Performer Magazine: August/September 2022

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THE MUSICIAN’S RESOURCE AUG./SEP. ‘22 FREE GA-20 Jenn TheBaxterBosticHallBeths interviews Jam in MusicianNewRehearsalVirtualSpacesVictoryForSessionRoyalties5RulesforModernSongwritersInsuranceTipsForTouringBands Harness The Power of Vintage Gear in a Modern World

One mic is all you need 4099 Instrument Microphone dpa • Captures the true sound of your instrument • Supercardioid pattern for isolation and feedback rejection • Easy clip-on mounting • Use wired or adapt to wireless ON STAGE? HOME STUDIO?

CONTENTSOFTABLE PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 3 VOLUME 32, ISSUE 4 STORYCOVER by Benjamin Ricci GA-20 24 14 3020by Benjamin Ricci by Gus Rocha by Benjamin Ricci HALLBAXTER BETHSTHE BOSTICJENN DEPARTMENTS LETTER4. FROM THE MyMyMusiciansMusicOnlineCollaborateVinylEDITOR5.oftheMonth6.HowtowithNoLag8.InsuranceTipsforPart210.5RulesforModernSongwriters12.TheLatestonSessionPlayerRoyalties36.FavoriteAxe:SilentBravery37.GEARREVIEWS:Neumann,Focusrite,FocalMonitors,PositiveGridandmore… PelfreyWhitney Cover

Let’s shake things up, shall we?

4 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE EDITORTHEFROMLETTER Volume 32, Issue 4 850 Post Rd Suite 8385 Warwick, RI 02888 CONTACT Phone: 617-627-9200 Fax: 617-627-9930 PUBLISHER William House Phone: 617-627-9919 EDITOR Benjamin Ricci DESIGN & ART DIRECTION Cristian Iancu EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Bob Dobalina CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Benjamin Ricci, Chris Devine, Michael St. James, Gus Rocha, Eric Zukoski, Mike Dickey, Paul Irwin CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Josh Freeman, Adriana Arguijo Gutierrez, Fancey Pansen, Jon Medina, Whitney Pelfrey, Sara Kauss, Francis Carter, Michael Sparks Keegan ADVERTISING SALES William House Phone: 617-627-9919 © 2022 by Performer Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced by any method whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher. The magazine accepts no responsibility for unsolicited recordings, manuscripts, artwork or photographs and will not return such materials unless requested and accompanied by a SASE. Annual Subscription Rate is $30 in the U.S.; $45 outside the U.S. LETTER from the editor ABOUT US / Performer Magazine, a nationally distributed musician’s trade publication, focuses on independent musicians, those unsigned and on small labels, and their success in a DIY environment. We’re dedicated to promoting lesser-known talent and being the first to introduce you to artists you should know about. MUSIC SUBMISSIONS / We listen to everything that comes into the office. We prefer physical CDs, cassettes and vinyl over downloads. If you do not have a physical copy, send download links to No attachments, please. Send CDs to: Performer Magazine, Attn: Reviews, PO BOX 348, Somerville, MA 02143 CORRECTIONS / Did we make a heinous blunder, factual error or just spell your name wrong? Contact editorial@ and let us know, cuz we’re big enough to say, “Baby, I was wrong.” EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS / In the words of our esteemed forefathers at CREEM: “NOBODY WHO WRITES FOR THIS RAG’S GOT ANYTHING YOU AIN’T GOT, at least in the way of credentials. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be sending us your stuff: reviews, features, photos, recording tips, DIY advice or whatever else you have in mind that might be interesting to our readers: independent and DIY musicians. Who else do ya know who’ll publish you? We really will...ask any of our dozens of satisfied customers. Just bop it along to us to and see what comes back your way. If you have eyes to be in print, this just might be the place. Whaddya got to lose? Whaddya got?”

Benjamin Ricci

Well, European football is back in action and if the rest of the world is crumbling, at least I can escape for a few hours a week and watch some of my favorite clubs compete in their new league and cup seasons. Between the climate, the former guy, mass shootings and everything else going on, sometimes it’s just a bit much. Which, if you have an escape (like music or sports), can at least be tolerable for stretches. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the structure of league fixtures and tables is soothing to me – so try to find something that soothes you, too, especially if it’s all overwhelming at times. Channel it into music, if that helps, and share it with the world. You might just be surprised at who connects with what you’re feeling at this moment, too. Anyway, enough doom and gloom. There are some good things happening, too. We’re working on a special pedal issue and companion mixtape (yes, an actual cassette!) that we hope to be able to release very soon (provided we get enough sponsor support). That’s super exciting, as our Holiday 2021 mixtape proved to be a huge success and was an awesome way for us to showcase cool new gear played by awesome young artists. We want to do more of that and put positivity out into the world, so if you’re a brand or band who shares that goal, hit us up. We’ve got a ton of creative ideas and would love to figure out a way to work together, even if it’s a bit unorthodox. I’m easy to get ahold of:

PS – two games into the EPL and Spurs have yet to do anything Spursey. Has Conte really turned things around? Has all that money in the transfer window paid off? These questions and more – answered in the next issue. Stay tuned…

All in all, a valiant effort which one can only imagine spreads itself out and becomes more realized in a live setting.

Lesson learned: next time you sell something on Craigslist, don’t forget to ask for the buyer’s latest record… Follow on @raibardInstagram:

“Walkin On” is perhaps the most traditional rock song, infused with a Southern-slide sensibility and a cascading breakdown mid-way through. So, if that’s your thing, you should like this one.


Dark Realm of the DaylightBoston,MA(Self-Released)


Sometimes music comes into your life when you’re not even expecting it. Recently, I was helping a friend at Zildjian sell some of his vintage Gretsch drums, and it turns out the buyer in that transaction happened to be in a band. We got to talking, he asked what I did, and he said his band just put out a new release on Sure,vinyl. I thought. Anytime I mention what I do, someone’s got a brother, friend or cousin who makes music and inevitably I never hear from them again. This time, though, I woke up one day with the record (literally) on my doorstep with a nice note thanking me for checking it out. Which brings us to the wax in question – Dark Realm of the Daylight, courtesy of Raibard. For starters, I’m a sucker for colored vinyl, and anything purple. So, score one in the win column already. Putting the record on my turntable, I was presented with an eclectic mix of prog, psyche, indie rock and acoustic tenderness (well, at times, anyway). One of the things I dislike about modern takes on prog is how sterile, beat-mapped and predictable they’ve become. Which is why I gravitate towards things like Wobbler and even Steven Wilson’s solo records. Much of today’s contemporary prog sounds like a click track with over-quantized everything and lifeless synths, so it’s refreshing to actually be surprised by a new release. The overall aggressiveness of the lead track “Angel of the Clockwork,” blends nicely into the more subdued title track, which in turn takes the listener on a journey through genres, moods, emotions and artistry.

For all the major strides in virtual music, though, the music industry has largely left remote synchronous collaboration uncracked. How can tech conquer the live experience?


Enter the Virtual Studio JackTrip Labs envisions a future where playing together hundreds of miles apart is functionally no different from jamming in the same room. Initially developed by Stanford University engineers and musicians, and then further enhanced by JackTrip Labs development team, the JackTrip Virtual Studio uses state-of-the-art cloud computing technology to link users who are up to 400 miles apart at the speed of light. Lag time is almost nonexistent, allowing for remote rehearsals and even full performances to stay in perfect sync. Small-scale bands and large choruses alike–up to 200 members at a time in some cases–can truly perform together without needing to leave their homes. A number of different pricing plans, including a free option allowing for up to 10 musicians to connect to a single session, means anyone with a reliable internet connection can join the JackTrip wave, whether it’s a few friends or a professional orchestra.

Sharing Sounds Asynchronous collaboration–swapping sounds via free or low-cost Box or WeTransfer accounts, or simply uploading to Soundcloud are practically a given today. They can be clunky, however, and version management can be a timesuck and a Fortunately,’sonly getting easier to collaborate from DAW to DAW. GarageBand users can share files via iCloud. Apps like Kompoz allow users of common DAWs like GarageBand and Pro Tools to connect directly or open up their files to musicians they’ve never worked with before. Soundtrap serves as a totally online DAW; its tiered pricing system and open collaboration make it especially approachable for a wide range of musicians.


To many of us, music making is something fundamental. We sing, we play, and more often than not, we want to do it together. It isn’t always easy. Most musicians have to make major sacrifices to fund their passions, but time and money limitations can make music feel like a luxury when it should be available to everyone. All that needs to change, and fortunately, the tide is starting to turn, in part thanks to technology. Today, some of the most powerful new music tech focuses on better remote collaboration that makes it easier to come together in exciting ways—without gas money or space rental. A number of platforms allow artists and producers to trade sounds and skills without meeting face to face. Streaming sites are increasingly easy to reach, and the world of virtual communication continues to grow by leaps and bounds in recent years. Music industry players, especially startups looking to push the status quo, are taking notice. Such innovations in remote music are more than just novelties. For many musicians, they’re necessities. Logistical hurdles like finding suitable rehearsal times, planning for driving distance, and budgeting for gas money can derail projects and entire careers before they even get off the ground. By lowering barriers of cost and distance, we can create new and accessible collaborative experiences for musicians everywhere, critical to a thriving creative community.


By Mike Dickey (CEO and Co-founder, JackTrip Labs) and Russ Gavin (Co-founder, JackTrip Labs)

LEARN MORE https://www.jacktrip.comat


For musical groups looking to prep for tours while minimizing hotel and studio space costs, the Virtual Studio makes for an affordable soundstage. It’s more efficient than moving people and equipment from place to place, saving artists time and money. Band members can move a town over without it meaning a breakup. For community groups, it’s a chance to redefine a sense of place to be more inclusive of members who might live farther away or lack safe access to transportation. The Virtual Studio gives people a chance to be heard by creative peers they might not otherwise be able to meet.

JackTrip users can connect with an even wider world through JackTrip Radio There, musicians can broadcast in real time from multiple locations, their performances streaming across the globe to radio listeners. They can record these shows for later playback, too, preserving unique remote encounters as with any other live session.

The space between in-person and remote musical experiences continues to narrow in the face of affordable synchronous and asynchronous products and services. JackTrip’s technology isn’t simply as good as the real thing. It’s real in its own right, and so is every connection it supports. For music technology, the road ahead is one full of potential. If the current pool of new apps is any indication, the most fruitful path is one that aims to close the gaps in remote collaboration and truly bring people together in every possible sense while meeting them exactly where they are.

