Mas Modeling!! POD Farm, POD HD, Scuffham Amps And A Whole Tone lick

Computers, and models and amp sims – OH MY!

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There’s been a lot of interest in the posts on this site regarding modeling,  POD Farm and POD HD.  When I made my initial post about this, I didn’t have the 2 units to compare, but I do now and here are my thoughts.

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POD FARM

I still like POD FARM.  For tonal flexibility – it’s really cool.

  • The first thing about POD FARM to recognize is that the amps are more like specific snapshots of amps than fully realized models.   By that I mean, if you have a Marshall sound with a killing setting that you dig, then that’s great.  But if you roll back on the volume, it’s not going to clean up the way a real Marshall would.  There are ways to circumnavigate this (and you can definitely adjust your playing around it), but when playing through it, you’re definitely playing a good sounding model rather than an amp.
  • The second thing is that there’s a BIG sonic difference in the distorted sounds between 44 and 96k.  This is to be expected, but there are certain models that are unusable at 44k.
  • On the plus side the laptop functionality of POD FARM is awesome.  I can get sounds out of this rig that I could never get out of a conventional amp.  I can run two rigs with more pedals than I could ever run live and, furthermore, when I run it through the Atomic tube amp – even the 44k sounds come alive and works well live.
  • Breaking out POD Farm into individual elements is really smart – and very cool.  It means that I can run (for example) pre-amps or compressors in my AU LAB shell anywhere in the signal chain.  A nice touch.
  • I love AUs.  Why?  Because when the power goes out at my place for 4 days and I have to type this from a coffee shop, being able to discretely pull out an electric and play in a corner with a set of headphones (and not take up multiple tables) is a GOOD THING!

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Conclusion #1:  If you’re the type of person who like’s to get a great tone and park it – this may be a good option for you.

Conclusion #2:  If you’re the type of person who wants to reference guitar tones (clean, dirty etc.) but then go beyond that into the stratosphere tonally – this is the unit for you.

Conclusion #3:  If you want more amp, effect or cab options than you ever imagined – you know the drill.

Conclusion #4:  If you expect different tones from your guitar when you roll off the volume, or the thought of using a laptop guitar on stage makes you nervous, this may not be the unit for you.

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POD HD 500

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This review is specific to the 500 as it’s the only unit I have (and have played through).  Comparing this to POD FARM is kind of like comparing apples and onions.  They may have a similar shape, but they’re very different things.

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  • The POD HD has substantially fewer models than POD FARM.  Having said this, the architecture of the modeling is completely different and the tonal detail is stunning.  There may be much fewer amps – but they all sound really good.  The amps themselves have controls like BIAS, BIAS-X, HUM and SAG that the POD FARM amps do not and when plugging in the guitar signal feels like it’s plugging into an amp.  You can roll off the volume and the signal acts in a musical way.  As of this writing, Line 6 updated the HD500 and HDPRO w. a new variable input impedance that affects the tone of certain distortion pedals when you back off the volume (so they behave more like the real thing).
  • While the unit supports 96k as an output, the distortions sound good at 44k.  Much better than the POD FARM distortions at that setting.
  • As a hardware unit – it has a number of ins and outs.  It’s extremely flexible in that way, has a built-in expression pedal and a looper.  I’ve never liked USB recording, but the USB recording in the HD works well.
  • The unit has some tricks up its sleeves that are unique.  Particularly the particle verb, which is a gorgeous sonic mangler.
  • On the down side – the unit doesn’t have the horsepower that a laptop has so you can’t use any combination of amps cabs and effects on the unit. If you’re using a DSP intensive amp and effect, you can get the DSP limit screen pretty easily.
  • I have some minor global EQ and loop quibbles that you can read about here.

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The POD HD Verdict

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For the price point this is a great sounding unit.

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  • If you want an all-in-one unit that has the potential to create really musical guitar tones – this may be the unit for you.
  • If you like to get under the hod and mess with things like SAG and Bias to get a good tone – this may be the unit for you.
  • If you need more outrageous non-guitar tones, there are some excellent possibilities on this unit.
  • If you’re the type of person who needs specific distortions, eq, compression or delays to get your tone, and don’t have the patience to chase tone to do so, this may not be for you.

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PODFARM HD

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So in my mind, PODFARM HD would really be the best of everything.  All of the CPU/DSP resources of the laptop mixed with the sounds of the HD unit.  Unfortunately, there’s no word on when this is coming out (there’s a lot of new Line 6 gear coming out right now – but even so I’m guessing you may see a demo version at NAMM and then a release in 2013).

