Plan B, Re-amping and POD HD

There are a number of things I’ve recently noticed working with the POD HD, but the biggest one that’s jumped out at me is how dynamic the guitar gain is now.

For example:  with POD Farm, I can dial in a good tone but rolling down my volume doesn’t really affect the timbre of the signal.  While the volume lowers it’s tonally the same.

With the Pod HD, if I have a distorted track and back off the gain – it acts more like a tube amp does and cleans up a little.  My go to Marshall rhythm sound right now is a JTM-45 with the volume rolled off about 20 %.  It’s a really useful function.

I was thrown for a small loop when I went to track some Rough Hewn Trio tunes last week.  I had eq’d and set everything up for miking an amp but when we went to go track it, Craig preferred DI’ing the POD instead.  As the Atomic Amp I use (more info below) colors the sound (less highs and more bass), the tweaking I had done to dial in the tones with the amp was now resulting in some tones that were not happening in the headphones.


Lesson 1:  Be willing to take your own advice!! 


Back in the Laptop Guitar rig/AU Lab posts – I had talked about the necessity for setting up multiple guitar tones for multiple occasions.  I had gotten a little tunnel visioned on how we were going to track and in doing so forgot to set up direct signals.  Lesson learned.


Lesson 2:  Whenever possible,  have a plan B.

It’s difficult to track something if you’re not happy with the tone.  Also, until you’re actually tracking things – it’s often difficult to know how your tone is going to fit into the mix overall.  With both of those observations in mind, I try to track things with a dry signal (i.e. un-affected) as well.  This has 2 advantages:


  1. I can get a tone happening that I like and am comfortable with.  If it’s a solo, this might be a take with some verb and delay to fill out the tone.  but that specific tone might not work in the mix.
  2. If that tone doesn’t end up working in the track, I have a duplicate performance recorded as a dry signal that I can re-amp.


For those of you not familiar with that term, re-amping is the process of running a pre-recorded guitar signal through an amplifier (or modeller) and recording it.  It’s often done to “punch up” lethargically timbred guitar tones.  In this case, it’s a tonal safety net in case the tone doesn’t end up working down the road.


Splitting the signal – the easy way


The easiest way to do this is to get an ABY Box.  I like the Radial Bigshot.  It sells for about $80 but it’s really well-built and should last you forever.



Run your guitar into the ABY box input.

Run one line out to the modeller and one line into a mic pre.  Then run the modeller to the amp or to the DAW via USB.



For those of you with a SPDIF in – the POD HD can send an unaffected signal through SPDIF as well.  See the POD manual for details.


When I track this way, I just mute the direct guitar signal and monitor with the FX’d track.  Most DAWs have plenty of tracks.  But the danger of recording wet signal is that if it doesn’t work in context – there’s no way to un-affect it.


To re-amp with the POD HD:


The way I use – involves running a signal out of the DAW into the 1/4″ POD input and then running the processed signal back out of the POD (via the 1/4″ out) and recording it on an empty track on the DAW.

As a variation, you could assign the POD as your audio drive and send the track via usb to the pod and re-amp it by cabling the mono out to the guitar in. (Big thanks to Line 6 Don for this suggestion – you can see his steps here.)


That’s all for now!! 

Thanks for reading!




POD HD Flash Memory Update, POD HD500 In Live Use And More Thoughts About Gear

Should you upgrade to OS X Lion?




New SooperLooper Update 1.6.16

























Keeping Your Ego Out Of The Song’s Way

Thanks for coming to this page but it’s moved!

You can find it now on

Thanks for dropping by.  I hope to see you at guit-a-grip!

Hardware vs. Software – Or Praises And Perils In Live Laptop Use

Before I drag this article kicking and screaming down the bloody cobblestones of memory lane, I’ll mention that the kick off for this post was a recent effort to stabilize my laptop rig.


A couple of months ago I found out that the 4 gig chip that my laptop would support had come down in price.  This would allow me to max out my elder laptop at 6 gigs instead of the current 4.  I surmised that had to improve performance overall.

After saving up some cash – I ordered the chip from OWC.  It came very quickly and installation was a snap.  I turned on the laptop and seeing the memory say 6GB – was thrilled for about a ½ hour.


At that point, the laptop screen did a big wipe down and I got an error message of death – you need to shut off your laptop, which I did.  It powered back up and 10 minutes later did the same thing.  I took out the memory and added the old memory back and everything worked fine.  I contacted OWC – they had me try a few things, and then sent me an RMA so I could send it back for free.  The promptly sent me another chip.


