• entries
  • comments
  • views

About this blog

midi, theory and beyond

Entries in this blog


Before I delve into the Yamaha Variax Standard,....



I've used Sweetwater for well over a decade now.  Though I did not purchase the Variax from Sweetwater.  It was Sweetwater to the rescue.  My purchased Yamaha Variax Standard did not come with a Battery Charger.  Rather then send the Variax back and wait for a replacement I looked around locally and online for a charger.  Sweetwater to the rescue . http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/L6VBatCharge  Not only did they carry the charger separate.  They did so at a very reasonable price compared to competitors.  The story would have ended there.  I had already waited a week for the variax to arrive and had my hopes up to play it before the weekend as I work two jobs.  I'd made the purchase Wednesday Evening and thought to myself there would be no way for the free shipping of the item would land my charger until Monday.   James Masterson a sales engineer at Sweetwater, followed up after the sale letting me know when the product was shipped and provided tracking information.  It arrived at the post office on Friday (because my mail box is too small) and I was able to pick it up on Saturday.  Very fast.  Very thoughtful 


So on Saturday I was able to charge up the battery for my variax and get some play time in before heading off to work.  What's more is that added thing every Sweetwater customer knows.... SWEETS From SWEETWATER.   Me, I'm a happy camper I didn't need any sweets. but I had them so I gave them to a sweet gal at work.  She happily gobbled them up and had a smiled the rest of the night..   It's one of those little extra things that Sweetwater does which separates them from the crowd of online retailers.  Sales and Support have always been great with sweetwater, sweets always sweeten the deal.


The Yamaha Variax Standard


There is so much to write about this instrument it's really hard to cover all the bases. So I'll cover the Body first followed by the variax modeling technology and then other personal observations regarding it all


The Physical

 This is the one in white which I own.  I've never owned a white guitar before. It is based on a Yamaha Pacifica Model.  Classic strat shape with few appointments. There is a forearm relief cut into the top, however no belly cut  Standard 4 bold properly joins the alder body to the maple neck. It is very much a "student" instrument.  Nonetheless it's a well fitted guitar.  The three ply pickguard fits securely to the top, joins perfectly around the neck and wraps well around the bridge plate. I have to say when I was making minor adjustments I was very impressed with the tremolo assembly. The screws for the saddles are fully recessed so as not to scrape the players palm.They turn easily and uniformly Yamaha was even considerate enough to supply the proper  Allen wrenches for the saddles and neck.  The volume and tone knobs as well as the model and tuning knobs have that traditional telecaster flat dome chrome feel.  It will never slip when you are sweating.  The maple neck sports a 25.5 scale length on a 22 fret standard C profile neck . The nut width is 1.614" with a flat radius rosewood fretboard 



Yes, The variax faithfully recreates all the instruments it's designed to with the sonic espressiveness that the instrument has.  However at the root of that is the articulation which comes from the performer / performance.  One of my peeves has to do with the location of the volume knob which makes strumming near the bridge a clumsy affair.  My second and biggest pet peeve has to do with the neck setup.. Take this with a grain of salt. You may not get the same setup I did.  While the frets were properly dressed and the intonation is correct the action was simply too high.  It also had excessive bow.  I straightened the neck a little and brought down the action only to find uneven frets.  Which meant I had to raise the action and apply some bow to the neck in order to escape fret buzz.  This may be an isolated incident with my guitar that may not represent Yamaha Variax standards as a whole (I'll get into this more at the conclusion)  The guitar was sold as an "open box" by a retailer known for B-stock.  Which is why I received it for 525 rather then the 800 one would expect to pay for from a reputable seller.



The Sound - Magnetics

If the battery ever fails you'll always be able to play the equipped with three passive Alnico V pickups.  I've seen the videos as well.  Surprisingly they don't sound near as dark and aggressive on my guitar then those demonstrated.  However it may be something as simple as I'm not that aggressive a player and amp settings.  That being said they are darker and more aggressive then your average strat pickups.  They are single coil pickups.  They hum, not excessively.  To my ears they sound like Dimarzio.  Yes they are more expensive then those in a Yamaha Pacifica.  Call me a cork sniffer,  Every time I look over at my Stratocaster Plus with Gold Lace Sensors I say to myself I wonder how much it would cost to swap pickups.  I do the same thing as I compare my strat neck with the Yamaha...or for that matter every guitar in my stable.  


The Sound - Modeled.

Every variax be they JTV or Yamaha have exactly the same modeled sounds in them.  They all have the same workbench software.  What you get with different models of JTV's be they American or off shore goes down to aesthetics.   More Guitar sounds are to be found in the Variax Workbench hardware.  It is possible as stated over and over again in Workbench videos.  You can modify / create any electric guitar using the workbench by selecting the body design then swapping pickups, adjusting the pickup placement and selecting the electronics / wiring.





Amazing recreations of the instruments they were modeled after. All the nuance is there if you can coax it out To be honest I haven't played with every model sufficiently.  Not enough time in a day and...I get sucked into one tone and lose myself.  The tone control for the acoustic instruments affects the mic position. In that regard it is both more subtle then your average electric guitar tone control 


Here are my responses to common questions and concerns regarding the variax.

Which one is the best?

The JTV 89 (fixed bridge)  Honestly it all comes down to weight and playability.  It's the fastest most playable model of the lot. These oddly appear to have been discontinued.  Even the 89F USA is getting rare. Plays like butter as it should.  It has the same neck profile as my Yamaha Variax standard but the attention to detail regarding the overall neck work. Is vastly superior.  If you've ever played a top of the line Ibanez RG you'll feel right at home.


One of the common excuses Line 6 touted about the JTV69's higher action was that in order to properly recreate the sound much goes to action of the original modeled guitars setup;  The "feel" helps with the expressive control.  Well, I've played Ric's with thier high action short scale length and they feel much more playable then the Variax standard.  I've also played some higher action jazz boxes.  It's just an excuse for poor neck work and possibly a belief held by James Tyler as he may like his action higher.  Prior to the JTV versions of the Variax it was not uncommon for many players to have transplants performed.  Taking the guts (electronics) of a Variax and placing them into a more playable instrument.  Yamaha (the current owner of line 6) would probably be able to have greater profitability  if they simply sold the electronics out to other companies then build their own.  It would be a win win  win. Yamaha cuts down production costs, Other makers get into the game with still the best modeling technology out there.  And consumers can have variax technology in a favored brand model.


Why do all the modeled sounds have a sameness to them?

Turn up your master volume.  If you like me live in an apartment with thin walls you are prolly playing at low output levels so as not to disturb the neighbors.  As a result your ears are getting a blend of the acoustic tone (yes even from a solid body) and the amp tone.  Also,  play around with your amp / effects settings. What we hear when we listen to recorded music is filtered guitar tone.  Effects. the amp, it's settings, the speaker cab and speakers, the placement of the mics and types of mic's the mixing board eq and post processing even the type of analog tape used to record and the delivery process (vinyl, cassette, radio, digital compression) all effect the final tone.  Line 6 can only capture the guitar's character, it can't capture the performers character of performance nor all the other things which make up the tone.


The Spank Model Doesn't sound like "my strat"

Eric Clapton's strat doesn't sound like Eric Claptons strat,,, what's your point?  EC has played many stratocaster guitars over the years. [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownie_(guitar)] "Brownie"[/url] doesn't sound exactly like Blackie

Which doesn't sound like his 80's fender signature sporting lace sensors, which also doesn't sound like his current signature guitar that features fender N4 noiseless pickups. One important note about early pickup windings.  They usually didn't have counters to to count how many winds the copper had around the bobbin. If someone operating the machine lost count they'd guess.  This resulted in some single coils having more winds which produced a "hotter/darker" sound and some were under wound producing a "quieter/brighter" tonality.  This wasn't limited to single coil production.  The famous "Peter Green" Les Paul sound that was slightly out of phase was a result of improperly placing the magnet in.  It was a factory oversight.  To be honest if you want a noiseless single coil sounding pickup that properly reflects the tone without the noise... It's in there.  If you long for single coil noise you can always switch to the magnetic pickups or blend the magnetic sound with the modeled sound (via Workbench HD software)


Why does the guitar jump volumes when switching instruments?

If you want to faithfully recreate a specific guitars sound then you also have to faithfully recreate it's output.  That's "Keeping things real"


Why don't they have more guitars and pickups?

Well they do but those are in the workbench HD software. No it's not every brand of ever model imaginable.  Sure I'd love it if they modeled a Parker Fly or a Ibanez Satriani or various other guitars and pickups


I only get 10 custom slots?

Actually no. All 60 slots can have custom modified guitar sounds  Which you can load from Workbench HD.  You can swap either an entire 60 at a time or as few as one fairly easily.  It took me about 3 minutes to load the entire collection. YMMV depending on your computer setup.


I get clipping

More then not it may relate to sending the guitar signal out to an input where the trim is set to high.  (Just like what would occur with any other guitar. Other reasons include playing too thick strings too aggressively.  The obvious answer is to use the gauge strings Line 6 advises and not play like a thrash metal idiot.  If you are still getting clipping consider using Workbench HD and lowering the individual string volumes or simply reducing the volume on the volume control.





Yes I to get the warbling effect while playing harmonics on the acoustic 12 string. It's the only one I can reproduce the warble effect and the only way.

I've got the latest in Variax technology Workbench HD 2.0 and while it's improved the overall virtual instrument quality this quirk though minor is still present.