This story was inspired by a chance meeting at the recent NAMM Show with session drummer extraordinaire Dylan Wissing. Based in Hoboken, NJ, Wissing has recorded for artists including John Legend, Drake, Kanye West, Jay-Z and Eminem, but he’s perhaps best known as the drummer on Alicia Keys’ GRAMMY award-winning hit, “Girl on Fire.” His drum loop and sample packs for companies like Native Instruments, Sounds, Cymatics, Soundtrap and Patchbanks feature a wide range of styles — ’50s R&B and ’60s pop, funky ’70s breakbeats and disco, up through modern pop and hip-hop. He also teaches the art of recording and session drumming at his website, Creating the Sound -learn more at One of the great stories he related over a late afternoon cup ‘o joe in Anaheim was the time ten years ago when Hurricane Irene came for his studio. The story about it here comes courtesy of the Disc Makers blog written by our old buddy Andre Calihanna. Hey Andre! (He loves us!) Shout out to Andre! Anyway, it goes a little something like this:

Americans who aren’t scientists appear to believe that they can decide for themselves whether the world is experiencing climate change (you know who you are).

How To Be Like Dylan The Subterranean


But, regardless of degree, there’s no argument that it’s fire season in the west, and good ol’ hurricane season in the east and south. So, while the “truth,” it seems, has become fungible, when you go down to your recording studio, and water is lapping over the mixing console, there’s no denying that your business is officially on hiatus, or worse. It’s that word “business” that’s at the crux of the matter. Too many pro artists and recording professionals who keep gear where they sleep think that it’s covered against damage or loss by their homeowner’s or renter’s policies. Too often, it’s not. Also too often, artists don’t have any policies at all. A professional musician’s gear is considered business equipment no matter where it resides. And it’s one thing to lose a couch and carpet, but when a ‘cane comes and gets your gear, Ringo you are SOOL.

“I had a recording studio in Hoboken, NJ. They built the town in a swamp and every once in a while, it reverts back to its former self. My studio was in an old factory building and I knew the hurricane was coming so we prepped the place. I had gotten everything three feet off the ground and put a bunch of instruments: snare drums, toms, cymbals in these water-tight, molded plastic drum cases and stacked them in the center of the room. I then stacked stuff on top of that. About three feet of water came in, and the plastic cases became little boats sitting in this water. I couldn’t get in there for three or four days, and by the time I did, the walls were turning black. The building had been an old wallpaper factory and was pretty toxic on a good day. I bought a bunch of expensive rubber boots, some friends came over and we tried to salvage what we could, but there was so much stuff that was totally destroyed. All these beautiful, vintage drums. I pretty much had a 20-year collection destroyed or that needed a major overhaul. I’ve been a fulltime musician since 1990, and I’ve been collecting stuff since I was in high school. It wasButdepressing.thesaving grace was that we had music instrument insurance through MusicPro. I had actually learned my lesson back in the ’90s. I toured with the band Johnny Socko (based in Indiana) for thirteen years. Back in 1993, we were playing the east coast for the first time. We had all our equipment in a trailer, and all our cash from the tour was in our van. We went to D.C. for some sightseeing, and when we got back, the van was gone. It was found the next day, but they had cleaned everything out and we had no insurance. Of course, after that, somebody’s father said, ‘You idiots, why didn’t you have insurance? What’s more important than securing the tools of your trade?’ It was a catastrophic theft. I had to deplete my college fund to replace the gear I lost.By the time of the Irene disaster, we were covered. A check came from Music Pro pretty soon after — I think it was settled within 45 days. So that gave me the funds to build an official pro studio now called Triple Colossal in better location. I was able to quickly get back up and running, but it was a pretty stressful period. So, with anyone I work with in any way shape or form — if their stuff is not insured — I basically smack them across the forehead.


So, whether you live in, and/or tour, areas that flood, freeze, quake or burn, or your stuff is subject to breakage or walking off with a light fingered ne’er do well, take somebody’s father’s advice and don’t be an idiot. Secure the tools of your trade with MusicPro Insurance (at 1-800-MusicPro, or

The starting rate for Music Pro is only $175. People don’t know. Because you can be as prepared as possible and still have a trailer open up on the highway. You can prep for a hurricane, raise your gear off the ground, and you can still be faced with a catastrophe. Or someone could just say, ‘Oh look, a trailer full of gear. I think I’ll take it.’”

Dylan And Avoid Subterranean Homesick Blues



About the Author Paul Irwin writes for  In Tune Monthly, ASCAP Experience Digital, The Gibson Amplifier and other music media.

No, not that Dylan,...but nevertheless, a cautionary tale

Songwriting is a mixture of learned principles,



5. Don’t Waste My Time You may have a killer riff for an intro, or you want to establish the chord structure with a little solo over it in the intro. Don’t. Not here. These are decisions that can be made in the recording process and may be edited in different mixes. I can tell you from experience that many of us end

up having long intros because when we initially wrote the song, we needed to play the chord structure a few times before we really developed the melody. Bands often fall into this trap when they write in rehearsals because they establish a groove to write over or get used to playing that long intro live. There is no need for that crutch once you’ve finished writing the song. Get to the story. Songs are like meeting someone, that first impression is super important. Engage early.

4. Demos are Dead There are two types of “demos” that are allowable today when you are sharing them with a publisher, licensor, or even a producer. The first one is a completely sparse arrangement with a single instrument (normally piano, guitar, or beat) and a clean, well-delivered vocal track for the melody. At most, you can maybe put in some light harmonies or callbacks on the chorus if that feels important to the material. That’s it. Don’t do doubling, don’t do panning, don’t do multiple stacks of harmonic vocal lines. Do not include a solo. Don’t do a rambling band recording. Don’t do a rushed performance. The second type of “demo” is a damn-near full production. Full drums, bass, keys, guitars, and vocal stacks with harmonies. There is no in-between. In both cases, you need to establish a BPM and make sure you are recording to a click. Most importantly, clear audio (vocals especially) is a must. You might think you are just pitching a song, and that is somewhat true, but poor audio or a weak performance might kill your chances. Think about the people listening to this “demo,” chances are, they are listening to dozens or even hundreds of songs this week, and while the quality of your recording may not be the determining factor, if it’s bad, it will be remembered - no matter how good the song is.


I am in the midst of judging a songwriting contest right now. Many songwriters, music publishers and licensors do this from time to time, and it’s an honor to do so. As I am blasting through these 65 songs (in addition to the 150 songs I listen to weekly), I have a few insights I want to share with my fellow songwriters which can help you navigate today’s industry, no matter where you are in your writing career. Because, like it or not, it’s never just about the “song,” it’s also about how the song is presented, how it’s performed, and packaged. These five rules are pretty much universal, and while they may seem simple, I see (hear) them dismissed every single day.

Anyone in the music business will tell you that teaching songwriting is a difficult— if not impossible—task. There are some who do it well. For instance, Judy Stakee at Berklee is excellent. Whenever I am asked to teach songwriting, it normally comes down to teaching forms: Verse - Pre - Chorus - Bridge, or the difference between AABA and ABABCB, or lyric writing guidance having to do with story continuity, simile tricks, rhyming techniques, and so on. More often than not, it’s really about teaching what not to do, and there is a good reason for that. I can’t teach you exactly how to write a melody, but I can teach you what’s important about crafting a melody. I can’t really teach you how to write a catchy chorus hook, but I can guide you to make sure it is repeating in a certain way and uses the title.

3. Repeat After Me This is a very hard thing to do correctly, but it is essential to every great song. We all fail at this, especially once we start writing more complex songs. We get caught up in the wordsmithing, in the cool turns of phrases as we work through a song over and over, and we forget about the first listen. This means, you need to capture the ear the first time. You must repeat hooks. I’m not here to tell you there is a magic number of times to repeat a set of words in the chorus, but it better be at least twice. I know it can seem lazy to repeat choruses or hooks, you want to change it up, but

As licensing professionals, we are dying to be surprised by how you naturally write a song. If you are following some cookie-cutter instructions, then you are going to end up writing the same kind of songs as everyone else. While that can be helpful for beginning songwriters–think of it as training wheels—and it may result in a good song, it rarely results in a truly great song; and that’s what we are all chasing.

just think about every song you love, every song that gets stuck in your head, they all have one thing in common: repeating lines. The trick is to spend your time on what you are repeating rather than trying to find a way to avoid it. This is true across hip-hop, EDM, rock, pop, even classical. Humans are hardwired to recognize patterns, audio especially. The best way to do that is through repetition. If it’s a great hook, it deserves to be repeated.

2. Write Bad Songs I wish I had learned this earlier in my career. Even the very best, most accomplished, songwriters don’t write great songs every time. And sometimes the first few songs you ever write are the ones that outlive you.

Starting the song with the full chorus. Going to a leading 9th chord and then resolving. Dropping your rhyme structure on the last verse of a four-line verse stanza. Modulating the second repeated chorus by lifting a half step. Use outlandish word choices, think Nirvana, “mosquito” and “libido.” Coin a unique phrases, like Jay Z: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man” or Gershwin, “‘S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous,” or Eminem, “Mom’s spaghetti.” Use brutal honesty. Instead of saying, “you’re the love of my life,” it could be “when you die, my love will disappear with you.” Remember this: you are a listener to songs, too. What in this song sets it apart? Did it surprise you? If not, keep grinding it out. Surprise yourself, and you’ll surpriseWhatothers.Iwant you to take from this is that you are in control of the song and the story, but don’t forget the listener. Yes, write songs from your heart to heal yourself, to give your unique point of view, to tell your story, but if you plan on sharing them with the world, these tips will help you secure a wider listening audience. Great songs deserve to be heard, so give them every chance to find their way into the world and into people’s lives.Now, go write the best song you’ve ever written because I can’t wait to hear it.

Bonus tip: trying to write a stupid song (a joke, a jingle, a cheesy tune) is an excellent way of breaking a writer’s block.

talent, time in your life, and then something that just cannot be defined. Call it the muse, the universe, vibration, or maybe even luck. You will never find that amazing moment, that happy accident, if you aren’t writing songs all the time. To do that, you have to be willing to write (and finish) bad songs. The sooner you accept this as truth, the better your creative writing life will be.

1. Surprise the Listener The (not-so) secret ingredient to every great song is the surprise. Much like songwriting in general, I cannot teach you how to surprise the listener, but here are a few examples.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR -Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.


And Secure More Licensing Opps


The recorded music that we love would not be possible without such session musicians as the Wrecking Crew, the Nashville A-Team, the Hollywood Studio Symphony, and thousands of other studio musicians and back-up singers. A cappella versions of “What’s Going On,” every song on Thriller, and every album recorded by Steely Dan might be great to listen to once or twice, but it is the background session work that makes them enduring works of art.

Session Player Royalties: Making Harmony

As a performing musician, I was aware that very few performers knew about this royalty or received royalty checks. A good example of this was when a bandmate of mine, Paul Harrington, recorded the harmonica part on “Timber” by Pitbull and Kesha. The song went on to be one of the most popular songs in the world at the time. Paul didn’t receive a royalty and didn’t even know he was owed one.

n June 29, 2022, a declaration was filed in federal district court in New York confirming that $45 million had been paid to nearly 60,000 session musicians and background singers as part of a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit had been brought by six Texas session musicians and background singers who had done session work for Pitbull, Kesha, Sublime, Flo Rida, and others. The suit, filed five years ago by me and attorney Roger Mandel of Jeeves Mandel Law Group, P.C., was against a fund that administers digital session royalties to non-featured performers for airplay on digital cable, satellite radio, and non-interactive streaming.