I got that chip in the mail on Monday.  I installed it in my laptop and everything was fine.  I ran it all day and there were no issues.  I got it home and was streaming a video while I was working out and sure enough about an hour in the laptop screen did a big wipe down and I got an error message of death – you need to shut off your laptop, which I did.  This time however, when I turned off the laptop, I felt underneath it – I had the laptop elevated to get it some air to help cool it down, but even so – it was still hot enough that you could fry an egg on it.  I set the laptop on its side to cool it down and once the back was cool to the touch – maybe a couple of minutes later – started it up and it’s been working fine ever since.  I think it was the combination of the poor airflow and table lamps I have to increase the lighting. I’ll have to go to staples now and get one of those self cooling USB fan jobs and hope it doesn’t mess with the audio signal.  But it was an important reminder about the precarious nature of laptops as signal processors.   The reason I was trying this in advance was because at the next gig I have, I don’t want the laptop to shut down mid song and leave me stranded.

All of this got me rethinking the laptop vs hardware debate that I partially discussed here but is worth a broader examination.


The obligatory history lesson to stave off initial pointed questions of, “Do you even know what that stuff is supposed to sound like?”

As with many of the things I do, my entry into laptop guitar was completely unplanned, but in retrospect not that surprising.

When I first started playing guitar, the amp I had was a no frills, no name combo amp with a 12” speaker.  Given my influences at the time (Hendrix, Sabbath, Ozzy, etc.), it’s no surprise that almost immediately I started looking for distortion.  Then every dollar I could put together was going for other effects: wahs…chorus….delays… anything I could get my hand on to try to replicate those sounds.

When I was playing in the Committee of Public Safety (my avant-garde core French Revolution fixated band with voice, guitar, bass, cello and drums) – my signal chain was really small.  I had a Marshall JCM800 50 watt combo amp with a single 12 (this was run through a 4×12 Marshall 1960A cab).  I had a channel switcher for the amp, a volume pedal and a TC Distortion/Boost pedal.  The committee lead tone was the TC preamp before the Marshall distortion channel – and it was a creamy tone.  I want to say there was some kind of cheap delay in there as well (maybe an Arion), and from what I remember  that was it.

The Marshall got stolen from a rehearsal space in Allston while I was trying to resurrect mach 2 of the Committee.  The stolen amp was my cue from the universe that it was time to move onto another project.  In the meantime, something interesting started happening.  The more I got into pedals, the more I started getting into sounds that didn’t sound like the tones I was initially trying to emulate.  Soon the more a pedal disguised the fact that I was playing a guitar, the more I wanted that pedal.

At the time, I was working at a music store and an Ampeg guitar amp came in, and I got it for a super low price.  I started picking up some EH pedals at the time as well (including a really sweet 1st generation Russian Big Muff Pi), and I found an old tube echoplex.  I remember playing a gig and the sound man took a look at my pedals and said, “Wow – this would be a state of the art rig in like ’72.”  It was meant as a dig, but I took it as a compliment.  The rig had character, the tones were right there and it sounded as guitaristic (or non guitaristic) as I wanted it to.  That amp eventually gave way to amps by Seymour Duncan and Gibson before settling on a 4×10 Hot Rod DeVille (really a pretty great sounding amp with some mods by Tom at AzTech Electronics).

In between a lot of other pedals and effects crossed my path. This included a 1st generation Jam Man (with additional memory slotted in which really turned my head around) and eventually sold, a Rhythm and Sound (also sold), various distortions wahs and other filters.   By the time I was playing in Visible Inc (and later in The Bentmen/Tubtime/One Of Us) – my full rig was a tuner, Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, Digitech Space Station, T.C. Electronics Chorus, Memory Man Delay (original), Guyatone MD-2 delay, Akai Headrush looper, Vox Wah and another Ernie Ball volume pedal that went into the front end of a Fender Hot Rod Deville (4×10 amp).   The full rig sat in an 88 key keyboard flight case that would not fit width wise across my car seats.