(A few tips for Line 6 between now and NAMM.

  1. Please add global EQ and allow looper wet volume to be pedal assignable.
  2. Please release all of the LINE 6 Model amps in POD FARM (Like Bayou) for POD HD.)

And why do I think that Line 6 may step up the time-table on PODFARM HD?

Because  despite what the forums say, in terms of hardware, I don’t believe that Line 6 is in the competing market with Fractal Audio.  They’re at completely different price-points.  AVID’s Eleven Rack however is a completely different matter.  Software wise, you have Amplitube and Guitar Rig as probably the two closest competitors.  Both sound good for different things.  Both have a lot of the modelling issues that Line 6 has.  Only Guitar Rig comes close to the number of effects that POD FARM has though.

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So why do I have Scuffham Amps in the title of this post?

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Because Scuffham Amps has something neither of these do.  They have the nearest thing to a PODFARM HD AU on the market.

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Scuffham Amps

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I understand that Mike Scuffham was one of the guys behind the JMP-1 (Which was a great sounding pre btw).  He’s done something several really cool (there’s that word again – but it’s applicable) things with the design of this plug-in.

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  • Limited amps – and specialized limits at that.  His “Duke” amp is based on Robben Ford’s amp (a DUMBLE) and has three channels to choose from.  The “Stealer” is loosely based on a PARK and the “Jackal” is based on a Soldano.  This is cool only because – they’re all really good sounding amps.
  • PRO Convolver and RED-WIREZ IRs.  The 64 bit convolver hosts a slew of really good sounding RED WIREZ IR’s (or  you can load your own).  For someone like me who typically runs IRs in LA Convolver – having them bundled in the AU is a nice feature.
  • Dynamic Power Amp.  In addition to the amp drive switch, you all get tweak controls like SAG High Frequency cut and Presence Frequency.
  • FX are limited.  It’s got a nice sounding delay, and the gate also works well the amp drive switch acts as like a distortion pedal – but no other fx onboard.
  • This might seem like a small thing, but the presets sound good.  There’s a lot of gear a I use where the presets range from ok to trash, but the presets here have really had some attention given to them.

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I’m not going to put a million mp3s up here as there are already a bunch of them on the site here.

I am going to put up what I can get away with in a coffee shop.  First here’s the AU Lab session I’m using.  The only external effect is a spring reverb.

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The Stealer has great blues/classic rock tones.  But here’s the odd thing, The Jackal has the 80’s metal vibe – but I REALLY dig it’s punchy clean tone and I’ve never really been into any Soldano clean tone I’ve heard.  Maybe I’m just not hearing the right ones. For rhythm/lead distortion – I’ve been into the Duke.

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Breaking up is (not so) hard to do

I think I’ve used that title before….

Anyway, here’s the Duke and a favorite voicing of mine – an open E min 9 chord in the 7th position.

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With many distortions – anything beyond a root-5th craps out and looses all definition.  Here, I’m going to play an mp3 with full distortion and then keep strumming the chord bringing my volume know down a notch or so.  Notice how:

1.  Everything cleans up as I lower the input volume and

2. how even at full volume and distortion you can still make the notes out!

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Note:

For those of you interested in the tech side – this was recorded with an FnH Ultrasonic guitar, neck pickup through an Apogee Duet into AU LAB and Scuffham Amps’ THE DUKE model.

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Let’s see how cleaning these things up sound with an actual lick.

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That Whole Tone Idea

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In the previous lesson, I talked about my concept of the modal microscope and how looking at things at multiple levels can help open new perceptions.

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Let’s take a look at this with the Whole Tone Scale.

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If I have C Whole Tone (C, D, E, F#, G#, A#(Bb) one chord that can be extracted from that is a C7+ (R, 3, #5, b7).  However, If we focus on the other chord tones of C7 (C, E, Bb), we can play it over a regular C7 chord with just a little bit o’ dissonance.

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Since I’ve always done things in C – I’ll move it to G and play a G whole tone (with a few chromatics) over G7.

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Here’s the lick (with some extra rubato, legato, vibrato and other atos):

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And here’s an mp3 of the lick – with the same volume drop approach as the E min 9.

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One thing that those of you who follow this blog might notice is that I’ve adapted my pentatonic 3-note-per string/1-note-per string – fingering to the whole tone scale (which I think is a cooler way to finger it and maybe you’ll agree!)

