A guitarist and musical director explains how the iPad has become a central hub for surviving in the studio, in rehearsals, and on the road.

Jim's studio, anchored by the iPad
Everyone knows the iPad is changing the face of media and music. To date the iPad has sold 25 million units, paid $2.5 billion to software developers for apps, and sold 130 million iBooks— according to Apple’s latest announcements made from the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco on June 6, 2011.

Let’s not forget the iPad’s importance—and usefulness—for professional musicians. For many, it’s like the reinvention of the wheel. The iPad has revolutionized how musicians—myself included—approach practice, rehearsal, recording, and live shows.

The Musical Director
As a professional musical director, producer, and musician, my days are hectic. An average morning for me includes running through a rehearsal with Avril Lavigne at 11 a.m., then running across Los Angeles to a studio session with Weezer in the late afternoon. Because I am always hustling to fit every ounce of rock in, I always have to make sure I have my keys, shades, phone—and now, my iPad.

In preparation for Avril Lavigne’s latest world tour supporting Goodbye Lullaby, I used the iPad extensively in rehearsals. As Avril’s musical director, it is important for me to have all of her music at my fingertips—and easily accessible—so I load every one of her new and old tracks onto the built-in iPod. I also use Notes to jot down thoughts or ideas, and I import or create lyrics with the Pages app. The iPad is always on a stand next to my pedalboard—far easier than walking over to a computer all the time.

The iPad can also be a lifesaver when working out new material in rehearsals. As musical director for Weezer, we were working on a cover version of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android.” I brought the iPad to the studio to access the Radiohead recording, as well as several live versions I pulled up on YouTube. With five guys set up in normal playing positions, I bring the iPad around to each of them and play them a riff from iTunes, or show them a YouTube clip without anyone having to get up and walk around to me.

The iPad is popping up in other high profile, real-world applications as well. Paul Mirkovich, musical director for Pink, Cher, Christina Aguilera, and Janet Jackson, uses the iPad in rehearsals and live onstage for the new hit CBS show The Voice.

“I use the iPad extensively on The Voice during rehearsals. I use the GoodReader app to read all the PDF charts I have for the show, which is almost 160 songs at this point,” said Mirkovich. “I also use it for personal playback, and looking up live versions of the songs we do on YouTube. The iPad is an indispensable piece of gear and is always on the stand with me.”

The Guitarist
Of course, there are multitudes of applications for guitarists not in charge of major productions as well. There is a wealth of guitar-specific apps [as covered previously in Premier Guitar’s "The Guitarist's Guide to iPad Apps"] that simplify and enhance life as a guitarist. They let you record, stay in tune, learn, and capture ideas. And some push you to approach the instrument in a whole new way.

Ryan James Cheung, a musician from Winnipeg, said “As a guitarist and bassist, the most interesting aspect of using something like the virtual guitars in GarageBand is that you play the onscreen guitar more like a piano than a guitar. What I like about this is that it breaks the conventional techniques we guitarists usually employ on the guitar, once we transfer what we have written on the iPad, to an actual guitar.”

Among guitar-specific apps, I find that AmpliTube iRig is essential. It allows you to plug in and play your guitar through choices of amps, cabs, speakers, and effects. The sound quality is superb and the app itself is instantly inspiring. For tuning, TuneORama is one of the most accurate stand-alone tuners available. It has guitar and chromatic tuner mode, which is perfect for tuning instruments like mandolin and violin (and is a great value at $2.99). For capturing ideas on the fly, BPM is a great app for taping out a tempo. The built-in Voice Memos Recorder is indispensable for getting an idea down quickly, before it falls into the abyss of “Man, what was that awesome lick I came up with the other day?”

The Road Dog
Though there are thousands of music-specific apps, some of the more general apps can be a lifesaver for touring musicians. I probably use Facetime more than any other app. You can video call anyone who has an iPhone, iPad, or any Apple computer with a camera over WiFi. The quality is dependent on your WiFi connection, but in most cases, it has worked flawlessly for me. Recently, I had a video chat from Cologne, Germany with a friend who was driving on the freeway up the East Coast in the US. With long distance phone charges at a premium, Facetime saves me a ton of cash. Psychologically, it’s a great feeling to be able to see the people I love anytime I want—without worrying about coming home to a massive phone bill.

