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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:

Website

ArtistWorks

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

TC Electronics Ditto Looper Pedal

Most of us have probably owned, or at least tried, a loop pedal. Those of you that have tried one know that they can be a little frustrating to work with. Some of the biggest frustrations would include; muddying up when layering parts, not having a long enough time segment, or they can just plain be complicated to use in a live performance.

Recently, TC Electronics, released their take on a loop pedal. The TC Electronics Ditto looper pedal not only answers the issues stated above, but it is also one of the most affordable loop pedals on the market.

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Let’s take a look at the TC Electronics Ditto.

The Ditto may not look like much, but I promise this is definitely a situation where size doesn’t matter…at least not from a performance standpoint…

The information below can be found on any website.

  • The guitar player’s looper – made for guitarists by guitarists
  • Dirt simple looping – and nothing but looping
  • True bypass and Analog-Dry-Through
  • 5 minutes of looping
  • Undo / Redo function
  • Unlimited overdubs
  • 24 bit uncompressed high quality audio

Now let’s talk a little bit more about these features.

First and foremost, as you can see, this pedal is about as simple as it gets. You have a grand total of one knob and a foot-switch.  The one knob on the pedal is the loop level knob.  As it states, it’s only function is how loud the level of the part is that you are looping.  The magic is within the actual foot-switch.  This one little switch gives you the power to record, play, and overdub your parts.  Plus you can undo and redo certain parts as you wish.

Below is the basic functions for using this pedal.

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I’m sure most of you who are used to loop pedals that have 127 buttons, 4 foot switches, and 10 ways to plug it in are wondering how a pedal with one knob and a foot switch can compete.  Well, just keep reading and I promise you will sell your current looper for one of these little guys.

TC electronics built this pedal with guitarists in mind.  The size of the pedal isn’t much bigger than a Twinkie, but is built like a tank.  TC knew they wanted to make a pedal that was durable, but didn’t take up a lot of real estate.

If you have used a TC electronics pedal before, then you already know you are getting a high quality product.  TC has made a name for themselves as having some of the most trusted products on the market.  One of the most exciting parts of this pedal is,thanks to the true bypass and analog dry through, the Ditto maintains your true tone quality.  Not to mention, it doesn’t muddy up at all no matter how many layers you throw on.  Plus, you can record up to 5 minutes of looping time!

If that’s not enough, then the icing on the cake will be when I tell you that the Ditto will STORE YOUR LOOPS!

You should be aware that “simple” can be a double edged sword.  The trick with this pedal comes when you forget and or mix up the amount of times you need to press on the foot-switch to do a certain function.  It’s as easy to redo a loop as it is to erase your entire loop.

PROS:

  • Extremely simple to use
  • Maintains your core tone thanks to the true bypass
  • Stores your loops
  • More looping time than you will ever need
  • Built durable
  • Takes up minimal real estate
  • Easily be a new staple to anyones rig
  • Affordable

CONS:

  • Can be hard to remember the combination of foot clicks in order to execute a certain function.

TONE FREQ USER RATING: 9.9 out of 10

PRICE: 129.99

In my opinion, this is hands down the best loop pedal on the market.  If you are looking for a looper that does exactly that, then this is the pedal for you. I am actually surprised someone else has not come out with this pedal sooner. The Ditto has everything you could possibly want in a loop pedal.

Aguilar AGRO Overdrive Pedal

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We’ve gotten the fuzz out of our system, now onto something a little more “organic” sounding.  A slightly overdriven tube bass amp is a sound that’s quite often sought after, but what if you haven’t made that leap to tube amp yet?  Let’s take a look at the Aguilar AGRO Overdrive Pedal.

This little pedal can give you a big sound; after all, it’s bassed (see what I did there?) off the AG 500 Bass Head.  To me, there’s nothing better than a slightly overdriven bass and this guy delivers.

There are four control knobs on the AGRO, and they are labeled as such: Level, Saturation, Presence, and Contour.  Level is how much output there is from the pedal, which is pretty basic.  Saturation is how much distortion is added to your signal, from slightly grainy to all-out chaos.  Turning the Presence knob defines your tone any which way you want.  And last but not least is the Contour, this controls what kind of boost you want, whether it be more bassy or more trebly.

In my personal opinion, this pedal is best used to add a slight, growly overdrive to your signal.  Putting the Saturation at full blast can add more of a fuzz or synth tone but there are other pedals out there that work better for that.  But the growl, oh boy, THE GROWL.  This little buddy’s packing a punch and I’m digging what it’s laying down.

Playing around with the Contour knob can give you many different tones.  My favorite position is just beyond noon, where the treble starts to cut through.  Getting that growl on top of that trebly goodness… That’s just tone heaven for me right there.

There’s a lot of room to play with when working with the Presence knob. Turning it more towards the left can give you a really gritty, dirty sound. Turning it to more towards the right gives you more definition in your tone.  For most circumstances, I like it with more definition. But if you’re going all-out, balls to the wall, rip your face off metal, you may want to lose it and start busting some guts.