During all of this, I was constantly investigating different digital options.  I had the original zoom effect that I used for quite a while, and when the line 6 came out – I remember getting a used 2.0 bean and just being blown away at the flexibility of it.  Even later – my B-rig (and the one I used primarily with Annette Farrington) was the pod bean with a line 6 pedal board, the looper, wah and volume pedal.  (Later in a cover band – it was only the Pod 2.0 in front of the amp). And that rig sounded pretty damn good in front of my amp.  Even the band’s sound guy went from dismissive to begrudging concession.  It really didn’t sound AS good as the full board – it sounded different – but it worked and it was a hell of a lot less stuff to bring than a huge pedal board.

This is all mentioned because about a month before I left Boston to go to CalArts, my rig was stolen out of an uninsured rehearsal space.  The only thing I had taken home with me was the space station and the Akai Headrush – the amp and all the rest of the pedals were gone.  The band hadn’t been rehearsing for a while so I had no idea anything was missing until a month later.  By then there wasn’t much of anything to do – but leave Boston and start what would now be my acoustic studies at CalArts.

My first year at CalArts, my wife got me a Pod XT for a Christmas gift – and that was my ticket back on the crazy train of gear.  But back when I was rocking a G3 ibook – I remember thinking that someday I’d be able to get guitar tones from a laptop.  The day would come that I’d be able to bring a guitar and a laptop and leave all those pedals behind.  And now I can say – that day is partially here.

Computer guitar tones are the best they’ve ever been, but there are a number of issues big and small that I think need to be acknowledged.

1.        Laptops do not sound like tube amps.  They just don’t.  Even running a laptop with a Marshall patch through a tube amp – doesn’t sound like a Marshall.   Having said that,  it doesn’t sound bad.  In fact, it sounds pretty damn good.  What laptops have all over traditional amps and pedals is flexibility and portability.  Knowing that I can bring a laptop and a guitar and (if the venue has a PA) get through a live show makes touring a LOT easier for me.

2.       Pedals don’t often break – but when they do – they can be bypassed and the amp still used.  The downside is that when the laptop goes down – you’re done.  I’ve never ever had a hardware POD breakdown at a show (other than one time when the venue lost stage power and ALL the amps (and PA) lost power.  I have had laptop programs crash mid set and it’s very nerve-wracking in a live context in the best situations.  In the worst situation – the show’s over.

Laptops are fragile and pedals are built for durability.  I don’t have to worry a well-built pedal getting ruined at a show (unless someone pours their beer on it) – but any one of a number of things could be the end of my laptop.

3.  The technological barrier to true emulation will be cracked.  The news of the new Thunderbolt protocol in mac books is stunning to me.  12x faster than firewire 800?  At a certain point the algorithms will be improved enough, the data transfer rate and processing power will be so high – that you will no longer be able to tell if something was recorded on tape or not.  You will no longer be able to tell if that’s a real tube amp you’re playing through.  It isn’t a question of if it will happen – only when – and honestly I think we’re only about 5-10 years away at the most.

4.  Emulation allows for sounds not feasible in the real world.  Do I want to get an idea of what running a guitar through 6 tube echoplexes sounds like?  Digitally? No Problem.  In the real world – you’d have to first find 6 working tube echoplex units – and the hiss would be unusable, trust me on that one.

If you’re planning on using a laptop live – here are some suggestions I have for you

1.  Optimize it.

  • From the get go, get the fastest processor, maximum memory and fastest hard drive you can afford initially. It doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest – it just needs to be relatively fast and expandable.  For my live looping rig I have a 2-year old Macbook Pro (2.4 gig Intel Core Duo) with 6 gigs of memory and an internal 7200 rpm drive.  I bought it with 2 gigs of ram and a 5400 rpm drive .  My initial upgrade was 4 gigs of memory and a 200 gig 7200 rpm drive as that’s what I could afford at the time.  The first time I looked at a 4 gig chip the cost was $150.  The one I just installed to get the machine to 6 gig was around $90.
  • As time goes on (and costs decrease) plan on upgrading when necessary.

  • Count on needing an external drive if you’re going to do any recording.

  • Defrag your drives – frequently. When I went from the 200 gig drive to the 500 gig drive I defragged it during the drive cloning and my system speed increase was about 30%.  It makes a big difference.

2.  Back it up.

The first time you lose all your data – you will know how important this is.  I’m especially bad at this as well and only back up once a week or so.  A hard drive is a very delicate thing.  If you knew you easily it lost information, you would lose sleep at night.

