so many?

Oh, don't think they haven't dangled that carrot in front of my face. I could've had worldwide distribution if I would've moved production to China and played 'The Game", which encompassed cheap materials, cheaper molds, and in the end, an inferior product. Everything in our world today revolves around money... and it's horrible. I'd rather do this by word of mouth and have users of this product for ALL of the right reasons. Corporations have pretty much destroyed every piece of cool guitar gear that they've gotten their hands on by cutting corners, foreign manufacture, poor materials & in the end, just looking to line their pockets with your cash in the end... And then there's the continued loss of American jobs, which I could go on forever about. I'd rather quit before that happens here. My picks are made by one of the best rated plastic manufacturers here in Gardena, CA and that's where it's staying. :)

Where do you see Swiss Picks going in the future say five or ten years from now any new products on the horizon you can talk about?


For next year, I'm looking at the properties of Tortoise and where I can take those tones and improve upon them. Other than that, just to keep working with the best guitarists in music and make the best products that I can. This has to be a labor of love and has to be something that I use and am proud to have my name on. Having guys like Rusty Cooley & recently Scott Mishoe using my pick is all the reward I need... and in five or ten years, I'll still be here.. Keeping it real.


Where can people buy your products? online? Shops? website?


Swiss Picks is now website direct at


Any last words to the people reading this?

A big thanks to you Jon all that have supported not only my picks, but the music scene and the artists that have enriched our lives. Without these people creating what they do, our lives would be empty, and when you can, please support the artists that you enjoy directly so that they can continue to do what they do. 


                                        The Original Swiss Pick


                                         Sharp Cheddar


                                       Sharp Cheddar Jazz Mini


                    Rusty Cooley Sharp Cheddar


                                        Rusty Cooley Jazz Mini

I have been playing the Swiss Picks Pete sent me for over about 6 weeks or so now and I can totally testify that they are really something special. I have always had problems with picks turning in my hand over time and the only way I could come over it was using a drop of glue or a product to help keep them in place. Using the Swiss Picks has made me a better guitar player and actually helped me with control and speed. I am not saying that these picks are going to make everyone happy but they are more then worth checking out and making up your own mind. Swiss Picks not only have a great catch with the cheese but I can honestly say they are the cheese the whole cheese and nothing but the cheese!!!!!!!! 

You can find Swiss Picks at 

We did a talk about Swiss Picks in October that you can read here Reviews By Jon Swiss Pick Link

Monday, December 1, 2014

Creative Tunings Spider Capo

Creative Tunings Spider capo
By Kris Martens

The spider capo is a full/partial capo that is really cool. Unlike a normal capo that barres all the strings across a single fret the spider features six individual fingers so you can choose which string(s) you want to  capo.

Each finger slides across a bar which allows you to get proper string spacing/intonation. You just screw it on the neck at the fret you want.  Be careful not to screw it on too tight or you could damage the guitar neck/binding. Then move the fingers over the strings and adjust for the spacing.The whole process took a couple of minutes.  After that you just turn the rounded part onto the string and you're good to go.  For those that play live just set the spacing before the gig and you could attach it in seconds when you need it.

One main advantage with the spider is the ability to play on both sides of the capo. Say you capo the fifth fret of the low E string. You can play all the other strings normally. Only the low E string is affected.

I use it with a standard tuned 7 string (BEADGBE). Sometimes I would prefer a low C instead of B.  No problem. It puts hundreds of tunings at your fingertips. I find it let's me get really creative and play music that is not possible otherwise.

The Spider capo is available in normal ( for acoustic/electric 6 string $29.99), mini (for ukulele banjo/mandolin $32.99) and XXL (for 7 and 8 string guitar, bass $39.99). If you want to expand your creativity or use multiple tunings the spider capo will do the job for sure.