Learn Beatles Licks & More With New Lick of the Day Update

February 28th, 2012 by John Liu

Guitar World Lick of the Day App

We’re excited to announce a new release of Guitar World Lick of the Day that adds The Beatles Lick Packs to our app for learning guitar on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. The new version arrives just in time to celebrate over one million downloads of Lick of the Day. Available on the iTunes App Store, Lick of the Day now offers two great new ways to learn cool guitar licks: Lick Packs and Lick Singles.

Lick Packs

Since the launch of Guitar World Lick of the Day, users have requested licks from top artists as well as licks in specific styles. To deliver on those requests, we worked with our partners at Guitar World to create a new release of Lick of the Day that introduces seven Lick Packs: two The Beatles Lick Packs and five genre-specific Lick Packs that will help you master your chops in a wide range of styles. Each Lick Pack is available as an in-app purchase for only US$4.99.

Guitar World Lick of the Day App

The Beatles Lick Packs

The new release of Lick of the Day features two The Beatles packs. The Beatles: Vol. 1 includes ten classic riffs from “Blackbird,” “Yesterday,” “Ticket to Ride” and the last song recorded by all four Beatles, “The End.” The Beatles: Vol. 2 teaches you how to play ten timeless riffs from the Fab Four, including licks from “Paperback Writer,” “Day Tripper,” “Let It Be” and “Norwegian Wood,” the folk rock masterpiece that features the distinct sound of the sitar played by George Harrison.

When you watch Guitar World’s award-winning instructors demonstrate The Beatles licks, it’s practically impossible not to play along and learn the licks on your own guitar. Don’t forget to check out the Performance Notes that accompany each lick. You’ll find helpful tips that complement the video instruction.

Genre-Specific Lick Packs

In addition to The Beatles Lick Packs, the new version of Lick of the Day also offers five genre-specific Lick Packs as in-app purchases:
Guitar World Lick of the Day Blues Lick Pack
Blues Intro will help you master basic blues chops in the style of Jimmy Page, Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and other blues greats. You’ll learn 12-bar shuffle rhythm patterns, walking bass lines, how to add fills and rhythm patterns, hybrid picking and palm muting, classic blues turnarounds, expressive elements such as finger slides, sweeps and bends, and more.
Guitar World Lick of the Day Acoustic Rock Lick Pack
Acoustic Rock Essentials teaches you techniques used by acoustic rock’s greatest guitarists, including Pete Townshend, John Lennon, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Jimmy Page. This pack covers folk- and country-based rhythm and strumming patterns, how to spice up accompaniment patterns with hammer-ons and pull-offs, chord embellishments, Delta-style blues riffs, Eagles-style capo usage and more.
Guitar World Lick of the Day Classic Metal Lick Pack
Classic Metal Essentials offers shred lessons in the style of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Dimebag Darrell, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen, John Petrucci, and other British and American metal acts from the Eighties to today. This lick pack will teach you the techniques used by metal’s greatest guitar gods, such as thrash-style power-chord chugging, sweep picking, gallop rhythms, palm muting and more.
Guitar World Lick of the Day Bluegrass Lick Pack
Bluegrass Essentials teaches you the basics of bluegrass such as standard strum accompaniment patterns in the keys of C and G, alternating bass lines, walk-ups, hammer-ons and pull-offs, flatpicking melodies, banjo-style forward and backward rolls, “old-timey” and traditional Irish fiddle-style licks with unison notes and “floaters,” and more. Plus, you’ll learn the tune “Whiskey Before Breakfast!”
Guitar World Lick of the Day Jazz Lick Pack
Jazz Essentials will help you learn how to play licks in the style of Wes Mongontmery, Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Al Di Meola, Miles Davis, and others. This pack includes lessons in modal thinking, playing bossa nova style, improvising over chord changes, performing walking bass lines, and more.

With these first seven Lick Packs, you can learn the Beatles riffs you’ve always loved and get in-depth instruction on your favorite playing styles. Keep a lookout for more amazing Lick Packs that we have in the works for Lick of the Day.

Lick Singles

As if the Lick Packs didn’t provide enough new content choices, the new release of Guitar World Lick of the Day also introduces Lick Singles. Users from around the world have asked for the ability to pick their own licks. With Lick Singles, you can choose your own individual riffs from our extensive catalog of amazing licks. The catalog currently includes nearly 500 licks in a wide variety of styles, all demonstrated by Guitar World’s award-winning instructors or guitar celebrities such as Joe Satriani, Doug Aldrich and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Each Lick Single is available for US$0.99. You can buy a set of twenty Lick Credits for only US$4.99 and use each Lick Credit to get a Lick Single at a huge discount.

