Artist Feature Friday: Andreas Öberg

Platinum songwriter and producer Andreas Öberg is no stranger to the music business. With numerous No. 1 releases in Asia (Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand & Vietnam) and millions of physical records sold, Andreas’s talent is undeniable, and he is becoming a sought after writer in pop music. We had the opportunity to catch up with Andreas recently and chat with him about his songwriting, influences, and the guitar work that accelerated his career.

Here’s what he had to say:

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I read that you started playing as early as 8 years old. Do you remember what it was that initially got you into playing guitar?

AÖ: Even since I was a very little I wanted to play guitar. I picked up small pieces of wood or anything with a resemblance to a guitar and started banging on it. My parents and my grandfather have told me that and they also said I loved listening to music every day.

Were you primarily self-taught? 

AÖ: Partly self taught, but I went to private guitar classes kind of early on where I had a good teacher called Robert Liman. who opened up the door for me to to blues, smooth jazz and fusion music.

Do you play any other instruments?

AÖ: I play bass and piano at a pretty high level even though I don’t get to play that often.

Your playing spans anything from classical and jazz, all the way to pop and rock. Who would you consider to be some of your biggest influences?

AÖ: My biggest influences are George Benson, Django Reinhardt and Joe Pass, when it comes to guitar. Especially Benson is “the guitarist” I’ve always admired. Among other musicians I really like Herbie Hancock, John Coltrane, Oscar Peterson and Woody Shaw. Talking more in terms of pop/rnb music, I’ve always admired Stevie Wonder and I also listen to modern artists like Beyonce and Chris Brown.

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You’re a highly accomplished and sought after songwriter. Can you tell us a little about your approach to songwriting? Do you have any tips for young songwriters that are just starting out?

AÖ: Songwriting has become my main focus during the last couple of years and I’m fortunate to have  had Nr1’s in 10 countries. The Jpop and Kpop markets in Japan and Korea have been my focus because actual physical cd’s are still selling well over there. I have written for some of the biggest artists on that market like Girls Generation, SHINee, BoA, TVXQ, Sexy Zone, VIXX and many more.. I also like the musical freedom within those genres since I wouldn’t wanna sit and write the same kind of songs every day. My best advice to young song writers is to really try to listen and dig in to the style you are aiming it. Imitate, integrate and innovate…it’s three steps and when reaching step Nr 3 you will be able to come up with really original stuff. Same goes for guitar playing actually!

The right hand technique to playing the Django-style is so crucial. Can you tell us a little about your approach to learning the Django-style playing technique?

AÖ: Yes, when playing Gypsy style on acoustic guitar it’s important to be aware of the gypsy picking technique and the rest-strokes (meaning that to get more power and accuracy, you rest the pick on the next string after doing a downstroke). Most gypsy players also do downstrokes on every string change (both ascending and decending) to get more power, rhythmic impact and volume.

You’re known for having a very innovative approach to incorporating altered scales and harmony to your compositions. Do you have any tips for players that are trying to lean how to visualize the fretboard? 

AÖ: Visualizing the fretboard is probably both the curse and the blessing of our beloved instrument. It’s easy to transpose stuff etc. compared to other instruments but a lot of people also get stuck in the same old boxes and positions, relying on muscle memory. That’s why I like practicing scales, arpeggios and melodies on one string to actually hear the different intervals and color of each mode and chord.

Speaking of scales and harmony, can you elaborate on the importance and the role of music theory in your playing?

AÖ: Music theory is good to know. You can analyse what you do, you can communicate with other musicians and also teach it more easily to others. But when I improvise I don’t think about theory, I rely on my ears. The theory is more  like a tool box that you always have available if/when you need it…

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Can you tell us a little about your practice regimen? 

AÖ: These days I practice a lot without the guitar. I improvise and sing lines over different chord changes and tunes. That way i’m not depending on muscle memory and i’m free to play what i hear and not vice versa.

What has been one of your biggest challenges when it comes to guitar playing? How did you overcome it?

AÖ: The biggest challenge has been to reach the level where I can do what I want technically without getting stiff and tense. Also to be able to outline chord changes clearly within a single melody line is something I’ve worked a lot on and it’s absolutely one of my strongest abilities as a guitarist/musician.

Do you have a specific way you like to record guitar? Do you have any specific microphones or mic setups you like to use?

AÖ: I like to combine a good amp like the Henriksen Jazz Amp with a mic in front of the guitar. That way you could blend the accosting string sound with the amp sound.

Your guitars are very beautiful and have a very full, rich tone to them. Can you tell us a little about the guitars you are using?

AÖ: I’m using two different Benedetto arch tops. Both have my signature dark plum color. One guitar is a Manhattan model and the other one is a Bravo. When it comes to acoustic guitars I’m using an AJL steel string made by Ari Jukka Luomaranta in Finland.

What do you look for when it comes to a guitar’s tone?

AÖ: I practice a lot with out amp so I prefer guitars with a rich and crispy acoustic tone.

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Do you find a specific kind of wood combination between the neck and the body of the guitar creates a better tone than other combinations?

AÖ: Im not an expert on woods or equipment. I just know when I like a guitar, from the sound and from the feeling when I’m holding it.

When/how did you get into becoming a producer?

AÖ: I got a little tired of touring a couple of years ago and then I started looking into the opportunity of writing/producing songs for other people. The pop world was interesting to me cause I felt I had the opportunity to reach out to so many more people compared to only playing jazz.

As a producer, do you find it difficult to separate your personal taste from a song/album you are working on with an artist? 

AÖ: Well, sometimes it could be like that. But I kind of try to just take on projects where I feel it’s fun and where I can contribute in a good way.

Do you have any tips for our readers that are aspiring to become producers?

AÖ: Once again, listen a lot and learn the musical language. Then try to be creative. As a producer it’s also important being able to keep yourself updated on sounds, drums, mixing etc so it doesn’t sound dated.

You’re a highly accomplished music educator. Do you have any tips for other teachers out there that stubble to keep their kids engaged to learning their craft?

AÖ: The key of becoming a good teacher is to be passionate about it and find a reward in seeing hearing progress among the students. Also finding your own way of teaching and not just doing/copying everyone else out there.

I think it’s very admirable that you are sharing your talent through your online guitar education. Can you tell us a little about your ArtistWorks involvement?

AÖ: I first met David and Patricia at a Benedetto event a few years ago. They told me about the plans of starting this online based company, teaching music through a modern platform with video exchange lessons as the main feature. I was immediately interested and we started our collaboration. I’m happy to see the company growing and also proud to be one of the first teachers who got on board.

Keep up with all things Andreas Öberg:

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Artist Feature Friday: Jason Vieaux

“Vieaux opened ears with his rhythmic clarity and remarkable left-hand facility….He made the single guitar seem like a body of instruments at work in music full of the emotion of loss.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer

This week, we had the chance to speak to Jason Vieaux, a season-music veteran and guitar virtuoso. Vieaux is truly one of great talents to come from the east coast, but don’t just take our word for it…his music, and unique playing style, speak for themselves. We talked about his influences, his technique and how your playing directly impacts you overall tone.

