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Gear Reviews

EZKeys by Eric Parsons



EZKeys by Eric Parsons… EZKeys, by Toontrack, is a virtual instrument that combines a digitally sampled Steinway D concert grand piano with a variety of songwriting and compositional tools.

System Requirements, Installation and Registration

EZKeys requires:

  • Windows XP SP3 or newer, Pentium IV/Athlon 1.8 with 1 GB RAM

(32 and 64-bit versions are supported as per host application)

  • Max OS X 10.5 or higher, G5 or Intel processor with 1 GB RAM

(32 and 64-bit hosts are supported on the Mac Intel platform)

An Audio Unit, VST or RTAS host application and a professional sound card are recommended.  The installation and registration went smoothly with no hiccups.  Toontrack does require the user to enter both a serial number and a computer ID number, after which you are provided with an authorization code to finalize the process.  If you get confused, just refer to the included manual.


EZKeys will work as either a standalone or loaded in your DAW as a virtual instrument.  The initial graphical interface is quite attractive, consisting of the keyboard portion of a classical piano on the top half and a song track section on the bottom half of the window.

There are fourteen different sound library presets available, but to be honest, I found the standard sampled piano to be the most useful for my purposes.  There are also four controls that allow you to adjust a number of parameters, which vary depending on the selected preset.  The standard preset provides adjustments for reverb, tone, compression and detail settings.

The Song Browser

The song browser contains a collection of midi files that are grouped under nine different musical genres: Pop/Rock, Soul/RNB, Country, Gospel, Jazz, Latin, Blues, Boogie, and Funk with two additional categories for Basic Chords and FX and Endings.  Many of the genres contain subcategories for straight or swing and/or 4/4 or 6/8 time signatures.  Each subcategory is further divided into song types based on stylistic and tempo differences which are then further categorized as an intro, verse, pre chorus, chorus, or bridge.  You can browse and audition the files in the browser or drag and drop the file into the Song Track and play it there.  For convenience you can also drag a copy of any file to “My Favorites” for easy access at a later date.

The Song Track

MIDI files can either be brought into the Song Track via drop and drag from the midi browser or imported in from any available source.  Once a MIDI file is placed in the Song Track, EZKeys analyzes the data and display a chord symbol above each cord change in the chord block.     EZKeys provides several tools for copying, pasting, and adding or deleting either a selected chord or the entire song block.  Right clicking on the block and selecting properties allows you to change the key, octave and velocity of the block.  On a more granular level, left clicking on any of the chord symbols will call up the Chord Selector, which provides for an even wider variety of editing capabilities.

The Chord Selector

The Chord Selector allows you to easily and sensibly alter the harmonic structure of the chord.  The Chord Selector is based upon the concept of the Circle of Fifths, which is a fundamental music theory tool for displaying musical relationships.

(Note: Toontrack has  included an additional 26-page document on music theory for anyone seeking more knowledge on this subject.)

When using the Chord Selector, it is important to verify that the correct key has been selected for the song.  EZKeys will perform this task for you when you import a midi file, but I found the process just a little bit ambiguous to my way of thinking – it may make complete sense to everyone else.  After importing a midi file, EZKeys will ask, “Transpose MIDI file to project key signature?”  Your choices are either:

  • Don’t change


  • Transpose

This seems simple enough, but the default key for EZKeys is “C” – so if you select “Don’t change” the MIDI file will import with no changes, but EZKeys will assume that the song is in the Key of C and the Chord Selector will display harmonic options accordingly.  I found it best to import the song in this manner and to note the first chord and then to remove the song block and re-import the MIDI file and then select “Transpose”.  After the MIDI file is again imported, you can then change the song block to the appropriate key so that the first chord matches up with the original noted chord and you are good to go.  (It would be nice if Toontrack to offered the option of having the song block key automatically update and not stay on the default key of C when importing).

Once the key is correctly set the Chord Selector is ready to use.  The Chord Selector does two very powerful things: (1) it allows you to choose chords from a selection of six related chords that are appropriate for the key of the song and (2) it also allows you to easily alter the notes and/or coloration of any given chord.  For those of us with only a modicum of music theory under our belts, this is huge because we are now able to start exploring the vast new frontier of chord substitution while using the Toontrack provided training wheels of the Chord Selector to keep us from wandering too far a field.

In Use

I find EZKeys to be fascinating and fun but I will admit that I was initially quite challenged to find the exact right part for the particular song I was working on.  I want to be perfectly clear on this point, the MIDI files that are included with EZKeys offer a wide range of stylistic variety and they are all performed impeccably – the issue was that my particular song did not (in my opinion) readily fit into any one of the provided genre categories.  I also found it a little cumbersome that I would have to re-enter my chord progression every time I tried out a new style in the Song File. (Note: I think it would be terrific if Toontrack could figure out a way to allow for an option where the chord progression could be independent from the rhythmic portion of the MIDI file).


I then hit on a process that brought it all together.  I found that once I constructed a piano part in EZKeys that was close to what I wanted, I could then import it into my DAW and really dial in the fine details using the editing tools present in the DAW.  Here is a sound clip of EZKeys in action. (Click for EZKeys Soundclip)  Please note that the mix is way out of whack for demonstration purposes with the keys really boosted and everything else turned down.

