Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner Review

When it comes to obvious pedal combinations, could tuning and volume control be the new peanut butter and jelly?


Top-of-class display. Accurate, quick tuning. Visual readout for volume level. Bang for buck.

Some may wish for a touchless sensor rather than a cable mechanism.


Ernie Ball VPJR Tuner

Ease of Use:



Using their industry-standard, rock-solid VPJR volume pedal as a template, Ernie Ball's engineers somehow found a way to integrate an onboard chromatic tuner to the formula. This is not a gimmicky add-on. The tuner's functionality and display rival many of the better standalone tuners available. The smartphone-like touchscreen monitor is large, with a crystal-clear display, and there's an option to choose between three modes: volume only, tuner only, or volume and tuner (my preference), where the tuner function automatically engages when the treadle is heel down. When in tuner mode, double tapping the monitor reveals a pitch screen to select your chosen frequency above or below standard 440 Hz.

The tuner's functionality and display rival many of the better standalone tuners available.

Tuning on the bright, liquid-like clear screen presents the octave and reference pitch in addition to the large display of the note, which sits between sharp and flat indicators. And once the selected string's note has been hit, the entire needle field lights up with a brilliant-green background (from blue) to confirm you're there. Another big bonus about the display is that when you're in volume mode, a monitor-filling 1-10 level indicator is right at your feet. Sure, volume pedals are typically maneuvered by touch and audibility, but think about it: It's a damn cool feature to be able to view exactly where you're at or need to be.

I haven't even touched on the potential pedalboard real-estate savings, but the math is pretty easy for this two-in-one piece of gear. I guess I'm a sucker for smart design, performance, and efficiency. Maybe you are, too.

Test Gear: 2002 Fender Precision, GK 800RB, Orange OBC212, Gibson SG Special Faded, CMI Electronics SG-212

"'If I fall and somehow my career ends on that particular day, then so be it," Joe Bonamassa says of his new hobby, bicycling. "If it's over, it's over. You've got to enjoy your life."

Photo by Steve Trager

For his stylistically diverse new album, the fiery guitar hero steps back from his gear obsession and focuses on a deep pool of influences and styles.

Twenty years ago, Joe Bonamassa was a struggling musician living in New York City. He survived on a diet of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ramen noodles that he procured from the corner bodega at Columbus Avenue and 83rd Street. Like many dreamers waiting for their day in the sun, Joe also played "Win for Life" every week. It was, in his words, "literally my ticket out of this hideous business." While the lottery tickets never brought in the millions, Joe's smokin' guitar playing on a quartet of albums from 2002 to 2006—So, It's Like That, Blues Deluxe, Had to Cry Today, and You & Me—did get the win, transforming Joe into a guitar megastar.

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  • Develop a better sense of subdivisions.
  • Understand how to play "over the bar line."
  • Learn to target chord tones in a 12-bar blues.
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Playing in the pocket is the most important thing in music. Just think about how we talk about great music: It's "grooving" or "swinging" or "rocking." Nobody ever says, "I really enjoyed their use of inverted suspended triads," or "their application of large-interval pentatonic sequences was fascinating." So, whether you're playing live or recording, time is everyone's responsibility, and you must develop your ability to play in the pocket.

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