Final Thoughts

Before the advent of JTV there was a great deal of interest in Variax guitars yet minimal sales.  Line 6 sold less then 1000 variax guitars.  Many of which where transplanted due to mostly visual appeal and secondarily to play-ability.  JTV's did what the old 00 variax models didn't.  Capture the imagination and present the instrument in a visually pleasing form.  Mostly by just adding magnetic pickups.  There was always something holding me back from purchasing the original Variax series of guitars and later ones including the JTV line.  Yes played them all in stores and still walked away from the deal.  The yamaha variax standard offered a new hope.  Mostly in regards to the body style and play-ability of the Pacifica neck of which I've owned a Pacifica in the past. After a few days of constant tweaking I've finally got the neck into playable shape. Making minor adjustments to the truss rod and the bridge saddles.  One thing I've noticed about the JTV 69 (strat) is that many guitarists are swapping necks.  Yamaha has spent most of it's time focusing on Line 6 amplifier and effects lineup.  It's also borrowed back and is evident in the THR series amps which... I love.  The dedication and re invigoration to developing technologies especially yamaha's point to point  modeling has brought line 6 back on top of the Amplifier modeling market with Helix.  While I find the Variax a complete solution with little need to advance.  (it's near perfect) I hope Yamaha's enthusiasm isn't lost on helix / thr and some of it can come back to advancing Variax technologies.  One need not look to far into the past to see Yamaha dropping the ball on many an acquired project.  Such as when they acquired the Charvel/Jackson line and due to poor oversight dropped the quality and sales.  It wasn't until Fender acquired Charvel / Jackson from Yamaha that the guitar was revitalized to it's full potential.   Over the last few days I've been making adjustments to my Variax setup with hopes that it would play better.  Yes it plays much better then when I first received the guitar but it's still a far cry from...every guitar I currently own and many I've had in the past.. including Pacifica's.  Granted I'm a stickler for action, the average joe/jane guitarist would be rather satisfied with it.  Enough Whining....


It's taken me much longer to write this review simply because... I pick it up and play something then I can't stop finding songs to play.  I love the tone and I love the expressive responsiveness.  Magical.  I'd prolly not even bothered writing the review had I not struggled with the neck so much.... I'd be too busy playing.

















While there are several approaches and combinations of approaches to writing jazz. The most common is based on the progression first. Then melody supports the chord changes second. If you haven't as of yet go back to Part One and re examine the jazz-blues progression for "Blues For Yous Toos" Play the progression. You don't have to try and satiate yourself with the most complex chord formations or intriguing rhythmic patterns. Even if you can only strum one chord per half measure it will be enough. Try to read straight from the chord chart.


So lets talk about the challenges of writing against a progression such as this. Ideas for improvisation and writing all look good on paper. And then it happens. We want to use every option at our disposal while maintaining the basic premise of "Melody line supports the chord it's played over" Pentatonic ideas can apply, Modes apply, We may have adapted the principle of Guide Tones as a strategy for writing. Those of us who are constantly reaching for http://forums.songstuff.com/blog/159/entry-1535-fuzzy-logic-jazz-theorems/ because we have internalized them as well as those who may have read of jazz theories but can't see the application are often stuck between a rock and a hard place of too many options with too little time.

One can "read with one's ears" or "hear with one's eyes" but one cannot do both simultaneously. And most importantly one cannot both analyze and perform at the same time. If your personal goal is simply to learn to perform the song... Then while you may have a new song to add to your repertoire, you've lost the plot. Nonetheless at the end of this lesson I've attached a midi file at the end of the lesson for those who may wish to play the song for a better "feel"

Download the following pdf and print it. Don't simply display it on your monitor. You'll need a pen as well to mark the points of interest. It's important for you to physically go through the process. I'll list several "devices" you can use in your own writing / improvisation. Not only will you gain a more intimate knowledge of theory but you'll be able to develop your own ability to analyze songs for yourself by reading for analysis rather then reading for performance.

Without further adieu the transcription


Print it up and break out your pen be prepared to scribble all over it.

The very first thing to take note of in the transcription is.. The rest on measure 1 beat 1

Starting the melody either after or before the first beat of the first measure creates rhythmic displacement. While more common to blues then jazz many musical genre's use this type of device. If the first note of the melody happens just before the first measure then it has a tendency to create "energy" or excitement. If the first note of the melody happens after the first beat it of the first full measure can create a sense of "swagger" or laid back emotive qualities.

The very first complete phrase lasts two measures. Nine Notes. If you break those nine notes into three , three note groupings a pattern emerges. Eb-D-Bb, Eb-D-Bb, Eb-Db-Bb. Listening to the song the pattern is very apparent while simply reading the sheet it's less so. Looking and listening to the first two phrases we see, hear the subtle difference of note displacement. The first Eb is shorter then the second and third. The third Bb is longer then the first and second. Rhythmic variance within a (sort of) repeated phrase or "riff"

Pay special attention to the last three note grouping of our first phrase Eb-Db-Bb in measure two. This is where the fine line of jazz vs blues is defined. In blues while working over the first 8 measures the melodic phrasing is generally not modified where the IV chord appears. This can create "tension". A tension that is naturally resolved as the I chord returns. Generally in blues the melody line only supports the I chord till the turnaround. Whereas in (progression based) Jazz the melody's function primarily serves to support the chord it is being played over. (with exceptions) Qualifiers out of the way we notice that the lick is not transposed for the IV chord it is simply "displaced" to support the IV chord. In short sometimes you don't need to reorganize your thought train for a completely different mode a simple shift of a specific note (Db for D natural) does just fine.

In measures 3&4 we see the same phrase beginning to repeat but because the chord stays on the I chord the melody supports the I chord (Bb) with a classic blues/jazz lick based on the chord.

Measures 4&5 we again see the same Eb pattern supporting the Eb7 chord.

In measures 6&7 things get interesting.... Both the iii7 and the VI7 chords are common substitutions for the I7 chord.

The melodic line ignores the substitution instead playing the same phrase as was used in measures. Three of the Five notes contained in the phrase over Dm7 do not fit the Dm7 chord and yet we somehow survive the tension of the phrase. The next three note grouping F-G-Bb also while being close is not the cigar for the G7 chord. Not the end of the world simply a slight embellishment which functions perfectly for the next measure...

The triplets in measure 9 are simply two alternating notes rhythmically displaced. D-Eb as notated we get D-Eb-D then Eb-D-Eb etc. The presence of the Eb note is sufficient in supporting the Cm7 chord. The phrase is escaped by a simple "Basie" maneuver. F over the F7 chord followed by repeating the F note an octave down.

Measures 9&10 also introduce us to the famed "two-five" or ii7-V7 as represented being Cm7-F7 for the key of Bb. While the 12 bar blues is the standard blues form in jazz we have several "common progression" forms, and even more less common progressions which feature the ii7-V7 passage. Sometimes it's within a single measure and sometimes it's drawn out with each chord getting it's own measure. There are an endless parade of jazz licks and lines based on the "two-five" Some are in the context of a larger grouping of phrases such as ii7-V7-i or even I-Vi-ii-V. At any rate if you continue down the jazz path much of your "cred" will come from how well you negotiate ii-V changes.

The last phrase in our song starts on the V7 chord then navigates to the very common jazz turnaround of I7-VI7-ii7-V7

Here we have a fly in the ointment. The more you look at the phrase which starts on the third beat of bar 10 and ends in Bar 12 the more you may struggle with the harmonic rationale for the notes used. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar"

And sometimes a phrase is created by using the blues scale. The end of the song is based on the G(minor) blues scale. and the very last two notes of the 12th bar make a great lead in into measure one.

Ready to draw your own analysis? Play along with the home version and download the midi file here -


Note, the supplied midi file has a two measure count in. With some midi players it may displace the actual 12 bar presentation.

Next up a look at improvisational approaches to chords over this very same song...

Stay Tuned


A funny thing about the jazz idiom. In the Blues one has the basic 12 bar pattern that all agree on and all play from. In jazz there are several standardized form patterns to jam over that several jazz standards have been derived from as well as uniquely jazz-blues progressions and then jazz has a lot of songs with the name blues in it that have nothing to do with either the blues form or jazz blues form. The composer just attached blues somewhere in the name to confuse and confound everyone. But that's jazz.

All the above being stated jazz blues is a great introduction to the world of jazz playing for the non-jazz musician hoping to branch out stylistically. Jazz has it's own unique brand of theory and using "Jazz Blues" as a starting point allows us to see this theory in action.

I've written a song called "Blues For Yous Too" based on the most common "Jazz Blues" progression. Before we get to the song. Let's look at the big picture.

Here's what the chord chart looks like.


For those not familiar with chord charts they are representations of the chord progression intended as a short hand for writing / improvising over. In many cases all a musician may receive is a chord chart or a verbal instruction referencing the progression to "jam" over.

As those familiar with blues progressions may see that while the song starts similar to the typical 12 bar blues pattern but then deviates using chord movements more associated with Jazz progressions.

Traditional 12 Bar Blues Pattern


Conventional 12 Bar Jazz-Blues Pattern


While these progressions start the same in a general sense the differ along the way.

The first thing we notice is the heavy reliance on extended chords (9's and 7's) In conventional music theory the notes derived from the primary chord form are considered the most important notes. In jazz the root 3rd and the 7th are the most important. Also in jazz (and blues) when a chord is not expressed specifically as a Major 7th chord it is a major chord with a flattened seventh. The chord is spelled/played and explained as dominant 7th chord even though the chord does not function as a the dominant (V) chord.

Note the iii7-VI7 usage in measure 8. The iii chord is a common jazz substitution for the I chord. It can be thought of and explored in more then one way. The first being that the key is retained and it is acting as a ii-vi where by the VI7 is substituted for the vi7 (major for minor substitution or parallel substitution) Or it can be considered (more commonly) as a direct modulation up a whole tone to produce a ii7-V7. In measures 9 & 10 we see the classic ii7-V7 motion and finally in measures 11 & 12 the I-VI-ii-V progression used as a turn around..

In the next installment I'll be covering melody applied to these jazz blues changes. For now in order to become more familiar with the progression I've attached a midi file of the song sans the melody. Of special note I have a few "easter eggs" in the rhythm playing for further harmonic analysis in Part Three.

Until then play the following example a few times through simply to get the feel of the chord progression.



