Future Guitar : No Amps, No Pedals

So I had a minor technical breakthrough over the weekend: getting completely lost in the sound and experience and just playing with my fully-computer-based guitar rig, including with nice amp drive / distortion. And with nada latency throwing me off.

I’ve always managed to get cool clean sounds, but was never happy with the sound or feel of the overdriven patches I built.

Until now!

The rig:

  • Brand new shiny MacBook Pro 15" with not-quite-but-near-top-of-the-line specs.
  • Apogee Symphony MK II (via Thunderbolt) or an Apogee Element for live use.
  • Neumann monitors
  • One guitar
  • One human
  • Logic Pro or Mainstage


  • Built in Logic goodies (Tape Delay and that new Chroma reverb are excellent, amongst many others)
  • Scuffham S-Gear
  • NI Guitar Rig
  • Valhalla Shimmer
  • UAD, though they’re more for the mix / fine tuning stage once I’ve got parts in the can, due to increased latency.

I tend to more experimental guitar playing these days, and the above rig kills it, both for the clean and dirty tones.

So, a few plans, and things to try:

I’m not taking Neumanns on stage anytime soon (!), so I’ve got my eye on the Line 6 PowerCabs as a solution. They seem to get a very good wrap as something that is “FRFR” and with the oomph of a guitar cab, supposedly beating out Atomic CLRs depending on what you like. And they don’t cost the earth. The Matrix NL-somethings are appealing for their low weight too.

I also need some kind of stage ready, solid bluetooth expression pedal / switches to jump on so I can change patches on the fly, turn FX on/off, etc. Current contender is the KMI Softstep 2, but that’s not wireless.

And I haven’t quite settled on the perfect granular plug-in.

No giant pedal boards, no FX pedals, no looping stuff, just guitar -> interface -> PA or Monitoring system, with one wireless thingy to control it.

Fun times.

So what are other people tinkering with in Future Guitar World? iPads? Alephs? norns-es? Show us your Future Guitar Rig that doesn’t use traditional amps, cabs and pedals… (the other thread is for that)

ps : It’s also the modular rig, when I want structured song-based sequencing.


so totally in passing - I’m not a guitarist but I believe that Robert Fripps current rig is using NI guitar rig (which is a nice piece of software - I use it a fair bit even without a guitar :slight_smile: (& I used it and Logic stuff a lot (although reading my notes I ended up in Ableton in the end after initial sampling) in my one piece using a guitar https://soundcloud.com/junklight/gone-to-papua-new-guinea)

I’m pretty sure Bluetooth would give you all that latency you didn’t want right back, fwiw


The bluetooth is just for sending MIDI or OSC messages - the guitar signal will just go straight to the audio interface via guitar cable (or maybe by a separate guitar-specific wireless unit like the new Boss ones).

The IK Blueboard looks near-perfect, but apparantly it’s plastic and flimsy. I want monome level quality :slight_smile:

(well, something more rugged I can stomp on)

Wireless is important so I can park the computer out of harm’s way.

It’s looks like Mr. Fripp uses some hardware like modern Axe-FX and old Boss GR

very IMO but I think about of future guitar in terms of music that will be played on it rather than equipment are used for playing. Nothing modern to play classic blues riffs via modelers with classic sound of Plexi and 4x12 cab. And vice versa some guys (especially from math and prog scenes) play quite interesting and fresh things which gear of 80’s and 90’s.

Just for me I sold all amps and pedals for Axe-FX II because only one reason - can play in headphones at night and easy to carry for rehearsal/gig


I have two setups in Live that I use for Guitar.

(1) Post rock feels: Use a combination of lePou amps and another cab sim (might be leCab but I can’t remember, and I’m at work). Then add Live’s native reverbs/delay.

(2) Pure unadulterated METAL! ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

In both cases I have ezdrummer to provide the beats!

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I’ve tried a few of the plugins and nothing has ever really floated my boat for ‘traditional’ guitar tones. The best clean tones I’ve got were using Soundtoy’s Radiator plugin (acting as the ‘amp’) into a cab emulator (e.g. Guitar Rig), with Tremolator/Echoboy etc. acting as the ‘pedals’. That sounded really nice.

For quick ‘plug in and go’ playing at home I can HIGHLY recommend the Yahama THR10C (the blue classic model). I’ve had so much use out of mine (it even has an aux input and separate volume control so you can practice along). It also has an audio interface built in (never used it but it’s there).

I’ve also had my eye on the new Universal Audio load box/cab emulator thingie, but it is a lot of money.


I think Source Audio really has killed it recently with their guitar pedals, and what could be the future for guitar pedals. I have the Nemesis delay and it sounds great, sure, or else I wouldn’t have it. But the quick and easy functionality, or endless app tinkering is just wonderful. They built a traditional pedal that can be limited just to the knobs if you want, which by the way are incredibly easy to dial in great sounds. But you also have the opportunity to use the app, and create complex delays and effects, with midi and stereo capabilities. Also there is an online community on the app, loaded with effects people made for you to try, it is much more than just a delay pedal. I’d like to think this is where the pedal industry is going.

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i go g+l asat custom straight into daking mic pre one into babyface pro into mac running live. i do like pedals but these days i’m not using any ( i should though (in fact this post is going to urge me to move my k field modulator back up to studio)).

i just do whatever works. i don’t try to avoid anything but yeah future guitar is nice!!

