5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Amp

To get the most out of your amp, it’s good to understand it as a whole. Knowing how to think about music and about your sound is the most important part of working fluidly with your gear. While many musicians want better gear, here are a few hacks, fresh perspectives, and tips which will help you think about your amp differently – meaning you can make do with whatever you have and still have it sound amazing.

Get the Most From Your Amp: Know Your Tone

Every amp is unique. In fact, even with two different models, the condition in which the amp is kept plus other factors such as its age will affect the sound. Therefore, working out what the average tone of your amp is can be a lifesaver. Is it a rich valve amp? Does it tend to be heavy on the top end? If you get your knowledge of these parts worked out, knowing what to change when you dislike a sound becomes really easy.

Things to try: List five things you don’t like about your tone. Then, spend an afternoon or so playing around with your amp to see how and when these quirks vanish. It might be that you hit on the perfect combinations of settings to get rid of that annoying top end which has always bothered you.

Phase 2: Know the Rest of Your Gear

You might just be jamming, but things get complicated when you start adding pedals. Get to know all your gear inside and out. This isn’t just about being good with your gear. It’s about really knowing the ins and outs of everything plus how it connects. That way, you can separate what piece of kit is affecting which aspects of your sound. Ultimately, it also takes into account parts of your guitar such as the pickup switch and tone knobs. These can really affect the sound coming out of your amp. There’s actually a lot the guitarist needs to take into account to influence the ultimate sound. Being able to separate each piece of kit is key in order to craft the sound you want. 

Things to try: Think of every aspect of your gear, from your pickups to any pedals you have. Then, try improvising a guitar solo while varying each aspect and notice how the sound changes. This can help you tune your ear to all the nuances.

Understand Your Options – And How they Effect Each Other

This gets more into the nitty gritty of your amp itself. Most amps have a couple of tone knobs and a dial for distortion. Some brands such as Marshall geared more towards certain genres of music. Realise that distortion on one amp will sound very different to distortion on another. This might sound obvious, but this is one mistake beginners tend to make before they have found their sound. This fallacy is to treat every amp like an average fender or orange amp. Some amps also have delay and reverb. These can come in handy depending on the room you’re in. A room with a lot of soft furnishings won’t have the natural echoes you might desire when recording.

No option on an amp works in isolation. Cranking up both the distortion and the reverb at the same time can be overwhelming. However, another common first-time habit is to simply keep adding more effects when your sound doesn’t satisfy you. Instead, learning how all dials on your amp affect each other means you can achieve the desired sound with precision.

Things to try: In the same way your DAW allows you to save presets, once you find the perfect combination of settings on your amp, take a photo for future reference. You might be surprised how much of a lifesaver knowing your sweet spot on your amp can be in the stress before a gig!

Get the Most From Your Amp in the Studio: Know How to Record

It goes without saying that recording as opposed to playing live or just jamming takes some specialist know-how. However, the settings you need will be very different to those you want live. As a result, the options you use will change if you’re going from a recording session to a live gig. Keeping track of this means eventually you will spot patterns. Therefore, transitioning from one to the other will be very easy. It also gives you the subconscious know-how to create news settings for certain sounds and places. 

Things to try: The studio can be daunting. Research some of the gear you’re using beforehand. Does it favour rich, analogue amps? Taking this into account, mess around with your amp to see how you could adapt your typical settings to the quirks of recording.

When Things Seem Tough: Work With What You’ve Got

You may dream of having a huge Marshall stack, but with your setup, it’s probably not realistic. However, it can be very satisfying to work with what you’ve got in terms of recreating sounds. You may not sound like Dave Grohl, but if you really get to know your amp, you can fake it. Copy your favourite artists, listen to their interviews, and learn what settings they use. Then, find the closest approximation on your own amp. This will also help show you the difference between your gear and other people’s. And with this kind of experimentation in context, you will develop a broad, holistic overview of how sound works. In the end, this is much more useful than a narrow set of skills for your studio only. 

Things to try: Try restricting yourself. After all, tone is in the fingers. If you only allowed yourself to use the gain knob without touching the rest of your amp, what creative possibilities might you be forced to unlock?

Final Thoughts

Whilst these aren’t hard and fast rules, these hacks can help you understand how to work with your gear as opposed to simply getting it to work for you. It sometimes can sound a bit unusual, but the best musicians treat their music like a parallel world where they can really get into creative flow. Understanding how every aspect affects the overall result is the first step to getting that world to really fit together. As a result, these tips are the first step to thinking differently about your playing.

Like tutorials? You can find more here.

How To Build A DJing Setup For Beginners

Being a DJ is one of the jobs that merges passion and work. Apart from enjoying a mix of music, professional DJs earn a decent amount of money. According to talent.com, professional DJs make GBP£15.38 an hour on average in the United Kingdom alone. Because of this, many music enthusiasts venture into this industry.

However, an excellent DJing setup is necessary for people who want to learn DJing and later thrive in this career. This setup is essential to develop the ear for rhythm and technical ability. Suppose you’re planning to begin a career in DJing or start it as a new hobby. In that case, continue reading this article to know how to build the DJing setup for beginners. 

1. Start With The Input Devices

The input device is one of the essential DJ equipment. You may browse right here for more ideas. Generally, these devices feed samples and songs to the DJ rig. Setting up at least two input devices is needed to put tunes together. For this purpose, beginner DJs may choose to install CD decks and turntables. They may also add cassette and media players for more and better mashup tracks.

If you’re after a signature scratch effect that DJs are known for, you may prefer buying a turntable. Apart from this, turntables can incorporate many classic tracks into your playlist. However, turntables can be bulky and expensive, requiring a bigger budget and space.

On the other hand, you may start with the inexpensive CD decks as they can still feed songs, albeit without the authentic scratch effect. Yet, if you’re still learning the fundamentals of mixing tunes, this will satisfy your need

2. Add A Mixer

The mixer is the heart of a DJ setup. It doesn’t just connect the multiple input devices and allows DJs to apply effects and perform various DJ tricks, such as creaming, blending, and beating. In addition, mixers assist DJs in transitioning music from tune to tune and managing different audio signals.