I really can’t say anything bad about this pedal, I’ve heard some people complain about the jacks being too close together at the front of the pedal but I’ve never had a problem with it.  Overall I think this is a great pedal. A good overdrive is a must for every rig and this guy holds his own.

PROS:

  • Versatile
  • Creates a nice full sound
  • Low end stays true
  • Natural sounding
  • Cleans up well

CONS:

  •  Touchy tone control

This pedal retails for around $179.99,  which is slightly higher than average when it comes to bass distortion pedals.  However for the money, you really can’t go wrong.

TONE FREQ USER RATING: 8 out of 10

– ACBM

Assistant (to the) Regional Manager

iStomp Digitech Guitar pedal

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Now that I have your attention…

Who knew $.99 could sound like $149.99

Maybe the iPB-10 wasn’t for you. So today we are going to take a look at its little brother, the iStomp.

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The iStomp condenses what the iPB-10 does down into one single stomp box pedal. The best way to think about this pedal is to think of it as a “host.” All you do is connect the pedal to your iOS device, download the Digitech E-pedal stomp shop, and upload whatever E-pedal you desire to the iStomp pedal.  This is especially nice so you don’t have to have your ipod, iphone, or ipad in order to make the pedal work.

Currently there are over 45 e-pedals offered from the stomp shop app.  These pedals range in anything from tube screamers and overdrive pedals, to delays and reverbs. All of which are modeled after classic pedals.  One of the best parts about the stomp shop, is that it lets you try out each pedal before you commit to buying one.  It should be noted that each pedal ranges from $.99 – $19.99.

Let’s talk about the actual pedal.

The pedal itself is designed to be a familiar interface.  It has 4 knobs that are assigned depending on which pedal is uploaded and a single foot switch to turn the pedal on or off.  It comes with a special connector cable that allows you to connect to your iphone, ipad, or ipod.  It does not allow for a 9 volt battery.  However it does come with a 9 volt AC adapter.  One of the most exciting things about the pedal is that it allows for you to play in MONO or STEREO.  This is especially exciting for delays and reverbs.  The other really exciting part is that you can customize what color your LED light is to help you determine which pedal you have loaded onto the iStomp.

Now let’s talk about how it sounds.

Like I said before, the stomp shop has over 45 pedals to download.  I will admit, I had my reserves that the tones would sound fake, thin, computerized, and have a considerable amount of latency.  Instead I found each e-pedal sounds real, full, and not a hint of latency.  The reverbs have a realistic amount of decay, the delays are responsive, and the overdrive pedals aren’t hairy sounding.  Did I mention MORE PEDALS COME OUT EVERY MONTH.

Just to name a few…

  • Redline Overdrive
  • Total Recall Delay
  • Blue Pearl Chorus
  • Death Metal
  • DOD FX25B Envelope Filter
  • Continuum Reverb
  • Jet Flanger
  • Compressor
  • Octaver
  • Double Cross Delay

I will say that not every pedal is a gem.  The CE chorus is a little transparent, and the flanger sounds a little thin.  2 out of 47 isn’t bad…

It can be rather frustrating to have to upload one pedal at a time to use separate pedals, but I guess it’s a small sacrifice when you are only paying $.99 for a new pedal. Although I am a fan of Apple, not everyone is, and that is the only other issue I see.  Currently the iStomp is not compatible with android.

PROS:

  • Great bang for your buck
  • Innovative idea
  • New pedals every month
  • Durable
  • Quick and easy to use
  • Great sounding e-pedals

CONS:

  • No battery
  • Works only with iOS

FREQ RATING:  9 out of 10

This pedal is fantastic for what it is.  Each e-pedal sounds remarkably close to the original pedal it was modeled after.  For the price of $149.99 with additional download costs, this pedal is sure to find its way into a lot of guitar players rigs.

Check out the video below to get a feel for the pedal and the sounds.

Rocktron Banshee Talkbox

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I’m guessing by the time you were done reading the title, most of you already have one of three songs stuck in your head.

Thanks to Joe Walsh, Richie Sambora, and Joe Perry, the talkbox is an exciting addition for anyone with a strong desire to play Sweet Emotion, Livin’ on a Prayer, or Rocky Mountain Way.

Basically, a talkbox is simply a small 6 inch speaker that has its sound funneled into a long plastic tube. A very tiny amp, if you will.

Bob Heil helped pioneer what we know as the talkbox.  The Heil talkbox was really the “first” talkbox.  However, most people didn’t buy them because of the extensive setup that was needed just to run it.  You need a PA system, as well as an extra amp and speaker just to make it work.

Where the Heil talkbox failed, the Rocktron Banshee made up.  The Rocktron Banshee talkbox is a beefed up version of the renowned Heil talk box.  The Banshee offers the user to adjust the overall gain, tone, and output of the overall sound, and you don’t need a PA or an extra amp just to make it work.  Plus, it makes you sound like the adults on the Charlie Brown cartoons.

Let’s FREQ OUT!

Pros

– Adjustable gain, tone, and output that allows you to dial in your favorite talkbox sound.

– Very well built. Strong casing around the speaker and rubber elevators on the bottom make for a very sturdy stance.