Steve Ferlazzo's system that uses the iPad to control keyboard programs

Another reality of touring today is the importance of staying up-to-date with social media—it’s crucial for musicians because you need to get people to the shows. Guitarists and bands can use Twitter, Facebook, and Ustream on the iPad to promote upcoming events on the road, without needing to stop by a coffee shop or hotel to jump onto WiFi. When you get into a heated debate with bandmates in the back of the bus or van about who played the solo on Steely Dan’s “My Old School,” the iPad has the answer in seconds. It’s the little things that count on the road.

The iPad helps touring musicians in other ways too. FlightTrack Pro is perfect for managing flights for gigs with to-the-minute information on delays, gates, and flight duration. And the SeatGuru app provides valuable info for securing the primo seats on any type of aircraft.

The Producer or Studio Musician
The iPad also creates an innovative way to collaborate with other musicians who may not be living near you, and to make life in the studio easier.

As a producer, I have used Facetime for writing and pre-production sessions with clients remotely. I am based in LA, and have worked with people virtually through Facetime in Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida, and even Canada. When I am on the road, I can communicate with my engineer back at my LA studio by sending mixes, files, and notes through Dropbox or emails. Producer Matt Chirichillo says, “To me, the iPad is a form of inspiration on the go. I use it to construct loops and put grooves together. It’s like having a travel size sequencer at your fingertips.”

DJ and producer Tom Colontonio uses the iPad to “scratch pad ideas.” Colontonio uses Studio Pro for full WAV file editing, and he stresses the fact that “The iPad rules,” for DJs in the digital realm.

In addition, musicians are using the iPad to replace sheet music. The BT-105 Bluetooth wireless page turner from AirTurn allows you to control the turning of pages wirelessly from a foot switch. It’s especially useful for guitarists who need to keep both hands on their instrument while using apps for reading sheet music and guitar tabs. Classical musicians who use sheet music live can use the iPad to play entire symphonies and operas without ever having to turn a page. Instead of breaking rhythm, they can fluidly play through a piece of music simply by tapping the switch with their foot.

Live Onstage
Finally, in addition to use during preparation for shows, many musicians are using the iPad while playing live. Steve Ferlazzo, the keyboardist and programmer for Avril Lavigne, uses the iPad as a VNC controller/front-end for the computers. It eliminates the need for a separate screen, keyboard, and mouse for him. Ferlazzo uses a custom app called GriidRed by Liine, which enables the iPad to control and manipulate clips and data in Ableton Live. The units are synched via WiFi on a private network. “The iPad allows me to focus more on performance, as opposed to computer-related tasks. It's a seamless process,” says Ferlazzo. “It's all right in front of me at my fingertips. After using the iPad in a live setting where computers are a requirement, it's hard to imagine it not being a permanent piece in my workflow.”

The iPad was released in 2009 to massive success. Though it seemed to have amazing possibilities for music, no one really knew how the iPad would be used in every day musical applications. In 2011, the iPad has not only become a mainstay in studios and on stages all over the world, it is an indispensable tool that musicians can’t live without.

The Little Monster is the latest release from Matchless Amplifiers, a boutique company known for hand building road-worthy, Class A amps for discerning musicians, and the same visionaries behind

Matchless Little Monster The Little Monster is the latest release from Matchless Amplifiers, a boutique company known for hand building road-worthy, Class A amps for discerning musicians, and the same visionaries behind designs like the HC-30 and the Clubman. With the announcement of the Little Monster and the Baby - a cleaner, less rock-oriented version set to be released in the coming months - Matchless clearly has its sights set on the small combo market. While previous designs from the company featured higher wattages and larger body frames, these new, smaller models are poised to carry Matchless into the low-wattage/super portable game. Both amps will be situated on the low-end of the company''s price scale, but have the potential to be the coolest products in the Matchless line. With a retail price set around $1799 - one to two thousand less than their other models - the Little Monster is sure to introduce a new, quieter group of players to the world of boutique design.