3.  Make Multiple patches and back them up as well.

Patches take up almost no drive space.  I probably have 40-50 different AU Lab settings.  The reason for this is that AU LAB remembers all of the patch parameters as you save them.  So if, for example, you finally optimize your work flow and settings and accidentally close the mixer window and save it when you close out  –  that window is gone when you reopen it – and there isn’t  a way to recall it.  What that leaves is no way to change parameters, levels etc.  In other words – you start from scratch.  I do this with POD FARM patches as well (multiple variants of tones so if I can call up parameters at will), SooperLooper, Apogee Maestro and FBV preferences as well.  Hugely helpful in sessions – believe me.

3.  Related to #2 and 3 – organize your folders and label them logically.

In working on my book, you would be amazed at the amount of time lost digging through folders with vague titles looking for old graphics.  All my patches are in one place and backed up to a flash drive.

4.  To the extent you can – run real world tests before going live.

If the stage has hot lights on it, it’s going to be doubly warm for your laptop – will it operate correctly in a live context.  In a related note, record yourself when you’re playing and check levels etc.  As I’ve said before, there’s a substantial difference in sounds that work when your practicing with headphones, sounds that work at low volumes and concert level sounds.  The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to keep it all together.

5.  Keep it compact

Typically in live performance you won’t have an hour to set stuff up.  5-10 minutes is optimal.  To the extent that you can, try to pre-cable all of your connections.  Don’t assume that the venue will have clean, continual power.  I have a surge protector built into my strip – it’s not ideal but it’s better than nothing.

6.  Go with the highest resolution your system will handle.

SooperLooper freaks out when I run anything higher than 44.1k – so if I’m looping – everything runs 44.1.  If I’m not looping everything runs 88.2, or 96k.  The clean sounds have more definition and the dirty sounds are a whole different ball game at 88.2 vs 44.1.  Again, this is where having multiple AU patches comes in handy.

7.  Be flexible.

Have a backup plan when things go wrong.  In a worse case scenario where the laptop completely fails – I can go directly into the amp and get a signal.  There won’t be any effects, but at least I don’t have to stop playing while it gets sussed out.

8.  Be calm.

This took a while for me to get my head around.  The problem with getting freaked out – is that it just exacerbates the situation as typically it leads to bad decisions which leads to more freaking out.  The more you can calmly assess what’s going wrong, the more quickly you’ll be able to solve the problem.

9.  Bring Extras.

I bring a trouble shooting pack to every gig it consists of:

  • duct tape – to tape down cables/or hold things together if need be.
  • a mag light – things get lost on stage very easily.
  • a small tool bag with screwdrivers, pliers and a wrench
  • a black magic marker and post its – in case I need to make any patch changes, write up set lists, etc
  • 9 volt batteries (for my ebow – also for my back up tuner)
  • strings and a string winder
  • back up usb and firewire cables
  • an extension cord
  • a flash drive with back up patches for everything

10.  Bring your A game.

Stage presence is a difficult thing to bring to a laptop performance, but to the extent that you can – show that you’re engaged (or at least don’t look bored/frightened) and come out from your laptop once in a while.  If it’s engaging for the audience, it’s going to make the performance go easier for you as well.

Thanks for reading!


Rough Hewn Trio – Some Live Excerpts

The Rough Hewn Trio –  an instrumental trio consisting of Chris Lavender on Warr guitar, Craig Bunch on drums and myself on guitar are getting back into the rehearsal cycle and gearing up for some shows this spring.  To get a feel for what the shows will be like here are some live excerpts from some improvisations we did this fall.  The live sets – will include a combination of pre-composed and improvised material.

For those of you who are interested – this session is all drums and laptops.  I’m running Pod Farm and Sooperlooper and Chris is using Guitar Rig. (an amp was used to re-amp the guitar in 1C – which had some gnarly digital distortion tho…)


mp3 playback is sometimes a little glitchy in Safari.  If it doesn’t play in your web browser – you may just have to reload/refresh the playback page.



Improv 2b

Improv 2a

Improv 1c

The Double Edged Sword Of “Fix It In The Mix”

Recently, while working on some mix downs of the Rough Hewn Trio improvisations we found a track that we all really liked had some nasty digital distortion on the take.

So as a workaround we decided to see if we could salvage it  by reamping the track through the Atomic Amp.  Craig and I sent the signal through the Duet out into the amp and then threw a 57 on it to see what happened. (From a technical standpoint there was a noticable difference. I’d like to think that the tubes smoothed it out a bit  but I don’t know if it was really a huge sonic improvement over just reamping it in POD Farm.  I’ll have an excerpt online soon.)

