My Morning Jacket’s Jim James joins us to discuss our very first amps, and where they are now.


Q: What was your first amp? Do you still have it?



Photo by Atlas Icons — Igor Vidyashev

Jim JamesMy Morning Jacket
A: It was a shitty little 10-watt Ross amp, and boy it sounded like dog shit but I bet now I would love it. I definitely don’t have that still. I wish I did. Every time I move, I lose stuff!

Current obsession: I just went into the studio for three days to cut some acoustic songs. I was just sitting there playing as many songs as I could—just me and an acoustic guitar. I’m obsessed with the idea of back in the early days of studio recordings when they would just send a guy from RCA to Virginia or whatever or put a notice up for people to come down and play. It felt like that. I’m also obsessed with Martin 000-15s from the 1950s. I’ve got two of ’em. That’s hands-down my favorite acoustic.


Mike WarrenReader of the Month
A: A Marlboro Sound Works combo from around 1977-’78. They were rare and really cheap, $50 or less, but that was a lot for me back then. I bought it at the PX at McChord Air Force Base as I was still living at home (dad was military retired). That’s where things began for me and I learned my first songs, chords, etc. on that crummy amp. I had it until the mid-’80s when my house got robbed.

Current obsession: To continue to improve as a player and continue to learn new things and new songs. The learning process never ends, especially for me. Refining my tone is another ongoing process.


Ted DrozdowskiSenior Editor
A: I bought a JMF Spectra 30-T, in blonde Tolex, because I wanted an amp with channel switching so I could play clean and dirty at will. Both channels sounded nasty, even to a beginner, so I sold it to an electric violinist for about what I paid, and put the cash into a 1966 Twin Reverb that I still own. Score!

Current obsession: Blending amps in the studio. Always two at once, sometimes four on a song, for sonic variety. Can’t go wrong following Jimi’s path.

 

Tessa JeffersManaging Editor
A: My high-school sweetheart gifted me an Epiphone EP-800R, along with a cherry sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Junior, on my 17th birthday. I still have both (pictured). I didn’t know it was an acoustic amp for years, but I do know that it sounds ratchet but I love it and have kept it alive and with me through the years.

Current obsession: Every year after Bonnaroo, I’m obsessed with who I saw live (or missed, in some cases). This year, that’s Muse (they left my face in a puddle), Sturgill Simpson, Eminem, Tash Sultana, the Killers, Alt-J, Thundercat, Bassnectar, Tyler Childers, and the list goes on.


Tash Sultana holding nothing back during her Bonnaroo performance. Photo by Chris Kies


Rich OsweilerAssociate Editor
A: A 1977 SG Systems SG-212. It’s not your typical first amp before age 10, but my old man worked for Norlin at the time. Amazingly, I still have this 2x12 beast, and I don’t know why since I’m a minimalist by nature. “Blue Jean” weighs about 90 pounds and looks like a cross between a doomsday device from a ’60s Japanese sci-fi flick and an HVAC unit from the same decade. No tolex here: It’s dressed in denim, baby. It’s also incredibly loud and clean with scads of headroom. Channel 1 is a dreamy tube-amp pedal platform and channel 2 has several built-in effects including a phase shifter.

Current obsession: Opal from Vinyl Williams. Recorded almost entirely by multi-instrumentalist Lionel Williams, this guitar- and synth-heavy set of tracks is a warm and gooey psych-rock ride to the other side.

Rig Rundown: Adam Shoenfeld

Whether in the studio or on his solo gigs, the Nashville session-guitar star holds a lotta cards, with guitars and amps for everything he’s dealt.

Adam Shoenfeld has helped shape the tone of modern country guitar. How? Well, the Nashville-based session star, producer, and frontman has played on hundreds of albums and 45 No. 1 country hits, starting with Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown,” since 2005. Plus, he’s found time for several bands of his own as well as the first studio album under his own name, All the Birds Sing, which drops January 28.

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Diatonic sequences are powerful tools. Here’s how to use them wisely.

Advanced

Beginner

• Understand how to map out the neck in seven positions.
• Learn to combine legato and picking to create long phrases.
• Develop a smooth attack—even at high speeds.

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Knowing how to function in different keys is crucial to improvising in any context. One path to fretboard mastery is learning how to move through positions across the neck. Even something as simple as a three-note-per-string major scale can offer loads of options when it’s time to step up and rip. I’m going to outline seven technical sequences, each one focusing on a position of a diatonic major scale. This should provide a fun workout for the fingers and hopefully inspire a few licks of your own.
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