Here’s what Jason had to say:

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You started playing guitar at the age of eight. Can you tell us a little about what initially got you into playing music? Do you remember the first song you learned?

JV: My mother bought me my first guitar, at age 5.  It was a kid-size classical, but I don’t think any of us knew what that was.  Hot Cross Buns was probably the first single-line melody I learned in my first lessons, which were with jazz guitarist Joel Perry.  He gave me my first music-reading lessons.

Do you play any other instruments?

JV: No, I never had any time.

Who would you consider to be some of you biggest influences?

JV: Probably Julian Bream and David Russell are the 2 biggest classical influences, but I’ve always been much more inspired by composers and musical compositions that anything else.  Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ravel, Debussy, Miles Davis.

Do you remember the first guitar you ever owned? Do you still have it?

The aforementioned guitar, and yes it’s at my parents’ house.  I had sold it to a family whose 7-year-old boy was studying with me, while I was in college.  I probably needed the money so I sold it to them so the boy could have a proper classical guitar.  I had forgotten about it, so my father bought it back from them and it was a very cool Christmas present many years later.  I thought I’d never see it again.

Can you tell us about your finger-style technique?

Well, it’s a fairly standard classical guitar technique, although I like to use more wrist angles, wrist rotations and thumb angles than most players, I suspect.  If your technique is secure, you can get a whole universe of sounds, dynamics and colors, if you experiment.

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You have played with so many different orchestras and so many different venues around the world, are there any performances that really stand out to you in all the years you have been touring?

JV: My travels to certain areas of Asia are very memorable, as well as Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, New Zealand.  But certain gigs were really different experiences as well, like playing at the outdoor Amphitheater in the Woodlands area of Houston with Houston Symphony, playing an Allen Krantz concerto to 3000 outdoors in Australia.

Sounds like your new album, Play, will consist of a number of songs you have performed over the last 20 years while touring. Are there any pieces on the album that are your favorites?

JV: I always thought “Cavatina” by Stanley Myers was a really beautiful pop song without words.  I like how that turned out on the record.  And it’s nice to get El Colibri (“The Hummingbird”) by Julio Sagreras on a recording.  My favorites to play live right now are the Roland Dyens version of Jobim’s “A Felicidade”, and my Ellington arrangement.

I read that you like to practice at least 3 hours per day. Can you tell us a little about your practice routine?

JV: I have a weekly and monthly outlook of what needs to get practiced, and lower-priority things go into a rotation, higher priority pieces I try to look at each day, although that’s impossible sometimes.  Some days you have to take hat you can get.

Do you still primarily play a Gernot Wagner guitar? Can you tell us a little about it and what attracted you to that particular guitar?

JV: It’s a double-top construction guitar, which means it has 2 very thin soundboards with a sheet of Nomex in between.  The way Wagner is about to get this style of construction to produce a very loud guitar, yet not have a synthetic sound to it, is amazing.  Lots of color and musical flexibility.

Is there a specific kind of wood combination for the body and neck of the guitar that you find produces a better tone?

JV: Not necessarily, it all depends on the talent of the luthier.  I find I like spruce for the top more times than not.

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What do you look for when it comes to a guitar’s tone?

JV: Flexibility – ability to adapt to musical situations and character.

What kind of strings do you like to use?

JV: Galli Titaniums

Do you have a specific way you like to record your guitars? Any specific microphones or setups?

JV: You would have to ask my recording team about specifics, but I can tell you that Azica Records uses Sennheiser MKH20, in a reverberant space.  Bruce Egre is my engineer and Alan Bise is my producer.  They’ve tried different things over the years.

I think it’s very admirable that you are sharing your talent through your online guitar education. Can you tell us a little about your ArtistWorks involvement?

JV: It took a few phone conversations for me to fully understand why I was being sought out by ArtistWorks, but I eventually signed on.  And I’m glad I did, because it definitely provides a great service to many players for very little money.  I’m continually surprised by the amount of information I can communicate to students to help their playing through this medium.

Our readers range anywhere from novice to professional, regardless of ability we all run into those road blocks or plateaus in our playing. Do you have any advice on pushing past those plateaus and getting to that next level?

JV: Lots of practice and lots of patience.

What has been one of your biggest challenges when it comes to guitar playing and how did you overcome it?

JV: Probably overcoming bad habits in my mechanics.  But I knew that solving those problems would result in greater freedom and facility, so I was happy to do the work necessary.

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Do you have any advice for our younger readers out there that are curious about playing classical guitar?

JV: Listen to tons of classical music (Lang Lang performing with Metallica on the Grammys doesn’t count).  Unlike so much of the bad or mediocre music we’re deluged with by the marketplace (some of which I really enjoy occasionally), it won’t rot your brain!  If you think about it for a second, it’s called classical music for a reason – because its sheer quality and humanity made it this far and is still cherished by music lovers today.  And classical guitar is not merely a style of guitar playing, the guitar is a classical music instrument and has it’s own very rich history of repertoire.

If you could have dinner with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be?

JV: Mozart… seems like he knew how to have a good time.

Be sure to keep up with all things Jason Vieaux:

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Review: Heavy Electronics Ascend

“After 3 years working and managing guitar stores, I saw the repeated shortfalls in pedal quality in terms of build and tone. In contrast, the few pedals that worked and sounded great were either vintage favorites or ultra high-end boutique pedals both of them carrying price tags one might expect to be hanging on a guitar. Heavy Electronics is born out of a desire for honesty in tone, construction, aesthetic, and price. Heavy Electronics makes road-ready effects pedals made with the finest components teamed with superior design…”

-Sayer Payne (Owner/Operator of Heavy Electronics)

For those of you who look for high quality, durable, transparent pedals, then you will be excited to learn more about Minneapolis based pedal manufacturer, Heavy Electronics. Heavy Electronics specializes in building boutique guitar pedals that cater to the player without compromising tone.

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Needless to say, they had us at the word TONE.

Today we’re going to look at the Heavy Electronics “Ascend”. On a basic level, the Ascend is a boost pedal. On a much deeper level, the Ascend offers a player unparalleled depth and transparency while giving your tone a kick in the pants.

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First, let’s get you some of the nitty gritty.

  • -Bypassable Tone Control
  • -Voiced Openly for Guitar & Bass
  • -True Bypass Switching
  • -Single Point Mounted PCB
  • -Flying Leads to Pots and Jacks
  • -Neutrik 1/4 inch Signal Jacks
  • -Powder-Coated Durable Finish
  • -Customer Service Ready to Help
  • -Dual Quality-Control Testing
  • -Hand Signed and Numbered
  • -Hand-made in Minneapolis Mn.
  • -Lifetime Warranty (Barring Abuse)

Power Supply:

  • 9 Volt DC 200 mA Center – 2.1mm
  • Power Consumption: 5.40 mA
  • I/O Impedance: Input = 330K Output = 5.8K
  • Dimensions: 4.37″ x 2.37″ x 1.07″ – 11.1 x 6.02 x 2.72 cm

The Build:

As you can tell from the blurb above, Heavy Electronics are built with not only the finest components, but, they are also built to last. If you ask me, that’s a winning combination.