“Let’s fix it in the mix” in general is an act of desperation but it’s one that can be rooted in prgamatism (and one that is encouraged in recordings made by the music industry).

DIY Recording

When a new band records something they typically don’t have a lot of cash.  But they have a computer, some recording software (or worse warez) and some USB audio interfaces and think, “Oh hell I got all those great plug ins the pros use, we can record our cd here and it’s going to be amazing.” (and to be fair – sometimes it is and (in general) I’d say the overall quality of sounds people are getting at home is the highest it’s ever been largely due to the quality of samples and processing available –  but if you’re recording everything from scratch you’re usually in for a world of pain.

If said band is a live act with a live drummer then they either buy a bunch of mikes and stands and track it home OR go to a studio and track it there.  If they do it at home – they probably don’t have very good quality microphones, headphones or monitors – and will go to the studio to try to try to fix the problem.  This is the tip of the sonic iceberg.  There will often be a lot of other mix problems and it will either be a sub par recording OR at the bite the bullet point – they will get a professional to come in to fix it.

This is typically expensive (to get it fixed properly) or unsatisfying (if heavily compromised).  Fixing something that has gone horribly wrong is usually very time consuming and therefore very expensive.  With solutions of either have to spend money trying to fix what exists or re-record parts of it, at a certain point new bands simply run out of money and then make the most of what they have.  Again – usually with mixed results.

Let’s look at a major release for a moment.

Another Story Time With Scott

Again, the following has been altered to protect the guilty.

A very good friend of mine is a world class engineer/producer.  Super cool guy.  He was telling me once about a major label session that he did when he first went to NYC with a well known band.  The recording he worked on with them was a multi-platinum release.

“I can’t listen to that cd”, he once told me, “there’s not 4 bars of anyone playing at the same time on it.”

See (it used to be that) when you’re signed to a major label – you got the sweet sweet advance.  On the surface, it’s an intoxicating dollar number and the band is thinking they’re going to be able to live off of it for years!

But then the manager gets a cut, and the agent, and the producer (picked by the label and either working a flat rate or percentage or both), and then there’s the studio with the sweet sweet gear.  Even with the block book rate it’s still costing a pretty penny and it’s all recoupable against media sales.

So the gear gets all set up.  And scratch tracks are recorded and the first track is played down.

Repeat 30 times.

Move to next song

Repeat as necessary

Then the producer and the engineer go through the recording of the drums – meticulously for a LONG time (think days, or weeks versus hours) .  The producer starts making notes like – “Okay for track 1.  I like the intro from take 6.  The first verse from take 10, the chorus from take 2,” etc. and frankenstein a drum track together.  Then beats are corrected.  Drop fills, etc.  Until they have the perfect drum track.

For a moment – think about how long that would take someone to do.  Even if they knew Pro Tools really really well.

Now imagine this process repeated with bass, guitars, vocals, etc.

Now imagine mixing it.  With this same attention to detail.  With mutiple mixes run by multiple people.  Until (finally) everyone signs off on the mix and it gets sent for mastering.

If you’re imagining time as money, you can see why a new release might cost $250,000 or more.  Since this money is all advanced  based on sales you can imagine how long it takes for a band to get their money back.

It is essentially  a brilliant type of loan sharking.  Money is loaned to an act at an impossible point of payback with the full knowledge that they will never be able to pay the money back to get paid for their work – BUT in the meantime -the actual work they’ve done (said recording) would still be raking in money for the label that they weren’t entitled to.

It’s kind of like if a loan shark had you paying money back – but somehow was able to deposit 90% of your paycheck before it got to you.  As you were getting full taxes deducted on that amount and drowning in debt – you ask when you’re going to see some money and are met with a response of , “What do you mean get paid?  You’re still paying the interest.  We’ll let you know when you get some money.  I understand it’s hard.  Why don’t you borrow some more money and go on tour?That will bring in money.”  The touring expenses are also recoupable, and so it continues like indentured servitude.

As a contrast – Poison’s debut was done in a weekend.  Not a brilliant sonic document – but I heard that they spent something like 30k on the recording and actually made money off it.  (think about that as a cost for a weekend record for a second next time you budget going into the studio).

For a more musically satisfying example – Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Texas Flood was recorded in an afternoon.  They set up their PA in the studio.  Played their set.  Went to lunch.  Came back and played the set again.  Then John Hammond took the best takes and mixed it down.