In choosing a mixer, you may prefer the type that offers beginner-friendly features. You can opt for mixers with a fader, a trim control, and pre-listen functions. Apart from this, you can choose between selecting a compact mixer that could work well for mobile setups or touchscreen-based types.

3. Select Top-Of-The-Line Headphones

The best DJ headphones feature top-notch sound quality, reliable noise cancellation, and durability. They should also be known for low-end accuracy, excellent isolation, and comfortably rotating ear cups so you can preview and cue tracks without hassle.

4. Choose The Controller

If you’ve decided not to use vinyl records, buying a controller is the only option you have to build a decent DJ setup. Today, professional DJs prefer a digital layout featuring a laptop and a controller with DJ software. In some cases, DJs tend to install a controller without a mixer as many models already feature what most mixers provide, such as track manipulation and crossfading.

For this option, you can opt for stand-alone controller stations with easy-to-use or analog controllers requiring manual connections and adjustments. The former helps you learn the DJing techniques fast, while the latter familiarises you with the actual functions and setup.

5. Install Studio Monitor Speakers

Because many beginning DJs are still developing their ears for rhythm and timing, using studio monitor speakers is an excellent approach to listening to the tracks accurately. In selecting a studio monitor, one should consider buying speakers with Aux input for gadgets and generic audio sources.

For a whole setup, beginning DJs may start with a pair of stereo speakers and a subwoofer with a decent bass sound. They may also add amplifiers for a collectively better sound to pump up the DJ experience.

6. Add Equipment And Accessories

If you’ve already known the basics of DJing and your ear for rhythm has grown sharp, you may add more equipment and accessories. You can add a subwoofer for better bass quality and media players that could amplify the sound better.

You may also try to use karaoke equipment if you’d still be DJing within the premises of your house. If you want to take your DJing skills up a notch, you may consider installing a PA system to mimic the dance club vibes.

7. Sound Check

Half of a DJ’s performance is credited to his skills, while the other half is to his equipment. Because of this, buying high-quality DJ equipment is vital if one desires a more-than-average DJ performance. So, if you’re a newbie DJ, you may consider purchasing high-quality DJ equipment even if you’re still starting, as you’d use it in the following years. Reading this article can be an excellent start if you’re into building your first-ever top-quality DJ setup.

Find the Perfect Guitar Tone: Using Sound Design to Find your Tone

How do you find the perfect guitar tone? Some say guitar tone is in the fingers. Some say the producer creates a lot of it and some say it’s all about having the right gear. In truth, there is no right or wrong way to achieve tone. What matters is you achieve the tone which is right for your own creative purposes. There might be many ways to do this. You might use multiple ways before you are satisfied with the result. However, this article will show you how to use sound design and plugins to find that perfect tone. It’s a process – even if you start off with something less than perfect.

Guitar Pedal Plugins: An Easy Way to Achieve the Perfect Tone

Most guitarists rightly spend plenty of time focussing on their mastery and command of their instruments. However, to find the perfect guitar tone, it is important to remember that sound design allows us opportunities beyond our analogue gear. You can reach tone beyond your average by using those guitar pedal plugins which come with every DAW. Don’t just experiment with them or use them in the context of a guitar solo. Try deep-diving and really getting to grips with them. This means using them slowly and using them subtly. You can also add them in the background to add tone as opposed to making them the central focus.

In addition, try turning your attention to lesser-used plugins such as soft saturation and multi-FX. You can repurpose pedals such as wah by applying them down low on a single half of a double-tracked riff. This can alter the perception of tone on both tracks. Using pedals as the building blocks of tone as opposed to the focal point can be game-changing. In this way, they can really make you think about how your guitar playing relates to sound design.

Basic FX: Reverb and Delay to Find the Perfect Guitar Tone

Reverb and delay are some of the most basic FX. These apply to either whole tracks or the guitar on its own. Tone doesn’t exist independently of these FX. However, they’re not the kind you can use in order to create tone itself. Instead, they are the kinds of FX which would alter your tone – or at least its perception.

So, how do you take reverb and delay into account when designing your tone? Every good mix has them. For starters, you could use them to emphasise the bits of your tone you want to stand out. You can add reverb to guitar bass notes, or subtle delay on the top end of a riff. This can affect timbre subtly and bring crystal clear highs and rich lows.

If you want to see some reverb products at fair prices, check out pluginboutique.com by clicking here. If you buy something, you really really support us because we get a small kickback. There is really no guitar-specific reverb, all product have their own little vibe and quirk, plus most of them have endless setting possibilities.

Also bear in mind too many FX can smother your tone. Reverb and delay make everything sound better, but often this is only superficial. The best thing is to make sure your guitar sounds great in the first place.

Below you will find the best guide for beginners, it is a long one, but it is comprehensive.

Bringing out the Best in Your Tone: Working With What You’ve Got Already

Ultimately two separate things make up tone. These are the way the musician plays, and then any additions to the timbre. These timbral additions can come from equipment and sound design. As a result, if you don’t know what you’re working with, it might be difficult to get that perfect match. Understanding tone as something you can achieve in multiple ways can help a lot.

The first step is to realise that too many cooks spoil the broth. Often with adding FX for tone, less is more. So how do you know what you need to add? The first step is to identify what you dislike. This could indicate what your natural tone, for whatever reason, is lacking. Does it sound too thin? Maybe you can use sound design to increase the bass frequencies. Does it sound too tinny? There may be some sound in the top end which you can take out with EQ. Changing your tone like this can make you look at the entire finished track in a totally different light. Do you feel like it’s lacking a certain grit, especially if you’re creating a blues or hard rock track?