Boy am I turning into the grumpy old man I despised in my youth.

And the award for best supporting musician in a jazz band goes to.....

Yeah they don't give out awards like that. In a jazz combo setting The Bassist explores creative basslines improvising over the chord progression. The drummer explores creative approaches to drumming, The Keyboard Player explores creative harmonies and fills, The melodist embellishes the melody in evocative ways, The soloist is free to play whatever they want within the contextual framework and sometimes contextually out of the frame work...

The rhythm guitarist holds down the fort.

On the one hand the guitarist represents the foundation from which all the other musicians draw from. You'd think we'd be proud of our indirect band leader position. Very very few guitarists love jazz rhythm guitar to forsake all other opportunities. Those that do actually enjoy the all the time boring rhythm are generally only fully appreciated by fellow band mates.

Here's a funny story. Charlie Christian sucked as a rhythm guitarist. Charlie Christian the guy most famous for bringing electric guitar to jazz and recognized as the first jazz guitar soloist legend who by sheer value of his performances and songwriting with Benny Goodman. Sucked, He sucked bad. Why did he suck? He concentrated all of his efforts on mimicking jazz saxaphone lines instead of studying rhythm guitar. At first meeting Benny Goodman hated his performance. His bandmates hated CC's performance. Up until that point in history ALL Jazz Guitarists were rhythm guitarists first. If you couldn't belt out solid 4/4 rhythms you were useless in the field of jazz. Fortunately with much pleading on the part of Charlie Christian and other notable jazz musicians CC got another chance at an audition.

This time instead of playing backing chords Charlie Christian had a chance to solo with Benny Goodman. It was a once in a once ever event that a guitarist in a band was not required to hold down the rhythm section. An even that has not been repeated to this day in the annals of jazz.

In short you may call yourself a jazz guitarist but the world will not view you as one unless you devote time and effort to studying jazz rhythm guitar. Study means

1. Learning the Chord shapes.

2. Applying Jazz guitar Rhythm to those chords.

3. Learning jazz standards in a Jazz Rhythm Guitar approach.

You may or may not ever play those standards in public. But if you do approach a jazz combo or jazz musician and want to sit in with them you will need to be able to play jazz standards as a jazz rhythm guitars would do. Getting a feel for jazz guitar means getting your feet wet. Every jazz guitarist (including Charlie Christian who still had to build his rhythm chops after joining Benny Goodman) walks this path. Even those who have branched out to different forms of jazz like Al Dimeola or Alan Holdsworth.

Playing Jazz Rhythm guitar is not the end of the world. Some people who come to it early or late in life actually enjoy it and make the most of the experience. Others can actually make lifelong well paid careers in the field. For better or worse jazz guitar starts with Jazz Rhythm Guitar and the best time to start your jazz journey is today.


Jazz can be a nightmare for those with a rudimentary knowledge of classical music theory. Somethings just won't make sense. Don't worry.. Many classical standards from Bizet's Carmen to Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee resplendent with chromaticism also fly in the face of Diatonic structures used to teach the principles

Some theorems apply in some circumstances while fail in other. As a classic example. In the earliest era of jazz "swing" was accomplished via poly rhythms not the triplets / shuffle pattern we used today. It was a two over three beat. A march (2/4) and a Waltz (3/4) both played at the same time..

There are two approaches to jazz performance. One where everything is exactly notated and arranged for performance and generally intended for Big Band settings and the other where by choices are made by the player using both conventional and non conventional choices for interpretation.

Without further adieu things to consider about jazz as you study it, perform it, and generally get the hang of it.

In Jazz -

  • The Dominant 7th chord refers not to it's function as the 5th (V) chord but to the spelling of the Chord. That being a Major Chord with a flattened 7th degree. Dominant 7th chords are implicit while Major Seventh Chords are Explicit. As an example If a song is in the Key of C and you see a C7 it means the chord has a flattened 7th degree (C-E-G-Bb) However if the chord is Expressly written as a Maj7 it means it explicitly utilizes the major 7th degree (C-E-G-B )
  • A common substitutions where by a minor chord is converted to a dominant 7th. In popular form I-VI7-ii7-V7 progressions and turnarounds.
  • When expressing Jazz theory of chord movement is expressed in Roman Numeral based on scale degrees. Uppercase denotes Major while lower case denotes minor. I,ii,iii,IV,V,vi,
  • Chords that are not derived from the major scale degrees are expressed as flats bII, bIII, bV bVII, bVII In usage flat chords can be functional passing or neighboring chords to a target chord, or substitutions (tritone and more) or representations of chords based on minor keys degrees or operate as nonfunctional harmony or harmonic justification (block chords) or when the key is specifically a minor key.
  • Common relative major for minor or minor for major is not considered a valid substitution. One cannot simply supplant a IV chord for a ii chord or vice versa.
  • Extended chord names are derived from chord scale values Extending the scale unless explicitly expressed as a major 7th degree it is assumed to be dominant and assumed that the 7th value is present. For example D(7)9 D-F#-A-C-E C11 C-E-G-Bb-F G13 G-B-D-F-E
  • In practice the 5th is often omitted from chord voicings. and with jazz guitar where a 13th chord appears the third appears as the 10th. EG a G13 would be commonly voiced G-F-B-E or in the form of an inversion a G13 may be expressed as F-B-E-G. As the bass player is expected to hold down the root of the chord Guitarists and Keyboard players may opt for "rootless chords"
  • Tritone Substitution http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritone_substitution Can be used on any chord (not just the functioning V) Where a major chord is expressed as a dominant (1-3-5-b7) Although it is most commonly used as a subitution for the functioning V or I chord.
  • In expanded tritone substitution any chord that contains the original tritone (major 3rd,b7th) can be substituted with any chord that also contains those same intervals. EG C7 (C-E-G-Bb) Em7b5 (E-G-Bb-D)
  • In Jazz the full diminished chord is built of equal minor thirds values creating a diminished 6th (B-D-F-Ab) they are less common. More common is the Half Diminished. Because this chord rarely functions as the vii chord in a progression it is generally expressed as m7b5
  • Get used to that m7b5 chord you'll see it alot. It's commonly used as a substitute for Dominant 9 chords built on the 3rd interval. Example G-B-F-A becomes B-F-A-D. It's often used as substitution chord built on the 6th degree of a minor chord. Example Cm (C-Eb-G) becomes Amb7 (A-G-C-Eb) . The m7b5 is used as a bii substitution for the major7 chord. GM7 (G-B-D-F#) becomes Abm7b5 (Ab-B-D-Gb). Occasionally it is used as a "pivot" chord after a series of whole step modulations to return to the root (Bluesette) or simply as the diminished chord ala "Autumn Leaves"

If none of the above makes any sense from what you believe to be true...Well welcome to the world of Jazz, the art of the inexact. It's not intended as science and this barely covers the basics. Don't worry you are not expected to learn all this in a day or a week. Simply take note of it as you read it and then refer back to it as you develop. Not all these concepts are used all the time in jazz simply because something "Can" be done doesn't mean it by default "should" or "has to" be done And yet none of them can be fully comprehended until you've experienced them time and time again. Experience that comes from playing the principles, Not reading them, not listening to them in reflection but experiencing them in the moment.

Still want to play Jazz?


I know it seems like an odd topic coming from me, A guy who has had a semi-pro life as a jazz guitarist and at the same time is a lifelong student. I've yet to learn everything in the field of jazz and I often find myself relearning. Jazz is boundless.

Choosing a substyle / starting point

The boundless evolving nature of Jazz makes it difficult to establish a point of origin in learning. From the earliest parlor jazz played in brothels to the big band era to the bebop era, modal movement, modern, latin, progressive, fusion,new age cool and smooth eras of jazz, It's all jazz And while understanding the basic of one style can give you a foot in the door it also can easily lead to a very bruised foot and ego as well. Most serious players are expected to play at least three or four of these various era's of jazz.


Jazz Guitar requires a level of discipline unmatched in popular music. If you think it's easy maintaining a simple "Freddie Green" approach to rhythm guitar song after song after song. Think again. Chord/Melody is not merely fingerstyle playing. As a jazz guitarist working in a group or as a solo guitarist you'll need to get a grip on flat picking, fingerstyle and hybrid all in the same song. The bar was set long a go by players like Johnny Smith, Tal Farlow and Barney Kessel to name a few. Each successive generation has raised the bar. If you want to consider yourself a professional jazz guitarist or even hope to impress a modest jazz devote. You'll need to take sometime and learn a few standards using the chord melody approach.


In blues, rock, and country primary chords and power chords are "earnest" they get to the truth and they are the truth. While one might encounter a sus4 or 7th or even a 9th it's a pretty much straight forward experience. Jazz rarely will use a primary chord and almost never a power chord. Jazz guitar chords from basic comping to extended harmonies and substitutions are more often then not very unlike standard pop chords. Chord changes can happen on the measure or on the half measure or on the beat. In Jazz the 5th of the chord is more often omitted then not. Jazz is resplendent with 6, 69. 7,7/9, 11 b11, 13 and b13 not to mention m7b5 as well as #9 and b9 chords. I like to call it "hand origami" trying to work map out the fingering in order to accomplish the harmony. It gets easier with practice but there is a lot of practice involved in the making.

Keys, Scales, Modes

The average "pop/rocker" should be familiar with the keys of EADG and C (sometimes F for good measure) Jazz studies and most jazz standards are played in "the romantic keys" C F Bb Eb Ab. The key of G is considered the crossover key. Contrary to beliefs held otherwise a saxophonist can/should be able to play in any key just like any other musician. If you aren't familiar with the romantic keys especially Bb and Eb it's a really really good idea to bone up on them so they play as easily as any other key you currently play in. Don't believe for a minute that you can just play in A or E and then transpose when you need it.

