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!
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!
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.
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:
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!
6 for the price of 5
While pentatonics are a great melodic and harmonic device, slipping some extra notes into the scale can add some additional spice to the approach. The most common way to do this is through the method used in the blues scale – which is a pentatonic minor scale with an added note (in the case of the blues scale – a tritone).
The impetus for posting on this was a post my friend Moby Pomerance put up regarding some elements of this very topic. Originally I had devised an alternate (i.e. approximate) fingering for his idea – but ultimately I put a few twists and turns in it and came up with one lick that’s really three mini licks rolled into one.
First – The Scale
Here’s a “box” position D pentatonic minor scale as a starting point:
What I’m going to do is add in a 9th (e) for an additional flavor
While there’s nothing wrong with fingering it this way, I like dividing it into 3 string groupings. The 2-note-per-string approach with alternate picking is more aggressive – but the dividing the notes per string into grouping of 3-1-3 on the g-high e strings is a little more legato makes it easier for me to sequence sections. So here is the same idea but moved to the 7th/8th position.
Pay careful attention to the picking pattern and the 4th finger. The slide is indicated here to accent the pinky movement. While it’s picked in this example, it could also be played with only the first pick attack.
This idea is presented below in a larger lick that works over a d minor/d min7/d min9 chord. Here’s an mp3 I recorded with the FNH Guitar in AU Lab- first played slow (1/2 time) then faster (full speed – tempo is around 200).
** Note – the mp3 player on the site seems to be working better in Safari – but if you have trouble playing it – just refresh the page.
Lastly, examining the notes in this scale: D,E, F, G, A, C as unique triads reveals the following:
D, F, A (d minor) + C, E, G (c major)
in other words – to get away from the full-scale approach – you could alternate D minor and C major arpeggios and get a very similar effect. I’ll look at this more in a future lesson.
In the meantime, if this idea is interesting to you – you may also want to look at this GuitArchitecture lesson post, or look at the pdfs of the pentatonic posts in the online lesson (PDFs) tab on the top of the page.
I’m always looking for feedback. If there’s anything in this lesson that helps, or that raises other questions – feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading!
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.
I know I’ve been posting a lot of gear related items lately – and based on the statistics for site visits – this seems to be what people are primarily interested in – so this has driven the posting content recently.
While I’m happy to blog about gear (not incidentally, my 8 string Bare Knuckle Cold Sweat pickup came in last night and I squealed like Bobby Hill); I don’t want to get too far away from playing. With that in mind I’m putting a concentrated effort to get more lesson/performance posts up to rebalance the site a bit.
I’ll have a new chord-scale lesson up next week but in the meantime wanted to explain my performance/pedagogical approach to navigating the fingerboard with a fleet fingered pentatonic lick (yes, it’s reposted – but just like Thanksgiving leftovers – aren’t they still good on day two?).
GuitArchitecture? Sonic Visualization?
I wanted to take a moment and talk a little about GuitArchitecture, sonic visualization and re-examine a chestnut from the lesson page as a little – three for the price of one post.
In broad strokes, the GuitArchitecture concept is that the nature of the guitar’s fretboard and tuning lends itself to visualizing fingering patterns.
While patterns performed mindlessly can be a bad thing, they allow people to realize ideas more readily.
Through these patterns, musical structures can be realized and worked into larger sonic arrangements. More importantly, patterns can be associated with sounds and visualizing how to realize a sound by seeing its shape on the fretboard makes performing it easier. Hence the term Sonic Visualization.
In my forthcoming books – I have a lot of information on this topic as it applies to scales. When approaching scales – I see them as a series of modular two-string patterns that connect the entire fingerboard.
The GuitArchitecture Approach
Here’s an applied example of sonic visualization:
Let’s say I’m playing a solo over an E minor chord. As mentioned in a previous post – when soloing over a minor chord you can substitute a minor chord a 5th away (in this case B minor).
So if I’m thinking of using E pentatonic minor over the chord (E, G, A, B, D) I can also use B pentatonic minor (B, D, E, F#, A).