The Little Monster is aptly named, packing a huge punch in a diminutive frame. But before we get to how the amp sounds, we should talk about how it looks. This combo looks like something from a fifties recording studio crossed with the radio from a 22nd century spaceship. The moon-shaped grill in the middle of the monster''s face has a distinct look that will surely end up being its trademark. From a design standpoint, its ability to appear both modern and retro is aesthetically impressive. The fact that it almost looks like a piece of furniture when sitting in the living room will not be lost on any home-owning gearhead. If you have the foresight to choose the right color, your significant other might not even nag you if the Little Monster is occasionally found outside of your gear room.

Likewise, the control panel keeps things simple and smooth, with Volume, Treble, Bass and Master Volume controls. It also has High and Low input jacks, with the Low only really useful when used to daisy chain to another amp.

Monster Tone
The first thing you notice when you plug the Little Monster in is the sound''s hugeness. Obviously this amp won''t be competing with a high-powered Marshall stack any time soon, but considering the wattage, it produces an incredibly powerful sound - it''s apparent from the get-go that the Little Monster was conceived as a rock amp.

When coupled with a Les Paul, this little guy sounds like a truck bearing down on you at breakneck speed – power chords and crunchy rhythms reveal this amp’s true rock pedigree. Most impressive is that it does this with just nine watts, producing a wide, full sound with surprisingly rich tone. The Little Monster has a robust sound that starts as an open-back, Voxish overdrive, and produces a tighter, closed back, Marshall-like response as it is pushed harder.

Matchless Little Monster With a Tele or a Strat, you would expect to lose some of the bass, but surprisingly, that doesn’t happen here – by simply boosting the Treble and turning down the Bass, you can achieve a cleaner, chimey tone. Of course, because you are only working with nine watts, you won’t hear a drastic difference from knob adjustments – if you want more bass, you may want to run a Gibson through it. But if you’re a versatile player and know how to use the volume knob on your guitar, odds are you will be able to find the sound you’re after.

One of the amp''s best features is the Master Volume circuit. The Little Monster can produce a serious rock crunch at very low volumes with the Volume knob cranked and the Master turned way down. You''ll obviously lose some of the spread at a low volume, but this can be extremely useful when recording in home studios. Once the Master Volume is turned up past ten o''clock, the amp starts some tasty break-up, but always at a manageable volume.

Keep in mind that because of the low wattage, you will not have as much headroom as Matchless’ more powerful models – but that’s a small price to pay for rock n’ roll infamy. This amp is a great choice for small clubs or any performing situation where stage volume is an issue. By mic’ing the cab, you can still get a big rock sound without prompting the lead singer to scream at you to turn it all down.

On the tech side, the Little Monster is powered by one EL84 tube, driven by two 12AX7s, and features a 5AR4 bottle for rectifier chores. The 1x12 version comes with a Celestion G12H-30 speaker; a dual 8” version is also available, which includes one Jensen C8R and one P8R, giving you a mix of ceramic and Alnico tones. Whatever configuration you decide to go with, the combo produces massive sound from an overhead compartment-worthy 16”x18”x10” frame, and its hand-built, point-to-point construction feels incredibly solid.

As with all Matchless amps, it features an impedance selector, allowing the use of 4, 8 or 16 ohm cabs, as well as the ever-popular backlit Matchless logo. Additionally, the back panel packs in a Line Out, Speaker Out and power chord socket. The Little Monster follows its bigger siblings'' leads by relying on military spec parts, meaning even a mortar couldn’t take this thing down. The only potential drawback here is the 40-pound curb weight – a tradeoff for all the features this amp delivers.