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Conceptually, I’m thinking G whole tone from B for visualization purposes (but moving back to the A on the D string for a little melodic velocity).  The point is as long as I resolve to either the B (3rd) or G (root) I can sneak this in even if G7 is the I chord in a I-IV-V blues.

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When I went to Berklee the best harmony lesson I learned was in Harmony IV, when the teacher told me that the whole point of Harmony I-IV was to teach students that any chord can precede or follow any other chord.  That means that you can superimpose anything over any chord – but the keys are 1.  having the knowledge to resolve it and/or make it work and 2.  having the experience and the confidence to go for it.

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This has been kind a weird lesson/review post (indicative of a few weird days) so please bear with me as I get back to the review aspect of the Scuffham Amp for a moment.

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  • On the minus side – I wish this AU had a tuner and a separate reverb built-in.  I understand why they’re not – but it’s nice to have a self-contained amp sound.
  • On that note – the amps sound really good and they’re unlike anything else really out there.
  • The list price is $90 – but they sell it online for $75.  Some people may balk at the lack of effects, but price-wise this is extremely reasonable for the quality of the amps and the red wirez bundle.
  • Don’t take my word for anything regarding YOUR tone.  You can download a fully working demo for 15 days and take it through the paces.  Some things will underwhelm you and there some things you will probably dig – particularly for blues/rock tones.

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I’m still waiting for Line 6 POD FARM HD – which I hope is everything I expect it to be, but in the meantime, I’m using this.  If you’re even remotely interested in getting decent guitar tones out of your computer , give the demo a try.

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As always thanks for reading!

-SC

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PS – if you like this post you may also like:

.

POD HD FLASH MEMORY UPDATE, POD HD500 IN LIVE USE AND MORE THOUGHTS ABOUT GEAR

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SOME THOUGHTS ON MODELING, GEAR ACQUISITION AND THE POD HD500

LINE 6 POD FARM 2.5 UPDATE AND POD FARM FREE ANNOUNCED

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POD HD VS POD FARM: A COST COMPARISON

LINE 6 FBV EXPRESS MK II REVIEW

POD HD500 AND POD FARM CONJECTURES

RIG AROUND THE ROSIE OR MEDIATIONS AND MEDITATIONS ON GEAR

.

SOOPERLOOPER LIVE LOOPING AU UPDATE 1.6.18 ANNOUNCED

HARDWARE VS. SOFTWARE – OR PRAISES AND PERILS IN LIVE LAPTOP USE

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X CODE 3.2.5 / AU LAB 2.2 NOW AVAILABLE – CAVEAT EMPTOR

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 6 – DUAL RIG DISTORTED TONES

LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP OR NOTES FROM A LIVE SHOW

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AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 5

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 4

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 3

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 2

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 1

SETTING UP “TESTING ENVIRONMENTS” OR MULTI LAYERED TONES IN AU LAB

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BUILDING BLOCKS – OR MORE EXAMINATIONS OF A LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP

A QUICK LICK – AND A RIG DU JOUR UPDATE FROM HO CHI MINH CITY

TECH LIMBO (NEITHER HEAVEN NOR HELL R.I.P. RONNIE JAMES DIO)

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The Modal Microscope And A Sequenced Arpeggio Approach

Hello everyone!

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I’ve been cleaning up a lot of the text for the GuitArchitecture book releases and wanted to post a lesson that uses some ideas and approaches from my Melodic Patterns book (available here).  But first, I need to talk about…

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The Modal Microscope

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When I explain using modes to students – I typically use the analogy of a microscope to discuss viewing modes conceptually on multiple levels.

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Let’s say I want to solo over a D min7 chord.  So I’ll put that “under the microscope”.

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On the 2x setting, I see that a number of minor modes will work over D min7.  In this case,  I’ll choose Dorian.

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Going to the 4x setting on the microscope, I see that Dorian is made up of a series of interlocking 2-string patterns.

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Note: 

If you’re unfamiliar with the 2-string approach I’m discussing I definitely recommend that you check out part 2, part 3a or part 3b of my guide to modes posts.

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If I go to the 8x setting, I can break the 2-string patterns down into 1 string shapes and going to a higher resolution (16x) I can see those shapes as individual notes.  At the 16x setting – maybe I’m looking at the individual notes of D min7 (D, F, A and C) and thinking about accenting those notes in my playing.

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If I now go out to the 1x setting – I see that D Dorian is just a subset of C major.  The thing is if you go playing a bunch of C major scales over D dorian and don’t resolve anything (or focus on the chord tones) – you’re missing a big piece of the puzzle.