Guitar World Lick of the Day App

New Features

With all the new content in Lick of the Day, we knew a key feature enhancement had to be more options for sorting licks. Thus, in the new version you can sort your licks by Recently Added, Recently Viewed, Favorites, Genre, Difficulty, Host, Techniques, Tuning, Lick Packs, and Subscription.

To help you learn and play licks more effectively, we added rhythm notation to the tabs for all licks. The new release also introduces A/B Looping which repeats a section of a lick’s tab or standard notation over and over again. You can touch and slide A and B markers to specify the beginning and end of the section that you want repeated. It’s great for practicing a challenging part of a lick that you really want to learn. Finally, we’ve also enhanced the sound font of Lick of the Day and added several new metronome sounds.

We hope you’ll download Guitar World Lick of the Day now. Check out the new Lick Packs and choose some Lick Singles that match your style. Let us know what you think of the new content and features by using the in-app tools for providing feedback.

GuitarTookit Turns 2.0

December 15th, 2011 by Jack Ivers

GuitarToolkit 2.0GuitarToolkit was one of just 552 apps available when the App Store opened on July 11th, 2008. Since then, it has had many substantial upgrades, but no single release was extensive enough to qualify for a 2.0 identifier (yes, we’re tough graders when it comes to release numbering). We’re thrilled today that we can announce a great GuitarToolkit release that clearly justifies the 2.0 designation.

iPad Support

Rather than forcing our GuitarToolkit customers to purchase the app all over again for iPad, we chose to make the iPad upgrade available to all current GuitarToolkit customers, free of charge. Happy holidays! (We do hope many of you will support our development efforts by purchasing the GuitarToolkit+ Upgrade, which is available to everyone on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. More on this in a moment.)

We chose to reimagine the GuitarToolkit user experience for the larger screen and increased horsepower of iPad and iPad 2. GuitarToolkit on iPad provides an immersive fretboard experience, presenting more information, fully supporting landscape and portrait orientations and delivering a wider zoom range. Navigation of chords, scales, and arpeggios (new!) is enhanced by presenting multiple browsing levels simultaneously and exposing additional toggles and controls (for example, the fingers / notes / intervals toggle) right on the main interface. Here’s an example of the chord browser in landscape orientation:
GuitarToolkit Chord Browser
GuitarToolkit Metronome
Another good example of how we’ve appropriately used what the iPad has to offer is in the standard metronome. The metronome’s time signature and accent beats are now visual, and all of the metronome’s options, from audio selection to time signature to options like “visible flash” are now instantly accessible from a single metronome screen. GuitarToolkit’s precision tuner is available as a popover from anywhere in the app, including the metronome screen. Here’s an example of the standard metronome in portrait orientation, with a fun audio selection (“Terrible Timpani”) and an interesting (3+3+3)/8 time signature.

GuitarToolkit+ Upgrade

All GuitarToolkit customers, regardless of device — iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch — can buy the GuitarToolkit+ Upgrade right inside GuitarToolkit 2.0 as an in-app purchase ($4.99, US App Store price). And we think you’re going to want it when you hear what it does for you.
GuitarToolkit Chord Sheet
First of all, let us introduce you to Chord Sheets. If you’ve ever wanted to capture the chords for a new song you’re writing, share chords with your band members, or create a great-sounding chord progression, Chord Sheets is the perfect tool.

Chord Sheets are powered by GuitarToolkit’s chord library, which has quadrupled in size in 2.0 to an astounding 2,000,000 chords. For a given chord type and key, GuitarToolkit usually shows 24 different chords, up and down the fretboard, including inversions. Once you’ve selected a chord, adding it to your Chord Sheet takes two touches. A chord sheet can include any number of chords, and you can create as many Chord Sheets as you want. Better yet, you can email chord sheets from right inside GuitarToolkit and even print them if you’re on iOS 4.3 or newer.

But the best thing? Chord Sheets are interactive: when you touch a chord, you hear it play! A quick touch and the chord is strummed quickly; a longer touch plays each note in the chord more slowly. It is truly an amazing way to hear your compositions come to life. Above is a Chord Sheet in portrait orientation. Note that tuning and capo position are included on the Sheet.

We think Chord Sheets alone will justify a $4.99 investment in GuitarToolkit+, but there’s much more to this upgrade. Most GuitarToolkit customers have several instruments, and with GuitarToolkit+, we give you a way to customize setups for each; we call this Custom Instruments. To create a new instrument, you start by choosing instrument type: we support 6-, 7- and 12-string guitar, 4-, 5- and 6-string bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele. Then (in the case of guitar and bass), let us know whether it’s an electric or acoustic, what kind of strings and pickups it has, and for bass guitars, what technique (picked, fingered, or slapped). So you can create a 6-string classical guitar with nylon strings, a 7-string electric with steel strings and humbucker pickups, or a 4-string electric slap bass.

