All posts tagged thr guitar rig

Felix – Yet Another Mobile Guitar Rig

After more than a year of watching dust gather on a pile of depreciating music gear, I now return to my mobile guitar rig project. Having vacillated between a computer DAW approach and a tablet approach for a few weeks, it is time to move forward with a hybrid laptop/iPad system.

302900_231781686889200_1784968778_nThe iPad-only based system would have been a cool rig, but it presented challenges and roadblocks at almost every turn. Abandoning that limitation opened more options than one can count. While this quickly led to choice paralysis, luckily a combination of preorder impulse purchases and prematurely announced gear finally shipping coalesced into a perfect storm of incentive to move forward.  The latest version of the THR Guitar Rig is now, the newly code-named, Felix.

IMG_2760Felix is a magic bag of techno-toys that “must never be used for anything bad.” This is debatable by those who hear me play. Nevertheless, this latest guitar-rig-in-a-bag extends the original vision and may end up doing dual duty. Thanks to the innovative features of the iConnect AUDIO 4+ interface, this design will be a full featured noise maker with and/or without a DAW. More to come on the system as it develops.

David Gilmour Tutorial – Sound on Sound in Ableton Live

This tutorial describes how to recreate David Gilmour’s “Sound on Sound” effect. David uses a dual amp setup on Shine On you Crazy Diamond to achieve an infinite sustain over which he can play solos. Check out this article for a more detailed explanation and a video of the effect as used in concert.

Download the Ableton Live set here, MIDI map an expression pedal to the same controls as shown in the tutorial video, plug in a guitar and “shine on you crazy diamond.”

As points out, this effect is not just for guitarists. Keyboard players, electric violinists and even solar powered banjo players can easily add this to their sonic arsenal.

For more info on my Ableton Live centric guitar rig, here is the series and collected articles.

THR Guitar Rig – Part 6 – David Gilmour and Sound on Sound

One aspiration of the THR Guitar Rig design is the one-man-band aspect; to enable one player to sound bigger and fuller than a single instrumentalist. It is the digital equivalent of strapping cymbals to ones knees and a base drum on your back.

Certainly Ableton Live’s very capable loopers play well with this concept, but exploring ways to get large live sound beyond looping is a particular interest of mine. Plugins like Roger Linn’s AdrenaLinn Sync add layers of clock-synced effects and syncopated rhythms that add space, depth and an aural complexity to a single instrument. I am also experimenting with CamelSpace, the over-the-top rhythmic multi-effects plug in from Camel Audio. Another approach I have been playing with is recreating David Gilmour’s “sound-on-sound” technique in Ableton Live.

David Gilmour – Sound on Sound

When David was playing a series of acoustic concerts in 2001 he wanted to open the show with what many consider to be the quintessential Pink Floyd work, Shine On You Crazy Diamond. He pictured himself on a bare stage, acoustic guitar in hand, unaccompanied by other instrumentalists.

He developed a “sound on sound” approach using a dual amp setup with a digital delay to sustain chords on one amp while he soloed over the chords on the other amp, giving the song a rich and evolving backing track. Below is a video of a performance from 2002.


The Sound on Sound effect, isn’t an effect from of a pedal but rather the effect achieved when splitting the signal in two with a long delay assigned to one channel. David strums a chord and makes a volume swell with the volume pedal assigned for the Sound on Sound channel. The signal travels to the Sound on Sound unit (basically a A/B router unit made by Pete Cornish) and into the Roland digital delay, which is set to 1500ms lasting about 20 seconds. The signal then travels into a Hiwatt and WEM cabinet used only for this effect. Gilmour lowers the volume pedal and plays a solo fed through the “normal” signal path, while the Sound on Sound pad is sustained by the long delay. The pattern is repeated for each chord.

This beautiful and deceptively simple approach is an elegant solution – when it works. Again, from

David struggled a lot with the Sound on Sound effect. Some times it worked and some times it didn’t and if it didn’t he got all sorts of feedback and ringing notes.

Sound on Sound in Ableton Live

I can relate to David’s frustrations as I endeavor to recreate this setup “in the box” within Ableton Live. I have made some progress using AdrenaLinn Sync as the delay and a SoftStep foot controller manipulating plugin parameters, sends and volumes in Ableton. I am still tweaking it, but once I crack the technique, I will post the results along with a demo here.

Sound on Sound Pedals

If I were still into hardware and pedals I would go the far easier route with the Hold – Delay – Chorus stomp box from ZCAT, or the Electro-Harmonix Freeze Sound Retainer . Both look to be a very clean way to achieve this effect. Just hold down the button and boom – instant backing. Check out the video demo below of the Freeze to see what else can be done with this type of setup.

THR Guitar Rig – Part 5 – Split Loom and Zip Ties

The THR Guitar Rig has has always been about portability – lightweight gear with heavyweight capability. A nice bonus is keeping the pieces together, in one bag, always ready to go. The ability to carry everything in one load without breaking my back is also a plus. This concept led to the octopus approach to cable management.

A backpack (the octopus) is the travel case for most of the gear. The power supplies, USB hubs and other pieces stay put in the bag connecting via bundled cables (the octopus’s arms) to each component. The bag is centrally located on the stage (the octopus’s garden?)

Multiple cables stay organized when wrapped with split loom. Power supplies and USB connections are zip tied into one tidy bundle. Previously they were all stuffed into the backpack pocket where they jostled about. A plastic craft box now keeps everything solid and the USB connections protected.