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It’s good to understand modes on multiple levels but if you see how all of the related modes interlock with each other, then (using the microscope analogy), you can deal with using modes with chords on the 1x or 2x level but use information from the higher levels in your playing.

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Putting this to use:

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I’ve posted a number of technical things here and decided to use a much lower gain approach than normal and slow things down a bit.  The same practice points as before (Tone, Tension and Timing) apply – but this exercise is all about how to find variations in small things.  (If you like the technical things don’t worry I’ve included some deceptively tricky variations as well!)

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Let’s take a 2-string G Major shape.

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The nice things about 2-string patterns like this is that the fingering repeats at each octave.  (So you only need to remember one fingering for a multi octave run).

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One process I explore in my Melodic Patterns book is systematically breaking down patterns to get new sounds out of them.  In this case, I’m going to remove the 2nd and 4th note from the pattern which leaves me with this shape:

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Looking closely at the notes reveals that I have a G, B, C and E which is a C maj7 arpeggio. By limiting it to a  2-string shape,  I can move it in octaves and the fingering stays the same.

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Note:

The drums are the same pattern I’ve used on my other posts, so you can play against it for any other the things I post here (more info below).

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.(I’ve added a C maj7 chord in front of this to give a sense of tonality.)

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Going to a higher resolution

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I know that G parent major also contains A Dorian – which works well over A minor chords.  So playing this shape over A minor the notes – now become: b7 (G), 9 (B), b3 (C) and 5th (E).  Which has a cool sound associated with it.  (I’ve subbed out A min7 for C maj 7 here for the opening chord).

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Sequencing the ideas:

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However cool any scale or arpeggio is, playing it in a linear up and down manner will only get you so far.  By playing groups of notes in short sequences, the arpeggio gains a little melodic drive.

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In this first variation I’ll play groups of 3 (So I’m playing 3 ascending notes from each note of the arpeggio).  One way to immediately make this more interesting is to break the 3 note grouping out of the triplet rhythm.  Playing the same pattern in 16ths – displaces the first note of each pattern across different beats.

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Here’s the same idea descending: (This is another case where the microscope idea comes into play.  The A note ending the phrase isn’t part of the 4 note arpeggio – but gives the descending line a sense of resolution.  Since I’m seeing and hearing the phrase as an A minor tonality – I’m resolving it to the tonic (A),  third (C) or 5th (E).

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For a little variety –  I’ve taken the same idea but played it as sextuplets instead.  I’ve notated the first bar of it (as the notes are the same as the patterns above) – but I play it ascending and descending on the mp3 below.

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5 alive

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To get a little more mileage out of this arpeggio, I’m going to play the notes in groups of 5.  Here it is in a 1/16 note rhythm (I’ve left off the last 2 notes to keep it on one line).

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Technical note:

Watch the position skip on the A/D and the B/ G strings!!

Here it is as septuplets (5 notes to the beat).

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Changing the note order

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You may have noticed that all of these arpeggios use a linear note order in the sequence.  So if G is the first note of the 1st pattern and B is the 2nd note – every pattern moves in straight ascending or descending order.

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3 Note Pattern: G, B, C/B, C, E/C, E, G

in note order = 1,2, 3/2, 3, 4/ 3, 4, 1 etc.

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But what if we varied up the note order?  In this example, I’m going to take play groups of 3 descending notes on each ascending note of the arpeggio. (So instead of playing note numbers 1,2 3  – I’m playing 3-2-1).

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Here it is descending:

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Displacing the rhythm by a 1/16 makes it cooler.

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And again, descending:

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Obligatory Plug

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I’m only scratching the surface of what’s possible here.  The big takeway here is – if you really go deep on even something small – you can probably find interesting things that will work in your playing.

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I would also be remiss in not mentioning that my melodic patterns book shows every possible unique combination of notes (and rests) in 1 – 6 note shapes and then shows how to combine them into longer sequences (up to 9 note patterns).  It is a deep resource that can open all manner of melodic and compositional doors (and makes a great gift as well!) ; )

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Tones

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I went with another tonal variation here and tried some of the lower gain settings on the Scuffham amp AU.  It’s a cool product and I should have a review up soon.  In the meantime – he’s a screenshot of the laptop set up I used to track this:

Click to see full size

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I‘ve mentioned this in the laptop guitar posts – but the varispeed is a useful plug-in!  When I get bored with a metronome sound – I’ll throw a drum loop into the AU fileplayer and then use the varispeed to control the speed of the loop.

