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Picks Transcription Workshop: The Art of Transcription

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The ability to transcribe, or write down on paper what you hear on a recording, is one of the most valuable tools a musician can possess. Why? For starters it enables you to learn directly from the masters via their recorded works. Harmony books are great, and books of scales are useful, but if you want to get inside the head of an improviser and really try to understand why he/she made those particular note choices, nothing is better than transcribing them in action.

When you are able to write down or even just learn by ear at first what someone is playing on a recording that you dig, it is just like taking a private lesson with that person. In fact it’s probably much better because there are no personality issues to contend with, and it’s a hell of lot cheaper too! You are going right to the source, no middlemen, just you and a recording of your favorite piano solo, bass line, guitar solo, whatever! You can sit down with your digital transcribing machine, your instrument, some music notation paper, a pencil and an erasure (yeah you will need an erasure) and take a private lesson with anyone you admire whenever you feel like it. All of their musical ideas are there for you to study and absorb.

Transcribing is also the best ear training that there is in my opinion. It makes you concentrate on recognizing intervals, bass lines, chord progressions, rhythms, and single note lines. All of these can have direct applications to “on the gig” situations. For example, if someone calls a tune that you don’t know, you can follow the root motion of the pianist, hear and recognize the chord types and forms that are in the tune you’re playing. These are extremely useful things to be able to pull off on the spot. When you transcribe regularly, you focus in on these skills and refine them so that they can become available to you in an instant. Most of us aren’t blessed with perfect pitch, but having a highly refined sense of relative pitch can be about 90% -99% as useful.

How does one actually begin to transcribe? It starts by choosing a relatively simple piece of music, whether it is a melody to a song, a part of an improvisation, and just diving in. You should be able to read and write music notation and having a basic knowledge of music theory is helpful; especially knowledge of musical intervals, but it is not required to just get started. You can learn as you go and practice on your instrument or a piano playing chords, scales, intervals, etc. But what is required is the ability to listen very closely to a series of notes and recreate those notes exactly on your instrument, and hopefully, on the written page as well. You might start out by transcribing a melody to a tune you like, or a solo lick you want to learn. It’s up to you.

Tools of the Trade:

a) Music Paper/ (To Read or Not to Read)
b) Pencil & Erasure, no pens!
c) *High quality digital transcribing machine
d) High quality set of headphones
e) Using Your Instrument to Find the Notes

Some players transcribe without writing anything down on music notation paper. This is OK especially for the more experienced player who just wants to grab a specific lick or melody that he/she heard and can just commit it to memory. But for the beginning-intermediate player, writing the notes down is pretty much the entire goal of transcribing so please, learn basic music notation even you start out just using your ear. At first, you’ll make a lot of mistakes, that’s fine, but write the notes and rhythms as best you can. Even if you know it’s wrong, write it down anyway. That’s how you will get better and make fewer mistakes. A good thing to do at first is to have an accurate transcription of the piece you’re working on so that you can compare your work to the correct version and see where you went wrong. Use pencil of course, pen is OK for final drafts but you will be doing a lot of erasing at first.

To Read or Not to Read (My 2 Cents):

In my opinion the complete musician should be able to both write down what they hear and play the music back by just using their ears. Strive to be a player who has “elephant ears” and can hear the subtlest changes AND a player who can sight-read his/her ass off. By all means ignore musicians who say learning to read and write music is unimportant. That is ridiculous! It is akin to saying don’t bother learning to read and write English, it’s not that important. You’ll be regaled with stories of famous players who never learned to read. SO WHAT? I don’t know any of those guys who would tell up and coming players “Hey, don’t bother learning to read music! It’s a big waste and will get in the way of your career.” That’s just insane. Strive to become an excellent reader.

Treat music like you would the English language. All the same rules apply. Proper grammar, syntax, tenses; all have their counterparts in the language of written music. Great sidemen bassists like Will Lee and Anthony Jackson have each played on thousands of recordings. Do they both have big ears? No doubt. Can they sight-read music that would terrify 99% of professional bass players? What do you think? That is why players like AJ and Will Lee are legends. They are legends because they can do it all and still put their unique stamp and style on everything they play. OK, you get the message, now back to transcribing.

