Computational creativity and the future of AI

TonePrint app allows users to change stompbox tones using an iPhone


November 20, 2011

TC Electronic has released a free-to-download app for iPhone that beams custom tone tweaks...

TC Electronic has released a free-to-download app for iPhone that beams custom tone tweaks wirelessly into a TonePrint pedal via the guitar's pickup

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Playing electric guitar doesn't just require hours of daily practice necessary for smooth scales, clean rhythm and fluid solos, for many players it also involves a seemingly never ending search for that tone, the special something that makes them unique and instantly recognizable. This generally means procuring lots of effects pedals to help shape the signal from the instrument, or looking to existing artists for inspiration. For its TonePrint system, TC Electronic invited a number of today's top players to customize the sonic parameters of a new series of pedals so that users can get instant access to the dream sounds of the pros. Up until now, a TonePrint could only be uploaded to a pedal using a computer and USB cable but the new TonePrint app for iPhone allows players to wirelessly load a tone directly into the pedal via the guitar's pickup.

Trying to pin down the warmth, power or that special something which makes a guitar-based piece of music stand out from the crowd can be a tiresome and time-consuming affair. Questers will have doubtless amassed a huge collection of effects pedals, then spent hours and hours trying out various knob or dial positions on each one until the sonic Grail is finally located. Chaining each perfect creation together on a pedal board can then lead to more fine tuning frustration to get them to work with each other.

Part of the problem is that sound engineers and designers have already determined the scope of tone available for each pedal before it even gets onto your board. So, even if you've spent a fortune gathering all the effects used by your favored player, you may still be frustrated to find that the killer feel you're looking to emulate still eludes you.

The range of TonePrint-enabled pedals from TC Electronic

While the Gamechanger guitar from Seymour Duncan gives players the opportunity to control the tonal properties of pickups on the guitar itself, the recently developed TonePrint system from TC Electronic allows players to alter the sound parameters of an effects pedal by uploading new presets directly into the stomp box.

For the TonePrint system, TC Electronic has given a growing number of modern guitar heroes a back stage pass into the inner workings of a series of effects pedals to recreate the signature tones that have helped to shape their musical identities or custom create brand new setups for one or more of the five TonePrint-enabled pedals. Each pedal has a page on the TC Electronic site featuring all the tones created by the various contributors.

The list of contributors reads like a guitar magazine's run down of today's top six-string shooters, including:
  • Dream Theater's John Petrucci
  • Troy Van Leeuwen and Dave Catching from Queens of the Stone Age
  • Michael "Padge" Paget from Bullet for my Valentine
  • Steve Stevens of Billy Idol and Michael Jackson fame
  • Richard Fortus and Ron Bumblefoot Thal of Guns N Roses
  • Deep Purple's Steve Morse
  • Famed shredder and acclaimed tutor Paul Gilbert of Mr Big and Racer X
  • , and
  • Doug Aldrich from Whitesnake

TC Electronic has also tweaked settings and crossed connections to create a bank of its own sounds, and there are a few contributions from ProGuitarShop and Guitar Center, too.

To load a chosen sound configuration onto a TonePrint delay, reverb, flanger, chorus, or vibrato, a user first needs to download the free parameter set to a Mac or PC and then transfer it to the available effects bank on the pedal via USB.

TC Electronic has created a bank of its own sounds, and there are a few contributions from...

Users who also own an iDevice now have another - much easier - option. TC Electronic has converted each TonePrint into a unique-sounding magnetic impulse, which has then been cached as an MP3 file in the TonePrint library of a new app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Ingeniously, the free-to-download app uses the device's speaker to send the chosen configuration directly to the pedal's TonePrint slot via the guitar's pickup.

"Most guitarists have their pedal board in a rehearsal space and their computer at home," says TC Electronic's Tore Lynggaard Mogensen. "Some may have brought a laptop, but the process still needed to be made faster and more intuitive to really take advantage of the great potential that this artist-driven concept has to offer. Now great tones and tons of musical inspiration can be beamed and enjoyed on-the-spot as well as on-the-fly."

The company says that as the TonePrint impulse doesn't actually contain any data, the update will load into the pedal in seconds - whether the player is in a crowded and noisy or a blissfully quiet studio. TonePrints can be browsed by pedal, contributing artist or date added, with new arrivals being added all the time. Users also get access to related images, videos, and interviews.

Android users feeling some iOS-envy need only wait until next month for an app to be made available for their favorite operating platform.

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden
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