Summer NAMM 2011 Show Report

July 19, 2011

Barry Cleveland: NAMM Friday July 22, 2011

I arrived in Nashville at 8:30 yesterday evening. I knew I was in Nashville because I heard great guitar playing and singing emanating from Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge as I walked toward Baggage Claim. Only in Nashville do you hear great live music in an airport bar. Once I'd gotten to my hotel and settled in a bit, I took a walk down to Broadway in search of dinner and some badass guitar playing, which isn’t difficult to find. I remember my first time here about ten years ago when I went into a bar-b-q place and heard a Tele player in a cowboy hat plugged into an old Deluxe playing licks so hot I thought the stage was going to burst into flames. “Wow,” I said to myself. “This guy is so good and can’t understand why he isn’t famous.” Then I went next door and there was another Tele player who was even better. And the guy in the place next to that one was also a monster.

So, I knew I’d hear some great playing, and I did. (I shot some video that I’ll post when I get back.)

Despite the fact that Summer NAMM is a “small” show compared to Winter NAMM or the behemoth Musikmesse in Germany, there were lots of great products on display. Here are my five favorites for today (click the links for images):

1) The DigiTech Whammy DT which adds true bypass switching, drop-tuning capabilities, the ability to shift entire chords (!), and much more.

2) The SKB FootNote Amplified Pedalboard, which sports a built-in amplifier, aux ins for your iPod or mp3 player, power for your pedals, and lots more. It can eve drive a Marshall 4x12 cab! (Video Coming Soon)

3) The Red Witch 7 Sisters effects pedals with rechargeable batteries, a new line of small analog pedals powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries, good for two or more weeks of gigging per charge. The diminutive sisters are the Ruby fuzz, Grace compressor, Scarlett overdrive, Ivy distortion, Violet delay, Eve tremolo, and Lilly boost.

4) Bad Cat’s new Chinese-made Cougar Series amps, which offer much of the same build quality and sound of their U.S.-made counterparts, at more affordable prices. There’s a two-channel Cougar 50 head featuring JJ EL34 power tubes and a tube-driven reverb (a matching 4x12 cabinet is coming soon), the Cougar 50 2x12 combo, and a small Cougar 5 1x12 combo. The combos both have Celestion Vintage 30s.

5) The EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander Guitar Synthesizer is an amazing little analog pedal that creates a sub octave (-2), an octave down, and an octave up, and lets you adjust the individual levels and the overall tone.

Stay tuned for more ...


Art Thompson: NAMM Saturday July 23, 2011

The Summer NAMM show in Nashville is much smaller than the mega Winter NAMM event held each January in Anaheim, CA, but Nashville has its charms for sure, and, as always, this show has been a lot of fun. Highlights for me this year included hosting a seminar on how to get Kickass Tone with Carl Verheyen on Saturday. This was also "Wanna Play Music Day" when NAMM threw its doors open to the public, allowing lots of folks who normally don't get to experience this event to come in and check out all the gear on display, talk with manufacturers and product endorsers, and drop in on all the seminars and clinics that ran throughout the day. Doing this seminar with such a seasoned pro as Verheyen was extremely cool, as he fielded questions from the audience  about what it takes to get great sounds. For over an hour he talked about guitars, amps, and technique, and along the way gave lots of great tips for how to sound your best and make the most of your gear. I think everyone left feeling enlightened by what Carl had to say—and, of course, his great playing!

On the same day GP also put on the seventh annual Guitar Player Superstar competition, in which five of the top players we picked earlier this month finally had their chance to show how brightly they could burn in front of an audience and a three-judge panel that included Muriel Anderson, Reeves Gabrels, and Carl Verheyen. Hosted by Larry Carlton, the event was a blast. All the contestants delivered outstanding performances. Ultimately, however, the winner was Mark Kroos, who wowed the judges with his inspired workout on a doubleneck Ovation. Second place went to Fredrick Strand Halland and Third place went to Arek Religa. It was great to see these guys perform, and wow, what a lot of talent in one place!

