Monday, January 23, 2012

NAMM 2012 Media Preview Day featuring Brian Wilson, John Mayer

A version of this post originally appeared on 

The 110th edition of The NAMM Show unofficially got underway last Wednesday at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California.

Media Preview Day featured some standout products on display as well as special appearances by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brian Wilson, Michelle Phillips and John Mayer. 

Agile Partners - the Illinois-based company known for the popular Lick of the Day app (over 1 million downloads to date) in conjunction with Guitar World magazine, AmpKit and more - had its updated AmpKit Link HD demonstrated by blues/rock guitarist Shepherd.  

photo by Robert Kinsler
The digital guitar interface with USB technology enables users to play guitar without lugging around an amplifier. It provides high fidelity, eliminates crosstalk and feedback and is geared toward AmpKit's high gain amps.

"I'm on the road constantly and with this, I can rock out in my hotel room without disturbing anybody," Shepherd (pictured, left) told the audience, as the digital pedals and effects were displayed on a computer screen and he triggered a Stevie Ray Vaughn-type sound.

"It's very versatile and I put together useable sounds. There's good overdrive and it cleans up nicely like a real amp would...tone freaks can tweak the sound. I'm an old school analog guy, but this has nice digital effects and is good for drop tunings."

Shepherd also praised the app, comparing it to a "one on one guitar lesson with great players."

Other features of the AmpKit Link HD, due in the second quarter of 2012:

>an optional AC adapter charges iPads, iPhones or iPod touches as a musician plays
>utilizes cable with dual locking connectors, rather than relying on friction fit
>has control knobs for guitar input level and headphone output level with no need to launch an app
>works with Mac and PC 

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Wilson, who will reunite with the Beach Boys later this year for a tour and new studio album, was presented with the "Music for Life Award." He participated in a quick Q&A with NAMM President/CEO Joe Lamond. Topics ranged from favorite studios (his own in Bel Air) and how he deals with changing technology ("I try to simply things").

Former Arkansas governor and Fox News Channel host Mike Huckabee talked about the importance of music education in schools - a subject he's very passionate about - and the Wanna Play? fund that he started to put instruments in students' hands.

"As a kid, playing the guitar changed my life and took away my timidity and helped forge a career path" as a politician. "A sense of value was unlocked." Huckabee finished by doing a mini-jam with Shepherd (pictured below)

photo by Bob Steshetz
Phillips, former singer with The Mamas & The Papas, was on hand alongside adult children of the late John Phillips and Mama Cass Elliot to present a new limited edition signature Martin acoustic guitar.

Only 100 instruments will be made. They are adorned with silver silhouettes of the group on the headstock. Michelle Phillips reminisced about the guitars her bandmates used to play in the '60s.

Another extremely limited edition Martin acoustic guitar - primarily aimed at high end collectors with only 23 made - was designed with extensive input from John Mayer.

“There's something about a smaller-bodied acoustic guitar that has always appealed to me. In one glance, it inspires me to write, travel, perform, and age along with it,” said Mayer.

“Not very long ago I was inspired to return to a completely natural way of writing and recording music, and at the center of that vision were the Martin 00-sized guitars that defined an era of brilliant songwriting in the '60s and '70s. The 00-45SC John Mayer Edition is my vision of the ultimate 00-45 come to life. It's simply perfect.”

photo by Robert Kinsler
The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter discussed how he envisioned the special guitar to be like ones cowboys and businessmen used to play in the Old West days while riding on a stagecoach.

Mayer also pointed out the unique mother of pearl deisgn at the bottom of the neck is ingrained right through in a circular pattern.

Then he did a brief instrumental for media at the convention center, but didn't sing due to recent throat surgery. 

First introduced at NAMM, the guitar will be available from participating Martin dealerships; a list will be provided on the Martin website at soon.    

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