The Heavy Electronics Ascend is certainly no exception. It all starts with a sturdy metal casing that is powder coated and topped off with a smooth grey/blue finish. Because powder coating does not have a liquid carrier, it can produce thicker coatings than conventional liquid coatings without running or sagging, and it ensures the paint will withstand every element of the rock n’ roll lifestyle. The main logo and design of the plane laid on top of the powder coat is very clean and seamlessly integrated to the overall layout of the pedal.

“…All of the pedals feature a “single point” circuit board mounting design that eliminates multiple pressure points on the PCB. Jacks are always metal Neutriks; finish is powder coated; Toggle switches are metal and are located to avoid impact. In fact, all electromechanical pieces and connectors are metal (except the 9V Jack where metal jacks simply must not be used). However, these aspects are not considered luxuries by Heavy Electronics but rather as mandatory features. High quality is a license to flourish as a company that makes its product right, NOT a license to hold guitarist’s tone ransom at an unfair price compared to cost of production. I make guitar pedals for musicians, and I play every pedal that ships to eliminate any compromises. It is for this reason specifically, that Heavy Electronics offers a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defect. All pedals are hand-made in Minneapolis. This isn’t just about pedals. It’s about your art.”

-Sayer Payne (Owner/Operator of Heavy Electronics)

The Ascend has 2 knobs; Volume and Tone. The volume knob push’s your signal, while the tone knob shapes your overall sound.  One of the most exciting parts of the this pedal, is that the tone knob is completely bypass-able in order to capture your true tone.

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“In addition to a VOLUME control with intense headroom and push, we’ve added a bypass-able TONE knob.  This way the user can choose whether to tweak and filter the boost or use it at it’s fullest in tone-bypass mode.  Simply rotate the tone knob all the way counter clockwise until the knob “clicks” into bypass mode.”

On the bottom of the pedal you will find four plastic grips and a sticker that displays the serial number and the initials of who tested the pedal. (SP -Sayer Payne).

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Below is a picture of the “single point” circuit board mounting design.

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“Discrete analog design allows this exquisite boost to be balanced and true.  Wonderfully transparent and clear, yet powerful.  As your amp gain increases to the point of saturation, the Ascend can be used to push your tube amplifiers preamp into overdrive.  Reverb tanks are fed beautifully with its strong and concise low end.   Component quality is maximized with a “Metal-Can” amplifying transistor as well as metal-film resistors and low-tolerance film capacitors.

Because boosts often end up at the front of the signal chain, the Ascend incorporates a J-FET buffer circuit on the input signal.  This guarantees better impedence reaction and long cable performance.  After all, the Ascend was made for big stages.”

Not only does Sayer test every pedal that goes out the door, but, Heavy Electronics even offer a lifetime warranty with every pedal that goes out the door.

Are you sold yet?

Gear used for these examples:

  • Diezel Herbert – Clean Channel
  • PRS Standard 22 – Dragon II pickups
  • Heavy Electronics Ascend
  • Audix i5 microphone
  • North Eastern cable company guitar cable

PERFORMANCE:

The first example is the dry signal of the guitar to the amplifier. These are basic open chords on the clean channel of the Diezel Herbert.

These next set of examples are the same basic chords as the example above, but, this time I showcase three different settings with the Heavy Electronics Ascend.

The first example has the volume knob of the Ascend turned half way up and the tone knob is turn off (bypassed). The guitar is turned to the neck pickup. You can really hear as the sound and tone start to breakup and become saturated. Listen closely to each chord and how you can still hear how transparent and clear the strings are.

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Next,  I switch to the bridge pickup of the guitar while keeping the volume at half and the tone knob on bypass. Take a listen as the tone has a little more bite to each chord. It actually is a little reminiscent of an old Marshall Plexi. You can still hear the transparency and clarity of each string.

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In the third example, I turn the volume knob on the Ascend up all the way and leave the tone knob in bypass. Maxing the volume knob really pushes the signal of your amp and lets YOUR tone come to life. Pay special close attention to how the tone warms up and let’s the amp breathe.

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Finally, in the fourth example, I demonstrate the same chords, but, this time the tone knob is maxed out. You can really hear how the tone starts to become more compressed and brightens up in the top end compared to the previous examples. I really liked that, even though the tone compresses, you still don’t lose the overall integrity of your core tone.

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In the next set of examples, I wanted to showcase how well the pedal responds to different pick attacks, as well as, demonstrate the impact of the volume and tone knob. Plus, you get to hear me butcher a classic.

In this first example I have the neck pickup selected with the volume and tone knob on the Ascend maxed out. Again, with the tone knob completely maxed out, you can really hear how the tone compresses and brightens up.

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For the next example, I left the volume maxed out, but turned the tone knob to bypass. This should give you a solid demonstration and contrast of the impact that the tone knob of the Ascend can have on your overall tone. I thought the tone sounded a bit warmer and a little more even between the top and bottom end of the guitar.

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Finally, with the neck pickup still selected, I keep the volume maxed out, but, I dialed the tone knob back to about half in order to get a nice blend of my core tone and the Ascend. Take special notice of how transparent the tone is. I thought this did the best job at re-creating the core tone of “Shine”. You can really hear how the moving melody sits nicely within the rest of the open strings.

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For this next example, I really wanted to demonstrate how much of an impact the volume knob on your guitar  can have when used with this pedal. The first half of the example has the volume knob on the guitar dialed back about half way. The second half of the example has the volume knob turned all the way up. The volume on the Ascend is maxed out with the tone knob in bypass.

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You can hear how the signal breaks up just enough to capture the definition of the strings, yet maintains the transparency and clarity of your overall tone. Once the volume is turned up, you really start to hear how much the Ascend pushes your tone.

It wouldn’t be a true review if I didn’t butcher one more classic. So, for this last example, I once again wanted to demonstrate how much the combination of your guitar’s volume knob and the Ascend can impact your overall tone. This example utilizes the neck pickup of the guitar, the volume knob on the Ascend is maxed out, and the tone knob is three quarters of the way up.

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Pay special attention in the first half of the example to how well the signal responds to the pick attack of my right hand. Then, once the volume on the guitar is turned up, you can once again hear the warmth and clarity the Ascend brings to your tone.

As you can hear, the Ascend provides your sound with a nice kick in the pants that doesn’t take away from your core tone. The transparency and clarity of the pedal is absolutely what any TONE FREQ could ever want in a boost. Long story short, the Ascend does exactly what it’s suppose to do. It boosts your signal, doesn’t mess with your tone, and delivers on both quality and performance.

Plain and simple, this is one of the most impressive and best pedals I have had the pleasure of playing.

PROS:

  • Smooth
  • Transparent and clear
  • Tone Bypass allows you to push YOUR tone.
  • Solid construction and built to last. (Probably the best built pedal we have ever had our hands on).
  • Smooth, responsive controls
  • LIFETIME WARRANTY
  • HAND BUILT
  • Provides a nice, full, thick sound.
  • Simple and usable
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • NONE

TONE FREQ USER RATING: 10 out of 10

Pick one up from American Guitar Boutique for $129.99.

