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This article was originally published in issue #2
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Tascam virtually invented modern home recording and have gone on to make musicians' lives easier and more fruitful ever since - not least with their successful phrase trainers. Now there are two newcomers. We asked experienced phrase trainer user, Jamie Humphries, to find out whether Tascam has improved the breed.
Since Tascam launched the original four-track cassette based Portastudio in 1979, the company has continued to make ground-breaking developments in professional and home recording, including hard disc recorders, digital Portastudios and computer-based interfaces that work alongside digital recording packages.
Over the past few years Tascam has revolutionised personal practice units that enable the user to loop sections of either a CD or MP3 and slow the sections down without changing the pitch, allowing difficult licks, phrases and passages to be learnt. As well as this the pitch of songs can also be changed and even guitar cancellation is possible. The units also include guitar amp simulation and multi-effects, basically offering the guitarist, musician a one-stop portable solution for practice.
As a transcriber and touring working guitarist, I've been a long-term fan and user of both the Tascam CD-GT 1 and MP-GT1, having used both units extensively for all of my transcription work and also for practice on the road, so I was pleased to be asked to take a closer look at Tascam's newest versions.
The Tascam GB-10 is an attractive unit, with a more user friendly, desk top design, as opposed to the more traditional MP3 player design of the MP-GT1. The 'wedge shape' design means that the unit's controls are easy to see and operate whilst holding your guitar, and also maybe notating your favourite licks. The GB-10 includes all of the features of its predecessors, including metronome, tuner, looping function, where an in and out point are set with the loop button. As well as this, loops can be slowed down or sped up, and the pitch of tracks can be changed; ideal for working on tracks that are in Eb tuning, meaning you can raise the pitch to standard tuning, so you don't have to re-tune your entire guitar.
For fact checkers, both the GB-10 and LR-10 give you control over tempo of 50 per cent to 150 per cent in 10 per cent steps and control over pitch of ±6 semi-tones with ±50 cents fine tune.
One of the main improvements in the GB-10 is the guitar amp simulation and effects processor. The guitar sounds are much more usable and more inspirational to play with, giving you a wider range of clean and dirty tones, and also more tonal flexibility with the cabinet simulation. The effects engine includes compressor, delay, reverb and all of the most common modulation effects. One thing that the unit would benefit from would be a noise gate, as the unit produces some hiss when gain levels are high, and the compressor is used.
Another new and exciting feature of the unit is the recording section. You can use the GB-10 as a notepad recorder, enabling you to instantly record your ideas, utilising the guitar effects section. You can also record over your favourite tracks or backing tracks; another useful practice tool, as you can instantly critique your performance. Yet another improvement is that the GB-10 will also recognise wav files as well as MP3s, so you don't have to always convert tracks before loading them from your PC or Mac via the USB. The GB-10 can also take an SD card for onboard storage. It even comes complete with an SD card, which is a welcome touch!
The LR-10 is basically the same as the GB-10, but is aimed at acoustic instruments and the human voice. It includes a reverb processor, but not the guitar amp simulator. However, the LR-10 includes a built in stereo condenser mic and also a speaker, so you don't have to use headphones or monitors.
So is the new range of Tascam trainers for you? Some might argue that you can use software based trainers, which is true. But for my money, I would highly recommend these excellent products. When transcribing, I use a tab and manuscript package and would find it frustrating and time consuming to keep swapping from one program to another to loop sections of a track in a slowing down program, and then write out the phrase in another. Also these units will fit in your gig bag, and you can instantly plug-in and practice along to songs prior to a gig with a usable guitar tone. Watch our video to find out just how easy these are to use and see some of the impressive things they let you do!