7 reasons why the Avid Eleven Rack is a no-brainer for recording guitarists

Eleven Rack If you are a guitar player who writes music and likes to create high quality recordings, you should definitely check out the Eleven Rack by Avid. The Eleven Rack is an amp emulator and recording solution that is simply amazing. If you’ve been on the fence about this one, allow me to push you over. Here are 7 reasons why you should whip out the credit card right away.

1. It comes with Pro Tools 11. Pro Tools is by no means perfect and it definitely has its set of issues. But, it is a standard in most home and professional studios. If you are going to be recording on a regular basis, it’s a great idea to learn the standard software. Plus, even if you go to a professional studio to record some or most of your project, you can always take those files and work on them from home. Pro Tools costs around $600-700. You can buy the Eleven Rack with Pro Tools for $639 ( from Sweetwater as of this writing). Enough said.

2. It sounds and feels amazing. Amp modelers/emulators have been around for a while, but the Eleven Rack was one of the first that really felt like you were playing through a real amp. You can dial up a Marshall, a Fender, a Vox, or any number of awesome amps. You can switch out cabinets and mics (virtually) for an endless combination of tones. Plus, it has a bunch of effect pedals that are also based on some of the most popular pedals out there like the Tube Screamer, EchoPlex, and the MXR Phaser.

When I got my Eleven Rack a few years ago and hit my first chord, angels sang. It felt like I was playing through a stack. There was no latency. I even heard a slight buzz which I would normally hear playing through a real amp. It really feels like a real amp.

3. You can easily re-amp.  Re-amping for those who might not know is the process of sending your recorded guitar track to different amps after the fact. The Eleven Rack and Pro Tools allows you to record two tracks for your guitar, one for the full sound including amp, pedals, etc, and one just capturing the clean signal from the guitar. You can then later run that clean signal to any of the other amps in the Eleven Rack. You can even run that signal to a real amp in a studio if you wish.

4. Play live with your recorded tones. Most guitarists use a number of amps and pedals in the studio and then struggle to get the same tones when playing live. With the Eleven Rack, you just save the tones that used to record and you can use the Rack as your live amp. You can run it through a cabinet if you want to “feel the air”, or directly to the board and monitors.

5. It takes pedals well. On its own, the Eleven Rack has a bunch of amps and pedals that will be more than enough for most guitar players. But, if you have a favorite overdrive, wah pedal or a delay, you still use them with the Rack. You can run your dirt and wah pedals into the Eleven Rack and they sound great. For your time-based effects (delays, reverbs, choruses, etc), you can run them through the effects loop.

6. It’s a one-stop solution. If you want to record your music, the Eleven Rack has everything you need. You can record all your electric guitars and basses using all of the available amp and pedal emulators. You can run a microphone through its excellent pre, and record vocals, acoustic instruments, or whatever. You can hook-up a midi keyboard and access all the awesome keyboard sounds which include organs, pianos, synths, drums, etc. You can also buy awesome plugins like Superior Drummer, which allow you to add amazing sounding drums to your recordings. And, even though the effects you get by default through Pro Tools are awesome, you can add other plugins including autotune, amazing compressors,delays, etc.

7. It’s the best practice amp you’ll ever own. Do you want to play through a Marshall half stack that sounds like you’re at Wembley Stadium while you’re in your bedroom? There are no more excuses for not practicing. Just turn it on, plug in your guitar and a pair of headphones and you’re set. You can use it standalone without having to turn on your computer or Pro Tools. But, when inspiration strikes, just open up Pro Tools and lay down a track.

So, there you have it. No more excuses for not playing. No more wondering how you’re going to get that demo or album made. The only caveat is that if you are going to do recording, you will need to have a computer that’s compatible with Pro Tools. Just go to Avid’s website to check computer requirements.

Wampler Hot Wired v2 – overdrive goodness

There is definitely no shortage of overdrive/distortion pedals on the market. I, like many guitarists, have more than I probably need. But, hey, us guitarists are tone chasers and we will never be satisfied with what we’ve got for long.

I have some great dirt pedals including the Xotic AC, Xotic BB Preamp, Suhr Riot, plus my Blackstar amp’s dirt channels. I didn’t really need another. But, I kept hearing about Wampler. And I saw the demo videos as well as the raves by a number of my favorite guitarists. So, I decided I just wanted to get a Wampler pedal. But, which one?