– Decent sounding speaker (for a 6 inch speaker).

– Built in pre amp which helps to create a “plug and play” use for passive instruments.

Cons:

– The tubing that is sent with the Banshee is very poorly made and too flimsy to use.

– The rubber piece that holds the tubing into the pedal is very cheap. It doesn’t hold the tubing
where it needs to be, and it is no match for the metal attachment.

– Overrides your amp when you turn on the stomp box so you can’t hear your original tone or guitar sound. (This has been fixed on the Banshee 2)

The bottom line:

At the end of the day, this pedal is fun for an afternoon. For roughly $250, I’d say there are better ways to spend the money. However, compared to the Heil talk box, this is definitely the better buy. It is really nice to be able to adjust the gain, tone, and output which are  not offered on the Heil. Rocktron definitely improved what should be considered more of a novelty than a tool. The overall sound is pretty good, but you can always go to Menards and pick up some thicker tubing for a fuller sound.  If you for some reason need to buy a talk box, then buy the Rocktron Banshee (preferably the Banshee 2), otherwise don’t waste your money.

Rocktron Banshee talk box user rating: 7 out of 10

Enjoy this little sound example of the Rocktron Banshee.  Otherwise just go listen to some Bon Jovi.

PRS Standard 22

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The title alone should already speak volumes to any tone freq out there. PRS guitars are known for playability, sound, and above all else, quality. The PRS Standard 22 is no exception.

First let’s go over some of the basics. The body of the guitar is Mahogany which helps to create a nice warm mid-ranged tone. You can have your choice of 22 or 24 fret mahogany necks dressed with a rosewood fretboard.

Each guitar comes with 14:1 low mass locking tuners and you also have the option for a stop tail or tremolo bridge.

The most exciting part is in the pickups. This guitar comes with Dragon II treble and bass pickups. Those are the same ones that go in their $10,000+ custom shop guitars. The pickups are controlled with volume and Tone Control and a 5-Way Rotary Pickup Selector.

I have been a PRS player for over 10 years. I bought one of these guitars back in 2009. I’m sure every guitar player out there has their “go to” guitar. That is exactly what this one has become for me. I think this guitar was made specifically for me. It sounds amazing and plays like a dream. Whether you play jazz, rock, country, blues, or even pop, this guitar can handle it. The combination of the mahogany wood, rosewood fretboard, and Dragon pickups make for a very warm mid range driven tone.

I have played this guitar through some of the most sought after amps on the market, all the way down to your basic beginner amps. No matter which one I played it through I was able to dial in my desired tone.

One of the other exciting things about this guitar is its satin finish. It really is a nice change of pace from the normal glossy finish on most guitars.

I know when most people hear PRS they see $$. The icing on the cake is that the Standard PRS 22 is very affordable. I paid just under $1000 used from Guitar Center.

I highly recommend this guitar to anyone. It sounds great, plays smooth, and will make a fine addition to anyone’s arsenal. Don’t just take my word on this guitar, take a listen to the videos below.

Line 6 POD HD400

Holy effects!

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Line 6, as we all know likes their effects, and they sure didn’t skimp out on supplying a variety of tones with the Pod HD400. You can sit and mess with this pedal for days and still only scratch the surface of the Pod HD400 sound and effect capabilities.

One of the main things I like about the Pod HD400 is that they added a 24 second looper on it. It’s not the longest lasting, but it’s more about the motion of the ocean.

There are 3 modes you can switch between; Presets, Looper, and amp modeling (watch the videos below for a more detailed description of these).

It really comes down to what kind of tone you’re after. The Pod has the tendency to create the “from a computer” sound, but if you dial it in right, you can really find some really enjoyable tones.

There is an FX only button, so if you like the distortion your amp puts out (I do) the button cancels out the distortion from the Pod and just adds the effects onto your amps base distortion.

The Pod sounds great in certain situations and styles, but for some, it may just sound a little too “plastic.” You don’t get the warmth and fullness you would get from individual pedals.

Line 6 has software downloads from their website so you can edit the presets on your computer, plug in the pedal, and send it straight to the pedal. This creates a much easier way to customize tones.

I really do like the layout for the pedal. With the Pod HD400 you get 32 banks and 4 separate channels for tone customization. I have some banks that are dedicated to a particular song and then I have 4 different effects I would use from the same bank.

I’ll be honest, the on board wah is pretty terrible. You can adjust how the wah reacts; however there is no setting that produces a good natural feeling wah. With that said, being able to switch from a volume to a wah pedal at the press of your foot is nice.

Bottom line, it’s a good thing to discover which pedals and effects you would like to buy individually, but don’t bank on this being “your” tone. It just doesn’t deliver the quality of tone you can get from other pedals. It’s been more of a guide to the right tone. Here are some links that take you through the pedal more in depth and shows what kind of sounds it can create.

 Explains more about the layout and how things can be connected to it.

 Tests out tones with a Strat. Lots of clean to fuzz tones.

 Tests out tones with a Les Paul. More heavy tones.

 How to create a patch using the on board LCD

-NK, Tone Freqs