The digital transcriber (no, I don’t have an endorsement, but I should!) I use is made by Reed Kotler. www.reedkotler.com

Reed sells several excellent digital transcribing machines that all allow you to record a piece of music from a CD, tape deck, MP3, IPOD, etc say in 90 second chunks, and then slow it down incrementally, without distorting the pitch at all. This is extremely useful for very fast passages. Some things you hear on recordings go by so fast (John McLaughlin’s solos comes to mind) that having the ability to slow them down is very useful. Many older “Rockman” type tape decks have a speed control that you can use to slow the tape down. However older, analog type, tape machines tend to distort the pitch. The newer digital transcribing machines or computer software allows you to slow the music down without and pitch loss is highly recommended. After you have a good machine to do your transcribing, the next thing you need is a high quality set of headphones. Good headphones are always worth the money and I would spend as much as you can afford on a really good quality set of studio type headphones.


I prefer to transcribe with my instrument on hand.
Some experienced transcribers sometimes have the ability to transcribe without any tools other than their ears. At first though it is a good idea to have whatever instrument you play with you to check your accuracy. As I mentioned before, the more theoretical information you have, the faster you will be able to recognize things like root motion, intervals, and chord progressions. If your goal is to transcribe somebody’s individual solo on a particular song, it is helpful to know the chords that are in that song.

If it is a standard type tune, you may be able to find the chord progression in some type of fake book. These progressions are notoriously inaccurate however, and can’t always be depended on. Also, there are often substitutions that the artists make in his/her solo and you will want to know what those are. It may be a good idea to transcribe just the chord progression of a particular song first before attempting the solo.

The best way to begin recognizing chord progressions is to get near a piano or guitar. Play the various chord types, (major, minor, altered, dominant, diminished, augmented, and sus 4 etc) and get these sounds in your ear. Be able to recognize the difference between them. Listen for the “color” tones such as the 9th, 11th, or 13ths. These tones are often altered in some way especially in the improvisation. After you have the chords, you will be ready for the solo itself.

Qualities to Strive for:

a) Melodic Accuracy – Starting notes, correct octave, avoiding 2 clefs, key signature, song forms, accidentals
b) Legibility – Rough drafts, software, Photoshop etc.
c) Rhythmic Accuracy – Doing purely rhythmic transcriptions first, counting w/ your fingers, tips, & tricks. Time Signatures, Knowing when to take a break

Be aware of the meter/time signature and form of the song. This is the skeleton upon which the person is hanging their improvisation. I recommend taking no more than two measures at one time to work with. Listen for the starting note. Sing it to yourself. Singing is crucial. After you sing the note find it on your instrument. Write it down. Fast! Before you forget! After that it’s a matter of hearing the intervals. Where does it go from the first note? Is it a whole step? A minor third? This also requires practice. Play all the different intervals on your instrument. Become comfortable with recognizing them and their different sounds. I do not use key signatures when transcribing solos as a general rule. They just get in the way. Remember though, that a note that has been altered (flatted or sharped) is altered for the entire bar unless it is altered again. This is really crucial to remember.

Be sure you are transcribing your music in the proper octave. Try to avoid using two clefs in the same piece. Piano music is often an exception to this. Bass solos played in the very high register will usually end up in treble clef to avoid using ledger lines, which are hard to read and to write. Which brings me to the importance of legibility. If you are using Finale, or any number of music writing soft ware programs then this isn’t much of a concern. But some old timers (like me) still prefer to transcribe by hand. Crazy, I know. So get used to doing several drafts of the transcription before you put your name on it. I use Photoshop to get rid of smudges and the like which also helps. There is no one, single, “correct” way to transcribe per se. The only thing that matters is that the transcription is as accurate as you can make it. I can’t tell you how many emails I get telling me that missed ONE note in the 34th bar of Jaco’s solo on some tune. Transcribing after all is an art. Yes it should be as accurate as possible but there will always be discrepancies between transcriptions. It is NOT and exact science, not in jazz anyway.