Based on these settings, GuitarToolkit+ uses appropriate high-fidelity audio samples so you get an amazingly accurate sound quality tailored to each instrument. But your control of audio goes much further: we’ve embedded the AmpKit tone engine right inside GuitarToolkit+, along with over 60 amp/effect presets tailored for both acoustic and electric instruments. Dial up a preset, and now you have high-fidelity instrument samples playing through an appropriate amp and effects pairing, and you hear the result throughout GuitarToolkit — on chords, notes touched on the fretboard, and perhaps most usefully, within Chord Sheets.

GuitarToolkit Custom InstrumentsCustom Instruments lets you customize each instrument’s icon with an appropriate shape and color for each instrument. Electric guitar icons, for example, include shapes reminiscent of the Gibson Les Paul and Flying V, Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, and many more. You can even select which wood should appear on your fretboard when working with chords, scales, and arpeggios. Finally, you can select a tuning for this instrument, and even set a capo position. You might want to create several GuitarToolkit setups for a single instrument if you often play in different tunings. All of these Custom Instrument settings get applied in the right spots throughout GuitarToolkit: the capo, tuning, and fretboard wood show up when you’re browsing chords, the custom icon appears when you’re switching instruments, and so on. Custom Instruments are great fun and quite useful.

So, for $4.99 (US App Store) you get Chord Sheets and Custom Instruments. Pretty sweet, no? But there is one more thing ….

Astute readers might have noticed the modifier “standard” when we discussed GuitarToolkit’s metronome above. That’s because GuitarToolkit+ includes an Advanced Metronome — in reality, it’s a complete drum machine tailored to give you unheard-of flexibility in creating metronome patterns for play-along and practice.

Each pattern can include up to 32 drum tracks, and you can choose from 75 different percussion instruments, from basic (bass drum, snare, hi hat) to exotic (timpani, jingle bells) to outlandish (Vibraslap, scratch). You have fine-grained control over the time signature, with bases of 4, 8, and 16 and as many as 16 beats. Each beat position on a track can be nil, a normal beat, or an accent; editing is as simple as touching. We even support both triplet feel and triplet mode.

You can create and save any number of patterns, and GuitarToolkit+ ships with nine great examples. Here’s what the Advanced Metronome looks like: 8/8 time, seven tracks featuring agogo bells. (iPhone and iPod touch users please note that Advanced Metronome is temporarily iPad-only. Rest assured, it’s coming soon for iPhone and iPod touch, and if you purchase the GuitarToolkit+ Upgrade, you’ll receive Advanced Metronome automatically as soon as it’s released.)
GuitarToolkit Advanced Metronome

So that’s GuitarToolkit+: Chord Sheets, Custom Instruments, and Advanced Metronome. All for $4.99. We think that’s a compelling upgrade for every GuitarToolkit owner.

Core 2.0 Enhancements

In addition to the iPad version and the GuitarToolkit+ Upgrade, 2.0 includes a solid set of improvements to the core app.

  • Chords: Increased the chord library from 500,000 to 2,000,000 chords, with 71 defined chord types versus 46 in the prior release. Improved the chords themselves, especially in alternate tunings. On the iPad, you can jump directly to matching scales.
  • Scales: increased the count of scale types from 104 to 924. In addition to full-fretboard view, we added “Scale Boxes” which are playable scales at various starting positions up the fretboard, ideal for learning and practicing scales. GuitarToolkit 2.0 can present over 20,000,000 of these Scale Boxes. With the new Scale Finder, touch notes on the fretboard and find the scales that match. On the iPad, you can jump directly from any scale to matching chords.
  • Arpeggios: New in GuitarToolkit 2.0, for 71 different chord types. As with Scales, we provide “Arpeggio Boxes” which are playable arpeggios at various frets, perfect for learning and practice.
  • Capo Support: Enable a capo, and touch-drag it anywhere on the fretboard. Chords, scales and arpeggios adapt automatically.
  • Significantly higher fidelity instrument audio: We more than quadrupled the number of instrument string samples as well as the quality of those samples. You’ll definitely be able to hear the difference.
  • Metronome: More and higher-fidelity metronome sounds, including the Terrible Timpani which really keeps you on the beat during practice. New time signatures.
  • Alternate Tunings: We added 32 to bring the total to 167. Of course, the number is really unlimited, since you can create your own completely custom tunings. As always, GuitarToolkit constructs chords, scales, and now arpeggios for each tuning.

So that’s GuitarToolkit 2.0. We can’t wait to hear what you think!