If you look carefully – you’ll see the only difference between the two is the F# and the G. Both notes sound good against E minor, so if we combine them we get a six- note scale (E, F#, G, A, B, D). Here is a sample fingering of the combined scales in the 12th position.
If that scale were fingered as a 2-string scale instead of a six- string box pattern – the same fingering pattern can be moved in octaves – thus eliminating the need for multiple fingerings. (This is the same approach I’m using on 8 string guitar btw).
Here is an mp3 (note mp3s are a little glitchy in Safari – if it doesn’t play you may just have to reload the page) and notation/tab for the descending scale:
* Fingering Note: I finger both patterns with the 1, 2 and 4 fret hand fingers on both string sets.
* Descending Picking Note: I play this with a modified sweep picking pattern
E string: up-down-up
B string: up-down-up
The picking pattern is the same for each string – but when I switch strings – it’s two up picks in a row.
Here it is ascending:
* Ascending Picking Note: I also play this with a modified sweep picking pattern
E string: down-up-down
A string: down-up-down
The picking pattern is the same for each string – but when I switch strings – its two down picks in a row.
If you’re used to alternate picking – you can use that approach as well but I try to apply the same picking pattern to all three-note per string patterns.
Practicing the pattern
In addition to focusing on the timing of the notes – it’s very important to practice slowly and only increase speed when both the timing (are all the notes being played with rhythmic equivalence?), tone (i.e. can you hear all of the notes clearly?) and hand tension (is your hand should be as relaxed as possible?) are all working together.
I’ve written a whole series of posts on practicing (Post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4, post 5, post 6 and post 7) that I’d recommend checking out if you haven’t already done so – but the simple principle here is to pay attention to what I call the 3 T’s in Performance: Timing, Tone Production and Tension.
This particular approach is challenging – particularly if you’re not used to the stretch. Just remember to practice in small focused increments and try to increase steadily over time.
For those of you who are interested, tone on this recording was the same AU Lab/Apogee/FNH combination that I detailed here:
Here’s a screen shot of the Pod Farm setting (The tone can be downloaded from line 6 here):
That’s all for now
I hope this helps! You’re free to download and distribute any of the lessons here but I maintain the copyright on the material.
I’m always looking for feedback on what people find useful and what they don’t so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com
One thing that occasionally drives me crazy is trying to find out about a piece of gear – finding a googled link – reading through a multi page posting involving specific gear only to get to a final point of, “Oh I don’t have the unit and I’ve never tried it – but I’ve read the specs.”
Having prefaced this – with any luck this post won’t make you crazy.
I have been taking a good look at the POD HD 500. One thing I like about the laptop rig is being able to set things up quickly – but as a friend of mine once quipped about another unit, “…you can’t check your e-mail on dedicated hardware – but it’s also much less likely to break down on stage.”
Another nice thing about dedicated hardware is the fact that it’s self contained. There’s something about being able to plug something in and be up and running in no time at all. Even as compact as my laptop rig is – it would still be faster to run through the HD than setting everything up on my laptop.
The price tag – Part I
The POD HD 500 will run about $500. For that you get the same ins and outs that you got with the POD X3 – 16 amp and cab models (apparently the modeling is built from the ground up in a completely different way than the previous pods – hence the “HD”), about 100 effects and an onboard looper that can loop audio up to 48 seconds (in 1/2 time mode – 24 in regular speed).
If you’re running POD Farm 2.0 on a laptop consider this for a moment:
A second generation Macbook will run you at least a grand. You really need a 7200 rpm drive – and that isn’t standard on most computers so you’re looking $50-$100 or more (assuming you’re installing it yourself) and 4 gigs of memory or more (if not already installed – again let’s say $50-100 depending on memory and model) – so let’s just average $150 ($75+75) for memory and drive costs.
You’ll need an audio interface. If you use line 6 gear – you can get a cheaper rate on Pod farm but it’s usb… Let’s assume for a moment you’re going to go whole hog and go with a high quality audio interface. An RME Fireface will run you at least a grand – so let’s also assume you’re going to go “budget” and get an Apogee Duet for $499. If you upgrade to a break out box – it’s a minimum of $95 more for the unbalanced version.