If you’re recording in a full studio with mic-ed up amps, you might lose some of that perfect sound. This can happen simply due to the space’s natural acoustics. This is where sound design becomes an invaluable tool so that you can easily add in those bits you’ve lost. Overall, starting with a criticial ear allows you the freedom to use sound design as an addition to your natural tone.

How to Tie Everything Together: Tone in the Context of a Finished Track

It’s one thing to know what tone you’re starting with. However, if you really want to find the perfect guitar tone, you may have to modify things within the sound design process. Overall, keeping your tone in line with the rest of a track is something totally different. This is where the mixing and mastering process comes into its own and it really helps to know your gear. Having a good ear for what a mix needs is a huge part of this. If ear training, in general, is something you struggle with, you can check out our article this month. This breaks down the best ear training software on the market as well.

Looking Deeper to Find the Perfect Guitar Tone

You might have the best tone in the world. However, if it’s too overpowering, it won’t sound good within the track. The most important takeaway here is to know separate how your tone sounds when isolated. This helps you balance it with how it sounds within a track.

However, it’s important to distinguish what is and what isn’t what is a tonal issue. Something might be an issue on the master bus or one which requires you to alter a different instrument altogether. You can do this by isolating your track. The best thing is to strike a balance. Your tone should sound great on its own, but also not overpower any other instruments.

Looking to find more ways to improve your skills? Check out the rest of our tutorials over at https://www.idesignsound.com/tutorials/

Final Thoughts

Tone is an elusive quality and it is hard to pinpoint where exactly it comes from. However, finding the perfect guitar tone is not the mysterious alchemy people often make it out to be. Sound design is as much a part of tone as the initial guitar recording. For guitarists, it is crucial not to overlook what you can do in the sound design process. This will ensure your instrument sounds fantastic both on record and live.

How to Use the Major and Minor Musical Scale In Composition

A musical scale is a collection of notes that when played together sound “at home”, “normal” and “natural”. If you don’t consider scales and just compose by ear, your music will risk sounding “dissonant”, which basically means non-musical. The Major and Minor musical scales are the two most important scales in western music and are found everywhere from Christmas music to radio hits. They are some of the foundational building blocks of music theory and one of the first places many musicians begin with their theory knowledge. Generally, major scales sound ‘happy’ and ‘minor’ scales sound sad; nevertheless, a deeper look shows their musical makeup is inherently different. When used in compositions, it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart – chord progressions based off major scales can contain minor chords, and progressions based off minor scales can contain major chords. Breaking down the music theory can help you understand which is which and how to use them in composition.

How to Use the Major Musical Scale in Composition

The major scale is incredibly versatile and used in blues, rock, singer songwriter, RnB, folk, and much more. Like any scale, it is a sequence of intervals (gaps between notes) which creates a set of notes to be used to build chords and compose. It is identical to Ionian mode in modal music. Generally it has an upbeat, climactic, ‘happy’ feeling to it.

To use the major scale, it is easiest to focus on chord progressions. The most common chord progression in the major scale is the I – VI – V chord progression. Notes are numbered in order and each note has a particular chord attached to it These can be major or minor depending on which note in the scale the chord is based off, but the general pattern for the major scale uses Roman numerals to number the chords as follows, with lower case numerals indicating minor chords and upper case numerals indicating major.

I – ii (minor) – iii – IV – V – vi – VII(7)

The fully major I – IV – V progression is often followed by a minor vi chord which provides a sense of tension before the progression resolves to I again. This enables the chord progression to have a mixture of emotions which makes the composition more interesting and varied.

How to Use the Minor Musical Scale in Composition

The minor scale can be used similarly – by building chord progressions based on the notes of the scale. Like the major scale, each chord aligns to each note. However, the sequences of steps between the notes is different. Because the scale resolves (gives a feeling of completion) to a minor note, it is helpful to keep in mind that a composition generally needs major chords to lighten the atmosphere and ensure the song does not get too tense – except when deliberately trying to create a sense of sadness, but also of mystery, suspense, or eeriness.

The minor scale contains a diminished chord, also known as a tritone, which has a flattened fifth. This chord has a particularly tense and eerie feeling which is often used in horror movies or music like heavy metal. The chord numbering for the minor scale goes like this:

I – ii(diminished) – III – iv – v – VI – VII

Both major and minor scales can be used to create basslines in genres ranging from rock, indie, punk, or underground music set up. Knowing the scale means you can work out the related chord progressions which are possible – and from there identify the bass note of each chord.

These bass notes can be used to create a bassline which follows the chord progression tying together a composition in a way which is both satisfying and relatively simple to compose.

With a little bit of practice, the musical scales will come second nature to you!

Want to explore more music theory? Then come on down to our Musical Education category where we have prepared a lot of articles similar to this one – click here!

Is it Possible to Use Both Major and Minor Musical Scales in a Composition?

It is possible to switch from a major key (one based off a major scale) and a minor key in the same composition. This is done with a pivot chord which balances the different moods of the scales. It is a creative way of using the major and minor musical scale in composition, although it takes some music theory knowledge. There are many ways to learn theory in depth – but one of the most comprehensive and accessible courses on the internet can be found on Udemy. Jason Allen’s comprehensive music theory course, teaches theory at a college level, covering chord inversions, harmony, and even technical analysis of the building blocks of music, such as what it means to be in tune. Extremely satisfying for musical inspiration, it has racked up five-star reviews and been enjoyed by over 90,000 students so far.

Find this Udemy course by clicking here, we can’t recommend it enough!

Here is a representation of the major and minor scales on the piano keys

Variations on the Minor Scale

There are several variations on the minor scale, but two of the most common are harmonic minor and melodic minor. Harmonic minor has a tense sound which comes from raising the seventh note of the scale a half step upwards, making it sharp. The sound is often associated with Eastern scales such as the Persian scale – which uses these kinds of intervals – yet it is also found in Western music from the medieval era onwards.  

As well as the spooky sounding diminished chord, keys based off the harmonic minor scale also contain an augmented chord – with a raised, as opposed to flattened fifth. This creates a complex, jazzy sound which can be used to provide interest and relief – very different from the diminished chord.