Gibson, Les Paul, and Flying V are registered trademarks of Gibson Guitar Corporation.
Fender, Stratocaster, and Telecaster are registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

AmpKit 1.2: A Giant Leap for High Gain Play

September 14th, 2011 by Jack Ivers

AmpKit 1.2 Sultan Serpent ScreenshotFrom its very first release, AmpKit has earned a place in the hearts of high-gain guitarists, with tons of great high-gain amps and effects, each accurately delivering the full high-gain experience of the real gear. When we designed the Peavey AmpKit LiNK guitar interface, we included circuitry to minimize crosstalk, which greatly reduced the problem of feedback on high-gain setups. So where other apps were forced to dumb-down their gain to avoid feedback, in AmpKit you’ve always been able to rock out with full-strength gain.

AmpKit 1.0 included an extensive array of high-gain amps, including models based on Marshall®, Mesa Boogie®, and Fender® amps. Better yet, our relationship with Peavey enabled us to offer official, highly-accurate versions of their high-gain screamers including the 6505+, 6534+, and 3120. AmpKit 1.0 also included six distortion pedals that cover the full spectrum of tone, from the Elevenizer (based on the Ibanez Tube Screamer) to The Haze (modeled on the Big Muff Pi).

We’ve built on this strong foundation in AmpKit 1.2, dramatically improving the high-gain picture with the addition of great new high-gain gear, upgrades to all of AmpKit’s existing high-gain amps as well as the Noise Gate, and several other important improvements for the high-gain player. (Check out the two embedded videos for two examples of AmpKit 1.2 high-gain play.)

Gear for Gain

AmpKit 1.2 includes six new amps, whose gain levels range from sizable to extreme:

  • Fargen Hot Mod™ Baby Blues: This amp actually models a Ben Fargen-modded Fender Blues Junior™. The hot mod results in a significant boost in gain, as you can hear in this AmpKit demo track that Ben created.
  • Fargen Olde 800™: This great amp features a decade selector. Dial up 60s, 70s, or 80s and you get three very different tones reminiscent of popular amps from the selected decade, with the ’80s setting providing the most gain.
  • Budda Superdrive 30 Series II: In preparing this blog series, I checked out what people were saying in various forums about this Budda amp, and the consensus was “want!”, first and foremost because of its ultra-smooth overdrive tone, and AmpKit’s SD30 model faithfully reproduces this creamy overdrive.
  • Fargen Super Collider™: This amp is a rare Fargen Custom Shop model; Ben had to actually borrow an amp from one of his customers so we could model it. The OD channel delivers sharp, stinging distortion.
  • Sultan Rack 88: Now we’re getting up into the “extreme gain” zone. The Rack 88 is modeled after the Soldano rack-mounted X88R preamp pushed through a Mesa Boogie® 20/20 power module, with a nicely matched 4×12 cabinet. Both the Rhythm and especially the Lead channel really crank; we love the unique treble-weighted feel of this amp.
  • Uber Xtreme 101: The high-gain winner among the new crop of amps in 1.2, this beast models a Bogner Ecstacy 101B and will definitely blow your hair back.

These are great new high-gain amps — but don’t forget, we completely rewrote all of the amp and cabinet simulations* for all of the “old” high-gain amps we already had in AmpKit. AmpKit now does two-stage amp simulation, modeling both the preamp and power amp, which provides the biggest tone improvement with high-gain amps. I’ve done A/B testing on all of the new models, and the improvements are dramatic. The lead channels on all of the Peaveys are just incredible now. I’ll put AmpKit’s free ValveKing up against anything out there (except perhaps other AmpKit amps!); the lead channel of the Peavey Classic 30 is really lovely now and is the favorite AmpKit model of guitarist Rob Math; and the 65xxs and 3120 are total gain monsters.

Let’s not ignore pedals either. Both new Sonic Edge pedals bring gain to the party. The Tumbleweed is a dual-function pedal, combining boost with a snappy new compression circuit. The boost comes in Brit, Cali, and Jazz flavors, with the first two rocking significant distortion. The J&J Overdrive delivers a wide range of overdrive tone, all the way up to full-on tube crushing drive. Rocktron’s two offerings push into the extreme gain zone. The Cottonmouth Fuzz is a modern fuzz design that is maximally configurable, with a total of eight controls, including level, a full 3-band EQ, and four unique distortion controls: Bite, Spit, Strike, and Venom. And last but definitely not least is the Zombie Rectified Distortion®: I agree with commenters on Twitter and Facebook that this is perhaps my favorite tone of any of the new gear; it’s like a rectified-distortion amp, but with even greater tone control, in a pedal form factor.