In many a jazz standard including "rhythm changes" you'll often have mid progression modulations. a ii-V-I will modulate downward a whole step to the next and so on such as Dm7-G7-CM7-Cm7-F7-BbM7 then resolve to Bbm7-Eb7-Abm7b5-D7-GM7 If you can't handle these changes as easily as a blues progression...Well it's time to bone up and quick.

In Jazz expect to transpose to accommodate others. When playing with other jazz musicians in a jam or as part of a session the band leader or other band members will ask you to perform in a different key. It's always on the spot in front of an audience. There are two very valid reasons for this. One (which makes them come off as arsehats) is that they want to test your mettle. Jazz musicians climb every mountain to get to where they are. They are expected to transpose pieces on the fly without warning and as part of their educational process be it the school of hard knocks or in some demanding educational facility they were required to. They expect the same level of professional ability from you.

The second reason is often a matter of who's sheet the band is reading from. As a common example. "Autumn Leaves" is written in the key of Bb in some publications and G in others. Back in the 50's G was established as a crossover key for musicians with different backgrounds to play a given song. It's also considered an "easy" key and as such was used as the key in various "easy" songbooks. Both keys are valid for the song as it has been recorded in several keys by various artists over the years. When playing with a group it's your duty to play with them on their agreed key. This is very important when a singer is added to the ensemble. A classic example of this is Frank Sinatra. Ole blue eyes loved Ab. When a song was written specifically for him it was done in Ab and when he chose to do a popular standard it was transposed to Ab to accommodate him.

Jazz makes frequent use of both the harmonic and melodic (often called the jazz minor) minor keys. You'd be wise to familiarize yourself with the various modes associated with these minor keys. As well as the Bebop scale. Personally I reject the concept of the bebop scale as a whole being there are other means to attain the same ends but many a jazz academic would argue me into the ground.

Did you know there are not two but four pentatonic scales. The minor - I-BIII-IV-V-BVII the major I-II-III-V-VI The min6th I-BIII-IV-VI and the Dominant 7th. I-II-III-V-BVIII The latter two are popular with the likes of Robben Ford and Pat Martino (go scour youtube)

Speaking of scales don't forget those symmetrical ones. The whole-tone scale will be quite handy when working out over alt-dominant chords while the half-whole is great for bringing out those b9 / #9 tones.

As well it's a good idea to be practiced in the art of parallel minor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_key While you won't run into it too often in jazz it's good to have this in your pocket.

Where as in conventional jazz the chords are the foundation and the melody draws lines based on "chord tones" in Modal Jazz the mode is everything and the chord progression may be either a vamp (same chord played ad nauseum) or superimposed over the melody in an irregular fashion http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_jazz

Learning Standards

When studying other forms of popular music the goal is to sound exactly like the original. Even when one famous artist say The Beatles who covered the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles "You've Really Got a Hold on Me or Eddie Money they have to retain a high level of faithfulness to the original. As a sign of "credibility" and as a legal matter. Oddly enough even if you've obtained publishing rights to record a cover ...the publisher and or copyright holder can sue you for "butchery: if they feel you've done an inadequate rendering of the song.

Jazz is "interpretive" you as an artist are supposed to put your own personal stamp on a song. To perform a standard without interpretation is considered lame and unimaginative. The highest standard goes to the melody which has to be preserved. That isn't to say that one can't or shouldn't embellish around the melody. Drummers will be improvising around the beat. Bass Players will be improvising around the chord symbols, Pianists may be exploring non-functional harmony and advanced substitutions. About the only one trying to glue things down is the rhythm guitarists. When the solo comes it's not supposed to be "off the record" it is supposed to be improvised on the fly. This is no place for people overly concerned about making mistakes.

When learning a jazz song it's best to get acquainted with not one but a few renditions by various artists with the same song. This is to get a feel for it. After listening to a few different versions of the song over awhile the next step is to study and interpret the sheet. Jazz sheets are sparse. They'll often contain only the melody staff and chord names. Many will omit the intro. Quite often intro's are written by the performer (you)

Finding fellow jazz musicians or even musicians with the slightest clue to jazz is becoming rarer and rarer. Those who still play live in splattered outposts generally have no interest in bringing a newbie along for the ride. Unless as the case is more often then not they are teaching jazz. More times then not local jazz teachers lack the bona fides to teach jazz. They often have a generalized knowledge of music and teach from generalized music studies. It's usually just someone trying to score a quick buck by babysitting rather then educating. If you are considering paying for jazz lessons, ask a teacher to play a few standards.While there are many fine universities offering advanced degrees in jazz studies very few of the graduates ever make a living playing jazz professionally. Often times do to the sparsity of gigging they leave the field of music forever.

In most parts of the United States jazz has evaporated. There are no more jazz open jam nights in clubs save a few rarefied outposts in NYC. Jazz is often reserved for upscale restaurants and private parties for the wealthy. Even then it serves only as background wallpaper rather then the main attraction.

On youtube, jazz is for jazz lovers only. It's near impossible to find a jazz guitarist who isn't using the medium as a teaching mechanism. The lessons are a draw to the music and the music is a draw to the lesson.

With so much to learn and so little opportunity for apprenticeship in the medium of jazz. Band-In-A-Box is the defacto standard software for jazz musicians. Simply by virtue of having BIAB many jazzers have little to no interest in pursing jazz on an interpersonal level with other like minded jazz players.

Studying Jazz will not make you a better rock, blues, country or other style player. It won't make you smarter in those styles and it won't make you play those styles better. In many ways studying / playing jazz can be a hinderance. With rare exception (phish, steely dan, toto) a background in jazz can help you develop a niche, Though in each of those examples the artists separated themselves from the jazz movement to pursue their own styles.

Still interested?



Eddie Durham is a lesser known jazz guitarist from the swing era. Not only was he the first guitarist to be recorded playing an electric guitar. He also played trombone, as well as composed and arranged tunes from the era.

Guitar Research is a house brand for Sam Ash. Which is why as a brand name it may not be recognizable or confused with Schecter another manufacturer of guitars. The Eddie Durham models have little in common with the Gibson ES 150 which Durham played through out his career. Although the JX17 comes closer to the mark Neither the JX17 nor the JX16(which is modeled after a gibson es-175) can be considered replica's of ED's es 150 (though the JX17 comes closer to the mark. Both have a "D'angelico inspired" headstock.

Sam Ash had these guitars manufactured at Peerless in South Korea and released them for only one year 2006. Since then Peerless has gone on to make their own models fashioned much like the JX17 and D'angelico has been reborn as a guitar maker. Oddly while taking hints from their past incarnation and some from well...the JX17 which only resembles early D'angelico somewhat. The Eddie Durham models did not sell well for Sam Ash. Most likely as it was only available at Sam Ash and the Guitar Research brand name was not well established.

Construction and Materials

The headstock has that large art deco outline of which D'angelico was famous for with pearl inlays and heavy bindings The tuners are gold Grover Imperials which adds a touch of elegance. Large headstocks on jazz guitars also serve a utilitarian value. They increase the sustain of hollow bodies while reducing the feedback. (strange but true)

The maple neck is a "thinner" D shape. that has a width of 1.75 and the action is roughly 4/64's of an inch. Comparable to a Les Paul Standard (more on this later) The frets (my one caveat see below) are medium width, uniform and slightly lower then a standard jazz box or most Les Paul's. With a scale length of 24.75 inches. The 20 fret fretboard is bound brazilian rosewood with mother of pear block inlays and a Eddie Durham signature on the 12th fret.

The body is all maple. with a tea-burst finish. It is stunning to look at.Heavy binding The back is a single carved piece of AAA grade Maple Beautiful lines run from neck to bridge. The grain is highly visible along the sides as well. The top is carved (not laminate) two piece flamed maple with oversized F-holes.. It sports a rosewood compensated floating bridge and gold trapezoid tailpiece. Tone and Volume controls are mounted to the 100th Anniversary Engraved Tortoiseshell Pickguard, A floating mini-humbucker is mounted to the neck.



This is no ordinary jazz box. In many ways I've been waiting for this all of my life I just didn't believe it existed.

Response and Playability

A cautionary note. Floating bridges are not fixed to the soundboard/top. They are held in place only by the string tension. As a result hard strumming anywhere along the strings can result in a shift of the bridge. Throwing the intonation off. Even aggressive flat picking near the bridge can do this. When changing the strings do so one at a time so as not to allow the floating bridge treat your jazz box with patience (in cleaning and changing the strings) Care (in handling and storage) and respect (in playing) In short treat her like a lady and she'll be very good to you for a very long time.

Acoustically Speaking

Jazz guitars were originally designed for one thing. Loudness. They didn't have pickups or other amplification techniques at the time. The arched to back and larger bodies and f=holes were significantly louder then their flat top brethren. I cringe when I hear early jazz boxes (1920's.and 30's) played acoustically. I also cringe when I hear many expensive name brand jazz boxes played acoustically. The JX17 has a slightly more narrow width which means it still projects to moderate acoustic levels. But how does the JX17 it sound acoustically? Quite favorably far better then most jazz boxes even those in the 10k range. Snappy but not rattly with just the right amount of brightness and a little bit of lower/mid lifts. (warm and round) I was just as pleased playing Bob Seger and The Beatles acoustically as I was Barney Kessel and Kenny Burrell.

That Magical Floating Mini-humbucker

For a quick review of the differences in floating vs fixed pickup follow

an aspect quickly passed over that is covered concerns the responsiveness of the floating pickup. Floating pickups pick up more of the character of acoustic playing. Subtitles of playing an acoustic guitar when applied to a fixed pickup or even piezos and acoustic electric guitars are often lost. Not so with the floating pickup system The floating mini-humbucker is mounted directly to the neck. Adding to the character of the floating pickup is ....it's design. mini pickups have smaller magnets and less windings Low output pickups capture more nuance whether they are fixed or floating by virtue of their low output. The lighter magnets have less bass response and the less windings produce a brighter tone then conventional pickups. While tone can be compensated on amps with minimal adjustment to eq. I've found zero need to move my eq from a flat response. With the tone on the guitar all the way up it is sufficiently bright and warm to easily replace an acoustic guitar during live sets. Pulling back the tone from 7~3 is all that's needed to coax those luscious warm jazz tones. While other jazz boxes can sound "woofy" "tubby" or "dull" the jx17 from Guitar Research is plagued with none of that. It's just a luscious warm responsive tone.