Pay close attention to the rhythms. This is a whole other field of study in and of itself. If you plan on accurately notating the solo, the rhythms are going to be crucial. Many times it is the rhythm of what you are transcribing that makes it so compelling. The notes may be ordinary in the sense that they are within the scale of that particular chord but the rhythm of it is what makes it special. I occasionally will do what I call a complete rhythmic transcription. By that I mean I’ve written down the rhythms first and then gone back and just plugged the notes in. This is a useful technique especially if rhythms are your weak area. Use your fingers to tap out the beats and watch where a note starts. Is it the downbeat of 2 or the “and” of 2? Tapping along seems silly but it has gotten me out of many a jam.

Another crucial aspect of transcribing is knowing when you need to stop and rest. Take frequent breaks to rest your ears. That passage you just can’t seem to get right get will be clear, as can be when you listen to it the next day. The brain absorbs it all, it’s all in there don’t worry. You just have to take a rest now and then. If you are really stuck, move on to the next line. You can also go back and connect the dots so to speak. Look for patterns in the lines. Players tend to repeat themselves. Also use the chord symbols to help you. Knowing the scale of the moment will many times enable you to deduce what the next note should be.

Most of all though, if you haven’t transcribed something before, don’t be afraid. You really can do it. When you begin to transcribe you will see a whole new world of information opening up. It will be very frustrating at times. It will be monotonous at times. It sometimes will seem like you will never get those two measures no matter how many times you listen to it! Persevere though. The rewards are well worth it.

Ready to try your hand at transcribing? Click on the link below to download the 2nd part of the lesson!
The_Art_of_Transcription

Gear News

Behind the Strings: D’Addario’s Story Comes to Life in “Jim’s Corner” YouTube Series

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Behind the Strings: D'Addario's Story Comes to Life in "Jim's Corner" YouTube Series

Behind the Strings – Jim’s Corner…

D’Addario & Co. proudly announces the launch of “Jim’s Corner,” a captivating new YouTube series telling the 400-year-old story of the D’Addario family creating the world’s largest music accessories company. This series features Jim D’Addario, Founder and Director of Innovation at D’Addario and Co., sharing his family’s remarkable journey from 17th century Italy to a 21st century global enterprise. 

In the first four episodes now available, Jim D’Addario takes viewers back to the beginning, making strings from animal guts and knotting ukulele wire as a family around the television. Countless generations carried the passion forward until the 1970s when the company made it official and never looked back. Jim recounts the creation of strings that inspired legendary riffs, including one by The Who, the launch of Darco strings, the merger with Martin Guitars and the company’s humble beginnings with his wife, Janet and brother, John. Jim D’Addario’s firsthand accounts provide an intimate and personal perspective on the milestones and challenges that shaped D’Addario into the revered brand it is today.

Episode Highlights:

  • Episode 1: The Early Days in Italy and the Move to America
  • Episode 2: Inspiring Iconic Riffs and Legendary Partnerships
  • Episode 3: Launching Darco Strings and Merging with Martin Guitars
  • Episode 4: Building the D’Addario and Co. Legacy

Watch & Subscribe Now:

Join us in celebrating this incredible legacy by watching the first four episodes of “Jim’s Corner” on YouTube. New episodes will drop every month so please subscribe to our channel to ensure you don’t miss any future episodes and exclusive content from D’Addario & Co.: www.youtube.com/@daddarioandco

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

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Gear News: Aguilar Amplification Unveils Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp

Aguilar Amplification announces the release of the Limited Edition NYC Gold Skyline Tone Hammer Preamp pedal. Hand serialized 1-100, this exclusive edition celebrates Aguilar’s deep roots in New York City with a tribute to its iconic landmarks and vibrant spirit.

Born in the heart of NYC and raised on the road, the Tone Hammer Preamp DI has been an indispensable tool for bassists seeking inspiring tone and versatility. The new Limited Edition Gold NYC builds on this legacy with striking custom graphics encapsulating the essence of New York City. Featuring iconic landmarks from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building, this pedal is not just a tool, but a piece of art embodying the soul of the city. Each unit features a sharp platinum silkscreen over a stunning matte gold sparkle finish, that is as visually captivating as it is sonically powerful.