Taming the Beast

One of the downsides of high-gain setups – real or virtual – is that you sometimes have “gain accidents.” On stage with your Peavey 6534+, this might result in ear pain for you and a few thousand of your closest admirers. In AmpKit, what you get is a hit of screech feedback followed by a strong need to tear off your headphones. Either way, gain accidents are best avoided. In AmpKit 1.2, we started by totally revamping the Noise Gate pedal. The upgraded version is capable of blocking feedback with much higher gain setups, and eliminates most cases of bleed-through noise. This may sound like a small improvement, but it isn’t: we can’t emphasize enough how much nicer this gate makes working with high gain gear.

Even with the improved Noise Gate, gain accidents are still possible, especially when using high-crosstalk guitar interfaces. So we tackled the heart of the matter: the feedback event itself. AmpKit will now detect almost all loud screech feedback and automatically attempt to kill it, first by enabling another AmpKit feature, the Noise & Feedback Filter, and then by lowering output gain. The Noise & Feedback Filter, at its lowest setting, has almost no tone impact, but instantly kills screech feedback in a lot of cases; and ratcheting down output gain takes care of any remainder. So what might have been loud feedback in earlier AmpKit releases now becomes a short burst of feedback that immediately stops or becomes dramatically quieter. So you can now tackle monstrous high gain setups like Thirty Greenies (30 Elevenizer pedals in sequence!) without fear.

Freedom of Interface

With AmpKit, you have total freedom of choice on which guitar interface to use. AmpKit works with all headset interfaces. If you have a high-crosstalk, feedback-prone interface, you’ll be thankful for the improved Noise Gate and Feedback Suppression features discussed above. If you have a low-crosstalk Peavey AmpKit LiNK, you’ll be in great shape. All headset interfaces get the benefit of AmpKit 1.2′s Adaptive Input Compensation, which restores the frequencies lost when your guitar signal passes through the iOS device’s voice-oriented headset circuitry.

Headset interfaces aren’t the only game in town, however. AmpKit also supports dock-connected and USB guitar interfaces such as Sonoma GuitarJack, Apogee Jam and Alesis iO Dock. These interfaces have minimal crosstalk, which eliminates feedback except in the most extreme setups, making them a great choice for high-gain play. In AmpKit 1.2, we improved AmpKit’s handling of dock/USB interfaces, ensuring that these interfaces are detected as soon as they are connected.

Anyway, to sum it all up: AmpKit 1.2′s combined lineup of new and rewritten high-gain amps and pedals, along with better ways to manage gain and ever-broadening support for guitar interfaces, is a fantastic jump ahead for high-gain guitarists.

 

*Cabinet simulation is upgraded on all iOS devices; amp simulation is improved on new-generation devices: iPad, iPhone 4, and iPod touch 4th generation.

Bogner is a registered trademark of Bogner Amplification.
Budda is a registered trademark of, and Superdrive is a trademark of, Budda Amplification.
Fargen, Hot Mods, Olde 800, and Super Collider are trademarks of Fargen Amps, Inc.
Fender is a Registered Trademark of, and Blues Junior is a Trademark of, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.
Mesa Boogie is a registered trademark of Mesa Boogie Ltd.
Rocktron, Zombie Rectified Distortion, and Cottonmouth Fuzz are registered trademarks of GHS Corporation.

 

Announcing AmpKit 1.2

September 6th, 2011 by Jack Ivers

AmpKit 1.2 Budda Karma Portrait Screenshot

AmpKit 1.2 is live in the App Store—and it’s the largest single app update we’ve ever issued. We welcome four new Official Gear Partners—Budda®, Rocktron®, Fargen™ and Sonic Edge—and add a total of six new amps with 14 separately-modeled amp channels, as well as four new pedals. See this post for the back story on how we created AmpKit 1.2.

To celebrate the launch of AmpKit 1.2, we’ve got two limited-time-only specials for you. We created a new bundle, the Summer ’11 Pack, which includes all of this new gear at a limited-time price of only $9.99 (US App Store price), more than 80% off individual gear prices. We’ve also worked with the people at Budda Amplification to offer the Budda Superdrive™ 30 Series II amp for a limited time at just $.99.