THE TAKEAWAY:

Honestly, this is a tone lovers wet dream. After all, that’s why you’re here anyway, right? Not only does it provide your tone with a nice swift kick in the pants, but, it’s HAND BUILT by someone that CARES about YOUR TONE. If you’re looking for a pedal that will give your tone a nice boost without affecting your tone, then do yourself a favor and pick up an Ascend from Heavy Electronics. We PROMISE, you WON’T be disappointed. And if you are, we’ll buy you a beer and discuss why you’re wrong.

Review: Evil Tweaker One Knob Fuzz

Over the last year or so, the name “Evil Tweaker”, has become quite popular with custom and boutique pedal collectors. It’s a name that rings quality, creativity, and tone. Of course, we can’t forget about the picture perfect paint jobs that set his pedals apart from anything else on the market.

Each company has what they would consider to be their flagship product. Whether its Ibanez’s Tube Screamer, a Fender Stratocaster, or a Mesa Boogie rectifier, it’s the products that have helped solidify their brand as much as the name. For Evil Tweaker, the One Knob Fuzz is that product.

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In the beginning, The One Knob Fuzz was Evil Tweaker’s first step into the realm of boutique pedal building. Since then, he has gone on to build a wide array of pedals. Anything from Line Buffers and Delays, to Loopers and Reverbs, he continues to push the boundaries of his madness.

Recently, Evil Tweaker created his first production run of his flagship One Knob Fuzz, and we were lucky enough to get out hands on it first!

First, let’s get you some of the basics

The Evil Tweaker One knob Fuzz:

  • Silicon 2089 transistor
  • Germanium clipping diodes
  • True Bypass switching
  • Bass cut switch
  • Neutrik jacks
  • Runs on standard 9V power supply

What did you expect? There’s only one knob!

The Build:

On the outside, the One Knob Fuzz is exactly what one would expect. It has a footswitch, input, output, bass cut, white LED, and of course, One Knob. It’s about as simple as it gets. However, as we all know, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. For this build, Evil Tweaker uses a silicon 2089 transistor paired with Germanium clipping diodes. And, much like his custom paintings, his point to point hand wiring is second to none.

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Speaking of hand painting, we have all come to love Evil Tweaker’s ability to take a paintbrush and turn a standard pedal into a true work of art.  While we may not get custom paintjobs on these new production run One Knob’s, they still have the hand-made touch with the word “Fuzz” being painted on in black against the solid white backdrop. But hey, modern art went through a minimalism phase too.

One of the most exciting things about this pedal is that Evil Tweaker has included a bass cut switch. This is a great extra feature that adds a little more versatility that was not available on previous models of the One Knob. But we’ll get to more on that in a second.

All in all, it’s a solid build. The aluminum metal casing will be more than capable of withstanding even the heaviest of metal (see what I did there) and the rest of the pedal is built to be stepped on. Even though these are a new production line, they still maintain the hand built quality of a boutique pedal. Plus, if it breaks, we’ll give you Mr. Evil Tweaker’s home address and you can go see him personally…Tell him Tone Freqs sent ya.

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The Performance.

We all have pre conceived notions on what we want out of a fuzz pedal. Some of us want a subtle distortion to help create a little extra bite, and others may be looking for something that resembles a blown tube amp. The Evil Tweaker One Knob does a nice job at finding its own spot on the fuzz spectrum. Below is a series of sound examples of what the One Knob Fuzz is capable of producing. These examples are meant to demonstrate the overall effect this pedal will have on your tone, as well as, showcase additional features of the One Knob Fuzz.

 Gear used for these examples:

  • Diezel Herbert – Clean Channel
  • PRS Standard 22 – Dragon II pickups
  • Evil Tweaker One Knob Fuzz
  • Audix i5 microphone
  • North Eastern cable company guitar cable

This first example is a dry signal into the clean channel of the Diezel Herbert. This example is to showcase what the amp and guitar combination sounds like without any effects.

For the second example, I play the same open chords as in the previous sound clip, however, this time the One Knob Fuzz is engaged and turned all the way up with the bass cut switch off. Notice how much of a significant difference there is in the signal. Unlike other fuzz pedals, the One Knob still maintains a certain level of clarity between each open chord. I also really liked the amount of sustain this pedal provides to your signal.

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This next example is the exact same thing, only this time the bass cut is engaged. Listen closely as the bass cut switch cleans up the low end and balances out the overall frequency.

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In this next example, I dialed the fuzz back to about halfway to showcase how responsive the fuzz knob is to the overall signal. The bass cut engaged for this example. I was really pleased with how well the signal cleaned up and responded to the adjustment and maintained articulation.

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For the next set of examples, I wanted to showcase a style of playing that we most attribute with a fuzz pedal. This first example has the fuzz turned all the way up with the bass cut engaged. Listen to how warm and round each power chord sounds. Also, notice how the bottom notes have a bit more clarity and distinction to them.

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Same playing idea, only this time the bass cut switch is off. Take a listen to both examples and see if you can hear how much of an impact the bass cut switch has on the signal.

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These next two examples are sticking with the same playing style, only this time I wanted to break up the power chords a little bit so you could hear the reaction of the signal. This first example is has the fuzz knob turned all the way up with the bass cut switch off. Pay attention to the lower notes and their definition between each example to understand the impact of the bass cut.

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And here is the same idea with the bass cut switch engaged.

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For these next two examples, I wanted to showcase how much of an impact rolling off of the volume on your guitar can have on the signal of the One Knob even when the fuzz is turned all the way up. I also wanted to demonstrate how you can capture smooth, warm, creamy solo lines with the One Knob Fuzz. The first half of each example has the volume on the guitar rolled back halfway and then rolled up to full volume for the second half. This first example has the bass cut engaged.

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Now with the bass cut turned off.

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Finally, in this last example, I wanted to demonstrate that this pedal is more than capable of providing you with enough fuzz to get as heavy as you want. I tuned the guitar to “Drop D” for this example and had the fuzz turned all the way up. I did not have the bass cut engaged, so pay close attention to the response of the lower notes.

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As I mentioned above, we all have our own ideas of what a fuzz pedal should sound like; however, The One Knob fuzz does a solid job at providing you with a nice, warm, fuzzy tone. While the bass cut switch may be subtle, it’s effective. Compared to previous models of Evil Tweaker’s One Knob Fuzz, this one is by far the best yet. Whether you’re looking to get heavy, or simply add a little extra bite to your tone, the One Knob should more than have you covered.

While I am incredibly impressed with this pedal, I would like to point out one aspect that others may not find appealing. While simplicity is the name of the game with the One Knob, some may be looking for more fuzz options. Other than that, anyone should find this One Knob more than capable of solidifying a spot on their pedal board.

Pros:

  • Smooth, warm, full tone
  • Not too harsh
  • Responds well to pick attack
  • Simple to use
  • HAND BUILT
  • FIRST PRODUCTION RUN

Cons:

  • May be “too simple” for some players

Tone Freqs User Rating: 9.6 out of 10

Price: 129.99 – Available at American Guitar Boutique.