This is the numbering of the chords for the harmonic minor scale:

I – ii(dim) – iii(aug) – iv – V – VI – vii (dim)

On the other hand, the melodic minor musical scale differs from the natural minor scale by raising the sixth and seventh notes up a half step when ascending. When descending, the scale becomes the same as the natural minor scale.


I – ii – III – IV – V – vi – vii


VII – VI – v – iv – III – ii(dim) – I

Digital Music Theory Tools – Composing With Plugins

Music theory is a topic which, once explored, can be an endless source of fascination and inspiration. Sometimes, it can be hard to know where to stop, or what is and isn’t needed for composing a song. For those who wish to cut through the noise, some nifty plugins can help with doing so right alongside the composition. This does not mean that you don’t need to know music theory, it just means that there are tools to make your life a little easier when you try out different composition parts.

Scaler 2 by Plugin Boutique is fast, intuitive, and great for multitasking. You can get the plugin by clicking here! Reviewed in Beat Magazine and MusicTech, it has so far been given the thumbs up by over 30,000 musicians.

Pentatonic Scale: Music Theory to Create Tonal Quality in Composition

The pentatonic scale is a mainstays of American and Western music from folk, Appalachian ballads, and blues to roots rock and country and western. The minor pentatonic, with its deeper, darker sound, is more commonly used in blues and folk-rock, whilst the major pentatonic scale is more suited to country and western, with a twangier sound used in slide guitar playing and chicken picking techniques.

The major pentatonic scale is obtained by taking the normal (natural) major scale and removing two notes: the fourth note and the seventh note. All the notes that remain (five, or penta) create this scale, which is considered a very stable and strong scale, mostly fitted for bass or melodies where you are certain about the feelings that they transmit.

The minor pentatonic scale follows the natural minor but only has five notes instead of seven. Here, the second and flattened sixth notes are removed, giving a scale which sounds warm and pleasing, somewhere in between major and minor and neither eastern nor western. Also known as the blues scale, it has built modern pop music – pioneers of pop like the Beatles have taken inspiration from the blues and rock’n’roll tracks of their predecessors.

Both the major and minor pentatonic scale have a tonal quality. They do not have any semi tones in them – due to the notes which have been removed, they instead contain whole major third and minor third intervals respectively and this lends them a lilting quality like that found in Celtic music, taking them away from the conventions of classical composition.

If you are looking to deepen your knowledge of music theory, we have a whole category of articles, which can be accessed by clicking here.

How to use the theory of the major and minor pentatonic scale in composition:

Firstly, it depends on what genre you are composing. As above, certain genres lend themselves to certain scales more easily. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that they cannot be exchanged. The third interval in the scale can also be used in composition to provide a lift and drive the bassline and chord progression into the chorus.

Each note of the scale is linked to a chord which is either major or minor, although to preserve the tonal quality of the scales, power chords can also be used. These are chords where the third- whether major or minor – has been removed – meaning that they are completely neutral and can be used to pivot between different keys – or even from the major pentatonic scale to the minor pentatonic scale and vice versa, with the blues/country composition ‘Windy and Warm’ by Chet Atkins being a case in point.

The minor pentatonic scale is also the basis for twelve bar blues. This is a traditional progression of chords from the American South which can easily be soloed over on guitar or used as the building blocks for composition in multiple genres such as those mentioned above.

I – I – I – I

IV – IV – I – I

V – IV – I – V

This is just the start of music theory – even in themselves, the major and minor pentatonic scales are useful for so much more than just soloing and the twelve-bar blues. Find an in depth, completely comprehensive, engaging, and enjoyable Udemy course by clicking here, with Jason Allen – available in seven languages, it covers everything you need and more.

Another useful technological tool for musicians in the Plugin Boutique Scaler 2.

This plugin not only allows you to learn music theory alongside producing your own work, it’s intuitive, simple, and has everything you need to take your music into your hands without having to get into the nitty gritty details – perfect for those musicians who prefer to learn on the go. Of course, it also covers the pentatonic scale. Find it by clicking here!

Complete Beginners Guide to Music Production – VST plugin REVIEW

Hello and welcome to our review of the Producertech Complete Beginners Guide to Music Production VST plugin available on Pluginboutique.com!

Making music is incredibly rewarding, but it can also be extremely stressful – especially for beginners. DAWs, MIDI, chords, tempo – with so much to understand, where do you even start? Created by the pros at Producertech, The Complete Beginners Guide to Music Production from Producertech is a VST plugin composed of eight software programs, and eight courses with over twenty-five hours of tutorials to get you started making music. It also includes notes and quizzes to help strengthen and test your knowledge along the way. This is an extensive and comprehensive package, so what’s it comprised of? First, let’s touch on some of the courses.

And if you are interested in more on the topic of music theory, then head on down to our Music Education category by clicking right here, and then take a stroll through our Tutorials section.

Beginner’s Music Production Guide to Beats Production

This one starts beginners’ off with one of the fundamental elements of making music – making beats. It introduces MIDI and digital instruments for beginner musicians and gives users a basic understanding of musical concepts like rhythm and timing. It also explores more complex elements of composition like looping and how this works in a variety of DAWs.

Beginner’s Music Mixing Fundamentals

The Beginner’s Music Mixing Fundamentals provides beginner musicians with a good understanding of what mixing is and why it matters, covering fundamental topics such as level balancing, frequency and dynamics; and how changes to the shape and balance of different frequencies affect the overall mix. It also covers the use of effects, such as reverb.

The Art of Sampling

Starting from the very basics of what a sample is, beginners in music production will gain practical understanding of how samples are created and implemented. This course provides understanding of a variety of topics including musical fundamentals like notes and pitch, to techniques which allow beginners to start creating and implementing their own samples in their music.

The Art of Filtering

From the basics of what filters do and why we use them, users are guided towards an understanding of how filters implicate the overall quality of the sound we create. This course also explores more advanced topics like modulation, and how envelopes and LFOs are used in music production.

