The VG-99 Inspires
A few weeks ago we gave Michael “Nomad” Ripoll a VG-99 guitar synthesizer to test drive and report. After a brief follow up we were surprised to learn that he’d been using the unit for his movie trailer projects. Michael says that within an hour of unboxing the unit he was committing to tape. Off camera, Michael explained that the unit has sparked his creativity, sped up his workflow and eliminated the need of extra musicians for his current studio projects. In these videos, both Michael and Joel Stevenett express how the VG-99 has inspired them musically.
For Roland, the VG-99 is a milestone in guitar modeling and performance technology. It has three powerful processors at its core, plus expressive performance controls such as the Ribbon Controller, a versatile new foot controller, and our standard D Beam sensors. We’ve sure come a long way from the VG-8, the world’s first guitar modeling processor. We weren’t sure how Michael would use this unit, we were pleased with what we saw and heard.
The VG-99 contains a vast array of COSM-modeled guitars and amplifiers ranging from acoustic to electric to the non-traditional. The on board dual process modeling also allows you to play two different guitar sounds simultaneously. For example, one virtual guitar could be a Telecaster® in a vintage Tweed amp with full effects and the other a nylon-string guitar with just a hint of reverb. One could easily see why Michael was so inspired with the unit, he was playing with a pallet of sounds he wasn’t accustomed to playing with a traditional guitar.
If the on board sounds isn’t what your looking for, the software editor is a dream for sound designers. The VG-99 can produce custom tunings — anything the player desires on any virtual guitar. A virtual Les Paul®, for example, could be tuned down four or five steps for a heavy sound, while a nylon string could be tuned as a 12-string, and also tuned down four or five steps at the same time. Open and drop tunings are also supported as well as user-defined custom tunings and can be applied to any COSM® guitar, so the player can switch instantly between tuning setups without physically switching guitars or having to manually retune.
Joni Mitchell who was named 72nd greatest guitarist of all time in 2003 by Rolling Stone magazine was also inspired by guitar synthesis with the original VG-8. She turned to the VG-8 with the help of her friend Fred Walecki after expressing her frustrations with alternate tunings. The following excerpt was taken from Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ article, “The Guitar Odyssey of Joni Mitchell: My Secret Place“:
The new influence at work is an electric guitar that Mitchell’s old friend Fred Walecki built for her to alleviate her ongoing frustrations with using alternate tunings – one of the reasons why she stopped touring in 1983 and was on the verge of quitting the stage permanently in the spring of ’95. Walecki, of Westwood Music in Los Angeles, designed the Stratocaster-style guitar to work with the Roland VG-8 – the Virtual Guitar – a very sophisticated processor capable of electronically creating her tunings. While the strings physically stay in standard tuning, the VG-8 tweaks the pickup signals so that they come out of the speakers in an altered tuning. This means that Mitchell can use one guitar on stage, with an offstage tech punching in the preprogrammed tuning for each song.
“This new guitar that I’m working with eliminated a certain amount of problems that I had with the acoustic guitar,” Mitchell explained. “Problems isn’t even the right word; maddening frustrations is more accurate. The guitar is intended to be played in standard tuning; the neck is calibrated and everything. Twiddling it around isn’t good for the instrument, generally speaking. It’s not good for the neck; it unsettles the intonation. I have very good pitch, so if I’m never quite in tune, that’s frustrating.” Over the years, Mitchell has learned to slightly bend the strings to compensate for the intonation error, but that effort is still often defeated by the extreme slackness of her tunings. “In some of those tunings I’ve got an A on the bottom or a B-flat, and it’s banging against the string next to it and kicking the thing out of tune as I play, no matter how carefully I tweak it.” The VG-8 sidesteps all these problems: as long as the strings are accurately in standard tuning, she can play all over the neck in the virtual alternate tunings and sound in tune.
In every gig since the 1995 New Orleans Jazz Festival, Mitchell has used the VG-8, using its effects to build a guitar sound reminiscent of her Hejira era. But the VG-8 is having a much more far reaching impact on her music than just providing a workable stage setup. In composing and recording the songs for her next album, she’s thrown herself into a heady exploration of the VG-8’s sampled sounds. “Sonically, it’s very new,” she said of the tracks recorded so far. “I don’t know what you’d call it. It’s my impression, in a way, of ’40s music. Because I don’t like a lot of contemporary music – it’s just so formulated and artificial and false – I kind of cleared my ear and didn’t listen to anything for a while, and what emerged were these vague memories of ’40s and early ’50s sounds. Swinging brass – not Benny Goodman and not Glenn Miller but my own brand, pulled through Miles [Davis] and different harmonic stuff that I absorbed in the ’50s. Because this guitar has heavy-metal sounds in it and pretty good brass sounds, I’m mixing heavy-metal sounds with a brass section, so it’s a really strange hybrid kind of music. I’m a bit scared of it sometimes, you know. I don’t know what it is.”
Have you been musically inspired by our products? We want to know, please leave us a link to your site or video as we are always looking for great content to share with our readers. In the meantime, keep rockin’!
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