It’s important to be able to perform at a high level without having to rely on digital editing to get a useable take.

Because there’s no second take when you’re playing in front of an audience.

The double edged sword of “fix it in he mix” – is that it’s also important to know when to stop.

When you’re on take 100 of the verse vocal and it’s not working – you may have to call it a day and edit it together later.  Metalocalypse, has a brilliant moment involving this idea with  “One Take Willy” that, unfortunately, is truer than it is comfortable.

When spending time in a studio tracking, there’s a constant balance of the cost/performance/time ratio. (i.e. getting the recording with a minimal number of takes). If you’re (insert major label super over produced auto tune vocal act here), this is not really an issue – but if you’re not rolling in money – “fix it in the mix” always has a certain degree of uncertainty to it and a general loss of money.

I’m not saying, “don’t be experimental” but it’s important to realize that ‘experimental” usually has a high cost either economically in a studio or in time if done at home.  And it’s important to keep your eye on the bill so you don’t get stuck with the full tab.

Thanks for reading!


In previous instances – I haven’t had a whole lot of success with running both A and B channels on a dual rig – but I thought I would try to steal a tone idea from Joe Bonamassa, and give it another shot – this time running a dirty and clean tone at the same time and blending the two for a more complex tone.

This post won’t be as in-depth as some of the other AU LAB posts I’ve done as I’ve detailed a lot of the process already.

As a starting point – here’s the DIST 2 rig:

The pedal configurations are very similar to what I set up here:

The wahs and volumes are both assigned to the same pedal so that 1 pedal controls both functions.  Ditto for the distortion and the reverse delays (usually off) which I can kick in for some grand psychedelia.

In the next version of this rig – I would probably set the Mix knob of the delays to the expression pedal so I could dial in the amount of reserve delay I wanted when it was on.

As another option – you could also set the volumes independently – one to the short board volume and one to an expression pedal –which would allow you to have a clean tone and dial in the amount of distortion you wanted a la Jim Thomas of the Mermen.


One of the biggest problems I’ve had when using dual rigs in the past is a weird boosting of certain EQs.  Particularly on the low E string.  In this case what I’ve done is to cut the bass in the 80 Hz by 6db on the Graphic Eq in the signal chain.    This was an idea I got from a REALLY cool acoustic post that Bob Brozman had on his site detailing his live rig and correlating specific Eq ranges to strings.  It worked pretty well and helped tame the woof on the low E string.  There’s also a 3db boost at 750Hz and a 2db cut around 3k.

Kicking on the distortion on the distorted side take out some of the extreme low-end and compresses the low E string in a pleasing way.

The Tube Screamer settings I’m using are:

Drive 24%

Gain 66%

Tone 13%

Another thing that has helped with this is splitting the Stereo send.  I’ve panned these to 27% on either side.

Here’s the mixer setting:

Another important note – this is running out mono to an amp – so that will further affect the sonic split.  I’m running the rig in stereo because I like the sounds of the effects in stereo better than mono – but ultimately this is going down to a mono signal.

Here are the Silver Marshall Model Settings:

In live use – the Atomic is really bass heavy – so I’ve cut out a lot of the bass here and typically have it at 3-5 depending on how the room sounds.

Gaining Perspective

Another problem that comes up with laptop guitar – or modeling in general is that it’s really easy to overdo it on the gain.  When I got my first distortion pedal – I remember turning all the knobs up 100%.  It took a while to get to where I started experimenting with eq and gain staging to try to get some saturation – but keep the overall definition.  The use is gig specific –  If the sound requires a lot of gain and sludge – then I go for that – but in general – I definitely try to scale it back a bit.  I can always add an overdrive or distortion pedal if I need to increase the amount of gain – .

And the clean settings:

The volume is a constant adjustment issue here. (also note the eq differences from the settings in the AU lab tutorial).  Here – I’m just trying to find some good mix of dirty with a bit of clean for clarity.

Here is a short example of the tone – this uses the clean channel from the fender and the dirty channel from the Marshall.  This was just the setting with the same AU lab settings in the AU lab posts – recorded directly in AU lab.

One thing I realized after I tracked this is that the feedback on the Tube echo is set a little too high.  I usually leave them both around 4 so it gets a little verb/slapback sound.

I have the tube drive on the Fender off for this example but can switch it on for extra gain if I need it.