What about the software?

The Complete Beginners Guide to Music Production VST Plugin also comes with eight software programs, which include: a free sample workstation, the Zampler//RX; a real-time spectrum analyzer, the Voxengo SPAN; a modern motion filter, the Filterstep by Audiomodern; and the WaveWarden Odin 2 – a 24 voice synth. It also includes Scaler 2 – great for beginners and advanced musicians alike.

The Complete Beginners Guide to Music Production VST Plugin: Scaler 2

This is a powerful VST plugin that can really expand the creativity of your composition – especially for beginners. Scaler 2 detects your audio and MIDI signals, determines the key and scale, and then suggests chords and notes to match. Even beginners who lack theoretical knowledge are quickly able to create melodies, chords, and baselines using this powerful software. Also included, The Producer’s Guide to Scaler 2, outlines the many ways this plugin can improve your compositions. For beginners who are not well versed in musical theory, Scaler 2 is a powerful tool to have in the toolbox.

What’s the takeaway?

If you are interested in making your own music, but lack the knowledge, theory, or confidence to get started, this course just might be the perfect solution for you. Available for purchase and download from Plugin Boutique, the courses and accompanying software really set new musicians on the path of success with a variety of tools and practical knowledge. With everything you need to get started, this program is exactly what it says it is – The Complete Beginners Guide to Music Production.

8 Effective Hacks That Will Help You Learn Jazz

In recent years, people have been captivated by the magic of jazz. People who love this music genre can’t get enough of it and want to learn as much about it as possible. It’s a beautiful style that is hard to reproduce, but easy to appreciate. Are you thinking about taking up jazz? Here are 8 effective hacks that will help you learn jazz in no time.

In recent years, people have been captivated by the magic of jazz. People who love this music genre can’t get enough of it and want to learn as much about it as possible. It’s a beautiful style that is hard to reproduce, but easy to appreciate. Are you thinking about taking up jazz? Here are 8 effective hacks that will help you learn jazz in no time.

1) Learn your major scales

While at first glance it may seem like you are learning the same scales as classical musicians, this is not the case. Jazz has its own set of rules that require special attention. Major scales are important for improvisation and understanding what chords go with which keys. For example, if you play a C major scale over an F7 chord, it will not sound good. Your scale will clash with the chord, which is how you know that it’s the wrong one to use. It’s important to learn your major scales in all 12 keys so that you can avoid this problem.

You may want to sit down and just run through these scales without an instrument, but practicing on an instrument is better. If you play a saxophone, practice your scales while playing that instrument. Use a piano or guitar to practice if that’s what you play. You will get faster at the scale and be able to go over it more efficiently by practicing with an instrument in hand.

2) Use a cheat sheet to learn jazz

If time is an issue, you might consider using a cheat sheet or fake book as it is also called to help you with learning jazz. It’s basically a simple document where you put all the chord changes and lyrics of your tune in there, and then print it out. Put this sheet on a stand right next to you as you practice the chords on your instrument(s). Eventually, you will know the tune by heart.  If you are just starting to learn jazz, then now is the time to get a new fake book to use in the middle of practicing chords. It helps you remember because it offers you a collection of jazz songs you can play in one handbook. Aside from that, the fake book can help you learn music more quickly without investing hours and hours trying to learn songs or recordings. However, all you need to do is to ensure that you get the right one because there are a lot of them in the market today.

3)  Listen to jazz often to learn jazz

This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear us out. The thing with jazz is that it’s an art form based on iteration and improvisation, which means you can’t really learn the  art of improvising by studying a bunch of examples in textbooks or notation alone. You have to practice doing it yourself, over and over again. And the best way to do that is by listening to jazz, which includes musicians improvising on real-time recordings. Listening helps you understand the art more, and gives you the inspiration to try out what you just heard. Honestly, there’s no other way to learn it.

4) Transcribe Music and Practice Your Transcriptions

When musicians are first learning jazz, they often rely heavily on using jazz language to improvise. Once you have a working vocabulary, however, it’s time to expand your knowledge by transcribing. Transcribing simply means listening to the recordings of great improvisers and writing their solos down by ear .

The goal is not necessarily to learn all of the notes, but to learn how great players construct solos. Learning the vocabulary is only the first step – learning how to create with that vocabulary is where things get interesting.

5) Learn your major and minor triads

To help you learn your major and minor triads, many musicians recommend singing the root of the chord followed by the type of chord (major or minor) while playing it on an instrument. This is a great way to get the sound in your head and into your ear. Once you can hear these chords in Major and Minor form separately, you will be able to hear when a jazz musician uses chords from the major or minor scale.

Learning the major and minor triads for every key in your instrument’s range can help you with improvisation, playing backup, and even writing jazz songs in any key.

6) Learning how to improvise to learn jazz

In the words of Bassist Matt Penman , “In order to really improvise well, you have to have a good command of the changes and be able to hear them in your head.” How can we apply this? Here are our recommendations for this one:

Record. A great way to really learn the changes is by recording yourself playing with them over and over again . You will be able to hear your progress, which helps you improve much more than simply playing in front of your mirror (which I am definitely guilty of). Write out solos. If soloing on recordings is not for you, try writing out your solos on paper. That’s right, write it out note for note.

This one is really great for those who are not as comfortable writing or improvising on the spot. If this is you, write down a tune and play it over and over again . Once you have become familiar with it, start to create solos of your own.

7) Learn Common Chord Progressions and Rhythms

Jazz is characterized by a certain chord and rhythmic pattern. If you know these patterns, it’s like learning the language of music. There are four common chords in Jazz: major 7th, dominant 7th, half-diminished seventh and minor 7th flat 5 (which is also known as a minor flatted 5th).

Learning these four chords will give you the ability to improvise with the most common chord progressions in Jazz.