From a software standpoint I use AU Lab (which comes free on the OSX installer disc) and Sooper Looper (which is shareware – but you should pay Jesse something for the product – it’s one of the best software investments you can make).
If you don’t want to have to click on a mouse for a set – you would need a midi controller. I like the shortboard mk II (approximately $199 – but it you may want to spend the $7-10 bucks for a 10-15 foot USB cable if running it live). It’s usb powered, well constructed and works really well (except for the fact that Line 6 currently doesn’t support displaying patch names on the controller – only midi values – this is a big minus for live use – because you have to stare at the screen to see what patch you’re playing.
So for a live laptop rig (from scratch) or The price tag – Part II
Computer: 1000 + 150 (average memory and drive cost) + $599 (Duet + breakout box)+ $184.99 (Pod Farm + Ilok key) + $199 shortboard = $2133!!!!
That $1995 for an Axe-FX ultra is starting to look like a steal (although the Axe-FX midi controller is $799 – which makes the shortboard look better and better all the time)! Comparatively, an Eleven Rack Mount will run you about $760 or so.
This doesn’t include a laptop bag, external drives (for looping/recording to), IRs (impulse responses), conditioned power supply, USB hubs, breakout boxes or other expenses. To put it in perspective however, you probably already have a computer and an audio interface of some kind so many of these other expenses are not critical.
From a cost perspective – there is no comparison between a POD HD and a laptop rig running POD farm.
But here’s my thought on it.
I can’t imagine Line 6 not issuing a POD farm version of the HD models. The code for the models is already written and they already have a wrapper (Pod Farm). My guess is that they’ll wait a while for hardware orders to fill up and then release a POD farm version.
I have no idea what the hardware is in the POD HD unit (it runs up to 96k internally) – but I have to think that:
1. My laptop has more memory, hard drive space and a faster processor than what’s on the HD (or the Axe-FX or the Eleven for that matter)
2. Related to this – that I can run more than 8 effects if need be on my laptop – which it the limit on the HD
3. The Apogee has to have better A/D/A conversion than the POD HD.
4. While the built-in looper is a great addition – that it doesn’t hold a candle to Sooperlooper for features or loop time.
Does this mean that I’m dissing the HD series? Not at all. As you can see from the economic breakdown above – I think the HD is an amazing deal.
The Pod X3 was already useable – and even not having tried the HD (cough, cough) – I have to think it’s sonically a step forward. Heck if I could clear out some money – I might be willing to pick one up for sheer convenience alone.
But in going the laptop route – I’m making an investment in the future.
I’m putting my money on better software and better plugins and knowing that if the POD HD sounds that much better than the POD X3, that the Pod Farm version may even blow it out of the water.
There’s always cheaper ways to do things. For a long time I ran a POD 2.0 into a Fender DeVille and always had people asking what I was using to get my tones. As a general rule, I would suggest to get the best gear you can afford and make the most of it.
One final thought
If you own a car – you will always be sinking money into it – insurance, gas, oil, tires, breaks, maintenance, etc, etc. It’s expensive – but it beats walking.
When I was at Berklee – there was a shred guitarist whose pedal board had about 30-40 pedals on it and needed to be carried by two people. This was before the signal hit the full rack space unit. All of this gear was for 3 tones – clean, metal rhythm and lead. Additionally, he had 2-3 Rocktron hush units in the rig. When he stopped playing there would be a literal sound of locusts trying to break through the speaker before the gate kicked in (here’s an approximation of the sound: wheedley-wheedley-wheedley-wheedley-SCHHHHHKKKKKKK – silence).
A laptop guitar rig is kind of like a car. If you own a guitar, you will always be sinking money into it (and the gear used with it) as well – but it beats walking with a pedal board with 30 pedals on it to a gig.
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:
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.
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!
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.
IMPORTANT DUET NOTE:
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.
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.