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As always, I hope this helps!

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-SC

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If you like this post, you may also like:

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Books:

LESSONS

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Slash and Burn – Creating More Complex Sounds With Slash Chords

The GuitArchitect’s Guide to Modes Part 8 – Major Positional Modal Interchange and Complimenting Modes with Chords

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 7 – MINOR POSITIONAL MODAL INTERCHANGE AND COMPLIMENTING MODES WITH CHORDS

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 6 – THE CIRCLE OF 5THS AND MODAL INTERCHANGE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 5 – MAKING THE MOST OF ONE PATTERN

The GuitArchitect’s Guide To Modes Part 4 – Modes and Chords

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THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3B – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 3A – SEEING THE SIX-STRING MAJOR SCALE

THE GUITARCHITECT’S GUIDE TO MODES PART 2 – SEEING THE TWO STRING MAJOR SCALE

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The GuitArchitecture Guide To Modes Part 1 – Seeing The Single String Major Scale

Making Music Out Of Scales

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Chords/Triads/Superimposition/Arpeggios:

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 3

Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

GETTING HIPNESS FROM A MAJOR TRIAD OR MORE CHORD RECYCLING PART 1

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

GETTING THROUGH THE GIG – NEGOTIATING A CHORD CHART PART 1

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RECYCLING CHORDS PART II: TRIAD TRANSFORMATION

RECYCLING CHORDS PART I OR WHERE’S THE ROOT?

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FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 2

FAVORED CURRY OR SPICING UP CHORD SCALES AND TRIADS PART 1

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RECYCLING SHAPES OR MODULAR ARPEGGIOS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

GLASS NOODLES – ADAPTING A PHILIP GLASS ARPEGGIO APPROACH TO GUITAR

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Practicing:

MELVILLE, MADNESS AND PRACTICING – OR FINDING THE DEEPER LESSON PART 2

Some Useful Online Practice Tools

POSSESSION IS 9/10S OF THE LAW BUT PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING OR PRACTICING PART VII

TESTING YOUR VOCABULARY OR PRACTICING PART VI

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PLAY OR PRACTICING PART V

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DEFINITIONS AND DOCUMENTS OR PRACTICING PART IV

TENSION AND THE SODA CAN OR PRACTICING PART III

PROPER POSTURE IS REQUIRED FOR PROPER PERFORMANCE – PRACTICING PART II

PRACTICE MAKES BETTER AKA PRACTICING PART I

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SooperLooper Live Looping AU Update 1.6.18 Announced

In the better late than never category, SooperLooper snuck out a new update last week (v1.6.18).  SooperLooper is an awesome FREE software version of the Gibson Echoplex EDP.

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.You can download it here.

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From the website:

SooperLooper is a live looping sampler capable of immediate loop recording, overdubbing, multiplying, reversing and more. It allows for multiple simultaneous multi-channel loops limited only by your computer’s available memory.

The application is a standalone JACK client with an engine controllable via OSC and MIDI. It also includes a GUI which communicates with the engine via OSC (even over a network) for user-friendly control on a desktop. However, this kind of live performance looping tool is most effectively used via hardware (midi footpedals, etc) and the engine can be run standalone on a computer without a monitor.

SooperLooper is currently supported on Linux and Mac OS X, and any other platforms that support JACK. The Mac OS X package is usable with at least the 0.6 release of JACK OS X. Note that for OS X Tiger, you’ll need to get at least version 0.7 of JACK-OSX.

A Mac OS X Audio Unit version is included which does not require JACK to run.”

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This is a critical component of my live laptop rig.  It offers unparalleled opportunities for live sonic mangling.   If you have a mac (or run Linux) you should stop whatever you’re doing and download it now!

(Then if you keep it – please throw Jesse (the developer) some money for the tip jar.  He’s put a lot of work into it!)

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Thanks for reading!

-SC

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P.S. If you like this post you may also like:

HARDWARE VS. SOFTWARE – OR PRAISES AND PERILS IN LIVE LAPTOP USE

RECABINET 3 ANNOUNCED – NEW IRS AND A NEW AU/RTAS/VST SHELL

X CODE 3.2.5 / AU LAB 2.2 NOW AVAILABLE – CAVEAT EMPTOR

POD HD VS POD FARM: A COST COMPARISON

APOGEE DUET BREAK OUT BOX OVERVIEW

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AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 6 – DUAL RIG DISTORTED TONES

LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP OR NOTES FROM A LIVE SHOW

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AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 5

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 4

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 3

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 2

AU LAB/POD FARM 2.0/LIVE LAPTOP RIG TUTORIAL PART 1

SETTING UP “TESTING ENVIRONMENTS” OR MULTI LAYERED TONES IN AU LAB

.