It's not just the pickup. The construction compliments the sound. Laminated guitars like the original Gibson ES-175 were primarily designed to be cheap. The feedback rejection they offered made the guitars a success. However laminated jazz boxes still have a dullish quality about them. Spruce tops, while all the rage on acoustic guitars can sound brittle on a jazz box. It's funny I love Kenny Burrell's playing. I like his original tone in the old days. I don't like his Heritage Signature Guitar tone. The reason why I don't is that you have to take the treble all the way down before you get usable tones.

But look where the amp tone settings are. The treble is at 0 the mid and bass are at 4. Mahogany tops while offering great warmth to electric solid bodies often turn too dark on jazz boxes. The result is mud or boominess. In short the body and pickup on the JX17 are designed to compliment each other rather then fight each other. When you can leave the amp tone controls flat and still have a great tone you're onto something.

All Fingers on Deck

If any of you follow my postings here in the forums, You'll know I've been on the quest for a playable jazz box for a long long time. I do not play well with big fat wide necks and high action. Time after time I've been in music stores with jazz boxes priced between $1,000 to 10,000 and when the moment of truth struck.. I was unable to play the instrument due to the high action, fat wide necks and thick strings. I can play jazz and I can play it well however these guitars would cut me to my core. It was embarrassing. The neck on Guitar Research's JX17 was a godsend. The depth I'm not sure about but it feels amazingly close to a les paul standard. The 1.75 inch width at the nut allows my fingers plenty of room between the strings while also allowing me to play thumb over. Something that I haven't even attempted to do on guitars for years. These combined with the 24/75 scale length have made playing "Stretchy" big jazz chords that can span five frets a breeze. With Jazz boxes you want a little more action then one would typically find on an electric guitar but you also want a little more fret height as well. String Height is the measurement of the string to the fretboard and is generally how we judge "action". Fret height on the other hand affects the tonal character, the way the guitar handles pull off's and hammer ons. And...And... how clearly the chord rings out. Grabbing a big jazz chord shouldn't require forcing the strings all the way down to the fretboard. Rather simply touching the string behind the fret just enough to allow the string to ring clear should be sufficient.

What to do. The neck already has perfect relief. Attempting to straighten it more would simply result in fret buzz. Lowering the action would make notes above the 12th fret either buzz or go flat. And then there is that pesky business about intonation. Both adjusting the height of the strings or the relief of the neck via the truss rod makes the intonation go out. Remember we are talking about a compensated floating rosewood bridge not an adjustable one. When the intonation is dead on you don't want to mess with it. I give the Guitar Research Eddie Durham 17 a 4.90 out of 5.


She is drop dead gorgeous to look upon. Her three inch depth gives a richness in tone and comfortability to hold that few full archtops offer. The tone is silky and warm. The playability is one I've dreamed for jazz guitar of all of my guitar playing years that until now had gone unrealized. I'm going to treat her like a lady all of my days. She's worth it.


I've had about two days to fall in love with this guitar and that I have.


Nothing like my other tele's Honest.

I've recently aquired this slightly used jem. Made in China this Pinecaster really knocks it out of the park for conventional tele tones and that ain't all.

Starting at the top and working our way down. The tuning pegs have a traditional tele kluson type appearance. Appearance is where the similarity ends. These things have a stiff sealed gear even turning system that stays in tune for days (trust me I've given it a full workout) The four upper strings are held down by a washer/cap rather then the more conventional tin tree or roller trees. It looks sharp and there is no binding creaking going on with the strings.

The neck itself is a "standard" C shape 25.5 scale length with a 9.5 radius and a nut width of 1.650 Yet somehow it feels quite different then my blacktop tele with near identical specs. It may be in part to the fret profile themselves.

While the Blacktop tele sports "Medium Jumbo" frets the Modern Player sports just "Jumbo" frets. The fret height is significantly lower on the modern as opposed to the blactop. As well the action is significantly lower on the modern player. Physically or maybe only psychologically (darker colors look smaller then brighter ones) This thing just feels like it plays better. It's less work even with the same string gauge. The neck is northern michigan maple with a vintage Gloss Polyester finish. It's stained a little darker then my 30 year old strat that has been in way to many smokey bars to count.

This neck finish works well with the "Honeyburst" body also in a gloss polyester finish. The grain is simply stunning to look at front and back. Pine used to be a fairly common wood during the "no caster" period of tele's. It's also highly praised by audio files for speaker cabinet material. It has a slightly mellower tone then say Alder or Ash. As such it shines most pleasingly jazz and early telecaster tones. As being a plus guitar there is a nice belly cut along the back/top for a comfortable fit. It also looks pretty. The craftsmanship on this guitar is first rate. The finish, the neck joint, the nut, the tuning peg mounting the fretwork. I take back everything I've ever said about made in china. In terms of construction this telecaster is equal to or superior to every telecaster I've ever owned (Including a signature model) and ever played.

This is no "Brent Mason" or "Memphis Tele" or "James Burton" three pickup telecaster that's for sure. The pickup selector is a standard 5-way strat configuration with a mini-toggle switch to coil tap the bridge. The only negative comments I can come up with is these "Modern Player Telecaster Pickups" They appeared to be made "special" for this model only. They are not tex mex or the wide variety of other fender pickups. What's funny about this statement is I truly love tex-mex fender pickups in teles and strats. My favorite Strat by far is the Jimmie Vaughan and all it's got are standard tex mex pickups in it. So getting back to the tele. When I received it I notice that the humbucker was extremely low. When first playing the guitar the humbucker had a nice volume match to the bridge pickup. However engage the coil tap and the bridge pickup vanished. I honestly thought it was a wiring problem. I returned to the bridge position. Cranked everything and.... It sounded near exact to a Fender American Standard Tele Bridge (sans the volume) This is not my first coil tap guitar. I'm used to a little volume drop of when applying a coil tap. This isn't a little drop off..It's a lot. Even with the bridge pickup raised to a respectable level the middle single coil easily overpowers the bridge. The middle pickup overshoots both the bridge and neck pickups. I like the middle pickup. It's got "Blackie" written all over it. Not EC Signature strats either current or past (they've changed) but the original "Blackie" It's bold it's full it's loud. It's a likeable middle pickup if you want serious middle pickup tone. Like is not Love. I like it, I don't love it. I especially don't love it when trying to match output with either the bridge or the neck pickup. The neck pickup is slightly lower output then your average tele neck pickup. It's got great tone all on it's own despite the lower output. But my god that output is low. The neck pickup is mounted without screws to the pickguard. That pickup can't come up any higher then it's already at.. I've tried lowering the middle pickup to compensate but it's not nearly enough.

If....If this guitar had a separate volume control for the middle pickup I would rate it a 4.5 out of 5. And feel no overwhelming desire to mod it. I still think it's the best tele I've played barre none. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement.



As an apartment dwelling guitarist one of the greatest frustrations I have is coaxing quality tones from my guitar amps without disturbing the neighbors. While I already have a Roland Cube 60 with cosm technology I always was a little let down by the amp modelling and very let down in the fact that I'd have to crank it past acceptable levels to try and coax the tones out of the speaker. Yeah the Cube is great for small clubs in band situations where the tone is often lost in the wash of other instruments and room dynamics. But I wanted something else. My 40 year old pignose wasn't getting any younger or better sounding and I'd sold a few amps that I didn't feel I needed anymore as I wasn't going out on stage on a weekly basis.

Enter the THR

Yamaha has a few thr models out now. 5 watt version, A 10 watt standard version a 5watt acoustic only version, a 10 watt Heavy Metal version and mine. I won't get into all the differences here as there are plently of references for the rest of the models online. I got the THR10C specifically for the "C" Combo amps.


Not just a guitar amp

Normally, Reviewers put this in the last little bits of a column, When I'm in the kitchen cooking or cleaning up I'll ofted put it on the counter and listed to music with the THR. It not only has a guitar line in it has a usb connection and a stereo pin plug suitable for portable devices like smartphones and ipods. The sound is quite "high definition" with a near field amp / speaker design that doesn't need eq for non guitar inputs. Stunning, simply stunning.

There are two volume controls on the far right side of the top. One is for the level of the guitar amp after modeling and the other is for the usb and/or external analog input.

The USB in on the back serves as both a conduit for the THR software editor and as a sound card. The sound card operates at a respectable 24bit/48k on my vista machine. The soundcard utilizes Steinberg's asio drivers (not a generic ASIO4ALL) and a version of Steinberg's daw software is included (though I chose not to install it). While at first I had some sorting issues as I'll often run two daws with different drivers at the same time. Once I sorted things out it worked like a charm in all my hosts/daws. Noticeably lower latency compared to my internal sound card (realtec) and my external m-audio fast track. It just works. As well due to the design I can send both the modeled amp and a clean guitar signal to my host application. Which is extremely handy when I decide to use a third party plugin to handle amp modelling. Reamping and side chaining is something that are new to me in regards to guitar sounds. The THR10c has replaced my sound card and speaker system on all levels. I'm using it whenever I'm on the computer. Online video's internet radio and even recording. It truly is the end all be all.

The Profile

About the side of a bread box. A little narrower (front to back) and longer (left to right)

Width 360mm Height 183.5mm Depth 140mm Runs on 6 "AA" batteries or via power supply.

The Amp Sims

For the record there are only five amp sims not eight. There are indeed 8 settings but only 5 can be considered amp modelling. The other three... well you'll have to scroll down a bit for more on that.