For the past 30 years, I have worked as a lawyer and also as a working musician who performs live and in sessions. This unique combination made it possible for me to bridge the gap between a statute existing on paper and its real-life consequences.

Historically, session musicians have received very little financial compensation despite the monumental contribution they’ve made to American music. That began to change in the mid-90s when the Digital Performance Right in Sound Recordings Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act were amended to include a royalty to non-featured performers -session musicians and background singers.




Roger Mandel is a shareholder with Jeeves Mandel Law Group, P.C. He has practiced in the area of complex commercial litigation for 33 years, including 28 years involved in bringing class actions on behalf of injured individuals and companies.

Our first effort was to try to get the fund that administers the royalties to ensure a more equitable distribution to non-featured performers. When that didn’t work, Roger and I filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in New York. The class representatives were all Texas musicians and singers that I was already working with as a musician or as their attorney. In other words, they were not hard to find.



Fast forward to October of 2020, when the court approved the settlement between the class representatives and the fund. The settlement not only required the distribution of $45 million in royalties on indefinite hold by the fund, but it also requires the fund to conduct a media campaign to raise awareness of the digital session royalty as well as hire a consultant to revamp its business practices. The fund must also undertake additional procedures for locating and paying non-featured performers in the future and replace fund guidelines that had discouraged non-featured performers from making claims. Many lawyers know the Copyright Act, and plenty of musicians know the pay practices of the recording industry. Few people understand both, and there are even fewer people who could help repair the broken connection between the two. Whether it’s helping a session musician get paid a royalty, talking with a client on a long drive to a gig, or visiting with fellow working musicians in the green room, I’m rewarded when I find harmony between my legal profession and my art. I’ll continue to pursue that as long as it benefits my bandmates and my clients – often the very same people.

Eric Zukoski is a shareholder with Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett and Moser, P.C. He represents clients involved in a wide variety of contract, property, and intellectual property matters. He has extensive performance experience, including two albums as a session bassist for a multi-CMA and Grammy winning recording artist. He has recorded with a Handy award winner and a Blues Foundation Award winner and has dozens of radio and television credits.

14 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE SPOTLIGHT Benjamin RicciAdriana Arguijo Gutierrez Baxter HallWhen a Young Heart Meets a Vintage Soul


Hall may be young, but his love for soulful guitar-based music and vintage gear belies his tender age. We recently had an opportunity to work with the gifted axe-slinger as part of our Elixir Strings artist of the month program, so be sure to watch some of the videos he shared on our social media pages as well as our YouTube channel.During his featured month, we also had a chance to sit down and chat more in-depth about his influences, his gear and where his career is headed…. So, we’d love to get to know you a little bit better. Sure, well I’m from Boston and music has always been a part of my life. It’s some of my earliest memories. In some ways I came from a very musical family, many generations back people played instruments and I always remember growing up hearing a lot of music by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Joni Mitchell and The Beatles and some James Brown around the house, which was mostly through my parents, but also just through being around music and musicians.WhenI was 12 years old, I found a Stratocaster in my grandparents’ [house]. Every day after school I couldn’t wait to go back and play guitar and I would just teach myself different Beatles songs that I would learn by ear. Eventually I ended up taking some lessons with many, many great teachers around New England and gaining some guitar vocabulary that way. It sounds like a lot of your earliest influences around the house were late 60s pop and rock. Like the Laurel Canyon sound? That kind of Crosby, Stills Nash, Joni Mitchell type thing? Definitely, definitely. Laurel Canyon? I get that. Like I light up a little bit [when I hear that phrase] because of the folk scene and a lot of songwriters [from that era]. Yeah, I just remember from a very young age being really fascinated with crafting songs and how people communicated through songs; I remember being really mesmerized by that. Were you starting to write at first or did guitar playing came first and then writing came later? I would like to say that the guitar playing came first but I actually think that songwriting and the love for songwriting has always been there. Songwriting started coming in around 15, you know, it started with little things, like “I got this idea,” and I would show it to some of my friends. We played in a band in high school and [I] started writing that way and then around 16/17 I started getting into lyrics and exploring that side of me, as well. Cool, I’d like to go back to the guitar thing, since that’s how a lot of folks come to know you. You said you picked up this Strat at a young age, and I see it still in a lot in your videos and in your social media. You want to walk us through some of your other favorite guitars too? Sure, of course. That’s the thing that’s been a passion of mine since I was maybe 12 or 13 and



There’s just something about the sound of an all-rosewood neck seems very magical to me, and it looks amazing. I also have a 50s Gretsch Country Club, which was converted into a White Falcon model sometime in the 70s. Someone did the conversion on that well before I got it. I think they did it in the 70s or so because obviously the White Falcon was such a popular model with Gretsch. I remember seeking that model out because I’m a huge Neil Young fan… That’s a big old hollowbody, right? Yes, yeah, it’s completely hollow and it sounds great. I also have a 55 Les Paul Junior, which I

I’ve been really interested in all the different guitar models and all that, so… The instrument that that I love right now that I’m using so much and just can’t put it down is a Fender Stratocaster with an all-rosewood neck. Oh, OK. Let’s talk rosewood!




Well, the Acoustasonic came into my life in a very natural way in the sense that I was writing songs where I wanted an acoustic sound and then I wanted to switch to an electric sound to play a solo and before this guitar, I don’t know. I would just play it all on electric and it wouldn’t really like serve the song like I wanted it to. Right. Speaking from a songwriter’s a perspective, I really think that this is such a versatile instrument, especially with all the different acoustic sounds it has and being able to switch to an electric sound. Yeah, it just, it just does it for me. It’s kind of like what I was searching for this whole time. Did I see a Silvertone sneak in the collection, too? Or am I imagining things? I do. I have an old Silvertone, as well. Talk to me about that ‘cause that’s a cool guitar that people sleep on. Yeah, I know. And it has that one kind of lipstick pickup that’s so good. I’ve had that guitar for a while. It was one of the first guitars I ever got, which I know is kind of funny because a lot of people growing up in the 50s and 60s usually talk about Silvertone and the whole thing with Sears and it being their first guitar and everything. But I actually, you know, I kind of share in on that [even at my age]. Yeah, it was just this cool guitar I saw in a guitar shop, and I’m telling you, every time I pick up that guitar and plug it in, it really just like never disappoints; it just has a really loud rocking sound with that one pickup.


Like on a lot of my guitars, I’ve never really had a preference as far as like, oh, I need the action to be this way or [something]. I started to play vintage instruments from a young age and so when I would pick it up, the guitar was as it was and it was a little bit of a struggle or whatever, but you kind of just adapt to it. And yeah, something about that that’s kind of, that’s kind of been my preference – it’s OK if the guitar is a little beat up,

love, and I got that maybe when I was 17 or so. Now that’s a real, we’re talking real 50’s -- not like a re-issue or something? Yes, so it’s a real 1955 and like I said, this sort of came from diving into this passion for vintage instruments since a young age. I came across it at Empire Guitars in Providence, RI. Oh yeah, I love them. Another model I should mention is my Fender Acoustasonic. Now tell me about this ‘cause this is a relatively recent addition to the Fender lineup, and I think I’ve seen people divided online whether they like it or not.

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Yeah, you’re not forgetting the main point, which is that the music is supposed to matter, right? Not just the gear. Can you kind of get us into your headspace, and explain what the songwriting process looks like for you? Early in my songwriting journey, I wasn’t making the connection between my emotions and songwriting, and hadn’t yet made that connection early, early on when I was maybe 16 or 17. But over the past two years I’ve been taking a step back. I found myself writing a lot of songs about different relationships that we find ourselves in, like how others make us feel, how we want to make others feel, and just relating to who we are as people. I have some music coming out in the fall, and on a lot of these new songs that everyone will hear soon there’s a connection between relationships and social interaction, that I found to be a huge theme in my own life over the past two or three years.


if it’s not perfectly intonated or whatever, that just kind of goes with some of that punk energy I like to channel through my [work]. I always feel like it’s more the player than the instrument.

“I always feel like it’s more the instrument.”thanplayerthe



Having first met in high school, Stokes and Pearce struck a creative relationship with bassist Benjamin Sinclair and drummer Ivan Johnston while attending the University of Auckland. Following their time at the university, the four musicians actively began exploring songwriting and recording as a unit.

At first glance, Elizabeth Stokes and Jonathan Pearce seem like your average indie rock musicians. Taciturn, a bit self-conscious and noticeably introspective, the Auckland-based pair comes off as the type of people who might feel more at ease on stage or in a recording studio than in an interview setting. But unlike many of their contemporaries, who often take great care to curate a low-key and introverted-seeming facade to hide a dearth of artistic substance behind their creative process, the duo, which makes up one-half of the New Zealand indierock band The Beths, has a clear vision of who they are and what their sound should reflect.

On Touring & Crafting a New LP in the COVID-Changed Industry Landscape

Francis CarterGus Rocha

Jonathan: Yeah, so we played in a bunch of bands together, and that was kind of like a Louis Prima swing band. I think that was what



Conceived at the tail end of 2014, The Beths embraced a self-reliant DIY philosophy that helped the band connect to and garner the attention of a growing legion of devoted fans across the prolific Auckland music scene.

Released during the first wave of COVID, JRG saw The Beths revisiting a sound with which they seemed incredibly comfortable and intimate.


Bolstered by the success of their sophomore release as well as by a string of tours around New Zealand and Australia while most of the world was still in lockdown, the group wrote and recorded their upcoming third album, Expert in a Dying Field, out this September via Rough Trade. Polished and crisp, the record aptly showcases the band’s evolving songwriting abilities as it builds layers of sonic nuance and texture that successfully enrich the quartet’s trademark and beloved sound. I caught up with Stokes and Pearce and discussed their songwriting and recording process, their experience releasing and recording new music during the Covid pandemic, and what it’s been like to tour internationally as the pandemic seemingly draws to a close. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve read that you guys all played together as part of your first drummer Ivan’s backing band and that it was a swing band. Are you fans of jazz?

After receiving funding from governmentbacked programs like NZ on Air and NZ Music Commission, the group recorded their first single, “Idea/Intent,” in July 2015. Following a warm reception from critics and peers alike, the band spent the next year working on their EP Warm Blood, a collection of hard-hitting and atavistic punk songs that paid homage to the genre’s first wave of artists and their guidingTheethos.success of the band’s EP was, in turn, followed by the release of their debut album, Future Me Hates Me, in 2018. A melodically complex and highly energetic record, FMHM effectively cemented the group as one of New Zealand’s and indie rock’s most promising acts. After a line-up change as a result of drummer Ivan Johnston’s sudden but amicable departure, the group undertook a 250-date tour in which they shared a bill with alt-rock luminaries Death Cab for Cutie. It was during this time that the band wrote and recorded the material for their second album, 2020’s Jump Rope Gazers.

