Thursday, October 15, 2009

Prelude to a Review

I'd like to share my thoughts about the virtual amp software that I've been trying out over the last month or so, but before doing that I think it might be useful to establish where I'm coming from in these reviews with a bit more solidity than the first couple posts might give you.

I hear a lot of people sneer at modeling software and the like with the underlying assumption that there is something artificial about digital simulations and that tubes are somehow more real or more honest.

I'm not even sure what either of these things mean.

I get that it's hard to sound good with fewer additions to the signal chain and that it takes a lot of talent, practice and technique to make an acoustic sound good. I also get that effects and processing and sequencing and the like can mask and augment a performance that sounds mediocre at best without all these enhancements (see pitch corrected vocals in pop/electronica). I'm sympathetic to these arguments in the sense that I'd readily agree that Jeff Beck and Mark Knopfler are better guitar players than Edge, but that argument really sells Edge short as a musician because so much of what he gives to U2 has nothing to do with his skill as a player.

Bringing this back to the subject at hand...I don't really care whether or not modeling amps or virtual amps are "real" or even if they do a particularly good job of simulating the equipment that the software engineers claim to have emulated in designing their product. I've never used even a fraction of the equipment that these things emulate, and I don't think that really matters. What matters to me is whether the sounds that my guitar produces when I'm using one of these software packages inspires me to play better or differently in a way that reminds me why I love music in the first place. If using it and playing with it puts a smile on my face and keeps me coming back then I'm interested. If I find myself spending a lot of time tweaking it or stuck in a rut with no smile on my face, well...that's not so good.

If I were a gigging musician I'd be a lot more concerned with simplicity and live switching and reliability. If I were a recording musician I'd be a lot more concerned with how these things sound when they are buried in a mix with a lot of other elements. If I were one of those guys that argues about which players or what guitars or amps are better than the others I'd be spending all my time arguing about a bunch of old equipment I had never played in an effort to sound like an authority. And I'd probably own a cheap tube amp and talk about that old Fender/Marshall/Mesa/Vox that I wish I'd never sold.

That's not me.

I'm the guy that plays mostly badly, mostly in his bedroom, mostly through headphones. And I'm the guy that, every once in a while, changes the settings on my modeling software to something new and different and looks up an hour later and find that he's been chasing the sounds that were in his own head and not sounding like a deficient imitation of his favorite guitar players.

My reviews are going to be biased towards those moments.

Just so you know.

No comments:

Post a Comment