The Tone Hammer is an essential preamp/direct box for every bassist’s toolbox. The Tone Hammer features fully sweepable midrange frequencies in addition to bass and treble controls. With the Tone Hammer’s pristine D.I. players are set for either studio or stage. To give this tone shaping unit the ultimate flexibility we introduce our proprietary Adaptive Gain Shaping circuitry (AGS). AGS allows the player to kick in an additional gain structure and EQ with the “stomp” of a button. You can go from modern slap sounds to vintage or overdriven. 18-volt operation gives the Tone Hammer plenty of headroom to reproduce the most dynamic playing styles. Separate gain and master controls allow players to dial in just the right gain structure for any instrument.

Aguilar Amplification’s Jordan Cortese adds, “With only 100 hand-numbered units available, this third iteration of our NYC edition Tone Hammer is a collector’s dream. “It’s a homage to our city’s monumental influence on music and culture and celebrates the craftsmanship and the story of Aguilar”. 

Street price: $299.99 For more information, please visit www.aguilaramp.com

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Bass Videos

Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

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Gear News: Spector Launches Euro CST and Euro LX Basses

Spector, a leading authority in bass guitar design, unveils new additions to its product line: Euro CST, Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt On basses.

Euro CST:
The Euro CST introduces all-new tonewoods, electronics, and finish combinations never seen in the Euro Series, drawing inspiration from Spector’s Woodstock, NY-based Custom Shop. Each Euro CST instrument is meticulously crafted using premium materials, featuring a striking, highly figured Poplar Burl top, a resonant European Ash body, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck paired with an Ebony fingerboard adorned with laminated Abalone Crown inlays.

Euro CST basses are equipped with a lightweight aluminum bridge for precise and reliable intonation. Premium active EMG X Series pickups deliver the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that defines the Spector sound. These basses also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp. Developed in collaboration with Darkglass Electronics, this preamp captures the classic “Spector growl,” heard on countless iconic recordings, with added versatility.

Euro CST basses are available in 4- and 5-string models in four distinct high gloss finishes: Natural, Natural Black Burst, Natural Red Burst, and Natural Violet Burst.

Euro LX and Euro LX Bolt-On:
The Euro LX offers all the features that have made the Spector name famous around the globe. Inspired by the iconic NS-2, Euro LX basses feature a fully carved and contoured body, high-grade tonewoods, and professional-grade electronics and hardware. For the first time ever, players can now choose between neck-thru and bolt-on construction in the Euro LX range.  

Each Euro LX bass, regardless of construction, is crafted using premium materials, including a European Alder body, figured European Maple top, and a 3-piece North American Maple neck combined with a Rosewood fingerboard for strength, stability, and sustain. Euro LX basses are then outfitted with a lightweight, aluminum bridge for spot-on, reliable intonation. Premium active pickups from EMG provide the exceptional clarity, attack, and silent operation that Spector is known for. Like the Euro CST basses, these instruments also feature the all-new Spector Legacy preamp.

The newly revised Euro LX range is available in four distinct, hand-rubbed stains, including Transparent Black, Natural Sunburst, Haunted Moss, and Nightshade. Each of these colors features a durable and comfortable matte finish.  

John Stippell, Director, Korg Bass Division, remarks, “I’m thrilled to announce the latest additions to the renowned Euro Range. The CST Series, our new premium offering, features new and unique wood combinations and unprecedented features. The beloved LX Series is now better than ever with the introduction of Bolt-On models, vibrant new color options, and the all-new Spector Legacy Preamp, delivering the classic Spector tone with unmatched precision.”

For more information, visit spectorbass.com.

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Luthier Spotlight: Garry Beers, GGB Basses

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Luthier Spotlight - Garry Beers, GGB Basses

Meet Garry Beers, Luthier and owner of GGB Basses…

Bass Musician Magazine: How did you get your start in music?