BUILDING BLOCKS – OR MORE EXAMINATIONS OF A LAPTOP GUITAR SETUP

A QUICK LICK – AND A RIG DU JOUR UPDATE FROM HO CHI MINH CITY

TECH LIMBO (NEITHER HEAVEN NOR HELL R.I.P. RONNIE JAMES DIO)

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Making Sense Of The Pentatonic Scale – Diagonal Forms – Part One

Hello everyone!! After a lengthy delay – I’m posting this pentatonic lesson.  The amount of information over the next few posts will keep some of you busy for a while.

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A general online lesson note:

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The lessons I post here typically go into quite a bit of detail with the rationale that the reader (i.e. you) can take bite sized pieces of information and return to the material as needed.  If this more information than you will probably be able to process in a single setting, simply take one or two things that sound cool to you and apply them to what you’re currently playing (songs, solos, etc).

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One idea applied well is worth more than a dozen ideas applied poorly.

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In this lesson I’m going to combine 2-string pentatonic patterns into a diagonal approach.

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Note: For those of you who want to adapt these ideas to the blues scale just add in the A#/Bb to the patterns listed below.

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Diagonal Pentatonics

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Playing two-string patterns in octaves moves the fretboard shape both horizontally and vertically (i.e. diagonally). Two-string diagonal playing can help with visualization as the same pattern is simply moved to the octave of the starting pitch.

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To illustrate this – I’ll start with the following four-note shapes.  Use alternate picking for all of the following exercises.  With the exception of the first four notes which use open position, the rest of the patterns use the same fingering.

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All of the following examples should be practiced with strict alternate picking or legato (i.e. using hammer-ons and pull offs) and (ideally) played over a chord to supply a harmonic context.

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Some chords to try:

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  • E minor or Em 7 chord 
  • C Major 7
  • G Major 7
  • F Major 7 
  • D minor 7 
  • A minor 7 or
  • whatever sounds good to you!

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Here’s the 1st pattern moved in octaves.

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Pattern # 2

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Pattern # 3

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Pattern # 4

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Pattern # 5

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Working with patterns

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Note:

Pentatonic scales, or any kind of scale in general, are simply a tool in making music, but are not music in and of themselves.  The goal of this process is to use these shapes as a way to visualize sounds and then to be able to manipulate them in real-time.

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Let’s generate a musical line using this approach. Here’s an idea in the style of Paul Gilbert.  I’m picking every note in the example – but you could use hammer-ons or pull offs for a more legato feel.  It’s played first with sextuplets and then slower at 16th notes to make the notes easier easier to hear.

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The drums on this track are just a simple loop I pulled together for a song I was working on called Raga Jam.

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While recorded at 105 bpm – the  mp3 can be downloaded and then slowed down or sped up to accommodate your tempo needs.  A number of applications will do this but if you’re looking for a recommendation –  I recommend Transcribe! by Seventh String Software.

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There are several ideas here worth exploiting.

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  • The initial pattern consisting of four notes, is played as sextuplets (groups of six).  Rhythmically, this adds a sense of tension that is absent in phrasing the group of four notes into a 1/16 note pattern.  This idea will be covered more in part two of this lesson.

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In general, practice playing patterns in a variety of rhythms as you may find ideas you can use later.


  • The B on beat three breaks up the predictable note order a little.  It’s a small variation on the pattern that makes it sound a little less “patternish”.
  • The last five notes of the sextuplet break the four note melodic pattern.  This idea will be explored more in part 2. But in the meantime, here’s an initial fingering to get you going.  I’ve notated it as a group of 5 – But rhythmically it’s part of the sextuplet pattern above.

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The use of the open E and A strings changes the overall fingering shape on the bottom, middle and top two strings which may make the lick more challenging to play.  

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If you are having difficulty playing something melodically, take a close look at the fingering you’re using and see if it’s the most efficient one.

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In the example below, I’ve taken the same notes and broken them up into melodic shapes that use the G, A and B pitches on the same string.  You will probably find this much easier to play.

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Here’s a fingering variation of the above idea (watch the skip from G to B on the D string!)