The Final Mojo
All in all, the Little Monster is a great buy for anyone loving big, saturated tones, but not the ear drum-rattling sound pressure levels. This is a powerhouse rock amp in a small, portable package – versatile enough for most rock and pop applications, and full of that famous Matchless mojo. But buyer beware – this monster bites!
Buy if...
you want a great sounding, portable Class A rock amp that can be cranked anywhere.
Skip if...
you need an am pwith tons of headroom.

MSRP $1799 - Matless Amplifiers - matchlessamplifiers.com

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Anabolic Rock

In this age of technology, we can do more with less. But as technology capable of turning non-musicians into stars becomes a bigger part of the recording process, how

Anabolic Rock

In this age of technology, we can do more with less. But as technology capable of turning non-musicians into stars becomes a bigger part of the recording process, how will we know what is “real” or “fake”?

On the evening of August 7, 2007 Barry Bonds did what was considered a Herculean feat in sport, surpassing Hank Aaron for the most career home runs in major league baseball (at the time, 756). As the ball sailed all 435 feet out of AT&T Park, I paused to consider the conflicted feelings I had about an amazing sport and this recent milestone. It’s obvious to any fan of the game that Barry Bonds is an amazing baseball player, but his alleged steroid use unfortunately calls into question the legitamacy of his achievement. FOX’s Tim McCarver said of the event, “Only time will tell if baseball’s steroid era will result in a number of asterisks within the record book, but there are already mental asterisks in the minds of fans. It’s a shame that, after Bonds breaks the record, the conversation will go, ‘Barry is the all-time home run hitter, but…’ This record deserves more than that. With Henry Aaron, there were no buts.”

But I digress, this isn’t an article about baseball or steroids – although I think there are some serious parallels between the two.

As a working musician, much like any athlete, I am always looking for ways to improve my abilities, whether it is through more practice or by utilizing the latest technology available. When it comes to your passion, I can certainly sympathize with anyone who is trying to gain an edge in what they do.

And while I embrace the merging of technology with music, on the other hand (much like a vast majority of baseball fans), I am a traditionalist. I starting learning music at a time when computers were not heavily used, either in recording or instruction. I took piano lessons when I was very young, and I taught myself how to play guitar by watching others and looking at books. After high school, I attended Berklee College of Music where I really explored the history of music. I honed my craft. I learned what makes it what it is. And now I have been playing music professionally for over ten years now – I have been in a position to witness the explosive expansion of technology and how it has become a mainstay in today’s music business.

Anabolic Rock

The Tech Boom
No matter where you stand on tradition, it can’t be denied that many of the things that have come out of this technological boom have improved the quality of music and made musicians’ lives easier. A few of my favorites are the now ubiquitous iPod; Pro Tools and the wide variety of available plug-ins, making recording faster, easier and limitless; new keyboard technology and the ability to manipulate sounds with almost limitless variation and little sweat; virtual instruments, allowing you to have an orchestra at your fingertips; and non-destructive editing of sound files. All of these product innovations are amazing, inspiring and aid in our abilities to create and enjoy music.

Of course, as with any great innovation, there is the inevitable downside. All of these products are insanely powerful, capable of creating amazing musical miracles. Perhaps it was said best by Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in the comic Amazing Fantasy #15, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

The manufacturers of these technologies are constantly and simultaneously loading them with more features and making them easier to use. Now, a person who takes the time to learn and manipulate these products can create something that sounds unbelievable with little or no human input – in a historically unique moment, it is now possible to make a record or create music without the playing of any instrument! With the help of modern technology, you could take an average voice off the street and make it sound like Pavarotti. If you’re honest with yourself, do you really believe that Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan can sing?

That being said, there is no doubt that technology can be inspirational. Pete Townsend’s visionary approach to sound gave us seminal tracks like “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Quincy Jones blended cutting edge technology and live musicians to create Off the Wall and Thriller. There are many producers and musicians doing innovative work in today’s music, such as Dr. Dre and Timabland.

But the question inevitably becomes, where does the line between what is natural and what is fake get drawn? Is there a point where asterisks should be placed next to album tracks, next to artist names?