New smaller wire bundles are a big plus over prior incarnations of the system. A heavy audio cable used to run an analogue audio feed from the MacBook Air stereo mini plug to an amplified speaker. This put a lot of weight on the delicate little Mac audio port. Now a single USB cable takes over the audio out responsibilities in addition to its other data routing duties. This approach also upgrades the overall sound quality.

There are still a few problems to solve. The most annoying is a low but audible clicking sound leaking into the audio. It seems to coincide with the MIDI sends. The interference could be anywhere in the chain, but the likely suspects are the Sonuus and the Cakewalk interfaces. The noise is so faint that I can live with it – for a while.

The Keith McMillien SoftStep foot controller was also causing me fits. It is a wonderfully versatile, lightweight contraption that blows away any other controller I have seen, but in doing so it generates a loud buzz throughout the system.

The electroluminescent wire that gives the buttons their cool blue glow also makes the unit unusable (for my needs at least) when lit up. KMI recommends turning off the button backlighting. That is a far from satisfying solution since glowing buttons was one of the features that first attracted me to the unit, but it’s better than “buzzzzzzzz.”

I have only scratched the surface of the SoftStep foot controllers capabilities, so I hope to spend more time soon learning what it can bring to the system – if it stays. I hope it does. I would hate to go back to the Behringer or Roland foot controllers. While great gear, they are each heavier and bulkier than all the other components of the system put together.

THR Guitar Rig – Part 4 – Yamaha Speaks Up

This week brings new gear, better sound and a new name to my ever-changing, revolving door of technology, guitar system. The Roland CM-30 monitor speaker is out. It had great mixing features and good volume, but lacked a sparkle in its sound. It is now replaced with a very different beast – the Yamaha THR10, cleverly marketed as “your third amp.” With the THR10 taking such a prominent place in the system, it seems appropriate to pilfer Yamaha’s moniker for this third incarnation of the system.

Yamaha THR10 VolumeThe amazing little THR10 practice amp takes on the responsibility for sound output as well as USB guitar input, leaving no place for the Sonuus i2M USB to remain in the system. As a USB input the Yamaha does double duty by feeding 4 audio channels to the computer; a dry direct signal (doubled to stereo) and the stereo processed signal. The amp sims and effects of the THR10 are well implemented and a great new addition to the system. Direct monitoring of wet signal is a lag-free experience, and the THR features two handy knobs for independent volume control of the processed guitar and the USB audio from the computer.

Yamaha THR10 and Sonuus G2MI missed the monophonic MIDI of the Sonuus i2M so I added a Sonuus G2M into the mix. This unit does the same hardware MIDI conversion as the i2M but there is no USB or analog-to-digital. It sends the MIDI signal out through a standard 5-pin din plug (Just when I thought MIDI cables were out of my life). A quick search through some boxes of ancient gear unearthed a quite servicable USB MIDI interface; the Cakewalk UM-1G. It is a compact little unit that now lives strapped to the back of the Sonuus. This is still a temporary MIDI solution, waiting to be replaced later this year (hopefully) by the Fishman Triple Play.

DA Guita Rig – Part 3 – It Works!

I have been traveling a bit with the new DA Guitar Rig and am happy to find that it all actualy works. This is a bit surprising as there were many unknowns in putting this mess together. Here is a quick rundown of some of the pros, cons and future enhancements of the system.

The sound and signal from guitar to laptop is awesome. The Sonuus i2M USB device injects a clean signal with very low latency into the Ableton Live brain while the 1.6 GHz MacBook Air barely breaks a sweat, even with 8 to 10 channels of processing craziness happening at once.

Read more about the craziness

Your Third Amp – The Yamaha THR-10

The desktop guitar amp is a great idea that has yet to find it’s ideal form factor and price point. A few friends and I have seen, played and returned or Craigslisted many in a search for small sonic delight. A few of the more interesting ones were the Vox JamVox (nice software), the Zoom ZFX (cool case), the Fender G-DEC series (backing tracks galore).

Yamaha enters the fray with the THR-10, part practice amp, part USB audio device and part nightlight. Yamaha want this to be your “third amp.” Check out this comprehensive demonstration and interview with by Yamaha Product Specialist Julian Ward.

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DA Guitar Rig – Part 2 – Cable Management

One of the design goals of the DA Guitar Rig is to conquer cable management. The mystery box in the middle of the drawing above represents this aspiration. It is an octopus of leads routing data, analogue audio and power to each device.

On the right is a photo of my first attempt at creating such a beast. It is an old computer bag containing every cable in the system, a USB hub, digital to analogue audio device and a power splitter. All necessary cables are cut to appropriate lengths. When multiple cables lead to a device, those will eventually be loom bundled. The cables never leave the bag. They unroll and attach to each device, but always lead back to the central bag/hub. No loose cables equal no lost cables. I also keep a small stash of replacement cables around just in case.

Continue reading. It gets better.

The DA Guitar Rig – Live, AdrenaLinn, Lemur and more

Here is a look at my latest guitar setup. The previous system was built around a Roland GR-55 Guitar Synthesizer: a great gadget, but quite complex. So after selling it on Craigslist, as well as a few other items, I started building this new rig based on staying “in the box.” This is the plan for this never-ending work in progress.

MacBook Air, Ableton Live and AdrenaLinn Sync

Live is one freaky DAW. Part workstation, part recording studio, part performance tool, part instrument. There are so many ways to approach Live it can be a bit boggling. For the moment,  I am  using it for plug-in hosting (Native Instruments Guitar Rig, AdrenaLinn Sync), a few synths, backing tracks and the thoughtfully designed Live Looper.

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