Garry Beers: I played acoustic guitar as a kid with my mates at school. We decided that one of us should play bass, so we had a contest where the one who knew the least guitar chords would buy a bass – so I lost the contest, bought my first bass, and became the only bass player in the neighborhood. Soon after, I met Andrew Farriss, who had heard that I had a bass, and a few days later, I was jamming with Andrew and Jon Farriss.

Are you still an active player?

Yes, I am still actively writing music and playing bass sessions. I also have an LA-based original band called Ashenmoon.

How did you get started as a Luthier? When did you build your first bass? 

I did woodwork in High School and always enjoyed making all sorts of things out of wood.

After finishing high school, I took a course in electronics for a year or so and learned enough to understand basic circuits in guitars, amplifiers, and effects. The best way to learn is to deconstruct and study, so my dad’s garage was littered with old junked radios and any instrument parts I could find. 

My first guitars were more like Frankenstein-type creations made out of parts I found here and there. I didn’t really try to build a bass from scratch until I perfected my Quad pickup design and got my patent.

How do you select the woods you choose to build with?

I only use woods that were used at Fender in the 50s, which are my favorite basses and guitars of all time. All my GGB basses are modeled in some way from my INXS bass- a 1958 Fender Precision bass I bought in 1985 in Chicago. I call her “Old Faithful,” and she has an Alder wood body with a maple neck. All of my GGB basses are select Alder wood bodies that I have had extra dried, so they match the resonance of “Old Faithful,” as she has had 66 years to lose all her moisture and become more resonant and alive-sounding. I use plain old Maple necks that I carefully select, and again, I dry the necks to make them sing a little more.

Tell us about your pickups.

I started working on my Quad coil design back in Australia in the ‘90s and then put it to bed, so to speak, until I found an old pickup winding machine at a swap meet here in LA. I taught myself enough about pickup winding to build my first prototype design and worked towards my patented Quad coil design by trial and error. Nordstrand Audio builds the pickups for me here in SOCAL.

What is the reaction of players who pick up your basses?

I build the basses to feel like an old friend. They look and feel vintage, and when you plug them in, you discover the array of vintage sounds available to you from just one pickup. Most of the players I have contact with are established professional players, and they all love the basses. Freddie Washington and Nick Seymour from Crowded House are a couple of players with GGB Basses in their hands.

What are a few things that you are proud of in your instruments and would consider unique?

I would say I am most proud of the patented Quad pickup design. I own the patent from 4 through to 10-string. So far, I have only built 4 and 5-string pickups, but the design is a winner. Split Humbucker / Reverse Split Humbucker / Full Humbucker / Single coil Neck / Single coil bridge. All these sounds come from one passive pickup. I am very proud that my perseverance and desire to have this pickup have made it a reality. Being able to have these sounds in one bass enables the player to have one bass in the studio and on the stage. The only place you can have the GGB Quad pickup is in one of my GGB Basses.

Which one of the basses that you build is your favorite one?

I offer three body shapes and about ten different color options – all based on the ‘50s and early ‘60s custom guitar and car paint styles. I have always been a lover of P basses, but my favorite bass I build is now my XS-1 model- which is a custom Jazz bass body style. It is pretty sexy and is a light, well-balanced, and great-feeling body shape. The other body styles are the XS-2, which is a custom Jazzmaster body and has been the most popular so far- and the XS-3, which is the standard P bass body style. I also offer an XS-58, which is a replica of my “Old Faithful” ‘58 P bass. They are currently available to order now and should be available soon.

Can you give us a word of advice to young Luthiers who are just starting out?

I don’t really consider myself a Luthier in the traditional sense. I just love to build things and tinker. I was always looking to improve things, whether it was a guitar, an amp, a pedal board, or a car. So my advice is to always be curious and learn the basics of what you want to build, and the rest should follow once you decide what you want to say as a designer/builder. People are lucky these days that you can learn pretty much anything from talented people on the internet, but nothing replaces working with and learning from real people in real situations. Seek out like-minded builders and start a discussion.

What advice would you give a young musician trying to find his perfect bass?

Have a good hard think about what you want to say as a player. What is your style, both musically and as a player? There are so many instruments available. Do the research, play the instruments that fit your criteria, and make a decision. But make sure you try a GGB Bass!   With all the sound choices my basses offer, with a simple turn of a knob, you may find it easier to find “your” sound.