True to it's name the Deluxe is a very very faithful recreation of a fender deluxe. Although I'm sure someone with a real deluxe is wanting to go fisticuffs with me over that. Unlike the original THR10 the THR10c version doesn't break up untill everything is cranked and then it is only slightly noticeable. If you want some serious crunch tones consider other amp models or putting a stomp box between your guitar and the amp in. That's not to say it doesn't have punchy tube like compression or crunch value when the master and the gain are cranked. It's there and in your face. Thank goodness for the separate "guitar amp" volume control on the far right. With that I can get all the tone of all the amp settings without the cops showing at my door. Yes it is a rather loud ten watts when you need it. The yamaha virtual circuitry models the amp at all stages including how the power tubes react not just the pre's. This is something of which I could never attain from my roland cube. The technology mimics all tube amp behavior. Including reaction to string attack. play softly or roll off the volume and the tone cleans up just like on a real amp but unlike a solid state or generic amp sim computer or external. As well the tone controls faithfully react as the amp models do. It's not a generic eq for all models like other sims. These tone shaping characteristics are unique to the amp model selected.

How faithful is the sound.... Well I've played two fender deluxes in my life time. Both a very long time ago in less then ideal rooms. This sim sounds great. I was able to pull out amazing clean tones of yesteryear and today.

Class A

The Class A is modeled after a matchless. The Matchless amp was considered the amp of the 90's . As it so happens the original Matchless was modeled after a Vox AC30 though heavily hotrodded This pulls out all those Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow, Beatles and pretty much anything that has a loud and proud punchy mids.

US Blues

Fender Blues Junior incarnate. If you like fender amps with a little bit of bark to them for...Rockabily, Chicago Blues, SRV or even Knopfler tones you can pull it out here.

UK Blues

This is based on the Marshall Blues Breaker amp. And just like the blues breaker the tone controls are practically useless. If you really want to pull up the full spectrum of tones from this particular model be prepared to use stomp boxes.


This doesn't sound as much like A DrZ to my ears as it does a traynor darkhorse. Loads of gain from having only one power and one pre tube emulation. Again it's one of those amps that draws tonal character from your playing technique.


While intended for running a bass into the amp more then being an amp sim. I find this very very useful in "solo" fingerstyle playing regardless of style or guitar. (Yes. I've run all my guitars through it) The enhanced bass response is similar but not quite the same as my old Traynor Bass Mate.


No it's not an acoustic simulator. Actually it has the reverse effect. It's a mic sim that reduces the brightness of the tone much like live mic'ing would do. I find this especially pleasing for my jazz box tones where I want a pristine clean sound with a little bit of warmth.


Does what it says. treats the signal like sending it directly into a board.

Effects Section

My god,,, move over every amp with built in effects this one gets it right. No it won't emulate your favorite brand name stomp boxes to a T. I'll be honest. I've never been a fan of effects aside from a little reverb when casually practicing. Hooking up a pedal board adding more cables to the floor, wasting batteries. I also don't like stacking a billion effects on top of each other. None the less I'm more inclined to add a little chorus, etc today then I've been in years past. Simply because it's close at hand and rather well done. Of special note. The choice in amp selection has a direct correlation to the response of the effects in the mix. While I won't get too far into the effects in general one thing to note. The delay effect emulates tape based delay rather then digital delay. This emulation has all the artifacts of tape based delay. So if you are wanting to recreate that David Gilmour vibe have at it, However if you are looking for more of a Duran Duran / U2 delay well... pull out a stomp box or feed it through your daw. The delay does have a tap tempo button on the left side of the top that only controls delay. The button also serves (press and hold) as a means to access the chromatic tuner.

About the presets

Along the top of the amp selector is located 5 presets. This allows you to store all the values (amp type, master and gain levels, eq settings and effects settings to a single preset. It's quite a handy little feature for me as I have favorite sounds that I don't want to recall all those settings when ever I come back from doing something else. But I have to ask the questions Why only five and why don't they have a pedalboard for this thing???? I know it seems petty of me after all these features (and more to come) It's just a practice amp. But it would be really nice to have some type of footswitch control for switching from chords to soloing. Setting a preset is as simple as pressing and holding the corresponding number. After that a quick touch of the button will bring it back.

The THR10C Editor

Yamaha provides software editors for mac and pc which allows the user amongst other things to access features not available from the top of the unit. These include the ability to switch speaker cab emulations. A compressor (stomp or rack) Different types of reverb(spring reverb is only available on top while the editor allows for spring, room, hall and plate) and a noise gate. I'll be honest as much as I love recreations of classic tones I'm not the type to spend hours tweaking knobs to recreate them. While I found the 24 included presets useful and a lot of fun

I really wish they were more artist song specific as found on my pandora mini. However I'll take the clarity of signal and faithfulness of amp recreation in the THR10c over the pandora anyday. (the pandora is noisy as hell)

There is a resource page for user contributed presets here -


Though it's rather limited

Even though the THR10c has a near identical clean/deluxe sound these amps and the patches are not cross compatible. You can't take a preset intended for a THR10 or THR10X and simply run it in the THR10C.

Final Words

I've had this for a few weeks now. While the newness has worn off, what remains is an amazing little amp. I've had more stop boxes and all-in-one floor units then one can imagine. My daws are chocked full of even more dsp's. I've tried line6 stuff and really they always come close but the aliasing and the rather apparent delay have always been off putting. This little amp sounds as organic as any tube amp I've ever owned. It's replaced my soundcard and sits atop my desktop next to the monitor. Always ready for me. As a result I've done more guitar playing in the last month then I had for the entire 6 months prior to ownership. Every guitar I've owned has spent some time going through this amp.

Strat, tele, lp, you name it. I've heard all them in a "new light" and the amp has rekindled the romance of my old guitars.

I wonder about the future of these great little amps now that Yamaha has acquired Line6. Unlike line6 amps and pods the yamaha thr10c doesn't try to be all things all the time. Instead it it focuses on a nice market and serves that one extremely well. The niche market being classic rockers / jazzers, bluesmen like me.


One of the most memorable musical experiences from high school was not as a performer. My former bassist invited me to his graduation party. It was like none other I'd ever experienced. Steve was (and I assume still is, lost contact many years back) a multi-instrumentalist. Banjo, mandolin, guitar, viola and double bass not to mention electric bassist.

Anyway... I got to meet his extended family and they were all musicians. Aunts, uncles parents, grandparents cousins you name it. They were all bluegrass players and all of them brought acoustic instruments. Steve's father would call off the song and everyone would know it by heart. Every once in awhile he'd call up a family member to sing or play a solo and those were the ones who got mics to be heard over the sea of acoustic instruments. They knew all the tunes and it was a wonderful listening experience for me. Being in the Detroit area I had not been previously exposed to bluegrass music. And while I never developed an affinity for country I still listen to and buy blue grass music to this day. It's a medium I love to listen to however have never embraced as a performer.....But I digress. The important thing to take away is that they all knew all the tunes.

Many years later I climbed the rockpile, the blues pile and the jazz pile. Of those the blues scene was the most enjoyable for a playing experience as well it opened a great deal of opportunities for me when looking for band-mates either joining an existing group or forming my own.

If your primary goals are not to disturb anyone or to get everything perfect you have chosen the wrong creative outlet. Try macrame. You get to use your hands, create patterns and it's a far cheaper investment then being a musician. As things stand you might make more money in it then you would sitting in your bedroom hoping that you'll stumble on the great calculation that will make you into a musician (sorry it won't. It takes more then extensive reading it takes practice and the benefits that can only be derived from muscle memory (physical experience) and that's where the story begins not ends.

As time allows I've always sought out more teachers. Although currently my teacher is band in a box and my imagination. Even after getting a degree If I'm not performing I'm practicing and learning. Music is a life long education and a means of self discovery that can only be explored in doing.

I too have been a professional guitar teacher and when a new student would come along who had some previous playing experience I'd always ask them to play some blues. Same went for me when seeking out a teacher. They would always ask me to play the blues. The blues is a medium that never dies. The blues is often the first point in a musicians experience where they are required to improvise and learn to play with others. You don't have to be the worlds greatest musician to play the blues but it does teach something intrinsic intimate and immediate that should never be forgotten. That being it's not what you say but how you say it which matters most. It also gives you knowledge of how others will work with you or against you and the importance of working with them not against them.

Playing blues lie also gives you recognition. A stage can do things that a soundcloud account can't. It's immediate and honest. If you've never been to a blues jam I'd encourage you to go. Get an idea of the songs that you may be required to perform. The stage is not yours it's the bands. There will be a lot of staring at hands and it's trial by fire. If you performance is less then worthy pick yourself up, dust yourself off rebuild yourself and try again. You can be both positively motivated and gain confidence by your success or you can be negatively motivated and use that as a catalyst for trying harder. I've done both.

After awhile you may come to the realization that you don't have to compare yourself to the SRV or Hendrix posers. You'll go out and play things your way play them well and be acknowledged for your own uniqueness.

Being a great sideman is more valuable then being a good front-man. For many years I was in demand not because of my flashy upfront profile even though I would regularly come out and do a solo followed by a standing ovation from the crowd but due to my ability to play as a team member. Bass, backup/rhythm guitar/ midi - guitar. I was more of a GE Smith or a Tom T-Wolk then a Buddy Guy or an Eric Clapton (though I could do a decent version of either) It lead me down roads and gave me recognition in the greater music community that I would not have attained otherwise. Because I was a reliable sideman when the chance came for me to take out a solo here and there I'd get more then a tip of the hat as would others who were too egotistical to settle into the role. When I first started playing blues jams. I'd do my six songs then let someone else have a shot. No money free beer as long as you are on stage. Then that elevated to a full time member of the band earning $100 a night once a week. Now if you think that's chicken scratch ask yourself how much are you making right now playing in your bedroom for youtube and soundcloud?