We’ll look at gear details in a moment, but first let’s take a quick look at some of the new features in AmpKit 1.2:

  • Doubled fidelity* of AmpKit’s amp / cabinet simulations. Every AmpKit amp and cabinet, from the Peavey ValveKing included in the free version of AmpKit to the six new amps that we’ve added in 1.2, has been upgraded to take advantage of dual-stage amp simulation and convolution-based cabinet simulation, which results in tremendously improved tone and even greater fidelity to the physical gear they’re modeled after.
  • Cleaner cleans. When you’re using AmpKit LiNK or other guitar interfaces that connect via the headset jack, we’ve found a way to restore the incoming guitar signal to its pristine state, adding back what is unavoidably lost passing through electronics that are primarily intended for voice signals. The result is a startling improvement in the quality of the incoming signal, which is noticeable everywhere but especially when playing clean—jazz, country, acoustic, etc. Also a big win for bass players.
  • Fatter solos. In earlier releases, AmpKit used studio-style output shaping, which emphasizes treble frequencies over bass, ideal for recording and mixing but a bit thin for individual play. In 1.2, you can toggle output shaping between Mix (studio-style) and Solo, which fattens up the bass and provides a noticeable audio impact, whether you’re playing clean or high-gain.
  • Gain goodness. AmpKit 1.2 embraces the high-gain player with an expanding set of gear and features tailored for high-gain play. The noise gate in AmpKit 1.2 is better at keeping high-gain setups under control; you can now safely play with much higher gain levels. If feedback does get out of control, AmpKit now includes automatic feedback suppression.
  • Recording mixdown. When you export / share a recording via email, SoundCloud or Audio Copy/Paste, you’ve now got the option to include the backing track in your exported recording.
  • Background Audio. As mentioned above, AmpKit now supports iOS’s background audio capability, so play through your favorite AmpKit setup while looking at tabs in TabToolkit, chords in GuitarToolkit, etc.

Introducing Four New AmpKit Official Gear Partners

Peavey Electronics has been our sole and primary Official Gear Partner up to this release. With AmpKit 1.2, we’re adding four new Official Gear Partners: Budda Amplification, Rocktron, Fargen Amplification, and Sonic Edge. Let’s take a look at these partners and their new gear.

AmpKit 1.2 Summer '11 Pack

Budda Amplification

Budda amps have a fantastic reputation in the marketplace, first and foremost for ultra-smooth overdrive tone. Artists using Budda gear range from legends like Alex Skolnick (Testament, Alex Skolnick Trio) and Leslie West to modern rockers Tomo Milicevic (Thirty Seconds to Mars), James Richardson (MGMT) and Lincoln Parrish (Cage The Elephant), to Nashville players Jack Sizemore (Jason Aldean) and Beau Tackett (Blake Shelton. For our first Budda offering, we modeled the Superdrive Series II 30 watt combo amp with its custom Budda 1×12 Phat speaker. This amp is revered for its combination of sweet and aggressive tones, with Rhythm and Drive channels providing flexibility and a wide dynamic range for playing jazz, blues, or hard rock. The AmpKit model includes the same Rhythm and Drive channels and faithfully reproduces this amp’s great tone. A case in point: when we arranged for the Alex Skolnick Trio to perform during this year’s WWDC event using AmpKit, Alex chose to play his usual Budda amp – only this time, the AmpKit version!

Rocktron

Rocktron has been a staple of pro guitarists for many years, with iconic products including the Hush noise reduction system and the Banshee talkbox. We’ve selected two great distortion effects as our first Rocktron offerings in AmpKit 1.2. The Zombie Rectified Distortion® pedal is based on rectified asymmetric distortion and delivers a monstrously heavy sound, what Rocktron describes as a “psycho-acoustic 3D sound positioning effect.” Whatever it is, we love the tone. Here’s an example that pairs the Zombie with octave and delay effects. Rocktron’s Cottonmouth Fuzz is a truly modern fuzz effect that gives give you access to a vast range of tone with a total of eight controls, including level, a full 3-band EQ, and four unique distortion controls: Bite, Spit, Strike, and Venom.

Fargen Amplification

Ben Fargen is a legend in the boutique amp world, with customers that include Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Rezeznick and Michael Landau. We’ve teamed up with Ben to bring three classic Fargen amps to AmpKit.

  • We really enjoy the Fargen’s Olde 800™, a production model, because of its “decade” switch: dial in 60s, 70s, or 80s and you get three very different tones reminiscent of popular amps from the selected decade. We paired the Olde 800 head with a matching cabinet based on two 12” WGS loudspeakers.
  • The Super Collider™ is a rare Fargen Custom Shop special with great looks, a beautiful, rich clean channel and a stinging overdrive channel. You’ll probably never be able to own an original, but in AmpKit you can enjoy the great tone of this amp for the cost of a Starbucks coffee or two. For the matching cabinet, we started with a twin-12” Jensen stock cabinet and enhanced its crispness and high end. Like the original, AmpKit’s model includes reverb.
  • The Hot Mod™ Baby Blues models a mod: Ben is known for his modifications to well-known production amps. In this case, Ben started with the Fender® Blues Junior™ and worked his hot-mod magic on it, adding a useful Presence control, a revised and updated Fat switch, and a whole heap more gain to turn the baseline amp into a completely new device with unique and excellent tone.