Of course, NAMM is always the place to see new gear, this year's show gave me an opportunityto check out some amazing stuff.
A few of my picks from this year's show include:
  • Amptweaker Tight Rock, a high-gain distortion/overdrive pedal with a Side Trak loop for instant switching to an external effect.
  • Ampeg GVT 15-112, a 6V6 powered 1x12 combo that sounds very cool and has 15 watt and 7/5 watt settings.
  • AXL Badwater 1216 Jr., a fine playing LP Junior style guitar with a single P90 that streets for an amazing $160. 
  • Cordoba GK Studio, a sweet sounding and easy playing nylon string acoustic-electric. 
  • Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar, a very hip pedal that delivers the psychedelic "sitar" sound reminiscent of the old Danelectro Coral Sitar. 
  • Fishman Loudbox Artist, a larger, bi-amped version of the original Loudbox 100. 
  • Hanson Firenze T90, a lightweight  modded-T-style guitar that goes for $599. 
  • Loar LH-309 Archtop, a gloss finished beautywith a P-90 pickup for an astounding $499!
  • Mario Martin S-Style, which, as with all the guitars this company makes, is probably the lightest of its type I've ever seen. 
  • Traynor Quarterhourse, a 25-watt stompbox amplifier.
VHT Special 12/20, a great sounding 1x12 tube combo with a handy 9-volt (1,000 mA) pedal power output on the back.

That's it for now, but we'll have more coverage of the 2011 Summer NAMM show in Guitar Player soon.


Michael Molenda: Summer NAMM Show Wrap Up, July 21-23, 2011
NAMM’s summer session remains an important venue for mid-year product launches, dealer relations, editorial discussions, and planning for the mammoth Winter NAMM show in January. NAMM also kicked up the energy by opening the trade-only event to the public on Saturday, July 23, with its Wanna Play Music Day. In a rare opportunity to visit manufacturer booths, get their hands on the gear, and hang with music stars, WPMD attendees were also treated to numerous clinics, product demos, and concerts. The Music Player Network (Guitar Player, Bass Player, Electronic Musician, and Keyboard) was one of the sponsors of WPMD—our media mates at Mix and Pro Sound News also participated—and Guitar Player brought its annual Guitar Superstar competition to Music City for the first time.

Highlights of NAMM Day One on Thursday, July 21, included helping Ampeg kick off the introduction of its GVT tube-amp line (Nashville’s Center Music was the first store in the U.S. to have the amps on-hand for guitarists to audition), meeting with Fender’s Jason Farrell about an exciting editorial event (which can’t be revealed just yet), dining with the Framus crew (one of the sponsors—along with Ampeg, EMG Pickups, SKB, and NAMM—of Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2011), catching Guitar Superstar 2011 finalist Forrest Lee, Jr. jamming in the Bolt booth, and spending some time with my French friend, luthier Michel Lag-Chavarria. 

NAMM Day Two was nuts, because, in addition to continuing to report on all the cool gear at the show (via Twitter, Facebook, and, the Guitar Superstar 2011 finalists were flying in, and Guitar Superstar alumni were booked to play a short set at Muriel Anderson’s All-Star Guitar Night. Happily, GPGS 2007 champ Ladd Smith took on the duties of de facto musical director for the gang—which also included 2008 alum Eric Barnett, 2009 alums Brian Davidson and Danny Jones, and 2010 alum Charlie Crowe—and continued in that role for Saturday’s GPGS Alumni performance at Wanna Play Music Day. Late that afternoon, I met with the 2011 GPGS finalists to get to know them, and run down the next day’s competition. A few hours later, the alumni closed ASGN with amped-up renditions of “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Crossroads.” Five stellar players trading solos on two marvelous songs—it was epic. 

And, of course, NAMM Day Three was all about Wanna Play Music Day and Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar.