Liz: There wasn’t a sound really. I think that because Auckland is a medium-sized place there’s enough stuff going on that all the bands aren’t just playing the same kind of guitar pop. For the most part, each band is doing its own thing, but everyone is still collaborating with each other.


Liz: Yeah, I think the songs from that era definitely leaned more towards power-pop and punk. We wanted to play fast and energetic songs. We really enjoyed that.

“I just embraced the fact that I was going to write what I was going to write.”

Liz: So that album came together over a long time. There were songs that we had re-recorded or tweaked a few times. I think that just like with our EP, we were going for something that sounded really good and powerful that we could do with the tools that we had. We felt that we were getting better with each album and Jonathan was learning more recording techniques, and we were definitely becoming better musicians and tighter as a Iband.was really working on becoming a better songwriter and was working on my arrangements.

On the first EP, we were really trying to figure out who we were and what we wanted to do, and by the time we put this out, we knew that we wanted to play fast and hard but also broaden the spectrum and play with other sounds. We knew we were going to have ten songs, and you can’t have a great album with ten songs that all sound the same. So, we wanted to add a little variety, and I think it ended up sounding like a cohesive project because the making was cohesive in itself. Once [new drummer] Tristan got onboard, you guys go on tour with Death Cab, and by 2020 put out your second LP Jump Rope Gazers, which to me sounds like a more polished continuation of the heavyriff, harmonic garage-rock style from the first album. How did you guys feel going into this record?

Liz: Right, and there are different criteria that you need to fulfill where, for instance, you have to play National Talk, which can be two shows because New Zealand is small. And this is stuff that if you’re starting out helps you get your music out there, and it’s also stuff that you would be wanting to do anyway to get your project off the ground. As you began to grow your fanbase, you cut your first record, FMHM, produced by Jonathan. What was that recording experience like and what sound were you going for?

our original drummer was into at the time, and we would all just play in each other’s bands at that time, so that’s how it sort of happened. Now, this wasn’t really jazz, it was more jazz-adjacent music. What groups or artists influenced you guys growing up?

Liz: That’s something that New Zealand is really lucky to have where every two months they give out funding to about 30 songs, which really helps the local national scene. It helps people with small studios or people who are recording for the first time. It’s a good way to feel motivated and get some support. Honestly, I think that we got really lucky and got support from it and it helped.Jonathan: It’s quite a unique system; it’s an open system and they receive over two hundred submissions per every round of funding.

Jonathan: Right, so Auckland is big enough that you have a lot of bands doing pretty unique things. But it’s not big enough that you can stratify things by genre where you can have a certain venue that only caters to garage-rock bands, for instance. So, you get garage-rock bands playing with poppier groups, or with groups that might be influenced by hip-hop or other genres. And often, these might play together at the same venue on the same night. You might also see musicians from one band hopping in and playing in another, so everyone’s sort of playing a bit of each other’s music. Us, we played a lot with a lot of our friends while also coming up with a formula that was our own and that worked for us.

Liz: We were so busy that we didn’t really have much time to feel any pressure until after it was done. I remember at the time telling myself that there was no point in stressing out about the songs you write because stressing out about your songs isn’t going to make them better. I just embraced the fact that I was going to write what I was going to write. This was also during a period when we played about 250 shows in 18 months between 2018 and 2019. So, I was writing in between shows as much as I could, and that turned out to be the album. And I remember that once the tour was done, I felt a little bit of pressure, and once the album was done, we handed it in at the start of March 2020. Of course, the world shut down immediately after that, and I remember feeling like maybe I didn’t have a reason to rush.


Liz: There are different people for different reasons. Death Cab for Cutie was one group because I got to see how they run their whole operation and how much they still love making music and writing and performing. Or a band like Wilco where you see how much the fans love being Wilco Jonathan:fans.We’re certainly like music sponges. We try to absorb a lot of different music. I know my music listening habits have changed a lot. Like when I was in my late teens and twenties I was listening to a lot of quantity, trying to listen to as many artists as I could and studying production techniques, and trying to learn what makes the music tick. We’ve usually been influenced by New Zealand artists, which are the artists that made the most sense to us. What was the music scene like in New Zealand around the time you guys got started?

Within a really short time after getting started, you released your first single “Idea/ Intent” in mid-2015, followed by your EP, Warm Blood, in early 2016. What was the recording like for those? I ask, mostly, because your early sound seems much rawer than what you went for in later projects. What were you guys going for at that time?

Jonathan: I think those initial recordings were done with simpler tools. We’ve always embraced the DIY mindset, and I think that we were striving to get something that sounded reasonably good in light of all our limitations in terms of production.

And it’s around this time that you began receiving support from NZ on Air and NZ Music Commission, which if I understand correctly, are government-funded agencies that promote the national music scene and industry. How did you stumble into this opportunity, and what was the experience like?


Jonathan: I think that touring this year has been a bit hard. In some ways, it feels like it’s getting a bit easier, but the threat of catastrophe is certainly always there. A lot of the things that we used to love about touring we can’t really do anymore. We love meeting other bands and hanging out with them which is something that on this tour you can’t really do at all. You also have to have the masks on and always be alert about what kind of space you’re in. These are the things where you compromise. But then, at the end of the day, you’re still getting to play a show. And the shows have been the highlight of every day, and so long as people enjoy that and have a great time that’s really what it’s all about.

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Speaking of playing live, you guys are currently on tour and have been on the road for a while. What has this tour been like? Is this the first tour since COVID?

Fast-forwarding to the present day, your third album, Expert in a Dying Field, is due out in September. Personally, I feel like this is an album that sounds more polished and a lot richer, and in which you can tell that there’s a lot more attention to detail. What was the recording process like for this album?

Liz: No, actually. So, we did some touring in New Zealand while there was no COVID in the community which was for most of 2020 and a bit of 2021. Since the start of this year, we’ve been doing a tour of the States, UK, and Europe.

Liz: I think that every musician at the time must have asked themselves what it meant to be a musician at that moment. At one point, the album had already been turned in and we could decide if we would put it out or not. The release date was set for July, and after talking about it, we decided to go on with that date because the alternative was to sit on an album indefinitely, and we really didn’t want to do that.


Liz: This was an album in which we had way more time. We had a lockdown halfway through tracking it that lasted about three to four months, so I think that having a lot of time to write a lot of songs really helped. We knew that we wanted to make a fun live record. After writing the songs as we were working on arrangements, we talked about how we wanted to make an album that would be fun to play live. And again, having a glut of songs, a bunch of songs that you could pick and choose from made the process really fun.


What was it like to release the album during the first wave of COVID? How did the pandemic affect your plans?


GA-20 Benjamin Ricci How the Roots-Heavy Trio Infuses Vintage Tone Into Their Modern Sound PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 25 SPOTLIGHT Fancey Pansen,Jon Medina & Whitney Pelfrey

“A huge part of [our] sound and approach to blues involves using vintage gear instruments.”and

In the studio we typically use smaller vintage amps, ranging from 5-12 watts. Some of our go-to’s are a Silvertone 1471, Silvertone 1482, Gibson GA-18, Gibson GA-20. When we need a louder amp we go to the 1960’s Ampeg Reverbrocket 2, a 1951 Fender Tweed Pro, and 1959 Fender Tweed Bassman. We also have a collection of guitars that we don’t usually take out on the road. A few favorites include a 1951 Fender Telecaster, a 1960 Gibson ES-330, a 1968 Fender Jaguar, as well as a bunch of different 50’s and 60’s Kays and Harmonys.”

“We have guitar and amp collections that allow us to make different choices for particular songs or tunings. For live performances a typical set-up for Matt would be a 1960’s Silvertone 1454 guitar, a 1964 Fender Jazzmaster and/or Telecaster, plugged into a 1965 Fender Vibrolux Reverb and a 1960 GA-20. Pat’s main guitar is a 1950’s Harmony Stratatone Newport, as well as using a modified Fender Jazzmaster, 1960’s Teisco and reissued 1960’s Telecaster. He also uses two amps at the same time, a 1966 Fender Pro Reverb and a modified Fender Pro Junior with a 12 inch speaker. Tim plays a vintage Walberg & Auge kit (sizes 24, 13, 16), and uses Bosphorus cymbals.

If you want to know what GA-20 is all about, just let them tell you about their gear:


We recently sat down with Matt Stubbs, GA20’s lead guitar player (who you might recognize from Charlie Musselwhite’s band) to chat about the GA-20 project, his background with guitar and the group’s vast array of (and love for) vintage gear. Can you give us a little background on your musical journey? Sure, so I started playing guitar when I was about 13. My father is a guitarist, so growing up


from day one he had a band or different bands, and they’d rehearse every week and have gigs on weekends.Igotinterested in trying my hand at it so got a guitar and it took about a year or two to kind of settle in and really get obsessed with it. And once that happened, I had full blinders on. So, I was obsessed with guitar like most kids once they get into it, and I went to Berklee College of Music for a year before I dropped out. And then after that I kind of kicked around New England for a couple years with different bands and got an opportunity to be play guitar for a Blues singer. Her name is Janiva Magness. She lived in Los Angeles so I moved out to LA my early 20s. Oh, cool. I played with her for about a year and then kind of got immersed in the California Blues and R&B scene. I started doing some other gigs aside from Janova…I met a lot of Bay Area musicians at that time and on one of the tours there was a drummer, his name June Core, and he plays drums with Charlie Musselwhite – he’s been in the band forever and I was lucky around that time to have met him.

Charlie needed a guitar player, so he recommended me and one day I got a phone call and it was Charlie on the other end of the line and he offered me a tour. No audition or anything, and I’ve been with [him] ever since. It’s been about 14 or 15 years now.

Let’s take it back a little bit. You went to Berklee? Are you originally from the New England area? Yeah, I grew up there through high school. I lived in Southern New Hampshire, a little town called Hampstead, and went to Berklee for a year. After that I stayed mostly around Massachusetts, once I dropped out, I went to New Hampshire for a little bit, but yep, I grew up in New England. I live in Providence now, actually. I’ve never had to get a real job. I’ve always played music. I was working a lot before I went into Berklee, so I was already gigging and doing small tours and I’m pretty sure Berklee changed quite a bit from when I was there. Part of me wishes I stayed for other reasons -- I was just studying performance when I was there. And now looking where I am now in life, I produce a lot of music. I produce all the GA-20 stuff. If I could go back in time I might have stayed for another year or two (or maybe four) and work more on engineering and music production, and maybe just kind of learn [that].