Final Thoughts

EZKeys is a versatile and multifaceted tool that allows those of us who are “Keyboard Challenged” to easily add professional sounding piano parts to our compositions.  The utility of the Chord Selector and ease in which a piano part can be constructed, edited and auditioned  makes EZKeys a valuable partner in songwriting. To learn more about EZKeys or to download the demo click here:  EZKeys by Toontrack

Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp



Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

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

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.


Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.


At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.


True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.


The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.


While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.


In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor



Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

Joyo Scylla Compressor: When Quality meets Budget-Friendly

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

In the diverse landscape of effects pedals for bass guitar, finding a compressor that strikes the balance between performance, versatility, and affordability can often feel like a daunting task. 

However, amidst the sea of options, one pedal stood out as a true diamond in the rough – the Joyo Scylla compressor. Despite its wallet-friendly price tag, the Scylla boasts a great array of features and controls typically reserved for pedals with much higher costs. Let’s take a closer look at why the Joyo Scylla is turning heads and earning praise among bassists on a budget.

Specs: The Joyo Scylla compressor measures in at 109 * 72 * 48 mm and weighs a mere 234g, making it both compact and lightweight – perfect for gigs or studio sessions where space is at a premium. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Scylla is efficient and versatile, compatible with a wide range of pedalboard setups.

Controls: What sets the Scylla apart from its direct competitors is its comprehensive control set, offering bassists a good amount of flexibility in shaping their sound. With six knobs, the Scylla allows for a very precise adjustment of key parameters:

  • Input Gain: Adjusts the amount of signal being fed into the compressor.
  • Output Volume: Controls the makeup gain after compression, ensuring consistent output levels.
  • Compression Ratio: Unlike traditional compressor pedals with preset ratio options, the Scylla features a continuous knob, allowing for seamless adjustment from subtle compression to limiter-like effects.
  • Attack and Release: Determine how quickly the compression engages and releases, offering a range of tonal possibilities from punchy and aggressive to smooth and subtle.
  • Output Tone Control: A unique feature not commonly found in compressor pedals, the tone knob adjusts the coloration of the compressed signal, adding warmth or brightness to your bass tone.
  • LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal, adding a touch of visual flair to their setup.
  • Performance: In practice, the Joyo Scylla delivers where it matters most – in sound quality and performance. Whether you’re aiming for a tight, punchy bass sound or smooth, sustained notes, the Scylla excels in providing transparent compression that enhances your playing without sacrificing dynamics. The granular control offered by its knobs allows for precise tailoring of compression settings to suit a wide range of playing styles and musical genres.
  • Pros: The Scylla’s strengths lie in its granular control, versatility, and compact design. Its sturdy build quality and diminutive size make it a welcome addition to any pedalboard, occupying minimal real estate without compromising on functionality. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Scylla is its price point. Despite offering professional-grade features, the Scylla remains accessible to bassists of all budgets.
  • Cons: While the Joyo Scylla excels in many areas, it’s not without its drawbacks. One notable omission is the lack of metering, which may pose a challenge for users seeking visual feedback on compression levels. Additionally, the plastic knobs, while functional, may feel somewhat less premium compared to other pedals. 
  • Conclusion: In conclusion, the Joyo Scylla compressor emerges as a great option in the world of budget-friendly effects pedals for bass guitar. Its comprehensive control set, transparent compression, and compact design make it a compelling choice for bassists seeking professional-grade performance without breaking the bank. From its intuitive interface to its thoughtful touches like the tone knob and customizable LED lighting, the Scylla delivers a level of versatility and functionality that belies its modest price tag. For bassists looking to elevate their tone without compromising on quality or affordability, the Joyo Scylla compressor is a clear standout.

For more information, visit online at

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Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers



String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks



Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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New Joe Dart Bass From Sterling By Music Man



Sterling by Music Man introduces the Joe Dart Artist Series Bass (“Joe Dart”), named after and designed in collaboration with the celebrated Vulfpeck bassist.

Above photo credit: JORDAN THIBEAUX

This highly-anticipated model marks the debut of the Dart bass in the Sterling by Music Man lineup, paying homage to the Ernie Ball Music Man original that all funk players know and love. The bass embodies many of the original model’s distinctive features, from its iconic minimalist design to the passive electronics.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The design process prioritized reliability, playability, and accessibility at the forefront. Constructed from the timeless Sterling body, the Dart features a slightly smaller neck profile, offering a clean tone within a comfortable package. The body is crafted from soft maple wood for clarity and warmth while the natural finish emphasizes the simple yet unique look.

Engineered for straightforward performance, this passive bass features a ceramic humbucking bridge pickup and a single ‘toaster’ knob for volume control. Reliable with a classic tone, it’s perfect for playing in the pocket. The Dart is strung with the all-new Ernie Ball Stainless Steel Flatwound Electric Bass Strings for the smoothest feel and a mellow sound.

Joe Dart Artist Series Bass

The Sterling by Music Man Joe Dart Bass is a special “Timed Edition” release, exclusively available for order on the Sterling by Music Man website for just one month. Each bass is made to order, with the window closing on May 31st and shipping starting in November. A dedicated countdown timer will indicate the remaining time for purchase on the product page. Additionally, the back of the headstock will be marked with a “2024 Crop” stamp to commemorate the harvest year for this special, one-of-a-kind release. 

The Joe Dart Bass is priced at $399.99 (MAP) and can be ordered globally at 

To learn more about Joe Dart, visit the official Vulfpeck artist site here

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