I’m a big fan of taking music out into nature; I’m not bragging, but I’ve played fiddle on top of Mount Leconte, the Chimney tops, and other high perches throughout the Smoky Mountains and I’ve taken my penny flute deep into the forests of many a mountainside. I certainly can’t resist an outdoor bluegrass jam or playing folk songs around the campfire either. But what about electronic music? For an electric guitarist or keyboard player it's harder to get into those wide-open spaces to sequence and synthesize those high-tech spacey sounds.
As a guitarist I can take along an acoustic guitar and play and compose some cool-sounding stuff but alas, when I want the versatility of my electric axes, I don’t have a leg to stand on or an amp to plug into. Recent innovations have solved this problem to a certain degree by offering portable devices to plug the electric guitar into. At one time the ubiquitous battery-powered pig nose amp was one of the few small battery-operated amps on the market, but now with the popularity of street busking and advances in battery technology, there are more and more lightweight portable amps to choose from.
Let me illustrate with a few devices I like to use when I am away from any ac outlets and still just have to hear that electric guitar sound. My oldest tool for portable electric guitar is the Line 6 Pocket Pod. A small lightweight palm-sized effects processor that runs on batteries or ac cable with a handy belt hook. It houses tons of preset guitar sounds and has the ability to make and store some of your own. The sounds are very realistic and warm! There are cool effects, imitations of your favorite amps, and classic sounds that outputs to both headphones and guitar cables. I can really get crazy by running it into an effects box and then into my bandmate’s mixer to blend with his orchestra of synths and sequencers. We usually run a stereo mix out to record our mind-altering jams for future reference. This was the setup for the jam in the park I wrote about in the last issue.
Another more recent device I have enjoyed is the Blackstar AP2-FLY-G. It plugs right into your guitar’s cable jack, looking sort of like a hearing aid, and then you just plug your headphones into the little device and start playing. It has three levels of gain (clean, crunch, and heavy), a volume, gain, and tone knob, and limited effect choices centered around chorus, reverb, and delay. This little baby sounds great in your headphones and has hardly any wires to hassle you and you can walk across America playing electric guitar if you want. It is powered by two AAA batteries and has an aux jack to boot.
I also have a small Blackstar amp that is not battery-operated but is super lightweight and has killer sounds and effects. It has enough volume to light up most small rooms. It doesn’t sound tinny or small but gives a nice warm mid-sized amp sound to your guitar. It has six voices or levels of distortion: gain, volume, eq, and a really creative effects department. It’s stereo output with some of the delay and modulation effects, sounds like the left and right speakers are ten feet apart. I kid you not!
These are just a small sampling of what is out there and what is readily available for the most guitarist who may want to get mobile; or at least be able to hit the street and do some busking with an electronic edge. Add to these, several models of portable and battery-powered p.a.’s, and you can start thinking techno rage party in the woods or maybe in a boat in the swamp if you like alligators and such! I guess my point is, if I have one, don’t let lack of ac outlets ruin your outdoor, techno, spacey, ambient trance-filled fun. Jump online and check out the latest in portable electronic guitar wizardry. Keep on pluggin’ in and spacin’ out!