Paying my dues lead me to bigger gigs lots more money with different bands too numerous to mention, brushes with fame and much much more. If not for the pulls of security tugging at me I'd prolly would have maintained a rock and roll lifestyle for quite some time to come. That however, is another story.

The conclusions I hope those reading will draw upon.

1. Without material you have nothing to offer. Create it or cover it but most of all be able to perform it.

2. Music requires more then simply thinking about it or hoping to codify it. Expression is earned by doing it and feeling it. As a musician, performer you are an actor it's not enough to say the lines you have to express them in a credible fashion.

3. If you want the enchanted fruit you have to be prepared to go out on a limb for it.


I actually started out behind a mixing desk then moved on to guitar. In my teens I was a broadcast engineer. Radio call in shows, live sports and music programs. Back then we called folks like me "DJ's" I did spend time in front of the mic news, weather and
music fortunately no singing.
And I'm a graduate of the now defunct Detroit Recording Institute where I studied under the masters of mowtown

Musicians often wonder why something sounds so different live, recorded or broadcast. It's important Understanding what happens along the way allows you to make decisions early on in the recording stage and help to preserve the audio integrity while coming back to earth about all those fancy gizmos recording, dsp and vsti marketers want to push on us.

Lets start with the end product usage.

Personal and Live Performance Listening

When one listens to music at fairly to very loud levels the ear shuts down a little. Just like our pupils dilate when exposed to bright light. Compression sets in and we don't hear things as clearly as we would at a moderate level. All the efforts for Dynamic range and headroom are lost because our ears can't take it all in. Your sound system may surpass the threshold of pain without distorting but it does your listening experience no good for having this "feature" There are no standards for live performance and the soundman is usually more concerned with feedback rejection and what the band can hear then dynamic range.

Mass distribution format.

There are several standards for mastering audio and some you will have no control over however knowing what others are doing with your song can make your hard decisions easier or at least more bearable. Your song is not going to sound the same way it did before you mastered it.


Television has way too many standards to count. As each network can and does have it's own standard for the treatment of audio.

Take PBS for example (scroll down to section 3)

The Web

[Disclaimer] I do work for a software company that makes Flash "me to" products for authoring to swf and flv (flash format) I've been there for close to ten years now and amongst my other responsibilities I'm the goto guy for all things audio.[/Disclamer]

SWF/FLV format depending on the variety of convertors has options for mp3, wav, acc and aiff. While you can import audio and use raw uncompressed It can choke the ram on macs and or result in choppy playback when streamed. Flash has built in compression at the optimum recommended compression level in flash which is 16 bit, 44,100 128 bits per second. It's fine for mac users (video / hardware is the big issue with mac users and flash not audio. Now I'm sure some of you are saying I own an ipad/ipod so what... Well the truth of the matter is in regards to internet access ios (ipad/iphone/ipod) actually have only a very small niche in the market One thing to caution about in regards to .mp3 format and flash. Flash does not accept variable bit rates If you import an mp3 and do not recompress internally it has to be a fixed bit rate.

As well if you are using a service that converts files to a web friendly format (youtube) The use the same standards of compression for flv as they do for alternative mediums.

The questions become who's manning the compression levels what type (codec) and what levels are they adjusting to for the compression) If you force a file that you think sounds great on your computer with lots of headroom 24bit encoding and massive bit rates like 256 kbs the big file cruncher in the sky is going to get you. Your oh so pretty sounds will experience clipping distortion loss of high end and generally a very muffled sound is going to come out on the other end. So remember it's called mix{b]Down for a reason. We love headroom. Headroom adds brilliance to the sound. Gives tone a certain level of clarity, being in the moment the sound seems somehow more alive for lack of a better word "Presence" All that headroom goes to waste if the compressor on the server chops it off or adds hard limiting. This may not seem like a small sacrifice deal for the average folk, jazz, blues, pop or classical player. But it brings grown men to tears in the metal, trance, dubstep and more aggressive hiphop crowds.

Hosted services have to pay for comm servers (the software variety and the hardware as well incl maintenance) and bandwidth. It's no surprise that youtube was losing millions before the acquisition by google.

<Sidetrack> just skip this part

For awhile the company I worked for was in development of our own comm server software. It was like skype and youtube and shoutcast and webinar and other things combined. Great server software something a mega media company would love that never saw fruition.

SWiSH Radio was the public face of our server hosted software. It allowed individuals or organizations to manage and host in a web friendly format (even iphone) a radio station.

While in public beta our users loved it. Small town radio stations from around the world would broadcast from swishradio take the feed and run it thru the radio station system rather then program radio broadcasts manually. The bandwidth costs killed us. Remember we were in beta testing and as such we needed volunteers. You can't charge volunteers to test a product. The cost of bandwidth was insane so we had to abandon the product before we could do a full launch.


So bandwidth costs hosting companies money. Especially when they are large(file size) and heavily consumed products such as audio and video. In order to reduce the cost of bandwidth the file size has to be reduced. A reduction in file size means a reduction in quality. Usually that means 22,500 16 bit 32kps on the small side to 44.1K 16bit 128 on the large size. If you don't want the great auto audio compressor in the sky to totally destroy your masterpiece as it enters the bit chopper you may want to think about trimming the headroom a bit and applying some more audio compression and file compression before you upload.

Conclusion: As many of these mediums will force your audio to a much lower standard in regards to quality (compression/dynamic range) It's best to work to an optimal standard at the mastering stage so the integrity of the work is maintained rather then bit crushed by outside forces.


Loudness wars are killing music don't be sucked in


Television, Movie, Record producers and Record labels all recognize the value of quality mastering.

While it's easy to ignore this part of the process as the writing, recording, editing and mixdown can drain the life out of a musician/producer to the extent they don't want to go further. If you consider yourself a professional you owe it to yourself and your song to have the mix mastered by someone as dedicated to their field as you are yours.

The professional master engineer sits in a room filled with speakers and amplifiers of which he monitors to insure that no unwanted transient sounds emerge that may have been missed with a pair of near field monitors. He is there to insure that regardless of the room (headphones, car, bedroom, production room, living room. Regardless of the speaker system. Regardless of the amplification process. The sound has a consistent and even response it is also dithered down into a standard release format that can survive the brute force compression used by everywhere above in this article. That is a very very tall order. Along the way they try to bring the life of the performance back into the mix that may have been diluted by mixdown reduce the dynamic range while trying to preserve some headroom. It's done with an arsenal of tools including multi-band parametric eq compression. They don't use garage band or logic or pro-tools for this stage. They use broadcast specific software such as sequoia. Getting good at mastering takes a lot of time and education not to mention mastering specific tools.

And now for a little entertainment

Now for those of us who don't understand currency 300 pounds equates to 470 dollars US which is dirt cheap for mastering in the states.

For those who wish to take on the responsibility of mastering for themselves. Don't start with your own material. Educate yourself first. Buy a song on amazon or itunes or where ever that has the highest bit rate possible. Something that you can compare with a video of the song on youtube

http://pcworld.about...2001id64123.htm Most yt audio settings for video are 16 bit, 22,500 and 64 kbps. Roughly FM Radio If it's a professionally produced youtube video the sound quality may seem higher then simply using an mp3 conversion tool based on the way it is compressed before sorenson gets a hold of it. Many daws have mastering compressor some even with multi band compression.but not all mastering effects are equal. While ableton live may sound great in the mixdown side of things the automatic dithering for mastering is quite horrendous. I've worked with a lot of outboard gear and software thru the years. Samplitude Pro has the best mastering suite in the daw industry mostly because it's borrowed from Sequoia which is becoming an industry standard for broadcast audio mastering. I know it's expensive and several vst manufacturers do produce mastering suite effects of high,

Your goal in mastering is to preserve transience response so that soft is quiet, medium is medium and loud is well you know loud and that it survives the dithering process. It's very tricky business for classical music which generally has the widest dynamic range (soft to loud). When you boost the quiet end soft sounds can begin to sound aliased as well you are raising the floor which is where all the artifact dust (distortion) collect. Try to put a noise gate on it and you'll get a very choppy signal if it's used to extremes.. Then you have to deal with resonant frequencies. Near field monitor speakers are allegedly flat. Home stereo, surround systems, earbuds and car audio systems are no where near flat in regards to frequency response. They all have sweet spots. Something that fit perfectly in the mix while listening to it with reference speakers will boost or cut depending on the manufacturer.

Much of mastering is dictated to where your music will be played. While you won't be able to master in a club filled with people that is less your responsibility then the DJ or live engineer when you are actually playing there. Oddly people don't use their home entertainment systems to listen to music. They are more interested in video and games. Most people listen on their computers as background music during other activities. On their mp. players (ipods and the like) or in their car. Detroit is considered the birthplace of EDM (electronic dance music) We have huge festivals every year.


I met up with an upstart mastering engineer who is making a very nice niche in edm.DJ's love his remix work. I was curious as to what he did differently. He did all his mastering in his car. With an adequate car sound system and no kicker. Oddly at moderate levels.

He explained it to me this way. He lives in a small apartment with thin walls and sensitive neighbors. All the sound insulation in the world won't keep the sound from leaking even a little. To have a sub in that environment is well dumb because it's just not a large enough room for the bass to move around. His car is the perfect place to do his mastering. In cars is the most popular place to listen to edm. EDM is not hiphop. They don't believe in sacrificing all other parts for the bass. EDM has a lot of instrumentation in it. 50 to 60 different instruments on a single edm track is not unheard of. Though 16 to 32 is the norm. They all require a certain level of headroom to survive too much bass would muffle the other instruments.

He uses izotope ozone as his swiss army knife for a mastering tool. He doesn't need the other offerings the world has (uad, etc, etc) Because he's highly specialized and knows his market well. There is no point in playing with distractions that could be detraction from the final sound. Of which so long as he stays in his niche market is fine. If he were to move into other fields country, rock, jazz etc then it might be a good idea to investigate his other options.