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Going a little further:

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Sometimes patterns can lead us to unexpected melodic places.  Here,  in this approximation of an improvisation for example,

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  • I’ve taken the initial E, G, A and B pattern shape and instead of moving it up a 1/2 step, (to accommodate the B/G string 3rds tuning), I kept the fingering shape the same.  This produces a whole tone shape on the B string that adds a melodic surprise.
  • I’ve then continued the whole tone idea to the high E string  – bringing in a C and then resolving it to B (The 7th fret B is missing in the tab but is on the notation line). The whole steps in the F#, G# and A# passage and the C, D and E passage have the same intervals as the G, A, B of the pentatonic scale.  Even though the G# clashes with the G in E minor – the line has enough of a melodic drive that it can work (as long as you resolve the idea  – in this case to a chord tone).

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By understanding patterns, it becomes possible to  manipulate them and make them work for you.  In the next lesson we’ll play full pentatonic patterns on 2 string sets and bring in a few other ideas that will spice up your approaches

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Tones:

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Finally, for  those of you interested in the technical side of what I’m doing here are some screen shots of my set up. First the AU Lab rig:

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Something that may be of  interest to you – I set Audio MIDI Setup to 88.2k for the DUET  – but run the LA Convolver speaker cabs at 44.1.  That way the audio conversion rate for the guitar signal stays higher but I can use things that run at 44.1 (like the audio player on the Generator 1 strip).

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I’ve mentioned the AUAUDIO File Player on my AU lab posts – but it’s a cool plug-in.  Using it, I can bring in all kinds of samples or tracks and run them live with the guitar signal and record them with the click of the record button.  (It’s how all of these tracks are recorded btw – live into AU Lab).

There are two dirty sounds (I didn’t like my first tones so I re-recorded everything.  When I couldn’t find the first 5 audio files while typing this – I just went with the initial recordings since I didn’t have access to my guitar.)

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Here’s the dirty side of the main tone (Tube screamer is set at 9%, 53% and 9% – BTW)

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and the clean side:

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Tracks 1-4 are just my standard Marshall Who? settings

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Part two will be up soon!! In the meantime,  if you like this approach, I have a book that includes this material you may be interested in that features this material and much more!

Minor Pent Front

is 100 + pages of licks and instruction and includes demonstrations and breakdowns of two-string fingerings, diagonal pentatonics, sweep picking pentatonics, pentatonic harmony and much more!  It’s available here.

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Thanks for reading!

-SC

A Game Changer? The Sonuus i2M musicport overview

I haven’t done a gear review in a while – so I thought I’d bring something exciting to the table this time.

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Lately, I’ve been thinking more about Midi guitar.  Not in the traditional sense of, “wouldn’t it be great to get some flute sounds out of my guitar for this smooth jazz solo?” but using it in (potentially) some more subversive ways.

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Midi conversion as an improvisation tool:

The first thought that occurred to me was midi guitar is a glitchy proposition to begin with. Even optimizing everything (picking technique, muting, pick choice, tracking parameters, etc) – there was still a lot that could go “wrong”.  This excited me from an improvisational standpoint because it meant that I could have other notes spit out at me that I didn’t play – and that I’d have to actually improvise with what was happening there.  To me, this is much more in the spirit of improvising that playing the same 40 licks I’ve worked out over Stella by Starlight.

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Midi conversion as a texture:

Additionally, the glitch effect can work really well in sound scape ideas where I might be generating different sounds over (and within) a loop.  That’s appealing to me as well.

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Midi conversion as a transcriber:

The real interest for this idea though came up with the dvd instructional material that I wanted to generate.  After seeing clips of John McLaughlin’s instructional dvd and realizing that he was simply using a midi guitar to capture audio and midi data in Logic.  By doing this – he would have a rough transcription of what he was playing and then be able to tweak it to make it more accurate from there.  A really good idea and one that stuck with me.

But midi always struck me as a lark.  The pickups and converters meant that I was looking at $500-$600 minimum for something that really wasn’t necessary.  Then I started seeing the ads for…

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The Sonuus i2M musicport:

If you’ve picked up a guitar magazine or been anywhere guitar related on the internet – you have undoubtably seen an ad for one of the Sonuus Midi Converters.  Their newest converter the i2M musicport, is a small (read: tiny) monophonic midi converter and a 16bit 48k digital audio interface.  Listing for $199 (and selling for $149) this is one of the most intriguing products on the market to me right now.