Honestly, what more could you want out of a fuzz? It’s smooth, warm, articulate, and full of character. Plus, you only have one knob to worry about! If you’re looking for a production pedal, with the hand built touch, then we highly recommend you check out Evil Tweaker’s first production run of the covenant One Knob Fuzz. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

Make sure to stop by Evil Tweaker’s Facebook page and give him a one up! Tell him Tone Freqs sent ya!

Artist Feature Friday: Paul Gilbert

“…I’ll tell you the advice that I’ve been giving to myself lately…  and that is to learn melodies. I never really did that as a kid. I learned athletic blues licks and chunky rhythms, but I never tried to “sing” with the guitar. I’m really enjoying the discoveries that I’m making by doing this. In my life, I’ve learned a lot of Van Halen guitar parts, but now I’m really enjoying learning the David Lee Roth vocal parts on my guitar. I’ve learned a lot of Richie Blackmore guitar parts, but now I’m learning the Ronnie James Dio vocal lines.”

As GuitarOne Magazine’s “Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time”, Paul Brandon Gilbert is one of the most disciplined, well-versed guitarists that we have ever come across; and as we have come to learn, is not one to compromise on tone…making him a true TONEFREQ!!! We had the opportunity to interview the virtuoso guitarist from Carbondale, Illinois about his days with Racer X, his online rock guitar school ArtistWorks, and of course…TONE!

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s Artist Feature Friday!

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Here’s what Paul had to say.

Most 5 year-olds are more concerned with putting together puzzles, learning how to spell, etc. What exactly prompted you to pick up music at such a young age?

PG: My parents had most of the Beatles albums, and I loved that music. I played hours and hours of air-guitar to Beatles songs, before I ever played a real guitar. I actually wanted to be a singer more than anything, but I always felt limitations to my voice. The guitar seemed to let me do what I wanted, as long as I put in the practice time.

You have been extremely influential to a new wave of guitarists. Which guitarist/musician influenced your style/tone growing up?

PG: All the rock bands from the 70s and early 80s, and a lot of 60s pop. The Beatles really formed my taste for harmony and chords. But as a guitarist, I really liked Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Robin Trower, Pat Travers, and Frank Marino. There were so many others. I did a lot of listening. KISS, AC/DC, Cheap Trick… and also more complex stuff like Allan Holdsworth, Yngwie’s early records, E.L.P., Rush, and Todd Rundgren and Utopia.

We would love to hear about how you got your first big break into the music business!

PG: My path in the business has been in gradual steps, but each one has been exciting to me. I think one of my happiest days was when I sold out the Troubadour with Racer X. It was our third or fourth show, and we had put all our rent money into promoting it. It felt so good to walk into that club and have it be completely packed. That was the first time that I really felt that my dream was becoming a reality. I always knew that I would be a musician, but this was the first time that other people really responded to what I was doing. Plus, I could pay rent!

We’ve read that you actually sought out a record company exec, looking to play with Ozzy Osbourne. Could you tell us a little about how that all came about?

PG: Well, I was a big fan of Randy Rhoads. I saw him a couple times with Ozzy, and even went to a guitar clinic that he did in my hometown. After Randy’s tragic accident, I thought that Ozzy might be looking for a new guitarist, and I already knew a lot of the songs and was really into that style. I was living in a small town and had no connections to the music industry. The only person I could think to contact was Mike Varney. He had mentioned in an interview that he would respond to anyone who sent him a demo. So I thought I’d see what kind of response I would get. Mike liked my playing, but thought that Ozzy probably wouldn’t want a 15-year-old in his band.

“Technical Difficulties” is an amazing piece of work, showcasing scale runs, arpeggios, string skipping, as well as pitched harmonics. What particular guitar technique do you think makes that track?

PG: It is kind of a lick showcase, which is a little bit unfortunate. I wish I was a better writer and could sell a song because it had a good melody instead of being a display of alternate picking! But I’m working on it. And I’m proud to have written some melodic tunes like “Green Tinted Sixties Mind” with Mr. Big. If anything, for “Technical Difficulties,” I should thank Tommy Aldridge, because the accents of the main guitar part are very similar to Tommy’s drum solo. I didn’t set out to copy his drum solo, but I did listen to him a lot on my old Pat Travers bootleg cassettes. So the rhythms must have stuck in my ears.

 

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Now, it really is unfortunate to read about your loss of hearing, especially knowing how involved you are with developing your guitar tone. Could you explain how you have been able to overcome that?

PG: I just do whatever I can. My hearing loss has been very gradual and happened over decades, so I didn’t really notice it happening. Music really isn’t a big problem. I can still hear pitches, and I can always crank up my amp… although I try to keep it as low as possible. I used to go see live music and sit in with bands, and I really can’t do that much any more. The hardest thing is speech. Recently, I got a set of really good hearing aids. It’s nice to be able to talk to people again! It’s not like my hearing is perfect with them, but it’s much better than feeling like I’m trapped inside a giant pillow. Overall, I just try to listen to music as quietly as possible, to preserve what I’ve got left. It has influenced my musical taste. I listen to a lot of jazz clarinet now. But keep in mind that Eddie Van Halen’s dad was a jazz clarinetist, so Eddie must have listened to a lot of that as well. I’m hoping that the music will have a similar effect on me.

Obviously, your headphones are critical for your live set. How would you describe their impact on you overall tone (live/studio)?

PG: With my headphones, I’m hearing a very direct sound from my amp. I’m not hearing all the reflections from the acoustics of the venue. This is usually very good, because many rock venues are not really designed for sound, and can have too much reverb. I wish I could let everyone in the audience hear my mix. It sounds great!

We’re sure that this may vary, but how would you describe your writing process?

PG: I get my deadline from the record company. Then I procrastinate and play lots of guitar and do some music research. Then I panic, and start to organize the musicians, studios, and try to write something good. After a week or two of writing lousy songs, I start to come up with good things. I wish that writing came easier to me. It’s much more natural for me to be a player and an improviser. I can spend countless joyful hours just noodling around on my guitar. But I do love songs, and sometimes the only way to get them is to write them!

 What kind of amps are you currently using?

PG: I mostly use a Marshall Vintage Modern 2×12 combo. It has simple controls but a very versatile tone. I’ve done a lot of albums and tours with that amp.

As you can tell, we have become pretty familiar with your work, including your live set up. Does your studio set up vary much from your live set up?

PG: My live set up is much louder than my studio set up. For the studio I usually use an isolation cabinet with one 12” speaker in it. I plug a variety of amps into that… depending on the song, and plug in whatever pedals I need. The cabinet keeps the sound in, so I can even have it in the control room and still keep things pretty quiet. For a tour, I build the gear around the setlist, which is mostly just picking out the right pedals. And I want my guitar to be as loud as the drummer so I need more speakers. For my solo tour, I usually use a couple of Marshall Vintage Modern 2 x 12 combos, and that is loud enough.

Do you have a specific mic setup you like to use when you are recording guitars? Any specific microphones?

PG: I put the mic right in front of the speaker. It’s very simple. An SM57 is fine. If I want to sound better, I know that I have to play better.

Would you say that your playing style has evolved since your early year with Racer X?