The Hot Wired was made for Brent Mason, one of the most prolific guitar players in Nashville (if you don’t know of him, I bet you’ve heard him play). It is a dual-channel, overdrive and distortion pedal in one, that can go from subtle dirt to full-blown distortion. You can use either channel separately or stack them for some sweet, milky distortion.

I periodically fly to some gigs and I’m limited on what I can take on the plane. This pedal has pretty much replaced three of the pedals on my board that I used to stuff in my carry on: an overdrive, a distortion and a boost.

The Channel 1 side is the overdrive. It has Volume, Overdrive, Blend, and Tone, plus a switch that lets you go from Fat, Normal to Fatter. The Blend knob is awesome because it allows you to blend in the amount of dirt vs. your clean signal. So, when you have the right tone, but the gain is a bit much, and you want some more articulation, you can blend in some more clean signal. Really cool!. The Fat, Normal, Fatter switch is also awesome especially if you switch from a Fender single coil to a Les Paul humbucker like I do. You can find the right tone for all your guitars.

Channel 2 is the distortion side of the box. It has a Volume, Distortion, and Tone knob, plus the same Fat, Normal, Fatter switch. It’s a very smooth distortion that can get pretty gain-y. You can stack the two channels together for over-the-top leads. But even when stacked, it is still smooth sounding, not muddy and unpleasant like some other distortions.

You can set this pedal up in a number of ways. When this is my only dirt pedal, I definitely stack them for leads, and use only one channel plus my guitar volume know for rhythm parts. Sometimes I use just the right side for subtle overdrive.

Like all Wampler pedals, it’s built like a tank, has clever usable features, stacks well with other pedals, and oozes high quality.

Here’s a great demo of the pedal. Warning!!! You might be pulling out your credit card before the end of the video.


Guitar Snobbery

A few weeks ago, I was setting up my gear for a gig at a big wedding reception. After soundcheck, I was sitting down nursing a beverage, when one of the waiters working that evening comes up and says hello.

Waiter: “Hey, you’re the guitar player, right? So, how do you like your power supply?”

Me: “What??? My what?”

Waiter: “Your pedal power supply?”

I have a nice Les Paul, a pretty cool Fender amp, and some pedals that are not typical and ubiquitous, and this guy is asking me about my power supply?

Me: “Uh, I don’t know. It gives my pedals power, so I guess it works. What?”

Then he goes into this thing about how he’s a guitar player too, and he only uses batteries for his pedals. He says that other power sources degrade his tone, and was wondering if I ever have noticed the difference.

Trying hard not to roll my eyes, I said politely, “yes, I’ve heard some say that before that there’s a bit of a difference for some pedals, but for me, the convenience of a power supply far outweigh the nominal improvement in tone that some people seem to notice when using batteries”.

Now, I have heard people claim this before in forums and blogs. And it might be true. But, I bet if these self-proclaimed tone experts were put through a blind test, they couldn’t tell the difference between battery power and a good power supply. Isn’t power just power, assuming the power supply is of good quality and there’s no electrical interference?

So, I thought about this short conversation a bit after and wasn’t sure what to think of it. My guess is the guy was trying to sound smart, and maybe he is and could be a great player and a guitar tone expert. But, common sense told me he was full of shit and just trying to impress me with something he read somewhere. Well, I wasn’t impressed.

The ultimate tone is the elusive quest of most of us guitar players. But, in my opinion the majority of the tone comes from the player, a good guitar, a good amp, and maybe some good pedals. Secondary are the other parts of the puzzle: picks, cable quality, cable length, number of pedals, etc. Yes these secondary items can negatively affect tone, but assuming cables are ok, their lengths are not too crazy, and you’re not running 50 pedals through your chain, your tone should be ok.

I think if this guy looked into it a bit, he would see that most professional musicians, some considered purveyors of godly tone, aren’t that snobby. And, some of the best pedals seen on boards of the biggest concert stages and best studios don’t even have a battery option.



Art is encouraged until it is not

Many parents spend most of their free time driving kids around from piano lessons to dance classes, to sport practices and games and back again. They value a well-rounded experience and exploration of the arts, or sometimes feel like they need to compensate for the things that are not available in their schools. But, they don’t often think of what happens when that art becomes a passion and obsession for their kids.

I started playing guitar on my own motivation when I was 8 years old. My parents encouraged me, drove me to lessons, and checked on me from time to time to make sure I practiced. When I was in high school, I played in the jazz band, formed a couple of rock bands, and they encouraged it.