8) Get Your Arpeggios Up to Shape

It’s important to know what arpeggios are and how they apply to jazz. An arpeggio is just a fancy way of saying that we’re going to learn each chord as a separate entity (like learning triads in music theory). So rather than thinking, “I’m playing C Major 7 here,” instead play the C Major 7 arpeggio and hear all of the chord tones. If we learn each chord as a separate entity and get good at recognizing them, it makes transposing and soloing that much easier.

Finally, the next steps of learning how to play Jazz are putting these different elements together and getting your ear involved more. Try spending some time playing songs that you like with a teacher or bandmate. This will help you get comfortable improvising while remembering things like chord progressions and rhythms of the tune at the same time. This will help you learn the changes, melodies and rhythms in each song you are learning. Jazz is a complex style of music that takes years to master, however knowing these key elements can make getting started on your Jazz journey much easier.

DIGITAL and ANALOG – How you can use ANALOG effects with DIGITAL MUSIC production

While analog seems like a pretty much forgotten domain, digital music production using DAWs such as Logic, Reason, and Ableton, has become the norm in the modern music industry. With so many instruments, FX, and VSTs in one place, they seemingly have everything a modern musician needs. Yet to expand the sound of your music you may want to combine digital and analogue sounds. 

Choose your DAW

All round BEST DAW: Logic

Logic is by no means the only DAW on the market yet is the first option which many musicians jump to. Nevertheless, to combine digital with analogue it isn’t always the best option. Logic has such as wide range of different VSTs, plugins, FX, and ways to mix and master your music – but producing everything similarly can starve your creativity. There is no true BEST when checking out DAW options, but Logic is a great all-rounder that can do everything you need.

Check out these other DAWs for alternative options, if you are on a budget or if you are still learning digital music production: 

Budget friendly DAW: Reaper  

Reaper is basic, but this can be exploited by the savvy musician to further creativity. Due to not using much power, it can be modified with many of your own plugins or external equipment like external FX plugins for a low cost and streamlined way of working.

Great for beginners: Ableton

Meanwhile, Ableton live is a great way of bringing analogue gear into digital music production. By pushing the buttons on the live pads, even with entirely digital sounds, layering them can free up your creativity and create thicker, richer, and more nuanced sound. Loading both digital and analogue sounds, which can be run through FX pedals for a richer warmer sound or combined with digital instruments like synths.

Digital and Analog Music Gear: What’s on the Market? 

Using electric guitar and pedals, or stomp boxes, may not be immediately obvious in electronic music but can be done to great effect with low key guitar and heavy usage of FX making the humble Fender Strat or Telecaster sound otherworldly and unique, generating sounds which could not be achieved with digital FX or production but which you would not necessarily know were analog. For the rest of the article, we will only focus on pedals, leaving analog synthesisers and other instruments to a separate one.

Of course, if you want some more in-depth information you can check the Music Hardware section here on idesignsound and also the “ANALOG” tag.

Guitar Pedals

I have experimented with combining analogue stompboxes and other FX pedals with digital production, especially with digital drum patterns. They work together very well when combined with electric guitar as this can be produced in such a way that its rich, raw analogue sounds are modulated and toned down to combine with slick electronic synths and drumbeats.

They can also change the sound of your guitar. So that it is less obviously a six-stringed electric or acoustic, making it ambiguous and therefore creating all sorts of fantastic and ethereal sounds. This can open up more options than may even have been on your DAW in the first place. It’s a reminder that sounds do not just come from our computers and online but that the world around us can be a constant source of inspiration.

Music producers usually group the pedals into different circuits on a Pedalboard

Best analog stompboxes for combining with digital music production:

Naturally there are loads of different stompboxes to choose from on the market, even within any one category such as fuzz or wah pedals. These are only a few of the possible options out there and are simply a good place to start.


Behringer pedals are relatively cheap and are great pedals for beginners. There are many different kinds and they can easily be combined with your existing digital gear due to the fact that their controls are very similar to those which exist on DAWs such as logic. A basic Behringer distortion pedal can be used with Logic to bring some authentic, raw sounding distortion to low key electric guitars for bedroom pop or indie music.

EVH Phase 90

Phaser pedals are a great way of introducing weird sounds to your electronic music. Synths and other forms of sound modulation are great for creating tense and exciting electronic beats but missing out on the variety of other sounds out in the analogue world would be a mistake.

Phaser pedals are generally used with electric guitar for classic rock and roll sounds, especially in the 80s. With the current focus on retro and the vinyl revival, why not bring them to the present era by recording phased guitar and using it as a sample or synth patch for high-powered electropop.

Wah Pedals

Like the phaser, it may not occur to you to use retro sounding pedals in modern electronic music. Nevertheless, with enough production, a fuzz pedal or wah pedal can be used to add layers of depth to your electronic music.

With digital, bedroom-based production one thing which is lost is the warmth and depth of tone of analogue production. There is always a fine balance between creating depth or interesting sounds and keeping the crispness which makes electronic music so listenable.

A wah pedal can be used to create a wall of sound effect which is great for combining with mixed vocals and synth sounds for big choruses. Dunlop pedals are a great middle of the road brand for this as for a pedal you may use quite a lot but which needs to stand up to the wear and tear of production, they are not too expensive but still provide great sound. Try the cry baby pedal for big noises to mix down and combine with synths and electronic drums.

We also recommend you check out our article on the BEST DELAY pedals by clicking here.

Ways to Combine ANALOG and DIGITAL MUSIC workflows

Dry Recording

It isn’t every guitarist’s first preference to record guitars dry into their interface and DAW, but for electronic musicians who are not bound by the conventions of rock history, it is a way to get subtle and low-key electric guitar sounds into otherwise electronic songs and have them still work, without sounding overpowering or like two completely disparate genres have been mashed together.

Try it and then layer FX to your choice over the top of them. The dry base can give you more options for creativity as you add different musical textures and ingredients.