So, you did the Charlie Musselwhite thing based upon the recommendation of a fellow musician. You are still with Charlie, right? I am, yep. But this is the first year where I am missing [a bit]. I’m getting subs for certain gigs, just ‘cause GA-20 is pretty much non-stop touring. GA-20 launched for you maybe a year or two before the pandemic, so maybe you can walk us through what the conception of the project was like. At the time I was living in downtown Boston near Fenway. And Pat the singer, another guitarist I had known for a few years up until this point -- this was end of 2017, beginning of 2018 -- he was coming to a lot of my gigs and at the time he was probably a couple years into getting into Blues. He started showing up at different gigs I was doing, and some Blues jams, wanting to learn more about traditional Blues and how to play Blues so he was coming from a jazz background and metal background, but for some reason traditional Blues was speaking to him. He was out seeking it live and wanting to sit in and stuff. So, he actually took a few guitar lessons with me at first. Not that he needed to learn how to play guitar, but more as like a historical reference for who he should be listening to.

Charlie Musselwhite had just finished making his record with Ben Harper and he let us know that he was going out for a full year on tour, like a world tour with [Ben], and we were gonna


“I’m trying to make blown-out 50s and 60s Blues records where they’re wide, wide, open and big, you know? There’s a live intensity to that.”



Let’s talk about the home studio. What was that build like? So, it was a finished basement, when I bought [my] house. The guy that owned it before me had like a small little hair salon out of the basement so when I bought this house, I made it a music room. I mean, I did little demos and stuff; it was not originally a recording area. During this was when we decided to record Hound Dog, that was like in the middle of COVID, no vaccines yet or anything so going to a studio was not something any of us were really looking to do. But I wanted to do the record, so I had a friend that was great engineer, and he had a lot of gear. So basically, I emptied that room out and built it out. You know, I put a lot of soundproofing and sound dampening in -- basic stuff but hung packing blankets and put a window in the wall so there’s like a makeshift vocal booth and just basically built that all out. Bought some gear, bought some vintage mikes and stuff like that but my engineer Matt Gerard came in with lots of racks of great preamps and great vintage mics. We rented a few other things so basically, I just kind of cleaned the room out and sound treated it and made it my own. Very few overdubs, very little editing later. We only isolate [vocals]. The biggest reason why [Pat’s] voice gets isolated is for in post-production for syncs like for TV or movies. When you get a sync, sometimes they want the instrumental versions. That’s like 90%. If I didn’t have to do that, I wouldn’t. I would probably put the vocal mic in the room [with the rest of the band]. That makes sense -- just cut everything live in the room together?

be off. His band was going to be off for a full year with no work [for me] and so that was the first time in many years… You had a hole in your schedule? Correct -- and I had another project, I still do, an instrumental project called Matthew Stubbs and the Antiguas so at that time before GA-20 I was touring with Charlie and when I would be home, I would write music and put out records with that band and just play basically in New England -- but being like a psych rock instrumental band, it wasn’t something that was really going to be working four or five nights a week. So, when I got that news, I was talking to Pat. I was thinking about putting a small project together just to work that one year. I wanted to play straight up ’50s traditional Blues and he was down for it. So that’s how the band started – it was not thinking about making a record. It was really just a band playing the music that I loved.

For the first GA-20 EP, were you doing the recording yourself? We actually went to Q Division Studios, one of the nicer studios in New England. OK, that makes sense. I’m not really an engineer, so I’ll hire an engineer. But I’ll produce everything. What was your pandemic experience like musically and creatively? So that Lonely Soul record came out in 2019, and we had a little bit of a head start on the pandemic. Wasn’t like we released our debut record and [everything] shut down [right away] so we put that out and we did a few festivals that year, started working with a different booking agent at the time and started to tour. And we had a big tour lined up for that July 2020 which is when everything got cancelled.

Yeah, the amps also just sound bigger, man, in a live room. If I put a Super Reverb on 8 and put a 57 in front of it or a Tweed Deluxe [in there] they just, to me, sound bigger in the mix. For drums, I try to use only three or four mics on toms, kick and snare. Sometimes just a single overhead, which is usually a ribbon, and then I usually put a ribbon over [the drummer’s] shoulder behind the floor tom and usually it’s just those two ribbons. I can get 90% of the sound I want, you know, with [just that]. I think on a lot of modern records people are over-mic’ing drums, and I’ve seen setups with bands that we talked to, and they’ve got like 10 to 12 channels on their console filled up with just drums. Right? As someone who likes simplicity myself, trying to do a submix on that many mics is going to probably be a nightmare. When I go to mix I have a mix engineer. I always start with like, “just give me the overhead first,” then let’s either use an overhead or a room mics and then from there, if I need a little bit of snare or a little bit of kick I can control it, there, with [close mics] but I like an open sound. I like bleed. You know, I’m not trying to make pop records here, I’m trying to make blown out 50s and 60s Blues records where they’re wide, wide, open and big, you know? There’s a live intensity to that.


STANDOUTCRACKDOWNGA-20TRACK:“DRY RUN” Follow on @ga20bandInstagram:


PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 31 SPOTLIGHT JENN BOSTIC Nashville Songstress Opens up About Music, Family and Faith Sara KaussBenjamin Ricci

Originally hailing from the Philadelphia area and now a full-blown Nashville artist, Jenn Bostic fuses Christian, Country and a bit of singer/songwriter pop into a sound all her own. We recently had the pleasure of working with her on a number of video projects, including some for Mojave Audio as well as Elixir Strings. And it was during the latter project where we had an opportunity to chat further with Bostic about her career, her musical journey, and the joys of (soon-to-be) motherhood. Can you give us a sense of how everything started for you, musically? Yeah, so I was born in Philly. I don’t really remember any of that, so I always claim Minnesota as home [laughs]. I grew up in a small town called Waconia, MN which is about 30 miles west of Minneapolis and my parents were both big supporters of the arts. My mom loved musical theater and all things glitz and glamour and my dad did some songwriting when my parents were dating.He would send songs instead of love letters to my mom… Please tell me you have some of those songs! I do, yeah. We have a little recording of him; it’s really cool. It was definitely always just something they both were passionate about and wanted my brother and I to both at least learn about. And my dad was always putting an instrument in our hands -- it was just always kind of an environment of creativity and then exposing us to different shows, whether that be a Broadway show or I remember they took us to see Garth Brooks back in theMyday.parents just tried to make it really accessible. Did you do music lessons or music at church or anything growing up? Yeah, I remember doing some of the kids programs at church and when I got into college, I was finally in a gospel choir. I took piano lessons from the time I was six, I believe, but I was very involved in sports in high school, so I sadly quit and had to reteach myself in college -- which I always regret, but maybe I needed a break from it for a little while. I was in all of the things in high school -- I mean the show choir, the marching band, jazz band, women’s chorus, all those things. But that kind of transition…that’s where I took music more seriously.



Let’s talk about your “a-ha” moment –when do you decide that music is going to be a career? I would say it was somewhere between 10 and 12, honestly. I unfortunately lost my dad in a car accident when I was 10 and so songwriting was just therapy for me -- I didn’t even realize that songwriting was a career or even anything I could follow. I thought that all the artists on the radio wrote their own songs, you know? So, I was just sitting down at the piano to get those feelings out. I couldn’t really talk about what happened with a counselor or anything. For some reason, music was the thing that allowed me to express it all, and of course my dad had been such an influence in getting me excited about music. I just felt close to him whenever I was playing piano or singing, so that feeling of wholeness that music brought me, I really just wanted to experience more and more of it, so I threw myself into everything musical. I ended up going off to Berklee to study music education. I’ve always loved working with kids, and I still do songwriting workshops whenever I go out, or I’ll try to find a couple high schools or middle schools that are interested in that. I felt like music had really provided this outlet for me and that I could help kids find that that [as well]. I didn’t really have the confidence to be a performer. Again, it was kind of like, oh, I’m just a small-town girl, but it’d be really fun to study at a contemporary music school like Berklee, you know, and [go through] their program. I felt like Berklee was going to pull the strengths that I had and bring that into the classroom if I were [going to teach]. I was [just] anxious to get out a small town I wanted to go to a big city like Boston. So, you go to Berklee to be a music educator, but something must have happened in the interim. Did you gravitate more towards performance or songwriting at some point? I actually did graduate with a degree in music education but there was always that little feeling in my gut that was like if I don’t even attempt to perform, I’ll probably regret it the rest of my life and I was [only] a sophomore. My mom was always really encouraging me to just audition for everything…It’s good for you to, you know, get those nerves out… [Eventually] I found friendships in a country music ensemble and a couple of the guys that were in the band were like, ‘We’re really looking for a singer, we like your voice. Would you want to come audition for this?’ And, you know, you’re trying to figure everything out at the beginning stages of your college career, so I joined the country ensemble, made friends there so I was gravitating



I had written a few songs, like right when my dad passed away and then a few songs here and there that I would play at coffee shops. When I went back to Minnesota, I had, you know, maybe 10 songs from the time I was 10 to the time I was 20. And then when my production major friends were needing to do projects, they need someone to sing. So, I had the opportunity to record my own songs.Ikind of had to re-teach myself to be able to write…

So, when is there a point that comes where you’re like, ‘OK, I’m gonna be Jenn Bostic the artist. I’m gonna go do it and really make a go of it’? The last day of my student teaching. I don’t really know what happened…

It started to build my confidence a little bit and by my sophomore year I auditioned for a country rock cover band. And that was kind of my intro to touring -- it was all weekends, so it was really like I was a Weekend Warrior.

towards country music…when you’re in the lights of a huge production, you want to do that again. It starts to feed that desire, so you get the bug for it.


I was singing anything from Carrie Underwood to Journey to AC/DC to Miranda Lambert. It was all over the map and I feel like that kind of reintroduced songwriting to me because I was singing these hits every single weekend and I was like, ‘Oh, I see how the structure of song works. I see what they do in the verse…I see where the chorus lifts…’ Were you still heavily involved with songwriting at that time, or was that kind of just bubbling to the surface because you were hearing so much chart-topping music?

Yeah, the cover band stuff can be grueling, definitely. Oh my gosh, so that was a huge shock to me, but I loved every second of it, you know?

I mean, I think over time I started to kind of lean that way and think, ‘What would this look like?’ and started to just kind of dream about it. After I graduated, everything in my heart was like, ‘You have to try to be an artist now -- you have to give this a go.’ So, from there, where does the career branch off to? The guitar player that had gotten me to audition for that cover band moved to Nashville a couple years prior. He was older than I was, and he was interning at Starstruck Studios. He’d been like a big brother to me throughout college, and I

It was more so the latter.