The unit has a ¼ inch jack on one side and a USB connection on the other which makes it about the size of an adult thumb.  It’s bus powered by the USB – so there’s no additional power supply (the green lit SONUUS logo is a nice design touch as well as the key clip.

It’s impossible for me to image a smaller device but how does it sound?  Since the i2M acts as an audio interface and an audio midi converter – I’ll address this question in two parts.

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Audio:

The ¼ inch jack is actually a high impedance (hi-Z) input preamp with a 16 bit/44.1 or 48k conversion rate.  Even though I typically like higher audio specs when using my guitar the sound is remarkably transparent and I had no issues with quality.  In fact, this is an ideal interface for practicing or jotting down ideas and would even consider trying it out on a gig if I needed to.  It should also be noted that while I’ve only tested it with a guitar it can be used with bass guitar or other line level sources (like a microphone).  There should be no real issue in using a 7 or 8 string guitar with it either.

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Midi:

First: I should state that this unit is a midi converter.  It doesn’t have any midi sounds on its own so you’ll need appropriate software (any software with a midi sampler or synth  will probably do) to hear and record midi.

Secondly: The midi conversion is monophonic.  Anything involving chords or multiple held notes will produce unpredictable results.

Having said that, the i2M does monophonic conversion remarkably well.  Tracking was fast, smooth and had very low latency with stock settings (particularly on the higher strings).  If you go to the sonuus website, you can download the Desktop Editor software which will allow you to adjust midi settings to suit your style as well.

Rather than just list them, I’d recommend that you go to the Sonuus web site where you can get full specs.

In use:

I decided to see if I could use the i2M as both an audio interface and a midi converter to see if I could use the score function in Logic to transcribe what I was playing.

The i2M is class-compliant which means that it’s plug and play.  I opened up Logic and had no problem setting it up as a default audio and midi input.  To create a real world example of what it sounds like it when you plug-in and play – nothing was optimized.  The audio is generated from a FnH Ultrasonic guitar plugging into the i2M at 48k.  No amp sims were used in Logic.  The guitar track only has LA convolver, some speaker IRs and a reverb on the channel. The midi is generated from the EXS 24 (using the Garageband/Logic Yamaha Piano).

All Logic and i2M settings are stock.  I heard the piano sound and decided to improvise in a Cecil Taylor style where caution was just thrown to the wind and I approached ideas as melodic flourishes.  I wanted to throw the unit some curve balls so I tried sweep picking, alternate picking and tapping various ideas to see how it reacted.

This video below is just a screen shot of the score pages with an mp3 of both channels so you can compare the difference between the audio and the midi tracking. (You’ll probably want to see it at full screen size – FYI).

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Here’s what impressed me:

The tracking was pretty clean.  There were a few random glitches on the midi score  but those could be easily fixed.  For the most part, I got a rough sketch of what I was playing while I was playing it.  Very cool.

There are certain open strings ringing and other string noses that were ignored.  This was surprising and cool.

The audio signal sounded pretty good out of the box – but to be 100% fair – this was with a clean sound.   I  ran this through POD Farm to see how the distorted tones were – but  for me, the resolution and bit depth weren’t there for a satisfying dirty tone.  In other words, as an audio converter – this isn’t going to replace my Apogee Duet – but this is really nit picking as the unit is, first and foremost, a midi converter so the fact that it processes any audio is just as bonus.  Additionally, comparing a $150 multifunction unit to a $500 specialized audio interface isn’t a fair comparison.   That being said, the i2M has a reasonable starting point for a clean tone.

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Also while the unit is plug and play as an audio device for Logic and Garage band, AU lab didn’t recognize it.  Not a deal breaker and something I need to research further but it may be something to look into depending on what platform you plan on using.

This unit is just a lot of fun.  I probably spent 2 hours just playing the various logic EXS patches.  Additionally the piano/guitar sound gave me a lot of compositional ideas in a Maria João idea – which is always a good thing.  I tried it with Absynth as well and it worked seamlessly (it even kept tracking as I took liberal swipes at my tremolo arm).

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In my opinion this unit is a game changer for guitarists (and hopefully for a lot of other instruments as well).  To have something that works this well at this price point while putting an audio interface and a midi converter well within most gear budgets.  For this demonstration, I’m essentially using it as a toy, but the potential applications for this are exciting.

Whether you’re looking to lightly tread the waters of midi guitar, get in deep for sonic mangling or just need a decent pocket audio interface, you’re hard pressed to do better than the i2M.

Thanks for reading!

-SC

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 Guitagrip.com.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

-SC