In the meantime – you can download this tone here.

Hopefully this has been helpful.  I’ll be doing a post on using AU lab as an acoustic pre for live use soon.

Thanks for dropping by!


Laptop Guitar Setup Or Notes From A Live Show

For the Onibaba show last night, I decided to use only the laptop rig that I’ve been working with and not use the typical Atomic/Pod X3 rig that I use.  The short of it is that from a technical standpoint – it worked without a hitch.  I don’t think that anyone noticed that there weren’t “real amps” there and tonally it fit the bill.  There were, however,  a few little quirks that needed to be sussed out.

1 The room we were playing in had very high ceilings and was really boomy.  Sounded great on acoustic instruments – but I had to be really careful of not getting washed out tone wise.

2 The midi assignments for Sooper Looper stopped working when I used the FBV express board.  The board worked fine – but I’ll probably just return it and get a breakout box instead.  The FBV Express can control about 6 functions – but ultimately I’d like to control about 10-12 functions – so I think it makes more sense to just trigger it manually.


No one size fits all


As I’ve mentioned here, there are a number of variances that occur with modeling:

“I’m in the process of working on sounds on the X3 Live for the show – and tweak PA vs. amp sounds.  One thing I’ve noticed with modeling is that there are at least 4 different scenarios for setting up sounds:

1.  Headphone patches – i.e. practicing or recording

2.  Playing through an amp at low volumes

3.  Playing through an amp at high volumes

4.  Playing through a PA.

You might think that there wasn’t a lot of variance – but the differences between these parameters are huge.  I have patches that sound mediocre at low volumes and sound really good when the volume gets goosed a bit.  Headphone patches that work well at home and fall apart live – and vice versa.”

So along this line  I knew I’d have to tweak some patches I’d been using  and make some new ones for the show.  I decided to pull some patches I liked and demo them at low volumes in my apartment and then try to fix anything glaringly wrong at the show.


Reverse Engineering or Start with the output


A while ago I mentioned I bought a back up Atomic amp from Guitar Center for $149.  The listing was for an Atomic Reactor 1×12 – but both the 50 watt and the 18 Watt are 1×12 – so what I got in the mail was the 18 watt.  Initially, I was a little disappointed – but given that you can run it on 115V OR 240V – I figured it was a good investment and that in a worse case scenario I could sell it and make my money back.

When I set up my sounds – I set them up on the 18w.  There’s no master volume knob – it just runs at 18 watts – but I could control the output with my duet and set things up at a low volume.

The Atomics in general are very bass heavy so I knew from the get go I’d have to roll a lot of the bass down and tweak other mid and high levels.

AfterI got a tone set up on a lark I decided to try to run it stereo.  I pulled out the 50 watt Atomic and there were some weird grounding issues.  While I was trying to suss that out I decided to A/B the amps – and see if there was a difference.  Suprisingly  the 18 Watt sounded MUCH better than the 50 watt.  The 18 watt does use different tubes (2 EL34’s and 1 12ax7a as opposed to the 6l6GCs and the 12AX7 in the 50 watt) – but I think that just having the amp full bore made a big difference.  The more I cranked the output volume on the Duet – the more the tone sagged in a very pleasing way.  Also the 18 watt is DEAD quiet so that solved the issue of the loud fan on the 50 watt version.  I knew the 18 Watt was loud but I wasn’t sure if it was fully going to be able to hang with drums, bass, amplified trombone and the awesome sonic terror of Vinny Golia – but it did.



When setting output volume on the unit – if you choose “Instrument amp” – you get a flat volume that you are unable to control – by setting it to “Line Level” you can adjust the output with the knob on the Duet.


I think the Duet output went to ten – I never went higher than 5 – and at one point turned down to 3.  18 Watts was more than enough for the gig.  The drag now is I like the amp enough to sink more money into it and have I have the desire to get the amp re-tolexed.  Maybe with like a fender tweed or something.  In the meantime I used the 18 watter as a low volume template and could then tweak it further in the space as I needed to.


Organization is key


One reason to go digital is the rigs themselves they take up so little disk space you could save hundreds of them and have individual configurations for almost any situation.  This is also one reason NOT to go digital as it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options instead of narrowing it down to a few.

A great feature about POD Farm 2  is that you can create and organize folders with drag and drop ease.

For example let’s begin by looking at how I built my live setup:

First – here’s a sample patch:


Now if you look over to Setlists:


You’ll see I created a folder marked ATOMIC.