It’s a good way to start, especially when you’re doing the DIY booking thing… Yeah, for sure. So, I just started picking up the phone and calling these random coffee shops that I had Googled and said, ‘Hey can I come do a show?’ and if they were hesitant, I was like, ‘Look, I’ll play for tips and food, can I just come?’ I couldn’t afford to pay guitarists to come on the road with me, so I muscled through those piano chords to try to play for myself -- I’m glad I did it because it forced me to getButbetter.those first couple tours were pretty rough… I’d be interested in learning maybe a little bit more about your creative process. I love the co-writing thing. I do write on my own a lot; I feel like there’s some songs that are just so close to you and that the idea comes out so fast that you just have to write it yourself. But I am the first person to say that my strengths lie in certain areas and when I get a chance to write with somebody who can play circles around me, let’s go ahead and take it somewhere I never would have taken it. Collaboration and teamwork in music is so important Now you’re still in Nashville, correct? Yeah, I’ve been here for 14 years. And you’ve got new material coming, too. Looking back on it now, two years later, the timing of [COVID]…we’ve made the most of what we could, you know with the [new] project, and we had already recorded a new version of my song “Jealous of the Angels” -- I had a hit with it in England and I’ve been performing it live with a tag of “Amazing Grace” on the end of it and. I wanted to record it that way; this album is a Christian album about my faith, and it felt like a huge part of my testimony that was missing. So, we had a chance to re-record it, which to me it feels so different because it came from such a different place -- the first time we recorded it, I was still so broken and healing from everything that happened in losing my dad -- so 10 years later to record that song [again] was like a totally [new] experience. I had remembered all the stories that people had shared about how this song had brought them comfort during their time of loss, so that was really special. And in February of 2021, it was actually the 25th anniversary of my dad’s passing, so we released the new version that day, but that was never part of the plan. It was just something that worked out that way.


I know with the new record comes a new addition to the family as well, congratulations are in order, I believe… Thank you! [My husband and I] had those conversations probably daily because we’re at that age where it’s like, ‘Well, have kids or don’t.’ So, this is our first [child]. We’re excited; I guess they’re probably the greatest conversations that we probably wouldn’t have had if COVID hadn’t stopped us in our lives. What’s the plan after the record comes out? I actually leave tomorrow for a seven-date tour and then I pause and come home and then I’ll head back out. It’s kind of a whole summer of touring to get this these songs out there; I’m so ready and so excited. I want to get out there and play! BOSTIC

YOU FIND A WAY STANDOUT TRACK: “WRAPPED” Follow on @jennbosticInstagram: “That feeling of ofmorebroughtwholenessthatmusicme,Ireallyjustwantedtoexperienceandmoreit,soIthrewmyselfintoeverythingmusical.”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 35 had reached out to him to just say, ‘Hey, I want to record a country album. I have a couple of songs…’ When you get to Nashville, one of the first things you learn is that none of the stuff you thought was good, is good [laughs]. He was very kind, and he came back, and he said, ‘Look I would love to produce a record for you, and we can work within your budget. However, these songs are not ready. We need to start from scratch and write the album, so if you’re willing to be patient, we’ll write all the songs together.’ So, I moved to Nashville, did a lot of substitute teaching and line dance instruction and all these odd jobs to pay rent. It would have been really easy to go start a cover band and not push myself to write because you’re going to be so exhausted from singing these two- or four-hour gigs in a row. And I just kind of told myself that I wasn’t going to do the cover band thing when I got to Nashville. That’s smart. I kind of got it out of my system [already]. And so he and I wrote, my goodness, probably three days a week for six months until we had 12 good songs. It was a lot of writing, but until we had enough songs that we felt like were worth recording, you know worth investing in, we weren’t going into the studio with the session players he had. I felt really grateful because he had all those connections. We recorded those 12 songs and then did overdubs at his house. The whole process was maybe about six months, but then we had this CD and I wanted to go on tour -- whatever that meant -- but there was nobody knocking on my door to book me a tour, so I knew the places I could sleep for free -- places where I had friends and I kind of routed [shows] around that.

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF. I’m Matthew Wade, singer/songwriter and recording artist. I perform inspirational alternative rock with My Silent Bravery, my Boston-based band. WHAT’S THE MAKE AND MODEL OF THIS GUITAR? It’s a Gibson J200. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? She is part of the family! WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? It’s deeply resonant and features an electric pickup so I can amplify it if necessary. WHERE CAN WE HEAR THE GUITAR IN ACTION? On my livestream every Sunday at 11:00m EST at For more information, visit with MY BRAVERYSILENT Michael Sparks Keegan REVIEWSGEAR 36 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 PERFORMER MAGAZINE MY FAVORITE AXE

Starting off with the offset waist design, the ash body feels very familiar. Our test instrument was finished in a poly gloss burgundy-like mist, a pinkish/light purplish color that shined like a custom car. With no pickguard and no control plate it brings a sleek and modern aesthetic. The bolt-on satin neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard, which had rolled edges, giving the feel of being well worn in. Luminlay side markers glow in the dark, a Tusq nut add modern touches, and the open back Wilkinson tuners were smooth as silk. The back of the headstock is painted red (a feature on Neil’s original bass), which might initially feel out of place, but is a unique identifier. The four neck attachment bolts are well recessed in the body, and complement the smooth contoured joint area, bringing excellent playability in the upper ranges.

Chris Devine

Prestige Session One Bass Guitar


When a player starts a company, they’re drawing on years of practical experiences. Neil Jason is a session bassist with some serious cred, and he started Manhattan Prestige Basses to share what he learned with other players. His Session One bass is a perfect blend of the classic and the boutique.



None. CONS $999 STREETPRICE details,thought-outWellgreatplayability,excellentJ-basstones.


Hard rock players running through an SVT would appreciate the tight response, and funk players running through large diameter drivers will fill things out nicely with clarity and thump. The design, hardware and upgradability with the large electronics cavity make this a bass that’s somewhere between a production level instrument and a boutique one. Players who want to scale up on their own terms will appreciate the feel, and the price is well beyond reasonable for what’s being offered. Highly recommended.

The instrument features a top-loader string configuration, and the bridge is by Wilkinson, who also does the pickups. Looking under the hood is a breeze, as the backplate is held in place by magnets. This is a great feature for troubleshooting any issues that may arise during a gig. The cavity has plenty of room for modifications, even with standard full-size Alpha pots running a Volume/Volume/Tone configuration. Players who like to tweak and tinker will find plenty of room for any addons like preamps, and the two slots that are just the right size for 9-volt batteries will keep any mods clean and easy to service. The side mounted jack also adds great modern touch. The fit and finish overall are excellent and the naked no-pickguard look is quite modern and has a neutral appearance.Feelwise, this neck is joyous. With a 9.5” radius there is plenty to grab on to, especially in the middle of the neck. The shape near the nut is ultra slim, and extremely fast to maneuver on. It’s not fighting the player, and the taper isn’t flimsy or too thin. Aggressive players who want a neck that doesn’t get in the way; take notice. Tone wise it sits in the perfect J-bass zone, with plenty of warmth in the midrange that keeps things sounding smooth overall. The neck pickup on its own is pretty big sounding for a J-bass, while the bridge pickup has gobs of attack and clarity. The twin volume knobs really help balance things out, and for added adjustment the tone control is quite flexible. Slap and pop approaches kept the attack sharp, while maintaining the low end needed to fill out the mix. J-style basses often let the player’s color shine through, and this is the case here.


Monitors are always a big deal in any studio situation, but more importantly, how they work in your space. The idea is the monitor won’t interpret the sounds in a way that makes the mix sound bad on other devices. With more options available to help refine a mix, Focal’s Solo 6 are a high-quality set of monitors that can help dial in better mixes.

is the best description of what these bring to the table. It’s always amazing to listen to what a different set of speakers enhances or reduces, and these helped refine some older mixes that made our tester try to figure out how to re-release an older recording project.


Chris Devine

FOCAL Solo6 6.5-inch Powered Studio Monitors None. CONS $1599 (each) STREETPRICE focusdefinition,Accurate,clarityfeatureisnojoke. PROS

These are serious pieces of audio kit, and worth every cent for a serious home studio build or commercial situation.

This is where all the extra design features add up to help enhance what’s going on, and in a few cases, some sections of a certain mix that had some high-end frequencies that have always been an issue were able to be resolved, and not overcompensated with EQ plug-ins or other tweaks.To help ensure what’s being heard will translate to other listening devices, a footswitchable “focus” mode is available. Connect a footswitch, our tester used a Boss one from a pedalboard, and the signal to the tweeter is disabled, turning the woofer into a full range mode, allowing for a response that’s closer to a speaker on a consumer piece of audio equipment, such as a computer speaker or a television. This option alone can easily clean up a studio desk or space, as with this, the need for additional speakers to switch to for reference totally goes away.Accurate

Setting these up and running through several different kinds of mixes, these were beyond impressive -- it’s easy to list advanced technical specs, but the Solo6’s went beyond expectations in delivery. High end was easy to max out while maintaining clarity and no distortion, even at high volume levels. Clear definition of the lows without getting muddy or thumpy even with mega bass drops, while the mids were punchy and not grainy or spiky, even running a mess of midrange instruments through them, like multiple lead guitar tracks. At higher volume levels these speakers seemed to say, “is that all you got?”

The build quality on the front ported cabinet is quite impressive, and beefy. A beryllium inverted 1” dome tweeter is super light and amazingly rigid, meaning the high end is as stable as stone. With a unique baffle design, the dispersion is enhanced as well. Woofer wise, a 6.5” driver sports a “W” profile and is made out of a 3mm composite open cell foam woofer, sandwiched between glass fiber outer layers. Going into deeper design nuances, a tuned mass damper incorporated into the woofer greatly reduces oscillation and resulting distortions. Tuning can be adjusted on the rear with adjustable Hi pass filter, low frequency shelving, Low Mid frequency EQ and high frequency shelving. With a frequency response from 40Khz to 54Hz, it’s going well past what the human ear can actually handle. Oh, and it’s all analog, no DSP processing or algorithms running anything. Auto Standby is also selectable for situations where the power switches might be tough to reach, with a snappy and quick wake up. To cap it off, threaded inserts are available and allow for wall or ceiling mounting.


Chris Devine

The smallish, non-cutaway “W” style body has a Sitka Spruce top while the back and sides are Indian rosewood. 21 smallish frets adorn the very light-colored ebony fingerboard that sits on a mahogany neck with a 24” scale. Mathematic style fret markers sit nicely on the fingerboard, tying into Ed’s Mathematics Tour. Ebony is also used in the top loading bridge and facilitates string changes without traditional bridge pins.