What is the biggest success for you and for your company?

Well, the company is brand new, and at this point, it is just me, so getting this far in the manufacturing process and now having these amazing basses in my hands is a great achievement, but now comes all the business stuff!! 

What are your future plans?

It’s a work in progress. Right now, it’s all about getting the word out and getting the basses into the hands of interested players. I believe in the basses – and the Quad pickup, so hopefully, GGB Basses can become a go-to bass for demanding studio and live players who want sound choices in a gorgeous vintage-style instrument.

Visit online at www.ggbbasses.com

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Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Joyo Monomyth – A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

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Gear Revieww: Joyo Monomyth - A Versatile Modern Bass Preamp

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinions or the content of our reviews. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

Introduction:

The Joyo Monomyth bass preamp pedal is designed to offer bassists a comprehensive range of tonal options, combining modern features with practical functionality. With independent channels for EQ and overdrive, as well as useful additions like a cab sim and DI output, the Monomyth aims to be a versatile tool for both live performances and studio sessions. This review will delve into the pedal’s specifications, controls, and overall performance to determine if it lives up to its promise of delivering quality and flexibility at an affordable price.

Specifications:

– Dimensions: 130 * 110 * 50 mm

– Weight: 442g

– Working Voltage: DC 9V

Controls:

The Joyo Monomyth is equipped with a comprehensive set of controls designed to provide maximum tonal flexibility:

– Voice: Adjusts the character of the overdrive, from distortion to fuzz.

– Blend: Balances the dry and effected signals, crucial for maintaining low-end presence.

– Level: Sets the overall output volume.

– Drive: Controls the amount of gain in the overdrive channel.

– Treble Boost: Enhances high and mid frequencies for clarity in complex passages.

– Gain Boost: Adds extra gain, particularly effective at low gain settings to enhance the low e.

– EQ Function Controls: Features a 6-band graphic EQ plus a master control for precise nal shaping.

– Ground Lift Switch: Helps eliminate ground loop noise.

– Cab Sim Switch: Activates a simulated 8×10″ cab sound.

– LED Light Control: Customizes the pedal’s ambient lighting.

Performance:

The Joyo Monomyth shines in its dual-channel design, offering both a transparent EQ channel and a versatile overdrive channel. The 6-band EQ allows for detailed tonal adjustments, preserving the natural character of your bass while providing ample flexibility. The voice control mimics the functionality of the Darkglass Alpha Omega, shifting from distortion to fuzz, with a sweet spot around the middle for balanced tones.

The blend control is essential for retaining the low end when using distortion, ensuring your bass remains powerful and clear. The treble and gain boosts, available on the overdrive channel, further enhance the pedal’s versatility, making it suitable for everything from subtle drive to full-blown fuzz.

Outputs are plentiful, with a DI and XLR out for direct recording or ampless setups, and a headphone out for convenient practice sessions. The cab sim switch adds a realistic 8×10″ cab sound, enhancing the Monomyth’s utility in live and studio environments.

Pros:

– Versatile Control Set: Offers a wide range of tones, from clean to fuzz.

– Blend Control: Maintains low-end presence.

– Robust Outputs: DI, XLR, and headphone outs make it adaptable for various setups.

– Affordable: Provides high-end functionality at a budget-friendly price.

– Sturdy Construction: Durable build quality ensures reliability.

Cons:

– Plastic Knobs: May feel less premium compared to metal controls.

– Boosts Limited to Overdrive Channel: Treble and gain boosts do not affect the EQ channel.

– Cab Sim only on the XLR out: how cool would it be to also have it on the headphone out?

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Monomyth stands out as a versatile and powerful bass preamp pedal, offering a range of features that cater to both traditional and modern bassists. Its dual-channel design, comprehensive control set, and robust output options make it a valuable tool for achieving a wide spectrum of tones, from clean and warm to heavily distorted. For bassists seeking flexibility, reliability, and excellent value, the Joyo Monomyth is a top contender.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/267.html

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