Reaper DAW is a great, highly functional alternative to Pro Tools | First.

Wait, did I say Pro Tools First? Forget that. Get Reaper!!! | Arvada Guitar

So I have been a hard-core Pro Tools fan since 1994.  However I have also been a hard-core Pro Tools / Avid hater since about 1995.

Pro Tools is indisputably the industry standard recording software used in every pro recording studio worldwide.  The studios may also use other software, but if you want to be compatible and competitive in the industry, you better be running Pro Tools.

But at the same time, Pro Tools is extremely expensive in comparison to other DAWs, they often release production updates to their software that feel more like Beta versions, and the fact is that compared to many other DAWs, they offer less functionality for that expensive price.  They have also forced users into various paths that either limit their functionality or cost 4 times what their lower performance systems cost.

Well, I got pretty excited when they released Pro Tools | First.  A free, trimmed down version of their flagship software that could give my students a taste of the real world.  And, you know, I even overlooked the bugs / functionality changes that suddenly occurred between updates.  But when Avid announced that they were going to begin CHARGING money for Pro Tools | First, AND they were going to a subscription based format, and jacked the price to actually OWN the software to incentivize users to use the subscription service, well, they pretty much lost me.

I will definitely be buying Logic when I get my next computer upgrade.  But for now, I am running Reaper.  (update, already got Logic – still evaluating)

I learned about Reaper through a student a couple years ago.  I wasn’t really impressed with the interface, but I figure that is simply a matter of getting used to it.  People who use something other than Pro Tools tend to not care for the Pro Tools interface, though I find it very clean, streamlined and user friendly.

Did I mention that Reaper is only $60 for non professional users?  Yeah.  $60.  Sold.

For my use in teaching, Reaper is great.  A default slider for playback speed is right in the main window.  Nice.  Set that to .8 (80%) and just drop songs into Reaper and they play back at 80% speed.  Really nice.

Not the biggest fan of the plug-in window, but who cares.  It still works.  And it only cost me $60 instead of $600+++

Forget Pro Tools.  Get Reaper.

Reaper DAW is a great, highly functional alternative to Pro Tools | First.

Reaper DAW is a great, highly functional alternative to Pro Tools | First.








Vox Amplug 2. The Best Guitar Amp for under $50!!!

Best Guitar Amplifier for Under $50!! Vox Amplug 2 | Arvada Guitar

Is it possible to get a decent guitar amp for under $50?  Yes it is.

I think I have found the best guitar amp for under $50. “Under $50?!?” you ask? Yes indeed. In fact, its $44.99.

The Vox Amplug 2 is a small device that you plug directly into your guitar. Then plug in your favorite ear buds and you are good to go.  You can even connect a music player like your phone, iPod or iPad to jam along with your favorite tunes.

Boy, I wish I had this when I was learning to play!  My first amp was a headphone amp too, but it had NOTHING.  No tone, no effects, nothing.

Oh yeah.  1978 baby!!  11 yrs old and rocking my first, awesome, Global bass!

Well the Vox Amplug blows away those giant old cans.  The Amplug 2 has 3 different amplifier modes, each with increasing gain and a variable gain control. You also get 9 selectable effects; 3 different variations each of chorus, delay or reverb.  And the whole thing takes only 2 AAA batteries!!

The sound quality BLOWS AWAY the two previous IK Multimedia iRig’s that I have tried.  Both the original iRig ($40 + Amplitube models) and the iRig HD ($99).  Both of which were prone to ridiculous feedback that made them unusable and high gain.  I am an Amplitube user in my ProTools rig and love it.  But these iRig interfaces are just too cheap and poorly made apparently. IMHO, of course…

But the Vox Amplug is killer.  Sounds great and has lots of options built in.  The model I have played through is the AC30 version.  But they also have Classic Rock, Metal and Bass versions.

So can you really get a decent practice amp for under $50?  Yes you can.  The Vox Amplug 2!  And you can find it right here at Sweetwater Sound!




68 vs. – SheetMusicDirect Wins!! | Arvada Guitar

So my students know that I almost always create my own charts and tabs for songs.  Primarily because almost everything I find online is… well, wrong.  I know.  I have said it so many times that I too am tired of hearing it.  But its true.  Sometimes I am wrong.  For sure.  But very often tabs, charts, even published music you pay for is just plain wrong.  And it doesn’t take a musical genius to figure it out.  If a 12 yr old guitar student sitting next to me can agree that the recording sounds one way, and that the written music sounds wrong, then, well, I don’t know what to say.

I mean, I feel for the transcriber.  I really do.  I imagine it’s some poor slob in a warehouse of cubicles, sitting there with headphones and a ridiculous quota of tunes to transcribe in a day.  He is probably really busy.  Maybe he has indigestion.  He might just be deaf.  I don’t know.