Sonic Collision Setup

Sonic Edge

Sonic Edge is another Ben Fargen creation focused on pro-grade effects pedals, and AmpKit 1.2 includes two Sonic Edge beauties. The J&J Overdrive delivers an overdriven tone that is distinctive, even across AmpKit’s wide selection of overdrive pedals, delivering tone ranging from subtle sweetening to full-on tube crushing drive. I find myself reaching for the J&J first when I need moderate overdrive, edging out AmpKit’s great Elevenizer overdrive. The Tumbleweed is a dual-function pedal, combining clean boost with a snappy new compression model. The built-in boost has Brit, Cali, and Jazz modes for trans-Atlantic tonality plus a warm boost for jazz finger-picking players, while the compressor offers subtle sustain options. As with the J&J, the Tumbleweed has taken over as my compressor of choice, with its ability to also provide extra boost and bite on-demand as a nice plus.

Gain2: Meet Sultan and Uber

Besides the four new amps from our Official Gear Partners, we’ve added two more classic high-gain amp models to the AmpKit lineup. The Sultan Rack 88 is modeled after the Soldano rack-mounted X88R preamp pushed through a Mesa Boogie® 20/20 power module. It features Clean, Rhythm, and Lead channels just like the original, and we paired it with a custom-fit 4×12 cabinet. The Uber Xtreme 101 models a Bogner Ecstacy 101B, another three-channel high-gain classic which we paired with a tone-customized 4×12 cabinet. In both cases, as AmpKit customers have come to expect, our models are based on the actual circuitry of the original gear, and the gain isn’t watered down to compensate for the excessive crosstalk inherent to some guitar interfaces. So hold onto your hat and let ‘em rip!

A New Bundle and Two Limited-time Specials

We want to get all of this new gear in the hands of our AmpKit customers as quickly as possible, so we created the Summer ’11 Pack, which includes all six new amps and four new pedals. For a limited time we’re offering this bundle at $9.99 (U.S. App Store pricing), which is over 80% off the individual prices of the included gear. We’re also offering the Budda Superdrive 30, normally priced at $5.99, at $.99 for a limited time. That’s amazing tone for your money.

Up Next

In coming blog installments, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the new features in AmpKit 1.2. Stay tuned.

*Cabinet simulation is upgraded on all iOS devices; amp simulation is improved on new-generation devices: iPad, iPhone 4, and iPod touch 4th generation.

Bogner is a registered trademark of Bogner Amplification.
Budda is a registered trademark of, and Superdrive is a trademark of, Budda Amplification.
Fargen, Hot Mods, Olde 800, and Super Collider are trademarks of Fargen Amps, Inc.
Fender is a Registered Trademark of, and Blues Junior is a Trademark of, the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.
Mesa Boogie is a registered trademark of Mesa Boogie Ltd.
Rocktron, Zombie Rectified Distortion, and Cottonmouth Fuzz are registered trademarks of GHS Corporation.

When Work is Play: The Making of AmpKit 1.2

September 6th, 2011 by Jack Ivers

I received the following email from Ben Fargen of Fargen Amplification a few days ago:

Hi Jack,

Thanks a bunch…I am really blown away with the amps and pedals as I spend more time with them…I thought the Super Collider OD would be really tough to model…you guys did a fantastic job.

Cheers!

AmpKit 1.2 Fargen Lead ScreenshotWe had been working with Fargen as Official Gear Partners for AmpKit 1.2 since early this year, and Ben had just had a chance to load the final 1.2 release. He followed up a few hours later with this audio clip; both guitar parts were recorded using the AmpKit version of Ben’s own Fargen amps, and the bass with our American Bass King.

Ben Fargen may not be a household name, but his customers–among them Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, John Rezeznick and Michael Landau–certainly are. So Ben’s opinion carries a lot of weight with us, and his comments were a welcome validation of the improvements we’ve made in AmpKit 1.2 on the eve of its release.

The story of AmpKit 1.2 really begins on December 10th, 2010, when AmpKit 1.1 launched. We already knew that 1.2 would include a lot of new gear. But over the next six weeks, we made a series of critical decisions that resulted in a dramatic improvement in AmpKit’s already best-of-breed guitar tone. First, we decided the time had come to take advantage of advances in Apple’s iOS hardware and operating system that made possible far more sophisticated amp and cabinet simulation. Our amps jumped from one to two simulation stages (preamp and power amp), and cabinet simulation was upgraded to apply convolution algorithms. The simulation code for every one of AmpKit’s 21 amp channels and 14 cabinets had to be completely rewritten. (By the way, with the new gear in 1.2, we’re now up to 35 amp channels and 20 cabinets.)