Wanna Play Music Day
The Music Player Network was honored to be a presenting sponsor of Wanna Play Music Day, and all of our magazines dug in deep to give Nashville-area musicians something to talk about for quite some time. Guitar Player presented four sessions and a concert. Senior Editor Art Thompson and session master (and GP columnist) Carl Verheyen delivered a workshop on crafting killer guitar tones, Associate Editor Barry Cleveland gave a clinic on “The Elements of Great Home Recordings,” project editor/proofer Katie Garibaldi moderated a panel on “The Secrets of Writing Great Songs,” and I chaired an “Instant Record Deal” shootout for the newly formed Guitar Player Records. 

GP’s concert offering for Wanna Play Music Day was an encore performance of the Guitar Superstar alumni, who—to the thrill of the afternoon audience—rocked through a much longer set than what they played at All-Star Guitar Night. Katie Garibaldi opened the raucous set with a few of her original songs, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. 

In addition, Bass Player Editor Brian Fox oversaw a panel on bass tone and bass lines, and Keyboard and Electronic Musician presented a seminar on maximum mixing techniques for DAWs, given by noted author David Terry (Teach Yourself Mixing). 

Guitar Player’s Guitar Superstar 2011
GPGS exists to evangelize extreme guitar playing to both the “in-the-know” community of guitarists and fans of guitar music who may not be players themselves. I always agonize over whether this event will run smoothly. This year, much of the angst vaporized after Truefire’s Brad Wenkos and Ali Hasbach offered to produce the show—which was a good thing, because, due to a scheduling conflict with the ballroom at the Nashville Renaissance (where GPGS was held), we had to drop the curtain before a 6 pm wedding. Visions of Spinal Tap opening for a puppet show danced in my head for days.

Larry Carlton was fantastic as the host. He was extremely warm and personable—so much so that it almost seemed the competition going on in his living room and we were his houseguests. Judges Muriel Anderson, Reeves Gabrels, and Carl Verheyen were awesome, and Gabrels and Verheyen actually stepped onstage to wow the audience with a totally improvised jam with the GPGS house band (guitarist Chris Leuzinger, drummer Craig Krampf, and bassist Dave Pomeroy).

The winner of Ampeg’s Straight Up Tone contest, Elephantgun, opened the show (and also played like the judges’ votes were tabulated), playing through the new GVT amps provided as backline by the company for the entire event. 

The five finalists (selected by the GP staff from video entries uploaded to celebrated the stylistic diversity of Guitar Player. Wielding a Tom Anderson Hollow T Classic, Fredrik Halland slipped in-and-out of several styles throughout his rock-jazz-prog piece, Mark Kroos played solo-acoustic on a double-neck Ovation, Forrest Lee, Jr. threw down some supersonic country on his self-built solidbody (with B-Bender), Jeremy Ore unleashed a solo shredfest on his PRS Custom 24, and Arek Religa performed a muscular blues-rock number on his Ibanez. When the ferocious riffs had stopped ricocheting off the ballroom walls, the judges selected Kroos as the 2011 Guitar Superstar champion, with Halland grabbing second place, and Religa taking third.

To see a montage of the GPGS performances, click here.

To see Kroos' performance, click here.

For a look at the totally improvised GPGS performance by judges Reeves Gabrels and Carl Verheyen, click here.

Kross won a feature article in Guitar Player magazine and a digital-distribution contract from Guitar Player Records/MI5 Recordings/Universal. He also took home a prize package from D’Addario, Godin, Love Pedal, Pigtronix, TC Electronic, and JamHub that is worth more than $4,000.

Halland won a prize package from D’Addario, Reverend, Love Pedal, Pigtronix, TC Electronic, and JamHub. A total prize value of more than $2,500.

Religa won prize package from Ampeg, Framus, D’Addario, Godin, Love Pedal, Pigtronix, and TC Electronic for a total prize value of more than $1,500. 

However, there were no losers, as all finalists received gift bags packed with products from D’Addario, Delta Labs, EMG, Essential Sound Products, Levy’s Leathers, and SKB Corporation valued at more than $1,000.

It was quite a wild three days. -- Michael Molenda

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