Anyway, every now and again I will go looking for a published transcription either to speed the process, or facilitate what I think might be tricky.  So this week I had one of those days.  I’m working on In The City by Joe Walsh.  Very interestingly it was apparently written and originally released in the soundtrack for the movie The Warriors, if you remember that cult classic!  It was then subesquently released on the Eagles album The Long Run.  Also very cool.

Anywhoo, so I found two different tabs on two different sites. (SMD) is my usual go to for published music.  But many of my students and colleagues use (MN) so I decided to check that one out too.  Well, unfortunately, they only let you see the first page of the score, right?  So I am looking at these two scores online, comparing them, and boy, I really don’t want to spend $10 to buy them both but I figured, “what the heck.  It’ll be a good test”.  Indeed it was.

First off, the SheetMusicDirect version had two different guitar lines notated, though they both appeared to be the same.  But that is often a good sign.  But the MusicNotes version  “appeared” to be more “professional” with the chord symbols and such at the top.  SheetMusicDirect on the left and MusicNotes on the right.

But it was really when I started to dig that things became clear.  One of the specific things I was looking for was the exact voicing of the chords in the chorus.  At first I thought I was just hearing major triads, and essentially an A Form major chord being moved up to D at V and E at VII.  Well thats apparently what the dude in the cube at MusicNotes thought too.  But when I saw the SheetMusicDirect chords, I knew they were right.  And a close investigative listen to the recording agreed.  Look at these two different versions, again SMD on the left and MN on the right.

Not even close.  I knew I was hearing notes that didn’t fit that straight major triad.  And I also knew that the 4th chord was not the same as the 2nd chord, though they are similar. The MusicNotes guy phoned it in.

But it gets worse when we look at the solo.  The solo played on a slide guitar.  You know, slide guitar, where they very often use Alternate Tunings to accommodate the linear nature of the slide itself.  Well, look at the front page for both the scores.  Again, SMD on the left and MN on the right.

Well, the guy at SMD got it right.  He noted the Alternate, Open Tuning for the slide guitar.  At MN?  Not so much….  So then we get to look at what these guys thought was being played in said solo….

First off, the SheetMusicDirect score includes all the fancy giant slidey things before what I would call the actual solo (First giant circle on the left).  The MusicNotes version conveniently omits that part.  Im sure  because the guy who was tabbing for standard tuning had no way of notating it.  But then look at the solo part.  Ok, they both get the 17-17 moves right.  But if you know the song at ALL you don’t even have to touch a guitar to see that the MusicNotes version isn’t even close to what Joe was playing.  I mean really?  Who thinks the solo sounds like an E Major triad descending?  The MusicNotes score is OBVIOUSLY WRONG.  Whereas it also takes about 2 seconds to look at the SheetMusicDirect score to know it is EXACTLY CORRECT!

Finally, I will return to that cool little arpeggio that slides from D to E in every verse.  Again, SheetMusicDirect on the left and completely CORRECT.  MusicNotes on the right and sadly once again wrong and lamely notated with no indication of the legato slide.

Ok, so in conclusion, this is only one score.  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of every score on, nor can I imply the inaccuracy of all the scores at  And of course, neither one of these places commissioned the transcription.  This stuff comes from the publisher.  Though I am very confused as to how the publisher would have released one awesome copy of the score and one completely crappy version as well.  But clearly in this case, SheetMusicDirect wins hands down and at only $2.99 for the score is a WAY BETTER option than MusicNotes which is very wrong and very expensive at over $8 for the online version, the PDF and tax.

There you have it. vs.  SheetMusicDirect wins!


Can you really learn with Rocksmith?

Well, I’ve heard about it for years, wanted to check it out, and now I am going to do it.  I’ve had at least two students come to me after attempting to learn guitar with Rocksmith.  After a few futile months their wives said “why don’t you get some lessons from a teacher”.  Now, of course, they have several songs under their belts and are doing great.

But whats the deal with Rocksmith?  They say on the box “the fastest way to learn guitar”.  Well, we’re gonna find out if that is true.  Can you learn guitar with Rocksmith?  Is it as effective as working with a teacher?  Is it a good resource for guitar players?  And most importantly to me, are the songs accurate?  Do you really learn how to play the song the way it was originally played by the artist?  One of the most offensive things to me are Easy Guitar books that supposedly teach you how to play a song and then leave you to figure out later that what you learned isn’t even close to how the song should be played.  Interpretation is one thing.  Rewriting songs so that they can all be played with open chords or a capo is another.  Call me a stickler if you want but when I play a song I want it to sound like the song.

So, here we are with our fresh new Rocksmith Remastered.  I’ll let you know how it goes….