PG: Oh my goodness. The answer is yes. I have so many sounds that I want to make with my guitar. I wish I had ten years to practice privately so I could develop my playing more between records. After nearly 40 years of playing guitar, I’m finally starting to discover what I want to sound like, and it’s going to take some work to get there. I’m excited! I get closer every day.

Aside from your BOSS tuner, which pedal would you not be able to live without?

PG: Well, lately I’ve been using one of those Korg clip-on headstock tuners. So that’s given me an extra space on the pedalboard. Which pedal? Again, it depends on the song, the guitar, and the amp. Some pedals that I use a lot are the Majik Box Fuzz Universe, the MXR Distortion Plus, the Empress Effects ParaEQ, the Fulltone Deja-Vibe, the H.B.E. Bajo Mos, the Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone, and the TC Electronic Ditto Looper. I do have to say that the Ditto Looper has been a life changer. I love making a rhythm part and just jamming and jamming along with it. It’s great having a tireless rhythm guitar player, so I can solo endlessly.

Tell us about how you got the idea about using a power drill in your live set.

PG: That’s from back in the Racer X days. We were just trying to make the show exciting. Picks on the end of drill, was one way to do it. But keep that thing away from your hair.

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You have one of the more recognizable guitars in the industry. Can you tell us a little about your relationship with Ibanez and the creation of your signature guitar?

PG: Man, I love Ibanez. I’ve been using their guitars for over 25 years, and it’s one of the best relationships I’ve had in my life. My current signature model is called the “Fireman.” It’s an unusual shape… It’s actually their Iceman model, turned upside down, and then contoured to make it comfortable. I came up with the idea just as an experiment, but it turned out to be such a great sounding instrument. I play it every day. It’s got a nice thick neck, a lot of wood in the body, DiMarzio pickups, tall frets for easy bending and vibrato, and the controls are out of the way so I can rock and play hard.

What do you look for when it comes to guitar tone?

PG: It would be a lot easier to get great guitar tone if the guitar only had one string. Since it has six strings, the trick is to find a balance. I want a tone that makes the high E string sound punchy and thick, and not harsh, and still have clarity on the lower strings. I tend to use a couple pedals so I can vary the amount of distortion. I don’t want to have full-blast distortion all the time. I like to be able to stop and not have the guitar feedback and howl. Most of all, the tone has to work for the song.

Do you find that a particular wood combination for the neck and body of the guitar create a better tone compared to others?

PG: I like lightweight guitars. My Fireman has a large body and a thick neck, and this seems to influence the resonance in a really good way. But I ask Ibanez to choose lighter pieces of wood, so it’s still comfortable to stand up for a two-hour show.

I think it’s very admirable that you are sharing your talent through your online guitar education. Can you tell us a little about your ArtistWorks involvement?

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PG: I really like teaching. I’ve been doing it a long time, and I feel that I’m a much more effective teacher now than I’ve ever been. I enjoy getting to know my students who have joined the online school. I hear them play quite often, and it’s amazing to hear how quickly they are improving. My goal is give everyone maximum control of the guitar and really make their playing musical and indestructible. And just keep everyone motivated and excited about playing. My students really keep me excited about playing. I love going to my school every day and living in a world of pure guitar. Artistworks has built a great platform for me to listen and watch the students, and I’m on the site daily, teaching, answering questions, and listening to the students play. I think that anyone who joins will be amazed at what is waiting for them. I’ve made over 1500 video lessons for the students… not just general lessons, but lessons specifically for the people at the school. Every student at the school can watch all the videos… both the student videos where they play and ask a question, and all my video responses. These are called Video Exchanges, and they are all archived on the site. You can search through these by typing in a word like, “picking,” and all the picking videos come up. And of course, anyone who joins can send a video to me directly, and then get an answer to any question, or just a critique of their playing. I actually don’t “critique” very much. I usually respond with a musical phrase that will teach the student what I think will help them. Of course I explain the techniques in detail, but I try to keep as much music and playing going on as possible. And I should mention that there is an extensive rock guitar course that goes from total beginner to extremely advanced techniques. I spent months preparing the course, and I think it is valuable on its own, but really the most exciting thing about the school is the interaction that I have with the individual students.

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What would be one piece of advice you would like to pass on to aspiring musicians?

PG: I could write an encyclopedia of advice! I’ve been teaching at my online school, so I interact with guitarists every day. It’s helpful to me, because I can give advice to individuals. Everyone is different, so my advice is different too. But I’ll tell you the advice that I’ve been giving to myself lately…  and that is to learn melodies. I never really did that as a kid. I learned athletic blues licks and chunky rhythms, but I never tried to “sing” with the guitar. I’m really enjoying the discoveries that I’m making by doing this. In my life, I’ve learned a lot of Van Halen guitar parts, but now I’m really enjoying learning the David Lee Roth vocal parts on my guitar. I’ve learned a lot of Richie Blackmore guitar parts, but now I’m learning the Ronnie James Dio vocal lines. The way a great vocalist phrases is often very different than the way guitarists play. And I want some of that melody and style that vocalists have. It opens up a whole new world on the guitar.

If you could have dinner with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be?

PG: I’d be interested to meet any musician from an era when their music was not recorded or written down. I mean… We are able to experience Bach and Haydn because their music was preserved through writing… and it’s fantastic stuff. But hundreds or thousands of years ago, there must have been people making great music that was never preserved. What kind of melodies were the Egyptians making? What was Aristotle’s favorite melody? When ancient cultures were drawing antelopes on the walls of caves, were they singing a tune? I’d love to hear some of that over dinner.

Thank you,

Paul

Make sure you stay up to date with all things Paul Gilbert

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Artist Feature Friday: Jonathan Schwartz

“Well, we have found that the average time that a player will use our app is approximately 30 minutes. This works out to about 5 lessons. With that said, everyone has different goals. We did a survey of our users, and we found that 81% of them stated their playing improved after using Jamstar.”

One of the biggest factors for creating and maintaining good tone, is of course, your playing. In fact, many would argue that your playing is the only factor that matters when it comes to creating YOUR tone. How you approach the string, accuracy, timing, bending, strumming, etc. are all important elements to developing your tone.  Well, good news! Now there’s an app for that.

Earlier this week we did a review of the app, Jamstar. We decided to take it one step further and have a chat with one of the masterminds behind Jamstar.

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First of all, let’s refresh your memory a little. Jamstar is an interactive application that presents guitarists of all levels courses meticulously organized by trained music professionals, and provides comprehensive, real-time feedback for each session. The application is a free download, requires no additional hardware, and, unlike anything of its kind, works across ALL platforms (iOS, Android and via the web). It’s simple to use and is compatible with any guitar.

Jonathan Schwartz, who is an avid guitar player and a big fan of Phish and other jam bands, is also the head of business development and marketing for Jamstar. Today, we had a chance to pick Jonathan’s brain about what makes Jamstar so unique, and, how it can help you develop your TONE.

Here’s what Jonathan had to say.

Can you tell us about the back story of Jamstar and how Jamstar began?