There is definitely a talent to working with Pro Tools and the myriad related products. Like graphics programs such as Adobe Photoshop, it takes real skill to coax the potential from these applications. The biggest qualm I have, along with many musical “traditionalists”, lies with a new generation of musicians – and certainly not all of them – who are using technology to compensate for a lack of talent and originality. Tuning programs like Antares Auto Tune and Melodyne can create a vocal performance that would never have been possible from the singer’s own voice (more about these later).

Anabolic Rock

From a rhythmic perspective, if you were to “grid” a classic Rolling Stones song in Pro Tools or Logic, you would discover the time is shifting all over the place. The click track might go out the window, but the song would still groove.

There are also several programs designed to place music in the exact right time by using a grid. Quantizing programs like Beat Detective allow the musician (or non-musician) to play “out of time” and magically have it sound in time. Eric Robinson, a producer, engineer and artist in Los Angeles summed it up, saying, “Technology enables processing that used to be impossible or incredibly time-consuming to be done at light speed and easily repeated. This is where many people lose sight of what they are working on and rely on technology to fix what they either can’t do or don’t want to spend the time to make right.”

Correcting the Pitch
Over the last ten years, audio engineers have been perfecting a technique called “pitch correction or tuning,” in which they take someone’s recorded lead vocal and “put it in tune” with the use of various computer programs that allow the note to be altered into perfect tune. As with anything else, there are good and bad sides to this. The obvious upside is that if the singer sings flat or sharp, it can be fixed after the fact. It is a relatively quick procedure and can save valuable studio time if a singer has difficulty hitting the right notes – an engineer can do this in a home studio at little or no cost if they have the right programs. And let’s face it; it also sounds good. No matter how much of a traditionalist you might be, no one wants to hear someone singing out of tune.

As the technology has become more widespread, especially in the past few years, our ears have become accustomed to the sound of “pitch correction.” The downside of this is that when you hear an artist singing live, who was “pitched” severely on their record, you will hear a significant difference. Lead and background vocals are almost always pitched, creating a homogenized syrupy sound. In addition, pitching a great singer can take away a lot of the character of the performance. The slightly flat notes, awkward vibrato and odd phrasing are some of the things we love most about our favorite pre-Pro Tools records.

If Led Zeppelin were set to record a new album in 2007, it would most likely sound nothing like the original recordings that we love so much. The undeniable vibe of the four guys playing together would likely be tainted with the modern attitude of fixing everything and making it “perfect.” From a rhythmic perspective, if you were to “grid” (put the song on a quantized grid that places the audio into blocks, so you can determine whether something is in time or not) a classic Rolling Stones song in Pro Tools or Logic, you would discover the time is shifting all over the place. The click track might go out the window, but the song would still groove. The mojo is still there. Mick Jagger’s voice is raw and untainted.

Recording to tape preserved the artists’ original take for perpetuity. Of course, they would do multiple takes and plucky engineers had some editing tricks (splicing, doubling, etc.), but there were no digital enhancements that helped Mick Jagger sing in key, even if he couldn’t. Back then, you had to perform to make the big money. Real performers like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett grabbed the mic (sometimes doing it without one) and just sang. They were entertainers, and they were able to develop their abilities, but it all started with talent. There were no computers involved.

I spoke with my friend and record producer, Marshall Altman from his recording studio in Burbank, California and asked him if he could weigh in on this topic. Here’s what he had to say:

“As users and creators of technology, we just might be contributing to the death of rock n’ roll, yes. But as Bruce Springsteen said, ‘Everything dies, baby. That’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back. Put your make up on, fix your hair up pretty, meet me tonight in Atlantic City.’ Do you think he’d have written that on an MBox, had the technology been available? I’d like to think he would have.

“So yes, technology is contributing to the death of music in general, not just rock n’ roll, and I say let it die. Let it all die, so it can grow back in to something scarred and beautiful, tragic and noisy, brave, bold, stupid, smart, happy, sad, life-changing and everlasting.