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I’m a bass player and keyboardist, and right now I’m just figuring out my rig. I’ve found Bias FX to be really excellent for a pedalboard-in-an-iPad sort of thing. Works with bluetooth and MIDI stomp switches, pretty rock solid reliable. Also Mainstage plus good VSTs works a treat for a live job if you need more custom stuff and don’t mind hauling a laptop.

I like a combination of outboard gear and digital effects - lugging a pedalboard isn’t my cup of tea, and cable soup isn’t either. I have a pair of Eventide H9’s I use mostly on the synths - one of them is often pressed into full-mix reverb and the other is usually a modulated delay or some funky texture for the monosynth. These are also MIDI-able and I’m controlling the whole lot (and syncing time via MIDI clock) with a custom raspberry pi / supercollider script I’ve worked on in conjunction with @mzero . I’m working on getting an effects stack on the piSound as well, and I’m likely to use that instead of the iPad effects if I get it good enough, but that’s a very custom piece of software and isn’t easy to recommend to everyone.

This topic is what lead me to this forum, specifically a curiosity in norns. Maybe Im overhyped about the potential of norns but as a guitar player trying to downsize to bare minimum of gear that allows for continual live looping and modulation I have really high hopes that this could be achieved with a grid and plugging the guitar into norns.

Has anyone ventured into this yet? Maybe this question is fit for another discussion, but I envision a “future” guitar performance to essentially be a layering of live audio loops and their manipulation. An mlr sequenced rythmic base underneath occasional jazz inspired phrasing and live improvisations.

Im new to code and have only dabbled with some javascript and c# but the idea that norns can have its functionality extended with lua is very inspiring.

My two questions to anyone further along this train of thought than I:
1: Can Norns automate changing effect parameters over time? like slowly increase delay/reverb/filter over say 2 min without me having to touch a knob?
2: Can recording of loops/samples be set to begin recording upon an audio signal being recieved? So i can set norns to listen for when i begin to play and trigger recording without having to sacrifice a hand for pressing a button.

I think the more “hands-free” functionality this technology can offer, the more traditional instruments can be integrated into the new ways of approaching music.

I recommend looking at @Plym’s instagram for some explorations of MLR+guitar and zither (I think that’s what it is) that are really cool. @bjarlstedt has also been doing some really cool things in this vein (see this instagram video), though I’m not sure if norns is specifically used.


Thanks for the references, I haven’t come accross @bjarlstedt yet, def will check him out. @Plym is actually the person who told me about llllllll.co and how i found this forum, really cool dude and is the only one I’ve seen do something close to what Im talking about. Will def keep my eyes pealed for more.

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I have a Mod Duo guitar pedal. Its system architecture is similar to Norns in that it’s a Linux computer system on chip and low latency via JACK and a custom sound card. It has amp/cab/pedal models from the Guitarix open source project.

My guitar opinions are vague and unformed. I have a Les Paul style guitar and using only this digital pedal I got sounds like those on my favorite rock records.


One of these days I want to try this with my RPi and Pisound:

Thank you for this! I don’t own Norns. My approach with my setup is to plug my guitar into Ears (and often Rings as shown in that Instagram flick) and then let the envelope follower run my sequencer. Simple and fun!

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But I have to admit that I cringe a little when watching that clip. It’s sooo out of tune

Thanks for the s/o @jlmitch5! Much appreciated!

Happy to see you on the forum @BKCP. As we discussed a bit in the comments section on YouTube Norns will probably evolve and grow with time, and maybe a lot of the things you’re asking for will be realised in the future. I think there’s already talk of panning capabilities and some filter stuff. And you can do some MIDI mapping of the parameters. I have zero coding capabilities, so I can’t comment on much more on that. But I’m very interested in this topic, and I want to share some thoughts and ideas based around my ever evolving setup.

I usually run my guitar through a pedal of some kind before Norns, just to thicken the sound and beef up the signal. Lately I’ve been using a Tech 21 VT Bass pedal. Then directly into Norns. As much as I love the reverb in Norns I’ve been experimenting adding reverb in post. For me, Norns isn’t about getting rid of the computer as I enjoy working within Ableton, so it is much more a creative tool to use in conjunction with the computer. Some of the things I’m currently exploring is some very creative and simple M4L-patches. In particular the LFO, which can modulate as good as any parameter in Live, and the envelope follower. The envelope follower patch is extremely cool as it will listen to your input signal and create envelopes based on that, that can modulate any parameter (like any other envelope follower). I would love to see some envelope follower function in Norns down the road, as it is a very “hands-free” feature.

Running Norns’ output to different effects is also really interesting. I think Norns is such a powerful tool that you can easily do AMAZING things with it all by itself, or with a guitar or any other sound source, but that it really thrives in the company of other tools that you jive with. Here’s an example of Norns through a tape echo…

A couple of cool effect boxes I would check out is Holograms Infinte Jets, and Empress’ Zoia.


Love the latest vid with the tape echo, that thing looks crazy as it folds back on itself, sounds awesome too!

Ive been looking into Lua more and Im starting to feel more confident that scripting for norns is more apporachable than I may have thought. Easier said than done, especially without having one in front of me. I’m hoping to get in on this october batch and will try my had at implementing some basic ideas.
Even though it can already be done with m4l, I think the LFO approach to automating effects is a great idea for norns, just modulating the wet/dry signal overtime. Will have to look into envelope followers, a new concept for me, but thoroughly intrigued by your description. It will be hard to replace the vst effects available via ableton, especially those lush Valhalla reverbs so I like your point about norns thriving in good company of other gear. The sampling power of norns is where it shines the most it seems and developing a “hands-free” workflow to integrate that power with the guitar is very exciting.