My partner, Kobi Stok, is a software engineer. He worked at SAP for about a decade…he is also a pro bass player. It used to drive him crazy when he would see his friends sitting around playing “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band.” He saw that it was fun, but they weren’t getting any skills out of it. Basically, he went to his garage and started working on the engine that would eventually become the audio recognition piece to the platform. The software hears what you are playing in real time, including polyphonic tones. It’s really a homegrown, grass roots invention.

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I met Kobi through a mutual friend. I worked in NYC in the music business for about 15 years before moving to Israel. After a few months of knowing Kobi and believing in the product and his vision, I hopped on board and started doing the business development and marketing.

Jamstar caters to a wide spectrum of players, anyone from beginners to professionals, but Can someone who has never touched a guitar before use Jamstar? 

Absolutely. We have courses that are so basic, that it pretty much tells you how to hold a guitar. It even shows you where to put your fingers. We have courses that start with pressing just one fret on one string! I should mention, the guy that developed most of our playback is a Berklee graduate. He’s quite the musical genius.  Not only a top-notch educator…he’s a rocker (he tours with Megadeth legend Marty Friedman). He’s a cat.

We have a plan. If you look in the Jamstar market, it’s broken down from beginning, to intermediate, and all the way to advanced. It’s very well marked. You can really follow the course progress in a very easy way.

It’s a lot of fun. You know, I’m an intermediate guitar player at best [laughs]. I never played lead though. Now, with Jamstar, I find myself going back and learning scales, and actually learning how to apply them. My fingers are stronger, my speed is faster, and I have calluses on my fingers for the first time in 12 years again [laughs]. Even the easy versions of songs are fun and challenging. It’s almost like a game, but you’re playing a real guitar; no cables, and no additional hardware needed.

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The songs that we license cost $.99. It’s like iTunes, except instead of just buying a song, you’re learning how to play it. We wanted to keep it affordable for the kid that just got his first guitar and wanted to learn how to play. There are competitors out there, but what I think is different about us is that you don’t need to buy a dedicated gaming console to use it. You don’t need to buy a special adapter to plug your guitar in. You don’t need to buy a special piece of software or a game in order to use Jamstar. If you have a computer, tablet, phone, or any other device, you can download the app for free and login to Jamstar without paying a dime. We have close to a 100 free lessons on Jamstar.  A lot of them are exactly the basic guitar lessons that beginners need to learn.

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Obviously there are a lot of factors from the users end, and everyone learns at a different rate, but do you know what kind of an average turn around time someone could expect to see results and be playing songs after using Jamstar?

Well, we have found that the average time that a player will use our app is approximately 30 minutes. This works out to about 5 lessons. With that said, everyone has different goals. We did a survey of our users, and we found that 81% of them stated their playing improved after using Jamstar.

We all know the first few months to a year of learning a new instrument can be difficult and trying. How does Jamstar help cut into that learning curve?

That’s a good question. We like to position ourselves as, is a play as go kind of learning app. Whenever you want to learn, you don’t have to schedule a lesson. No matter what time of the day it is, you can pick up your guitar and learn something. Based upon the flexibility and the ease of use of Jamstar, we really look to narrow the gap of the learning curve for players.

It sounds like your team is actively involved with your constantly growing community. Can you tell us a little about how Jamstar and your team help provide musicians with feedback and let them know of their progress?

Sure. After each lesson, you get a mini report card. It tells you your accuracy, hits, feel, etc. We also have a leaderboard that you can share with your friends. This allows us to analyze the data and provide the user with valuable information about their playing.

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We also give you feedback within the lesson as you are playing. It’s that real time feedback that we have found to be so useful for our users.

I think it’s incredible that you don’t need any external devices in order for Jamstar to work thanks to the audio recognition algorithms. Can you explain a little about the polyphonic algorithms and how that helps to set Jamstar apart from other apps out there?

We have a patent pending technology that listens to what you play in real time. There is a big problem with latency in android devices. What our team has done, is create a virtual zero latency environment. We are the only application on the android platform that has polyphonic audio recognition. Jamstar is a true, cross platform solution…we work on iOS and Android devices, and the web.

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Can you explain a little about Jamstar for teachers and the benefits it provides? How does a user upload/create their own lesson?

We expanded our existing application, and created a SaaS application called Jamstar for Teachers. It’s a practice tool. It’s a way for a teacher to monitor and motivate their students outside the lessons. What Jamstar for teachers enables teachers to do, is upload their own personal lessons into the platform. Plus, it automatically creates a playback for your lesson. From there, your students can practice when they’re not with you. The teacher can then login to the backend editor and see when the student practices, and where in the lesson they had difficulties. It’s meant to provide additional information for the teacher to help educate their students more effectively.

We’re actually working very closely with DR strings on this program. If you noticed, we have colored strings in the player. DR has a new line of colored strings that are phenomenal. Not only do they look good, but they sounds good, and they feel good. One of the reasons why they did this, is that there have been a lot of studies done that shows color increases the learning process. We felt by incorporating the color strings into the player, and coupled that with using a guitar that uses the colored strings, it helps with the rate of learning. We really thought this was a natural fit to use colored DR strings with our platform. DR strings are incredible when it comes to music education. They work closely with music schools and stores that have music education programs. They have also done a very good job at explaining about the correlation between their multi color neon strings and the Jamstar app. We’ll even be demoing Jamstar and Jamstar for teachers out of the DR Handmade Strings booth at NAMM.  To talk for a second about DR, they really do make the best strings out there.  Players including Sting, Adam Clayton (U2), Bootsy Collins, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers/Tedeschi Trucks Band) etc….all use DR strings.  They are great strings…and even better are the people behind them.  I really enjoy working with them on this project!

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Speaking of guitar teachers and education. We actually created a few courses for Jamstar with Marty Schwartz from guitarjamz.com. Marty is the #1 guitar teacher on YouTube…with nearly 300 MILLION views!  He developed some blues courses for us and we would love to do more with him in the future. He’s such a fantastic teacher and player.

What do you think is the key to keeping a user engaged to learning a new instrument?

I think it has to be fun. People want to learn how to play musical instruments because it is fun. That’s the key with Jamstar. We want to make our courses fun and interactive for the users. I also think it needs to be easy and convenient for students to practice.

Jamstar is designed around the guitar player, but it seems as though the instrument possibilities are endless. Does Jamstar have any plans to incorporate bass, drums, and vocal lessons? 

Yes.  The technology is instrument agnostic. Meaning, that this software can work with any instrument whatsoever. We hope to incorporate other instruments in the future.

If you could have dinner with one musician, dead or alive, who would it be?

Jimi Hendrix.

We can’t thank Jonathan for FREQ’n out with us. We welcome him to the Tone Freq family with open arms. We wish him and the rest of The Jamstar team nothing but the best on their future and can’t wait to see what’s next!

Make sure to stay connected with Jamstar with the following links! While you’re at it, DOWNLOAD JAMSTAR!! 

Website

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Jamstar App: Review

OK. It’s no secret that there are hundreds of apps out there claiming to be the best at teaching you how to play guitar. Some are good, some are bad, and some should just be ashamed. Whether you’re a touring professional or just starting out, we’ve all downloaded at least one.

