2012 Winter NAMM – Preview Day
It’s almost like NAMM starts a day earlier now. Wednesday was a press preview with a few new exhibitors as well as some stage presentations (most of which I missed). In addition, there were a number of press conferences. These weren’t in-depth looks but
here are a few curious things that caught my eye.
Auto-Tune for Guitar
I guess I should give Peavey credit for displaying this, since they were showing it on one of their guitars (Parker has it, too), but the technology is from Anaares. It’s a small DSP board implementing the well known Auto-Tune process which can be built into an electric guitar. Strum across the open strings, press a button, and the processor spits out each string in tune regardless of the physical tuning (I assume it needs to be somewhat close). Peavey takes credit for what they call the Solid-Tune Intonation System that constantly monitors the pitch of every note played and makes corrections to intonation. It’s smart enough to understand bends and vibrato. If it works as well as I saw in a quick demo, it’s really amazing. Too bad there isn’t an acoustic version. Maybe some day.
Slaperoo – Bass? Percussion Instrument?
This is a square metal tube about 5 feet long with a metal band sort of like the steel packang bands sometimes used to hold crates closed stretched between bridges along the tube’s length. There’s an acoustic pickup at the bottom end. You can fret the band with a finger to get pitches, and slap it against the tube for percussion. It never really sounds like a bass, but it’s pretty interesting when played through the string of pedals that the inventor was using with it.
Light Your Guitar On Fire
Or your wireless microphone, or your trumpet, or your drum set, or your hands. Pyro-Fire USA, who has apparently been around for 30 years doing pyrotechnics for shows, is now offering a system that’s safe enough to be used by bands without having a technician come along to keep from buringing down the house. They have a water based fuel and a series of “flamethrower” hardware (that they wouldn’t show me – said it was a trade secret) that can be adapted to whatever you want, on a custom basis. For $750 they’ll equip your guitar and teach you how to use it safely.
Enhance Your One Man Band Act With Footdrum
You’ve probably seen street musicians with a tambourine attached to a shoe, or a hi-hat or kick drum, but the Footdrum is a pretty full drum kit with kick, snare, cymbal, and interchangeable hand percussion, all of which can be operated by foot pedals. Inventor Pete Farmer also has a high tech harmonica rack to complete the one man band setup. I asked if he was fan of Jesse Fuller and he just smiled, which made me smile.
Remember the Buttkicker?
That was a voice coil driven weight triggered by the kick drum that attached to the drummer’s stool and gave him a kick in the butt to supplement the never enough kick drum in the monitor. The Porter & Davies tactile monitoring drum system takes this a step further by making the driver sensitive to dynamics (the Buttkicker is a one-kick pony). They’re selling a complete system with a stool and driver amplifier in either a rack mount or portable case. When I tried it, it felt to me like there was too much sustain, but there are a couple of controls on the amplifier that allowed me to tune it to more like what I thought it should feel like.
This is a new software application from Roland that can be used for a multitude of things that I’d broadly characterize as messing around with recorded music. If you’ve ever used a spectral editor, the concept will be familiar to you. A graphic display of the music shows pitch running from top to bottom, pan position from left to right, and volume by color. You can “lasso” an element in a mix and then start playing with it. You can adjust its level, adjust the level of everything else, add a reverb or delay effect, pan it to a different position in the mix, and save your work as a new file. There’s also a noise reduction tool with presets for hiss, hum, wind, and air handling noise, and you can adjust pitch and speed of the playback. R-Mix seems to work best on lead vocals or solo instruments, or instruments with a limited range of pitch, and I can see it being useful for learning and woodshedding. It’s for both Windows and Mac, and there’s also an iPad version.
Oh, and then there’s the TC Polytune firmware update to accommodate dropped-D tuning that I posted about here months and months ago? Turns out that it’s been included with units shipped for a while now, and the download to update an older unit is supposed to be coming on line for the NAMM show. I’ll give it a try when I get home.
Today starts the real show. My first show day is usually pretty scattered, so check in tomorrow for more of what’s new and interesting.