Welcome back! In this post, I’ll be integrating SooperLooper into the AU LAB Live rig I’ve been building. If you haven’t read the earlier posts about this (part 1, part 2 or part 3) you may want to read those before continuing on.
An Important note about sample rates:
From here on out – if you’re going to be incorporating other audio into the session (including looping in SooperLooper) – you’re probably going to have to set the sample rate back to 44.1 (and set the Impulse responses back to 44.1). If I’m not looping – I try to set the rate as high as I can, but know that it’s going to have to get bounced down to 44.1 for recording, etc.
The next step is to set up Sooper Looper to be able to loop audio. I’m going to put SooperLooper on a bus, so I can either send audio to it or bypass it as need be.
In AU LAB – – > Sends – Select BUS 1.
A new Bus Strip will open.
Under Effects – scroll down and select Sooper Looper.
When you do this, Sooper Looper will open up in 2 windows:
The first window:
And then the GUI
A Quick Tip:
When using sooperlooper, you need to increase the “main in mon” to hear any output.
You can set up multiple stereo loops in Sooper Looper by selecting them from the SooperLooper menu.
I like to have 4-5 different loops set up.
You could do more (your limits are your system resources- but since I’m on a laptop – I want to be able to see everything (and this takes up some screen space).
Another Quick Tip:
You can set SooperLooper up for midi controls but the key binding options will help you navigate the window pretty easily as well. They’re found under SooperLooper Preferences.
For example – you need to select an audio loop in order to record to it. If you look at the bindings above you’ll see that select_loop_1 is currently set to “1”.
So if you’re on the active SooperLooper window and hit 1 – you’ll arm track 1. (Note the new line to the far left of SooperLooper that shows which track is armed for recording)
Make sure to save your AU Lab session.
Setting up MIDI control in SooperLooper:
In the first SooperLooper window:
Click on the arrow next to essej.net: Sooper.
Select Midi Effect Editor
Set the MIDI Source to the controller you want to use and set the Midi Channel to the channel you want to use.
If you don’t see the controller then go to Audio-Midi Setup application (or you could find it in the Application – – > Utilities folder) and click on the MIDI tab.
To Set up specific commands in Sooper Looper, you’ll need to go to Midi Bindings under SooperLooper Prefereces:
MIDI Binding Steps in SooperLooper:
Click “Add New”.
Select a command under “Command/Control”.
Press the midi control you want to use to control the function.
When you get all the functions learned – click Save.
Also make sure you save bother you SooperLooper AND your AU LAB session. All the midi functions should be there when you reopen it – but if they aren’t and you’ve saved them in Sooper Looper – you can just “Load” them back in.
AU Lab : Transport
Here’s something pretty cool – the Window tab in AU Lab – select Show Transport
That will bring up the following window:
The MIDI Clock Source will probably default to Disabled – If you set it to Internal – you can use to tap tempo feature to synch effects or Sooper Looper by tempo. Pretty cool feature!
(Also in the the Window tab in AU Lab there are some other useful options particularly – Show CPU Load – which brings up a handy visual meter to let you see how your project is doing with it’s resources.)
Additional Resources: SooperLooper
SooperLooper is an incredibly deep plug in. It would be easy to devote a 5 part article to just the feature set and use of it – The Sooper Looper forum is also extremely helpful with various Sooper Looper issues, and also has a specific SooperLooper AU LAB section.
Next time – I complete the rig (for now)
You can find all of the laptop guitar rig posts on the Blueprints tab on the top of the page. Once on the blueprints page – just scroll down to the Laptop Guitar Rig section.
Thanks for reading!
Automating Parameters with MIDI Learn:
Now let’s complete the clean guitar setup and then automate some parameters in POD Farm.
First I’m going to delete the delay and add a volume pedal. You’ll find it under “Dynamics”.
It could just as easily go before the amp, but in this case I want to put it between the amp and the delay, so I’ve deleted the Analog delay and placed a Tube echo after the volume pedal.
Next I’ll add a wah.
And an overdrive pedal. I’m going to have a full on distortion tone on the other channel – but this gives me another tonal option.