With an LR Baggs EAS VTC pickup, the end pin is the input jack, and small roller wheel controls for volume and tone sit discretely just under the sound hole. The fit and finish were excellent across the entire instrument and the woods themselves had very nice grain patterns. With the small scale and small body, it’s an easy guitar to get around on. The neck shape has a modern feel that has enough girth to grip on to, and the satin finish was super smooth, and didn’t get sticky with sweat. Smaller players who might find acoustics cumbersome should check this out. The overall build quality was excellent, and in a satin finished instrument, the quality of the materials was Consideringobvious.itssize, the tone is quite nice acoustically with a lot of punch. Percussive players will really appreciate the mid thump, especially with fingerstyle approaches. The nut width comes in at 1.75” and the string spacing was comfortable for picking and fingerstyle attack. It sits nicely with a mid and low range that can complement other sharper or jangly instruments like electrics in a mix, while maintaining its own space.Plugging it in, the LR Baggs system is quite potent. There is a lot of fullness that really gets enhanced when going through even a simple PA system. The overall output was very strong, and the EQ is easy to adjust at stage volumes without getting into overdone tweaking. The “tour edition” name really nails where this works it’s best: live. Our tester used this instrument live in an acoustic duo situation with another guitarist using a full body style guitar, and its presence was still felt throughout the mix, with enough snap during melody and lead parts that were full and robust, and bottom end warmth during rhythm parts that filled in Thisnicely.caneasily be a graband-go guitar for a singer/ songwriter on any kind of gig. Some may have a tough time reconciling a signature guitar, but regardless of the name, when it sounds this good, and plays this well, it goes beyond all that and becomes a practical tool for expression for any player who holds it.



SHEERAN BY LOWDEN Ed Sheeran Tour Edition Guitar None. CONS $1320 STREETPRICE pickup,sounding,Greatexcellentwellmade.

In many cases signature instruments can be a hard pill to swallow; if they’re overdone with an artist’s signature graphics or other adornments, players sometimes feel that there’s no room for their own growth, or even worse, pass on a great guitar just because of the association to an artist. The Ed Sheeran Tour guitar is a great small-scale instrument with a great tone, and isn’t emblazoned with nonsense.

It’s a set that offers up a better perception of the overall sound as a whole but doesn’t seem to dissect it in a nonmusical way. Lows and mids are clearly well-defined, but there is a very slight uptick in the higher mids. Considering that’s where guitars and vocals reside, this can help the user from overstepping into any harsh areas. The overall fullness and dynamics were fantastic, and there was no audio fatigue during long sessions. Comfort from the memory foam lined ear cups and headband made wearing these a pleasure as well for casual listening scenarios.

Chris Devine

Using these in tracking a guitar amp, with the player in the same room was also great. Some players go with “one ear on” style to better hear the room, however with these, the room sound came in just enough to not be clinical and allowed the player to feel what the amp was doing in a much more defined way.

NEUMANN NDH 30 Open-Back Studio Headphones Neumann microphones have been legendary for their quality and performance for decades. Now they are really re-defining headphones with their NDH 30 studioInsideheadphones.thesilverfinished, and memory foam lined ear cups reside 1.5-inch drivers with high-gauss neodymium magnets featuring a frequency response of 12Hz-34kHz. These are Around the ear design and very comfortable overall, and the head band is fitted with memory foam as well. With a detachable 9.8-foot cable and foldable design, the ergonomics certainly were a point of a focused design. The open back design is excellent for tracking and playback situations, regardless of the type of music. Hunting down that strange low end on a detuned guitar track was easy to resolve, while maintaining the clarity was one instance of these knocking it out of the park at a first audio glance. Going through a mix of drums was equally easy, as the stereo separation was superb on all counts.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2022 41 REVIEWSGEAR CONS Somewhatpricey STREETPRICE $649audiocomfortable,separation,excellentveryexcellentquality PROS

It’s a set that when being used makes you think “well yeah, this is how it’s supposed to sound.”

A user isn’t fighting any brand’s audio signature or common mid-hump they may have while using them. However, these are serious pieces of audio gear, and really are meant for a true audio professional or music enthusiast, and the street price reflects this. For the home artist or small project studio these may not fit into your budget, but for a true professional doing any kind of audio work from voice overs to soundtrack work, these could be your next (and only) set of headphones.

The only downside is the info for setting the device up for certain things isn’t in the manual; it’s on their website. This does keep the user informed of new applications and is updatable without having to send out notifications, or cause confusion with older printed manuals that may be out there. Thankfully their website was easy to navigate and got us the info with no issues. While this is meant primarily as a tool for YouTube, it goes a long way beyond that which we appreciate, given that it’s certainly not an inexpensive tool.

CONS None (maybe a tad pricey for what it actually is)




Chris Devine

But wait, there’s more; it can also work as a page turning device. Users of tablet sheet music systems can scroll through pages with this as well. We used it with OnSong for scrolling through our chord charts and lyrics with ease on an iPad. As it works like a keyboard, it can also work as a foot controller for recording software with support for GarageBand, Logic, Pro Tools, Ableton, Studio One as well as Reaper. Being able to use the Blue as a transport control for solo recording sessions and punching in without having to create extra steps in the editing/ comping process later made this a great tool. Being able to run the session by foot kept our hands where they belong, on our instruments.


So many performance devices are pedalboard based, but studio devices still require the disruption of taking your hands off of an instrument to work a keyboard or mouse. Vidami has freed up player’s hands with their Blue video looper pedal. This Bluetooth device works like a keyboard for your feet -- connect it to your computer (it is PC/Mac compatible) and once it’s connected, a simple Chrome extension gets the connectivity going. It registers as a keyboard, meaning the shortcuts have been ported to the pedal. The functions of play, back, and forward can allow a user to scroll through a YouTube video easily, and the speed function toggles through the slower speed options, and a looping function sets a segment of the video to be looped continuously. While it does connect via Bluetooth, it has an on-board battery that charges via USB. For players trying to learn off of YouTube, what this means is the typical disruption of workflow to getting the parts of the video that is of interest goes away when using the footswitches as the navigation device. It can also work on tablets, so it’s a good portable tool. It’s also supported on learning websites such as Guitarzoom, Musiciswin, and LinkedIn Learning, among others.

VIDAMI Blue Video Looper for YouTube Pedal


Podcasting started out pretty simply: a computer and a microphone. Then the ability to have someone call in, like a radio show, and the hardware and software needed for more (and better) microphones meant more gear that in many cases were overkill for most applications.


With a small footprint, it travels well and turns virtually any room into a podcasting studio. Recommended.

Focusrite’s Vocaster two brings a lot of streamlined functionality, and adjustable audio options in a small format. With two XLR inputs that offer phantom power, they’re designated “guest” and “host”, along with a headphone jack for each. A 1/8” connection allows for external inputs from a phone. Taking things one step further, an additional output for a camera’s audio input now brings video options to the content creator easily. As it functions as an audio interface, there are two 1/4” speaker outputs for mixing and playback. The control surface is easy to navigate with soft touch buttons that light up when engaged, and each mic’s controls are independently adjustable.

Additional functionality comes with Focusrite’s Vocaster Hub software as a free download. This can also run the physical functionality of the Vocaster, as well as act as a mixing console, with an auto gain function that sets the levels automatically, as well as loopback functionality, meaning audio can be imported back in while the recording is happening, perfect for pre-recorded intros and outros, and hopefully when the podcast is successful, pre-recorded advertisements. With selectable EQ profiles for the microphones, it can help enhance the sound based off of the microphone being used as well as the person speaking. Ever have a dark sounding mic, with a vocalist that has a deep voice, and have to really crank the gain to get the level up? Yeah, this can help solve this while maintaining a reasonable level.We used the Vocaster with GarageBand and Studio One 5 with no issues at all. It can function as an interface to pretty much every DAW recording software, but the package includes trial versions of Hindenburg Lite, aCast, SquadCast Pro + Video and Ampify Studio. This really is a plug-and-play piece of gear, with no problem getting up and running in a snap.



A visual gain display allows the user to see audio signal strength easily for level monitoring.

Vocaster Two USB-C Podcasting Audio Interface


The added audio out to a camera can make this a super easy vlogger setup that can solve so many cabling and routing issues of getting audio into a digital video device for YouTube, live streaming and content creation.

Chris Devine

CONS $299 STREETPRICE Simple, easy, greatqualityaudio

unacceptablefinishnumerousconcerns,QCfitandflawsevenatthispricepoint CONS $249 STREETPRICE pickups,soundingGreatgreatplayability PROS





At first glance it looks like classic Kalamazoo, with the gold top, P90’s and inlays, but the modern headstock and sharp cutaway add a contemporary twist. It’s not far from its Michigan roots, with a mahogany back and maple cap. The neck is a variety of eastern mahogany called Nato which features a nice scarf joint at the headstock, and a two-piece neck heel that’s set into the body. 22 medium frets sit on the rosewood fretboard, with a 24.75 scale length and a 13.75” radius. A bone nut that was cut nicely also pairs with the ivory color binding. The two P90 pickups are ceramic and have the usual three way toggle on the upper bout, and a volume and tone control for each pickup. Opening up the control cavity, the pots were generic mini versions, but worked fine. An ABR1 style bridge and tailpiece worked well as did the vintage style tuners. Here’s where some red flags popped up -- the usual way to mount an ABR1 bridge was mounted backwards from what you’d typically expect. Yes it’s an easy fix to swap to the bridge around, as trying to get a screwdriver in to adjust a saddle is problematic. We also noticed that one of the frets was quite worn. Usually some test instruments go around the block before we get them, but this was quite noticeable, so either this guitar has been on the review circuit for a while, or the fret material used might be a bit soft. On one of the upper frets we also noticed some heavy goop on the edge, which didn’t really scrape away. This could be some heavy duty epoxy holding in the frets (?) This method of fret attachment isn’t uncommon, but a little goes a long way, and wiping excess isn’t a big deal. So this is a point of concern, when a fret job is required, when will it be, will it be a pain, and will the effort be worth more than the initial cost of the instrument?

The gold top finish was ok, but the area where the neck meets the body had a bad tape line, where about a third of the ivory-colored binding was painted over. Noticeable finish scratches from sanding were also present. A couple of “stains” were also very noticeable on the binding. We get that guitars at this price point won’t be perfect, but to be honest, even “budget” guitars nowadays (at least the ones we’ve seen) come surprisingly well made out of the box. Yes, even under $300. So there’s really not much of an excuse here. Unplugged it was very resonant sounding (always a good sign) and overall playability was very nice, and the neck shape was very comfortable. The P90 pickups sounded excellent and responded well across the gain spectrum, although they are quite noisy (to be expected). We tried it with some high gain settings and it certainly delivered, but the mid gain areas are where it shined. It’s somewhere between a big single coil, and a clear humbucker sound. The bridge pickup had great bite and clarity, while the neck had a deep warmth that wasn’t muffled. Together they balanced really well, with a nice richness and attack. While we can’t account for every guitar that is made by Monoprice, this one should have been given the onceover before going out the door for a detailed review. One would hope the production instruments are better. We don’t know the exchange/return policy on their guitars, but it might be something to seriously think about before purchasing. Considering the overall great sound and playability, the issues we noticed are a major disappointment. It’s damn near impossible to find a set neck P90 guitar at this low price, but maybe it’s better to find one that costs more, and doesn’t have any red flags.