Second, we found a way to restore the original frequencies of an incoming guitar signal that had been lost while passing through an iOS device’s voice-oriented headset circuitry–a big challenge, since this frequency attenuation varies dramatically across the different iPhone / iPad / iPod touch models. The solution involved profiling every single model of iOS device ever made, and creating an adaptive input compensation algorithm that automatically applies the correct compensation for your device.

Third, we began to realize that guitar tone that is ideally shaped for studio use–mixing with other tracks–is very different from tone that sounds great when playing alone. Studio tone tends to beef up treble and cut back bass to help the guitar stand out when mixed; but that same tone sounds a bit thin when played alone. So we created an output shaping filter with Mix and Solo modes, and let the player choose between them. Solo mode makes an amazing audible difference on both clean and high-gain play.

How dramatically we had improved AmpKit’s tone started to become clear in March at the world’s largest music show, Musikmesse. I brought an unstable alpha build of AmpKit 1.2 with me to the show, mainly to get feedback from our show guitarist Rob Math, a great talent who has been working closely with AmpKit since the beginning. Rob heard the tone improvements instantly, and I knew we were onto something when he demanded that we use the 1.2 alpha build for all of his Musikmesse performances, despite the fact that it was crashing rather frequently. Rob especially loved the Lead channel on the upgraded Peavey Classic 30.

We received another great vote of confidence for AmpKit 1.2 in June, while in San Francisco for Apple’s WWDC event. We had arranged for the Alex Skolnick Trio to perform an all-AmpKit show at the nearby Marriott: both guitarist Alex Skolnick and bassist Nathan Peck used AmpKit and Peavey AmpKit LiNK on their iPads for 100% of their amp and effects tone. The only amplifier in use was a PA system, yet the audio quality was outstanding (check the video below to see for yourself). Alex Skolnick uses Budda amps in his real stage performances; when I checked out his AmpKit setups at the Marriott show, I enjoyed the fact that he was still using Budda — only this time, the AmpKit version. As if to say, yes, obviously this is the one I’d use, it sounds exactly like my real Budda amp.

AmpKit 1.2 Release Candidate 1 arrived on July 26th. You never know how many release candidates you’ll have to run through before you finally squash the last bug and are ready for launch, but given the extent of changes and additions in 1.2, we expected it might be a long slog. As indeed it proved: it took us until Release Candidate 6, issued on August 11th, to get a winner. Testing was just brutal: one bug, for example, involved losing a small fraction of a beat each time a recording was looped during playback. To even hear the problem required multiple custom-crafted recordings and a lot of patience.

I’m not complaining, though, because work is most rewarding when you’re scratching your own itch. I’m currently learning the Eric Clapton lead from Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love. Clapton’s tone on this lead is really unique; opinions vary, but the setup may have involved a ‘60s amp with every dial set to 10, an early fuzz pedal, and the guitar’s tone knobs turned all the way down, resulting in a silky-smooth fuzztone. If I wanted to recreate this tone with physical gear, I’d be out of luck. I do own a few amps – I love my 1976 Peavey Classic 50 – but no ‘60s Marshall or early-era fuzz pedal. And even if I owned all the gear, it would take some serious lugging and time to get a working setup, and I’d rattle windows throughout my neighborhood with a 100W amp cranked up to 10.

With AmpKit, in two minutes and for a fraction of the cost of a physical amp, I can choose among several amps with ’60s tone, crank everything up to 10, add an early-era fuzz pedal, throw in some EQ to kill the incoming treble, add reverb and a bit of delay … voilà, a wonderful approximation of Clapton in Sunshine. To support my learning process, I created backing track snippets for each segment of the lead, so I can work intensively one element at a time. I also set up a metronome and recorded the background guitar for the entire lead, so I can practice it end-to-end. Tune my guitar … record my practice leads … run AmpKit in background while I look at guitar tab in TabToolkit … all of this in my pocket, wherever I go. If you play electric guitar, this is nothing less than a revolution. Because the combo of AmpKit and AmpKit LiNK lowers the effort-to-play threshold so radically, we believe that many a dusty electric guitar is coming out of the closet and into active daily use.AmpKit 1.2 Sunshine Lead iPad Setup

So, no complaints: I’m part of the team that’s making a tool that isn’t just useful, it’s revolutionary. I get to scratch my own itch every day. And despite the agony of release testing and the constant threat of pinched nerves from attempting to type with a Stratocaster strapped on, it’s thoroughly rewarding.

My response to Ben Fargen’s email that day was:

Thanks Ben, this is why I love my job …

We can’t wait to hear what our AmpKit customers think of the 1.2 release! Read more about AmpKit 1.2 here.