Across the Very top of the Pod Farm Window (labeled Audio 1: POD Farm 2 (1))
You’ll see 4 tabs underneath that window reading from left to right:
Audio1 –> POD Farm 2(1) –> Untitled –> Line:6 POD Farm 2
Select the arrow to the right of Line:6 POD Farm 2 and scroll down to Midi Effect Editor:
You’ll notice that the MIDI Source is None – which in this case means that the shortboard is getting power and sending midi, but it’s not being received by POD Farm/AU Lab.
I’ve selected the POD short board for the MIDI SOURCE, and will keep it on midi channel 1
Now that the midi signal from the shortboard will get to POD Farm, I can use the Midi Learn function.
Let’s start with the volume pedal.
If I select the volume pedal in the signal chain a close up of the pedal will open up in the window above the signal chain.
Since I want to control the volume of the pedal – I want to cntrl – click the level knob on the pedal.
That brings up the following option:
Choose MIDI Control – – > MIDI Learn. Now if I move the volume pedal with my foot the level on the screen will change as well.
(If you make a mistake you can choose the “Clear” option above MIDI Learn and repeat the process.)
If you wanted to do this with a distorted amp and roll off the gain, you could select the amp and cntrl – click the Gain knob. Even better, with the “Set min to current pos/Set max to current position” you could use the volume pedal for subtle variations in gain.
POD Farm: Midi Learn – Volume
Let’s see how this works with the Wah pedal.
First, as opposed to the volume pedal, which is always on, I want to be able to turn the wah pedal on and off.
The “secret” here is to automate the On/Off button under the “Gate” Button.
By selecting the MIDI Learn function and pressing down on the toe switch, that switch now turns the pedal on and off.
Next, with the toe switch on – I’m going to set the volume pedal to control the WAH sweep. Just cntrl-click the actual wah switch for MIDI Learn and move the pedal. The pedal will now control the sweep.
I like the Chrome Custom pedal, but don’t like the extreme high end, so I’m going to limit the scope of the sweep. I’m going to turn the knob to 85% or so and then cntrl- click, but this time instead of selecting MIDI Learn, I’m going to choose “Set max to current position”.
Now when I sweep the wah it only goes from 0-85%. This is really useful if you only want to filter a specific bandwidth.
I’ll set the Overdrive to an on off setting – the same way that I did with the wah.
That is enough for a general clean tone. Now onto…
The Dirty Channel:
I’m going to spend a lot less time on this as I’ve already shown how to set up and automate effects on the clean side.
Here’s the default set up:
A brief note on tone:
In distorted models, you can create amps with gain structures that you could never create feasibly in the real world. One problem I hear a lot is the desire to crank the gain and cut all the mids. That creates a particular sound – but it’s not one that cuts through very easily. The overdrive will boost the channel a bit in general, but it’s easier to ADD distortion live than it is to take it away. Again, louder isn’t always better.
Basically I’m using the same Volume, Wah and delay as the clean channel above. The only differences are in the amp and overdrive pedal (and that I’ve moved the placement of the volume pedal.)
Here’s the overdrive setttings:
POD Farm: Midi Learn – A/B Switch
The next step is to set up a midi command to be able to switch from the A to B channel.
The secret here is to click on the mixer button so the A/B Box appears in the window above the rig.
All I have to do then is cntrl-click the A/B button and select a button on the shortboard and then it’s all set.
Save your Bacon:
Hopefully you’ve saved your POD Farm patch and your AU Lab settings, but if not saving them both are very self explanatory.
Let’s start with POD Farm:
Click to the left of Default and save as
In this stage, you can also make whatever notes you want as well for later reference which is a nice feature.
Another really cool thing about AU Lab is that when you save AU lab – it saves the settings on all of the effects in AU Lab. So save OFTEN.
That’s it for this post. In the next post, I’ll add Sooperlooper into the rig.
You can find all of the laptop guitar rig posts on the Blueprints tab on the top of the page. Once on the blueprints page – just scroll down to the Laptop Guitar Rig section.
Thanks for reading!