“Let the major labels die a slow, painful death, and let bold new record companies rise like roses growing in the cracked sidewalks of popular culture. Let every band with enough money buy the gear they want, make a record with too much compression and not enough heart. Let every singer-songwriter who suffers from having read too much and not having lived enough make a record, too.

“Let them all come – put them all up on MySpace. The end is near! And I can’t wait for the end, so we can all start listening again. It’s not pretty out there; there’s too much good music and not enough great music. With the advent of the affordable DAW, every kid with a dream and a little money can make a good-sounding record, with some good songs, and some really good artwork. Good is within everyone’s reach, and technology has afforded us the easy opportunity to be good, but good is not great.

“If something is great, the technology used in creating it doesn’t matter. If there is blame to be cast, it shouldn’t fall on the technology that has given us the opportunity to be creative. The blame falls on our shoulders. We listen, we buy, we rip, we steal. We settle. And out of the destruction of it all will come something wonderful. I can’t wait to hear what it is.”

Though I started writing this article months ago, I recently caught MTV’s latest perverse act: the performance by Britney Spears at the Video Music Awards. Ignoring her lethargic, robotic performance and the media’s unhealthy obsession with her weight, the debate centered on her poor lip-syncing skills. As I realized people weren’t upset by the fact that she was not singing, but instead by the fact that her lip-syncing wasn’t up to snuff, I realized that the debate of tradition versus tech isn’t going away anytime soon. It basically seemed that we as popular music consumers are saying, “We are willing to buy something totally fake, we just don’t want you to tell us that it’s fake.”

At this point in our musical and cultural evolution, we have weapons of mass deception and it would seem that no one cares. If Barry Bonds juiced, is it still a record? If you can’t sing on pitch, are you a singer? If our kids cheat in school, will we start putting asterisks next to the As? If video truly killed the radio star, then Pro Tools has put real musicians in a coma.

Jim McGorman is a professional musician who has worked with a diverse group of artists (Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch, Cher, Poison, Paul Stanley, New Radicals, etc.). He is a singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar/bass). In addition to music, Jim currently contributes to a number of magazines and on line publications.

It’s important to know yourself and your playing abilities, to know the situation you’ll be playing in and to remember to not overplay once you get to your audition

How to get the gig

Last month, we spent some time covering what you need to do if you really want to ace that big audition. It’s important to know yourself and your playing abilities, to know the situation you’ll be playing in and to remember to not overplay once you get to your audition. But what else should you keep in mind as you try to land that dream gig?

Step Four – Your Gear
The instruments and gear that a musician uses is a very important part of their job – and can be a deciding factor in an audition. Most auditions will last less than fifteen minutes. That’s the actual time that you have to be in front of the people that will hire you, so you have to utilize that time efficiently. The last thing you want to do is be rushing around dealing with setting up your gear.

A lot of auditions supply gear for you to try out on (with the option of bringing your own). That’s a tough one. Like most musicians, I personally don’t feel comfortable playing someone else’s gear, which means I’ve got to deal with setting up my own. If you’re a guitar player, there is a good chance that the rehearsal room has an amp that is similar to yours – leaving only your guitars and pedals to set up.

If you “have” to bring your own amp, see if you can get there early and set up before the audition starts. Sometimes the only way that can happen is if you offer to let other auditioners use your amp too. This can work for or against you. The drawback is that your sound is not as unique as it could be – and if you have a really cool amp, it might not be known that it is yours. Of course, you know your amp better than anyone else and can dial it in to the sweet spot – it also shows that you are cool and have the confidence to let your playing do the talking. The best part is that you won’t be sweating after carrying in a huge amp right before you play – leaving you flustered and embarrassed.

Step Five – Sing!
Being a singer, I have always tried to showcase my voice while auditioning. In most cases, playing live presents the artist with the difficulty of recreating stacked vocal parts/harmonies that are on their record. Though playing to (pre-recorded) tracks has become a popular remedy for this, it is still preferable to have live singers. I can honestly say that half of the gigs I’ve gotten are because of my pipes. So learn those harmonies!

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