But, then, as I began my college years, they changed their tune. School and career plans were seen as the only priority. Playing music was ok as a hobby, but only after I’ve studied all I could study. The problem was, I couldn’t just turn it off like that. I was addicted to music and the guitar. Even if I tried to concentrate on other things, a melody or a riff would come to me, and I felt compelled to develop it. It became the most important thing at that moment. (more…)

Be good, but don’t be too good of a guitar player

In sports, the most successful athletes are those with the best abilities. The fastest runner, the strongest weightlifter, the main goal scorer, the best baseball hitter will be at the top, winning the most championships and earning the most money.

But in music, it is not so. The fastest guitar player is not the most successful. The best technical player does not earn more money than those less able to shred. Actually, sometimes the best and most technical players are unknown, local small town heroes at best, barely scraping by financially.

So, why is that? Why does a guitar virtuoso often earn less than a kid that can barely play 4 chords?  Should we hold back from becoming too good? (more…)

5 reasons why playing your electric guitar acoustically is good for you

MarshallStack Slayer

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plugging into a huge Marshall stack, pushing the volume up to 11, and hitting that first power chord is a life altering moment for us guitar players. If you have not done this yet, you must go now and do it.

But, as awesome as that is, I believe that we should often play and practice without being plugged into an amp. What? Yes, that means keeping that nice Marshall Stack off most of the times. Why?

  1. You will learn to be more accurate since you won’t have distortion and effects covering up your flaws.
  2. When you come up with licks and riffs that sound great acoustically, imagine how great they’ll be through that stack.
  3. You will be able to play more often without bothering anyone. No more excuses like it’s late, my kids are doing their homework, etc.
  4. You might explore some other genres which could add richness to your playing.
  5. You might be inspired to write more instead of spending endless hours of dive bombing and pinching harmonics.

Joe Satriani – what makes him so great

Musician Joe Satriani

Musician Joe Satriani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When guitar players and non-guitar players are asked who is the best guitar player in the world, Joe Satriani’s name often makes the list.

Is he the fastest guitar player? No.
Is he the most technically advanced? No.
Is he “the” best? Not sure if there is such a thing.

So, what makes him so great?

Guitar players are judged by many things: technical ability, flashiness, speed, the “touch”, or by the classic riffs or songs they’ve written or made famous. But, what really makes one guitar player better than another? And, why has Joe been so successful in the guitar instrumental genre, where most have had only marginal success? (more…)

Top Ten Things to know before you marry a Guitar Player

My wife is awesome! She gets my guitar obsession and quirks now, but it took her a while to get there.

She spent years scratching her head wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Is this madness ever going to end?

Guitar players are a unique breed.  At first, you might think it will be fun to date the guy from the band. You’ll tell yourself, wow, he has so much passion and emotion for music. He will bring all that passion to our relationship. He will always play for me and write songs about me, about our love, etc. And, oh, those fingers. They are so dexterous. (more…)

Practice everything before a gig – songs, technique, stage presence, gear, etc.

I had a gig last night and I was ready, so I thought.

I had my parts down, I knew the songs inside and out, had new strings on my guitar and had a copy of the set list printed out. But then I hit the stage and it all went to shit.

I couldn’t hear the bassist or my backing vocals, my solo boost pedal made my volume go up to 23 , my feet were frozen to the ground yet I knew I had to start moving around. My first solo came and I started shredding but noone was even paying attention. I started making weird faces and people looked frightened. And, that was just the first song. (more…)

What is NAMM and why it is more magical to musicians than Disneyland is to kids?

pics of the Anaheim covention center where win...

pics of the Anaheim covention center where winter NAMM takes place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A lot of musicians know about NAMM, the National Association of Musical Merchants. Some have been to the annual NAMM show, while many have always wanted to. But, there are a surprising number of musicians that never heard of the show. They have no idea that this is the musician’s mecca and they should make a pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

In a nutshell, the NAMM show is a music conference where music instrument/equipment merchants come to see all of the latest products from the manufacturers of all things music-related such as instruments, electronics, software, accessories, and more. The main conference is held in Anaheim, CA, every January, while a smaller one is held during the summer in Nashville. The Anaheim convention center gets transformed into what can best be described as Disneyland for musicians. And by the way, it’s right next door to Disneyland so maybe some of the magic rubs off. (more…)