If you want to control changing setlists from a Midi Controller – Just control click on the up or down arrow, in the Setlist window and then press the midi controller feature you want to use to control it


Within that setlist, I have a series of patches – I name them all Atomic – so I can find them easily if I have to.


Another Tip:

If you want to control changing Programs (i.e different patches) within a setlist  from a Midi Controller –  Go to the top of the screen – where the patch name is:

Just control click on the up or down arrow to the right of the Patch name, in the and then press the midi controller feature you want to use to control it.

I’ve set it up to be used withthe up and down arrows on the right of the shortboard.  I decided to have one  folder marked Atomic and then just scroll up and down through the folder to get to patches. You could just as easily set up multiple folders and organize patches (and if you have only 4 tones per Setlist – you could just A/B/C/D them with the shortboard and use the up and down arrows to go between setlists – just like the setup on the PODs).

When I used the pod X3 with the docking station in the Atomic – one feature I would use a lot was the dual rig feature with one rig with a speaker sim – and one with none – It gave the sound a lift in a pleasing way.  At the gig I just ran them all through the 4×12 IRs I’ve been using and it sounded fine – I may put the IRs on a bus and mix the two to see how it sounds – but this is the rig I’m using as of this post.

Clarity wise – I felt it had a noticeable advantage over the X3 – but I’ll have to do more experimenting.  In a future post – I’ll detail a Dual distortion tone I’ve been developing and discuss some more specifics with using a laptop as a guitar processor live.
Thanks for reading!

Rig around the Rosie or Mediations and Meditations on Gear

Yesterday, I was trolling online for one or two things that I’d like to have to fill my insatiable gear lust and found an Atomic 1×12 amp for sale in Las Vegas for $149! A phone call and a credit card number later the amp was on its way to South Pasadena.

Now, I already had one of these amps – so a logcal question would be, “What the Hell do you need two of them for?”  Well, a couple of things,

1.  When I find things I like I try to buy a backup in case something goes wrong.  We can call this the great “Digitech Space Station lesson” – where (when they were in the death knell of production) Guitar Center was blowing them out @ $99 per and I only bought one.  Now the one I have is on its last legs and replacement ones are about $300-$400 on ebay.

2.  2 amps mean I can run my effects stereo.  Sounds small – but when looping things in stereo and there’s sound swirling around your feet…ahhhhh…there’s nothing like it.

3.  They don’t make this model anymore – and if worse comes to worse I could unload it for $250-$300 if I had to.

4.  As much as it kills me to say it – tubes project sound differently than solid state.  Before I left Boston, one of the bands I was playing in was One of Us.  The singer/guitarist/songwriter John Eye, had a Vetta – that sounded good.  It was super flexible and could do things that my amp set up never could.  But live, my rig (see the bottom of the media page for full rig information) projected completely differently.  Even when I used the pod 2.0 in front of my DeVille – it pushed the sound in a completely different way.

So, when playing with rock bands – I try to use a tube amp when possible.  For the film/video gigs I do – It’s more about convenience as there’s less sonically for me to have to compete with in terms of space.

(As a side note, John Eye is a truly great frontman.  He and I had very different views about live performance, but I always liked and respected him and dug his material.  I’ve included links above – including the Pull video which has some life footage of me with the band – but not audio 😦 .  I don’t know if any of the material I recorded with the band at that time will be on it – but if not – I’m sure the new material will be very cool.)

Getting back to gear and its endless acquisition –  I have conflicting opinions about it.

Having said all of this, will I still need to get Pod Farm Platinum eventually to go with the Pod X3 and the X3 live?  Yep.  Just a matter of time.  Will I get the Apogee Duet?  Yep – just a matter of time.

Because just like the plague inspired song quoted in the title, “Ashes – ashes we all fall down.”  – and life is too short to waste it on crappy tone.

I have missed a lot of great gear at great prices by waiting to buy it when I saw it.  If it’s a good deal, and I can make your money back on reselling it (if I have to) I jump on it now – before the next person does. Because who knows?  That extra piece of gear might get me .01% closer to the sound I’m looking for.

A long winded justification for buying an amp – but it’s important to have a realistic expectation of why you’re buying a piece of gear if not for yourself than to be able to explain it to your spouse.

I’m still unpacking – so no profound posts for a while probably.  Less fluff and more content next time around.  Thanks for dropping by.