Recording and then adding FX

Recording wet sounds such as by miking up amps can result in a rich sound which is not always desirable in electronic music as it can drown out the other elements. However, if you choose to record this way, good, pro level EQ plugins can allow you to mix to your liking and have the best of both worlds – the multiple tones and the appeal of real instruments, as well as the cleanness of electronic sound and the ability to manipulate sound to your liking to create bigger, punchier dynamics like pulsing EDM drums for a danceable pop song or the hazy atmosphere of dreamy bedroom pop by adding reverb and delay.

Digital and Analog Music – Conclusions

Combining analogue and digital sounds is as simple as using your gear creatively and making sure that you understand the contexts in which different sounds are used.

Mixing vocals tutorial & cheat sheet – FREE PDF

Hey friends, good to talk to you again! For those of you that are not subscribed to the iDesignSound.com newsletter, you may have missed this very interesting document in regards to mixing or should I say, fitting, vocals into tracks.

It would be so not like you to miss out on this very important information so we would suggest that you sign-up for the iDesignSound.com newsletter. We will not spam you, but provide very important and relevant information in the field. Our subscribers got this information ahead of time but we figured it is too good to miss so we are providing it to you as well, at the bottom of the article.

Please find the newsletter register form below:

Now, Slate Digital, the company know for very very good emulation of hardware outboard unit, have released this very good pdf booklet about mixing vocals.

Vocals are extremely tricky to get right given the dynamic nature of the human voice, the broad range of frequencies it covers and the somewhat hard to obtain sweet spot of modern music mixing.

And if you plan to record your own voice and process it with this guide, we have written a very extensive comparrison and review for the best microphone arm on the market right now.

Slate Academy, the tutorial side of Slate Digital’s business, has got this covered with six parts, following the signal path and the natural way of sound treatment:

  1. Corrective Eq
  2. Compression
  3. Tone shaping
  4. De-essing
  5. Air
  6. Stereo processing (Reverb/Delay)

We found this list very handy, from the perspective of information contained as well as structuring, so without further ado, here is the download link for the PDF:

Key differences between Chorus, Flanger & Phaser Explained

If guitars were rifles, pedal effects would be ammunition.

There’s only so much you can achieve with a clean guitar sound, and it’s more than safe to say that effects such as Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser are capable of completely shifting and changing your tone, for better or worse.

Now, skilled guitar players instinctively know the differences between various pedal effects, but most of the time people are more concerned about where and when they can use a certain type of sound rather than wreck their heads trying to explain ‘how and why’.

Today we are going to attempt to thoroughly examine some of the key differences between chorus, flanger, and phaser effects, so buckle up and stay for a while.

Chorus in a nutshell

The ‘chorus effect’ is easily one of the most iconic pedal effects among guitar players.

We could go as far as to call it ‘choir-us’ mainly because it’s supposed to make the guitar sound much bigger than it actually is.

It’s ideal for single-guitar bands, troupes, and performers who want to duplicate (or triplicate) their sound in a live setting and for studio musicians who don’t particularly like laying down numerous tracks where they can achieve the same effects with a pedal as simple as this.

How it works

The Chorus effect modulates the pitch of your tone ever so slightly; it basically reproduces the exact signal of your guitar’s vibrations but at a slightly different pitch and time.

The potential of the chorus effect is vast, which means that it can subtly enhance the depth of your tone or it can simulate another live guitar, depending on how you set its parameters.

In a bit more technical terms, the chorus effect is achieved when the pedal takes the signal before melding it with pitch-modulated copies of the original signal.

Depending on the model and parameters, the post-produced signal copy can be singular or there could be numerous. The more ‘layers’ the pedal makes, the bigger your tone will become. 

How to use it properly

Essentially, it’s a straightforward effect that doesn’t exactly require much skill and experience to be used, although it’s kind of addictive in the sense that it may leave you with the feeling that you always need ‘more’.

It’s a modulation pedal, which basically means that it’s supposed to sit at the back end of the signal chain, right after wah-wahs, compressors, overdrives, or distortions.

Due to the fact that chorus pedals aren’t necessarily the most intricate contraptions and feature only a handful of control knobs, you’ll typically only have depth and rate to worry about.

Set these parameters low to enrich your sound in a subtle, delicate way; when set at halfway you’ll add plenty of character to your tone while going anywhere beyond this point is not recommended if your signal chain is encumbered as it is.

Flanger in a nutshell

The flanger effect is one of the most enigmatic guitar gizmos to this day; it was artificially created (by accident) in old-school studios back in the tape-recording days (4-track and 8-track machines) by touching the flange (the rim of the tape), although nowadays the process of ‘flanging’ has been tamed and digitalized.

The ‘flanger’ effect sports characteristics of numerous other pedal effects – it’s based on delay pedals, but its unpredictability often leads it towards phasers, overdrives, and distortions, obviously depending on its parameters.

Furthermore, this effect was created by playing two tracks at the same time, which further means that it also shares some similarities with choruses to some extent. As we’ve already discussed, chorus pedals modulate and blend the altered signal with the original one, which is partially what happens with the ‘flanging’ effect too.

How it works

Flanger works in the same way as most modulation pedals do; this pedal splits the signal in 2 identical paths where the original is untouched and the second one is just slightly delayed (measured in milliseconds).

The tweaked signal is then modulated both by speeding it and slowing it cyclically. The ‘modulated’ signal is then blended with the original signal.

What’s most important to understand about flangers is that their altered signal is actually tweaked at ‘random’ unpredictable intervals whereas other modulation pedals offer more control and precision.

The randomness of this effect is the reason why some people use it as their go-to pedal and other guitarists avoid it.

How to use it properly

Flanger pedals are by default wild and pretty hard to tame, but there are more ways than one by which you can gap the small obstacles they present.

The most intimidating parameter of typical flangers is the ‘manual control’, which basically allows guitarists to pick and choose which frequencies they want to alter.

When untouched, the pedal will automatically calculate compatible frequencies and reinforce them (incompatible frequencies will always nullify each other), leading to a slightly clearer tone without sacrificing the punchy feel.