When you search through your phone, tablet, or other device, how many guitar apps have you downloaded? Well, if you’re anything like me, chances are, you’ve downloaded a whole bunch but don’t use any of them. At least, that was the case for me up until about 4 weeks ago.

Just over a month ago, a friend of mine told me to try this new guitar app called, Jamstar. He told me how this was unlike any other app out there due to “some audio recognition software”. Like any jaded guitar player with a smartphone, I was a little hesitant, but I decided to give it a try.  Turns out, it is different….

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OK…So what is Jamstar?

Livetune Ltd. is a startup company specializing in audio recognition and analysis that can be used across a wide spectrum of industries. Livetune’s first product is “Jamstar™ Acoustics,” a platform that teaches how to play guitar (with more instruments to come). The technology behind Jamstar™ Acoustics is a patent-pending engine that can detect the difference between single notes, polyphonic tones, white-noise and other advanced sonic subtleties via your device’s microphone.

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So, now that you know what we’re talking about today, let’s dig in.

Jamstar

  • Compatible with both iOS and Android products
  • Works with a REAL guitar
  • Uses your devices microphone
  • Provides real time feedback
  • Connects to Facebook
  • Utilizes a patent pending polyphonic algorithms and audio recognition software
  • Virtually NO latency
  • Groundbreaking application for music education
  • Partnered with DR strings
  • Built in tuner
  • 200,000+ active users

As I mentioned above, Jamstar is compatible with any iOS or Android device making downloading and accessibility very simple.

When you first download this app, you need to create an account. You have the option of singing up with your email, or, simply logging in with you Facebook account.

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Once you’re in, the app asks to pick your skill level. The trick here, is to set your ego aside and be honest. This allows the system to really determine the right learning plan for you and where to start you off. Besides, you can always change your skill level.

Right away I was very impressed with the layout of the app and the user interface. It’s very intuitive and easy to navigate. At the top of the screen, Jamstar has categories for you to pick from based on genre, and skill level. Those categories are; Trending, Lessons, Rock/Pop, and Jazz/Blues. Within each of these categories you will be able to choose from beginners, intermediate, and advanced depending upon your skill level.

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Jamstar has also teamed up with one of the leading publishing houses in the U.S. so they can continue to add new and exciting songs from the bands you love.

Here are some examples from each category:

LESSONS

The guitar strings, Basic warm up exercises, basics of rhythm, hand coordination, spanish fingerpicking, 7th chord arpeggios, major scale, minor scale, harmonic minor scale, power chords, jam session, rock riffs, and SO MANY MORE.

Rock/Pop

Green Day, Muse, Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, Nickelback, Creed, Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Soul Asylum, R.E.M., Smashmouth, Stained, Jimmy Buffett, KISS, AND SO MANY MORE.

Jazz/Blues

George Thorogood, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Marty Schwartz (The guy from YouTube), Blues Essentials, Melodic Jazz minor scale, how to build a jazz solo, and SO MANY MORE.

Songs/lessons range anywhere from FREE to $.99. When you think about it, we pay anywhere from $.69 – $1.29 for a song on iTunes that gives us only the value of listening enjoyment. For $.99 you can educate yourself and learn to play the song on your own. Seems fair to me.

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One of the really nice things about Jamstar, is that they have regular, and easy versions of certain songs depending on your skill level. This allows the user to still play some of their favorite songs, but also allows them to play them at a comfortable level and help build their skill set. As you move your way through each lesson/song, Jamstar provides you with real time feedback. Plus, it ranks your score with other users and provides an element of “friendly competition”.

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Playing each song/lesson is actually a lot of fun. The layout reminds you of guitar hero or RockBand, only this time, you’re holding a real guitar.

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While there isn’t much of a learning curve, I still recommend starting very simple just to get a feel for the layout of the user interface when playing. Again, you can always change your skill level setting.

Let’s talk about that patent pending polyphonic algorithms and audio recognition software for a minute.

HOLY CRAP. This is, without a doubt, the BEST audio recognition software to ever be integrated with an app. Not only is there no latency issues, but, it makes for one of the best tuners available…AND IT’S FREE. I wish I could tell you the secret or even exactly how it works, but I can’t. What I can tell you, is that the audio recognition software is capable of determining the difference between single notes, polyphonic tones, white-noise and other advanced sonic subtleties, in order to provide you with an enjoyable experience.

Jamstar allows you to adjust the input of the microphone on your device to allow for optimal performance between the sound of the guitar and the app. This is especially great whether you are using your electric or your acoustic guitar.

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But wait, that’s not all! 

Are you a teacher or an instructor? They have an app for that!

Jamstar for teachers allows you to upload your own lessons, store them in the cloud and share them with your students. Once your lessons are in the system, you can monitor your students’ progress  with a backend dashboard. Jamstar for Teachers really allows students to grow at a much quicker rate while keeping their “homework” fun and engaging.

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One of the things that I like most about Jamstar, is that it is really about music education and teaching the guitar to the user. Livetune has taken a lot of the necessary steps to make sure the experience of learning guitar is not only fun, but educational. Jamstar has also teamed up with some of the industries leading teachers, including Marty Schwartz! (GuitarJamz).

“Jamstar is a great enhancement for what I already do online. It enables me to add a new, interactive layer to how I teach music on the web.”

Marty Schwartz – founder of GuitarJamz.com

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Jamstar is also partners with forward thinking guitar string company, DR strings, and jointly developed the “Color-Play Learning System.” DR’s breakthrough color-coated strings, which, with strong visual cues, enhance learning, are replicated in the Jamstar user interface.

“Jamstar’s technology is easy to follow and makes learning guitar far easier than ever. This is exactly what the industry needs now…a simpler, more effective and fun way to learn to play!”

Anthony Corona, DR Handmade Strings

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I do see a couple shortfalls with Jamstar. The first being their music library. I would like to see a much larger music library for users. In it’s current state, while it offers a great foundation, users will want a bit more of a variety when it comes to song selection. In Jamstar’s defense, they do continue to add more content quite regularly. So, it’s more so just a waiting game at this point.

The only other shortfall that I see, is that while this app is suitable for many players, it isn’t going to be for everyone. Some players will feel beyond the level of what Jamstar can offer. HOWEVER, If you think you’re at that level, at least put your money where your mouth is.

PROS:

  • Educational for the user
  • Easy learning curve
  • User friendly
  • FREE
  • No latency issues
  • Audio recognition software is without a doubt the best available for a guitar app
  • MORE INSTRUMENTS ARE COMING!
  • Amazing tool for guitar teachers

CONS:

  • Small library of songs/lessons
  • Not for every player

TONE FREQ USER RATING: 9.6 out of 10

Jamstar is what you call a “game changer”. For a long time, it seemed as though guitar education was starting to fall to the wayside (R.I.P Guitar hero). Thanks to applications like Jamstar and companies like, Livetune and DR strings, guitar education has found it’s way back to the fingertips of players and teachers. If you’re a beginner looking to learn for the first time, or a seasoned veteran looking to brush up on some old skills, then we highly recommend you check out Jamstar.

Download the app now!

Check out the video below to get a full walkthrough of Jamstar and how it works.