Chris Devine


MIDI and guitar sometimes don’t mix well; Jamstik figured out how to make an electric guitar with a modern aesthetic, along with full MIDI functionality that can open up new sonic doors to six stringers, without a lot of hassle.

As it’s a guitar, the specs are quite nice; a mahogany body sporting a matte finish (our test instrument was a classy blue), two Lightning humbuckers, with a three-way blade switch and a single volume control that has push pull functionality to split the humbuckers into single coil mode. It’s a small body shape, but still comfortable to play. A rosewood fingerboard with 24 frets sits on the comfortable C-shaped maple neck, with a 25.5” scale and a 40mm wide nut. It’s a headless configuration, with the Allen head tuning machines on the heavy-duty bridge doing all the work, with a small “wrench” that sits into the bridge and is held in place magnetically. It’s a full-scale electric in a small format. Just next to the bridge sits the MIDI pickup with six individual pole pieces. Connectivity is done by a USB-C cable, which also powers an internal Lithium-ion rechargeable battery with over 8 hours of play time at a full charge. A 1/8” jack is available, and with the included TRS to standard MIDI connector offers up traditional MIDI connectivity. It can send data through Bluetooth to devices as well. As a traditional guitar, it’s excellent. Well made, stays in tune nicely, and is fun to play. The small shape is balanced well and the pickups sound very nice in both humbucking and split coil modes. Plugging the instrument into our DAW directly via the USB cable, we were up and running quickly using Studio One. Accessing our libraries of synths, keyboards, drums, and other virtual instruments was a breeze, and with no issues of latency. Yes, some hyper fast shredders might experience some issues, but most of the guitar playing community shouldn’t have any tracking issues – typically the bane of guitar/MIDI’s complicated relationship. It was great to be able to have a session with the instrument running into our DAW, the analog signal running into a track with Amplitube covering the traditional guitar sounds, with an analog modelled synth coming from the MIDI pickup, making a unique and very fat sound overall.

The only downside is the option paralysis that sometimes comes when so many sonic doors are opened; it can be a bit overwhelming as to what to do with all of these new sounds! It’s a good problem to have though, and the journey the player takes will certainly sound fantastic.

Chris Devine None. CONS $799 STREETPRICE Well guitarmoderndoneelectricdesign,excellentanalogsounds,fast-trackingMIDIpickup.


Studio MIDI Guitar

Jamstik has their own creator software that can be used as a standalone setup, as well as a utility to adjust the MIDI pickup. There is also a Jamstik portal app as well, allowing the player to connect to a tablet. MIDI over Bluetooth has some minor latency issues, but that’s typical of all Bluetooth devices, and the Jamstik also has the same problem. It’s best to connect via a cable, and a USB-A to USB-C dongle is included. Connected to an iPad, and running Moog’s Model D app was a blast, being able to access those classic sounds via guitar was amazing. Using the Jamstik as a controller was as easy as hooking up a new stomp box, accessing sounds that are pretty much impossible in standard guitar signal processing. The ability to transcribe and score parts as they are played is great for any composer or teacher as well. In a studio setting, the ability to stick with one instrument and cover traditional and virtual instruments in a session is a game changer for workflow.


CONS None. STREETPRICE Audio Interface

The RIFF comes in at three pricing levels -- the hardware is the same, but the included software varies; we tested our unit out with the higher priced Bias FX 2 Elite software for amp/ cabinet/effects emulation. There are standalone and plug-in choices for the Bias FX 2, as well as a mobile version. Connecting it to our Mac Mini was super easy, with no additional software needed. Overall audio quality was excellent with 24bit/96kHz fidelity and no issues with latency. Power to the unit comes through the USB connection, even when using it with an iPad.

Positive Grid also has their own cloud platform allowing players that create sounds on an iPad to transfer them to the plug-in version and vice versa. There have been many times where creating a sound, and not being able to copy that specific tone to a session can be a bummer, especially if it’s something that can really add spice to a track.

Chris Devine

The higher cost of the Elite version of Bias FX 2 came with every amp/effect/cabinet/mic option imaginable. Having all these options was quite impressive and offers up tons of possibilities to the player. The emulations are spot on, and quite interactive when placing effects in the signal chain, and the amp models are equally detailed. This may end up being all you need to track guitar parts from now on. Running it into an iPad was equally impressive, and with the 1/4” output running into a PA, this could easily be an amp rig for fly-in gigs.

Positive Grid’s new RIFF is tiny, even by today’s standards, with plenty of functionality that’s portable with excellent sound quality across the board. We dig it, and so should you – read on…

Using the RIFF as a typical DAW interface is simple plug and play, the user can run any session using whatever amp sims they prefer; however, the Bias FX 2 does work nicely, with the control knob having a lot of custom assignments for the user’s preference. Even the simple function of using the control knob to scroll through settings was nice, not having to grab a mouse to check out other sounds made workflow a pleasure.

Ours was finished in a metallic green, but black, red and other colors are options. A large LCD screen covers overall monitoring and levels, while a large multi-function push knob allows the user to skate through settings and adjust easily.

The anodized aluminum case is smaller than a standard iPhone, with a 1/4” input, and 1/4” output, a headphone jack and a USB connection.


This is high quality on-the-go, without cutting corners -- it’s a dedicated interface for guitarists that isn’t lacking or overwhelming, with software that sounds great and is easy to work with. The plus side is, even if a player purchases the base model at $99, a separate purchase of the Bias FX 2 Elite is (at the time of this review) just $149. So, for a player who might want to upgrade, it’s no more expensive than buying the version we got right out of the gate.


simpleaudio(as$249tested)Excellentquality,touse,greatampandeffectschoices PROS POSITIVE GRID Riff Guitar


DST-400 Electric Guitar

S-type guitars are arguably the most common electric guitar style. The modular design and the adaptability of the electronics have made them popular with players from Buddy Holly to Billy Corgan, and countless others in between. Import versions have long been a value for the beginner player, but Donner’s got a sub-$300 version that’s a lot of guitar for the buck.Our test guitar came in a tried-and-true black body with white pickups and pickguard, and a version in green is also available. The body wood is solid alder, and the finish was done very well. A maple neck and fingerboard, along with 22 medium frets and vintage style tuners have a blend of classic and modern. At the other end a two-post vintage style tremolo with steel saddles again, puts old school and new cool together.



Right out of the gig bag, it’s pretty impressive; the fretwork was nicely done, with no rough spots or fret sprout at all, and it even had a decent setup.

An added feature is the tremolo arm being a pop-in type that’s usually found on higher end instruments, meaning no threads to strip or barks that snap from over tightening. All of the knobs and switches felt tight and smooth, with no electronics noise. The pickups are decent as well; the single coils have plenty of fullness, and the humbucker has plenty of bottom end. Pulling up on the tone knob brought things back into a traditional S-type feel, with quack and sparkle on position #4, and on #5 had the benefit of the tone knob, rolling off some high end, and thickening the tone up while through a dirty amp. The pickup configuration can pretty much cover most styles of music -- we ran it through a set of cover band material, (Pink to AC/DC) and weren’t at a loss for sounds. Simply put, at this price, it’s shockingly good. Comparing it to other imports, this really delivers a big value. Experienced players might want to swap pickups to something specific to their needs and tastes, but that’s about it.

Electronics wise, with single coils in the neck and middle positions combined with a zebra styled humbucker in the bridge offers up the best of both worlds. The traditional five-way switch paired to a master volume is familiar, but the first tone knob covers the neck and middle pickup, while the second one is reserved for the bridge pickup. To take things a step further, the second tone knob is a push pull for splitting the bridge humbucker.

Chris Devine

Playing wise, the neck is quite comfortable, with its C shaped profile. The tremolo is workable -with heavy usage, it’ll go out of tune (like most non locking systems) but it’s on par for its design.

REVIEWSGEAR None $259greatsounding,Greatplaying,greatprice.


Chris Devine


imperfectionsfinish(onourtestinstrument) STREETPRICE pickups,wonderfulhardware,Excellent$1399greatneckandplayability PROS CORT KX700 EverTune Electric Guitar

Considering the location, every time a player looks down at the upper frets, they are hard to not notice.

Plugging this in, and starting with a clean tone, the pickups were shockingly clear and articulate. The bridge pickup was smooth and full, and the neck pickup has depth that is well defined. Together they are well balanced, with the perfect blend of cut and warmth. It’s a shame though that there isn’t a coil tap mode, for those sparkly single coil modes. Going into heavier tones, running it through various high gain situations, it’s amazingly full -- one would think that an instrument that’s geared towards modern styles would be heavily compressed, but there’s just enough open-ness where the amp or drive pedal generates the heaviness, while the instrument itself delivers the articulation.

The punch of heavy music relies on one thing: tuning. Any riff loses its potency when it’s out of tune, whether it’s from the player’s intensity or hardware being pushed past its ability, it doesn’t matter. Cort’s KX700 is equipped with an EverTune bridge, and aggressive and stable as steel. The body shape is a very modern double cutaway design, with a carved ash top and mahogany back, sporting a striking black open pore finish that showcases the grain and its texture. The 25.5” scale neck is made of 5-piece configuration of maple and walnut, topped off with an ebony fingerboard which hosts 24 stainless steel frets. While the fingerboard itself has a modern look with no fret marker inlays of any kind, the side dots glow in the dark with LuminlayPickupsappointments.arebySeymour

To keep things in tune, locking tuners sit in a 3 +3 configuration on the headstock, and the bridge is an EverTune. Simply put; the EverTune bridge design maintains string tension desired by the player for their playing style. At the extreme end of things, it can be set so no matter how much the strings are bent, the pitch remains the same. Try boomer bends in this mode, and the pitch remains the same; very trippy. That said, it can be adjusted to work like a normal bridge, and work with string bending and more traditional playing styles, as well as in between. This isn’t some gimmick. A heavyhanded player that seems to push a guitar out of tune would greatly benefit from the extra stability. In heavy music with double (and more than double) tracking, this can make or break a track. Each string can be individually adjusted for the response, so players who might only knock out the high strings, for example, can compensate for their playing styles. The fit and finish was really good, but two very small imperfections in the cutaways were noticeable, it appears the masking during the painting process may have been a culprit.

Duncan, with a Sentient in the neck position, along with a Nazgul in the bridge, and are controlled by a master volume, a master tone, and a three-way toggle switch -- quite straight forward, with no push pulls or any coil taps.

Playing wise, this neck is hyper smooth and thin, with a radius 15.75” it’s quite flat, perfect for modern lead and rhythm playing and comfort. The neck joint is also very accessible, with a rounded neck heel, and recessed mounting screws. There’s nothing about the instrument getting in the way of the player here. Modern prog/metal players will really appreciate all the accuracy and definition that this instrument brings to the table.

CONS Slight


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