Most flangers typically feature ‘resonance’ or ‘intensity’, both of which relate to the same thing. This parameter affects the effect’s intensity by clipping or feeding a portion of the delay straight back to the original input.

By increasing the ‘intensity’ you’ll add more grit to your tone and achieve a more distorted high-gain sound.

Phaser in a nutshell

Phaser pedals sound almost identical to laymen and beginner guitarists, but in actuality, they share more differences than similarities.

This effect can potentially be used to achieve a mild flanging effect only if its parameters are basically untouched and set on ultra-low settings.

A well-known fact among veteran guitar players is that the phaser effect was introduced to the scene around the same time when flangers came to be. This is probably the reason why new-school players typically don’t make a clear distinction between the two.

In a nutshell, Phasers create a swirling-like sound, much akin to a plane taking off with the only difference being that it is constantly circulating in the fashion of stereo speakers.

One of the most notable benefits of Phaser pedals is that it allows guitar players to create a much bigger atmosphere and ambient, even with smallish amps and relatively mediocre gear. 

How it works

Flangers and phasers operate on similar principles; the original signal is divided into two paths, one path is modulated and the other is completely untouched.

The modulated signal path passes through a series of all-pass filters, which shift the signal’s phase revolving around a variety of (pre-calculated) frequencies. In this regard, the Phaser is not as unpredictable as the flanger, but it’s not as controllable as the chorus.

The modulated signal path is later mixed with the untouched signal path, which results in the ‘swooping’ circular tone.

How to use it properly

The Flanger effect is significantly less punishing towards beginner players; its parameters are not as sensitive, and it’s a bit more versatile altogether.

As far as we’re talking about the signal chain, most people don’t use both flanger and phaser pedals, so you should ideally place either of the two near the end of the chain (after distortion, equalizers, compressors, delays, and choruses).

Typical phaser pedals (such as MXR’s Phase 100) feature simplistic tone controls like Intensity and Speed. The ‘intensity’ basically governs the number of phased stages whereas the ‘speed’ affects the rapidity of signal shifts.

In simpler words, the ‘intensity’ knobs allow you to create different ‘geometric’ signal patterns while the ‘speed’ knobs are there for you to finalize and shape them in more concrete ways.

Similarities between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger

Essentially, Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger pedals belong to the ‘modulation effect’ category.

Aside from this little formality, they’re also meant to be used in similar ways and operate under similar principles.

All three of these effects divide the original guitar signal path in two after which they alter it in different ways. Although the outcomes are vastly different, these split signals all utilize delays to modulate the frequencies.

From a more practical side, all of these effects have been made available in both pedal and plug-in formats.

The initial modes of achieving chorus, flanger, and phaser (particularly the last two) were almost unwieldy and required a dose of technical expertise, whereas today these effects are beginner-friendly and suitable for use by immediate beginner players.

In technical terms, these pedal effects always leave one signal path completely untouched, which means that at least ‘half’ of your tone will remain exactly the same as it originally was, even though this is not entirely a quantifiable matter.

Even though there are numerous minor other similarities, the most crucial and highlighted ones are:

  1. Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger effects all belong to the ‘modulation’ category
  2. The same method of operation and functional principles
  3. The unfiltered signal path is always non-modulated and identical to the original
  4. All three effects utilize delays to affect the filtered signal path
  5. Modern-day pedals have made these effects more accessible to beginner guitar players

Differences between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger

Now that we’ve touched upon the similarities between Chorus, Phaser, and Flanger it’s time to dig into the main course – the key differences that separate them.

Though there are many dissimilarities between them, we’ve plucked out the most notable ones and grouped them in the appropriate categories, starting with…

Sonic differences

The Chorus effect is, essentially, much different from Phaser and Flanger, at least sound-wise. It’s ‘mellow’ tonally whereas Phaser and Flanger are closer to overdriven types of sounds.

Even when the parameters of a Chorus pedal are set to their extremes the end result still boasts clarity when isolated. However, choruses are seldom used as standalone effects.

This pedal effect is more of an ‘adhesive’ type in the sense that it extends itself across the spectrum of other effects used in the chain. Phasers and Flangers tend to dominate the chain with their grit.

Differences in application

Distortion effects are commonly associated with rock & heavy metal while chorus, phaser, and flanger effects can be used in pretty much any music genre and can fit into any playing style.

These effects are as versatile as the player’s creativity; in that regard, they can be used in almost any song or performance piece, although exceptions should be obvious.

Since phasers and flangers affect the frequencies of the guitar’s signal in a relatively similar way, they almost cross each other out.

In simpler words, most guitar players use either a phaser pedal or a flanger; rarely both.

Differences in versatility

In this particular scenario, ‘versatility’ refers to the flexibility and freedom as far as tweaking with control knobs and parameters are in question.

Tuning up all the knobs to their extreme would make any sound muddy, but especially so in the case of phasers and flangers.

As mentioned before, these effect types tend to dominate the signal chain, which oftentimes diminishes the presence of other pedals and effects.

In that regard, Phasers and Flangers are slightly less versatile than choruses.

Obviously, Phase and Flange pedals are fairly different between themselves too. Phasers are slightly easier to control, but more importantly, they offer a more calculated and more predictable approach to tone-tweaking.

 On the opposite end of the spectrum, Flangers don’t affect the tone so drastically and can be used for extended periods of time without compromising the tone’s integrity.

The swirling of Phasers makes them ideal for song parts that need to be accentuated (particularly solo sections) whereas Flange pedals can easily substitute for overdrive and distortion when need be.


Every pedal effect type is different. Moreover, every model is different from another; two different pedals that belong to the same category can be so strikingly different that some people would assume they serve different purposes.

Even so, the contrasts between Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser are undeniable and to a certain extent obvious.

From the variance in sound, over dissimilarities in application to differences in application, by now we hope that we’ve helped you make a distinction between these pedal effects.

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