More About Midi

The Background

MIDI stands for multiple Instrument Digital Interface. It is a means of communication from one musical device to another. Alot has happened since the inception of midi. It's now also used as a reliable means of data transfer for many applications including sound re inforcement and lighting.

Before the advent of midi there was a demand for interoperability in the electronic music industry. Many pre midi companies produced devices that would communicate with each other in the house brand but would not communicate with other devices. This led to walls and walls of keyboards as well as other devices for stage use. It became extremely unmanageable. The protocols established for midi support and interoperability have stood the test of time. It's been a golden ride with midi specific devices compared to the long and winding one of computer connections through the years.

Computers in general

Computers as they serve many purposes are not ideal for midi still. Regardless of operating system or hardware computers really were'nt designed for midi use. Midi is an appendage not a primary function of computers. And so long as midi takes a backseat in operating system and hardware there will be glitches to contend with. Sure todays computer technology has come a long way but it still has a long way to go. Midi transmits small amounts of data very quickly. The speed limit of midi is 1 millisecond. It can go no faster regardless of promises made by manufacturers, software vendors and sound library companies.

A workstation keyboard is designed to do one thing well. Make music As it is not running a million operations and the processing is RISC the flow of data from keybed or external midi is streaming on the output and streaming on the input. The computer aspects of a workstation keyboard understand the midi language. It is part and pacel of the unit.

On a computer things are a bit different. The fastest route from midi out on a controller to midi in on a computer is hardwiring the midi to the motherboard. The second fastes is a pci slot for dedicated midi. While pci cards are still made for desktops both mac and pc many pc's and laptops really aren't designed for using the available slots if there are any. If you have an "all in one" you don't have the slot. And newer laptop's have forgone the pci e card slot.


Unlike a dedicated workstation who's primary function is the conversion of singal and push as it pulls. Computer technology uses an interupt method. Computers are always processing something. And usually processing several things. There is a pecking order in which the computer decides what it will process next. When midi is sent to a computer the computer receives it as an interupt. If the computer processor is too busy doing what it's already doing it will put the midi signal on hold. What this means is even if you have a super fast computer your midi signal has to wait it's turn. (unlike audio signals but I digress) So lets say you've got the super duper system and your not at 1millisecond latency you are prolly at ten or 5. Well it may be five for the first note you play and it may be 10 or 7 or 15 depending on what else the computer is occupying it's processor at. A fixed latency is easier to work with then an irrattic variable latency. This is also known as jitter.


If you are working with a pc system you have various midi drivers wmd (windows media driver, sometimes called direct x) and asio. (or ASIO4ALL) One of the things they try to do is lock and hold onto both the input and output processing so it's faster. Honestly they work about the same. ASIO works better for external sound cards and wmd work better for internal ones. You can chose. Many external sound cards will accept direct x and many internal sound cards will accept asio. But generally you only get to choose one at a time per daw/host whatever. If I'm not recording, just playing along. I'll have one window open for my host which runs from the external midi device and another one for the background music. It's fast and it's glitch free.

Remember way up there when I made comments alluding to midi as a language? Part of the drivers job is to take information in one language (midi) and translate it into something meaningful the computer understands so it can process. It's not like converting English in to say....Mandarin but it is a process. It does take time and it's not a simple siv.


Of all the possible means for sending midi to a computer usb is both the most convienent and least effective. Most midi to usb convertors still rely on usb1 technology. Even newer midi controllers with usb outs. USB is fast for large amounts of data however it is'nt really a streaming technology. It sends data in chunks. Midi is the opposite. It doesn't contain or use massive amounts of data but it streams the signal fluidly. The reason why midi > usb conversion is so popular is because it's easy for users to understand (plug it in and it works) and economical to produce. Remember when I spoke about language conversion? In order to send via usb the information has to be converted to a format that translates well on usb. Then inside the computer the usb driver has to translate it back again and a third translation occurs after that. It's like when you need to speak to someone who only speaks chinese you have a person who speaks english and korean and then you have a person who speaks korean and chinese. Stuff gets lost in translation.

Midi over firewire does happen albiet rare as a simple midi to firewire device usually it's coupled with audio. In the form of an external sound card. The stability of many of these units. Firewire isn't as plug in play as usb. Many daws and host software can reject it completely. Sometimes it's the daw and sometimes it's your computer that is fighting the signal. I really like firewire devices. Longer cables more audio channels with higher recording settings for audio. If you really want to move up to a better sound card and don't want to install a pci this is the best way to go but..... Make sure what you buy is compatible with what you are doing.

Midi over ethernet is stricky for the dominion of computer to computer. This is for if you want to us a uniwire setup in a big studio or your using muse research as your external sound host and your computer for the grunt work of recording. It is a very sound novel approach. Having a dedicated computer that just handles the sound and another to handle the recording. It's also rather expensive.

Midi over wireless. This is still in it's infancy. And there are several forms of transfer the most popular but not the most effective is wifi

The most effective requires embedding a transmiter into the midi controller and uses the 2.4 gig range. Yes it is more expensive then most cable based methods. Oddly the way usb works with it as opposed to against it makes this the smoothest method for midi over usb as it tunnels via eithernet protocols rather then usb protocols



Attack Of The Daws

Daws for the most part are starting to all work alike. Save a few standouts like Abelton Live and FL Studio there is little that separates these products from one another. The beauty of the plug in format is that for the most part you can use it anywhere sort of like.....midi. This may be changing as sales decline and competition heats up.

Cakewalk now owned by Roland is about the only place you'll be able to run roland sound libraries as a plugin. Magix/Samplituded aquired Yellow Tools vsti's and took it off the market only releasing it as a plugin that will only work with Magix. Abelton's sound suite is only available in abelton. Apple has been releasing proprietary AU's that will only work in Logic. and the list goes on and on. Meanwhile functionality of third party vst's are begining to become very limited in daws. Certain CC's can not be delivered and latency is being added needlessley to defeat a users interest in running a third party plug in to the DAW.


We the consumers are being pushed into a brand eco system akin to the appstore but without actual selection choice of third party tools. The end of the independent vst/vsti provider may be near. The only solution many of these providers may have is to build their own daws to compete. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if apple limited programming access so that competitors to Garage Band and Logic find themselves not being able to port applications to osx. It wouldn't be the first time apple or ms have purposely tried to shut out competitors in the software field. And while the market is booming for add on hardware such as abelton controllers that too may change. Reason has released a keybed controller specific to thier software. It boast complete compliancy with the software environment and while it may cut down on mapping time and assigning cc values it also is a means of undermining the hardware field as was the case with the advent of NI Mashine and various other controllers which had a direct impact on akai's mpc's.

Where this goes no one can say for sure. However if it stays in the current direction it will result in less not more collaboration between those who work in DAW format. It also will make purchasing a DAW more about the plugins and less about the effectiveness or other features a DAW may have. Which means screw the user if they want to use the plug they have to use the DAW whether it is stable or not.

I'm safe for now as I haven't abandoned old fashion multitrack harddisk recording. I don't need a DAW to handle mixdown and mastering but I really wound't mind one for the automation process. With all these walled DAW's emerging All it takes is one DAW without the walls to drive sales away from the big names and to the performance driven environment like....Reaper.


The one constant in regards to computer technology over the last 30 years has been midi. It's the one true plug and play protocol that works wherever whenever. It's acually faster for moving small bits of data then usb, firewire eithernet or wifi. Midi is not without limitations.

A prime example is note bend. Note bend is sent channel wide. And while the newer breed of keyboards offer per note (upper most voice only) single note bends it isn't transferrable to an external device. Many manufacturers derail midi for thier own internal operations and then try to compensate for midi standards on the way out. Such as,,, Roland GR series and Eigenharp.

Impressive yes, expensive yes, midi no. In order to get the per note as opposed to channel wide they moved away from mid. Essentially you get a box that sits on the floor with all the sound and the processing tools which is controlled by the instrument and hardware management tools that reside on the computer. If you try to use a standalone vst or port it to hardware most of those amazing features won't work. So you are saddle bagged with what the manufactuer provides.

Same goes for the roland GR series. Trust me I was a roland midi guitar fanboy since the gr300 it was slow in the box and slower out of the box not to mention thousands of glitches which lead me to the ztar. I tried to love the 13 pin system, I had GR30, GR09 GI10 not to mention other brands of guitar to midi convertors and they drove me quite mad. In the box latency of the roland GR55 is about 20 milliseconds taking the midi out to something usually adds another 20 milliseconds so we are talking 40 miliseconds. Any direct midi to midi device is 1 millisecond and the best speed you can get out of midi to usb is rougly 5 milliseconds. How much resources are being drained on your computer your DAW or standalone and your sound card will also add to the delay time.

So yes there is great potential by ignoring the midi standard as in the case of Eigenharp. But then consumers run into a proverbial brick wall when trying to get the global functionality that midi has provided all these years.

The next two relevant questions are,,,, what's being done to upgrade midi 1.0 and who is willing to adapt. Several proposals have been presented and some companies have tried to latch on to newer methods however they tried to put strings attached to the protocols making them proprietary such as yamaha. As a result no one else is willing to play ball. Because everyone wants their own standards implimented or they specifically don't want to have someone else's standards shoved down their throat.

Back in the 80's I did data entry work. Once computer would spit out data to a piece of paper from which I would have to manually enter into two different machines because they were'nt compatible and I couldn't simply transfer a file or run all the same programs on the same machine. It paid the bills and drove me insane. I kept on thinking if midi can do this seemless communication why can't computers.

Midi isn't broke, so why fix it you ask? Well that's a very good question. It's not broke but it could be better if midi software and hardware vendors did get together and put aside differences to work for a common good. However that wont be happening anytime soon. Midi is more then just sending bit data for sound conversion. It's also used in lighting and hundreds of other loosely or completely separated fields.

Happy Tapping,