Hot New Gear from Winter NAMM

The annual Winter NAMM musical products show, held last week in Anaheim, California, is always a whirlwind of emotions, both good and bad. Mostly this stems from my deep love of musical instruments, tempered by my confusion about the ‘80s and distaste for large crowds. If you’ve never been to NAMM (some would say “Nam”) it’s definitely worth the shot in the arm it takes hearing ten shredders doing their best Yngwie impression within a 30 square-foot, thousand-watt section of the Anaheim Convention Center. (You do the math. Hint = headache.)

But, in all seriousness, each year thousands of people in the musical instrument product industry, as well as artists and fans, look forward to the massive trade show. The show produces a lively buzz that lasts the rest of the year, with most companies releasing their big, previously embargoed product news at the show. American Songwriter was there in full form and what follows are just some of the products that caught our eye. Look for even more new product reviews in our upcoming March/April issue.

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PRICE: 30-day free trial

What does a keyboard player in Germany, a drummer in Franklin, North Carolina, and a guitarist on stage at the annual NAMM musical products show in Anaheim, California, have in common? (Feel like you’ve heard this joke before?) The answer: maybe not a whole lot …until recently.

This week at the National Association of Music Merchants winter trade show manufacturers, dealers and distributors, retailers, press, artists and fans converge for a four-day show known for exciting product releases. Perhaps the most exciting news at this year’s event is Fender Musical Instrument Corporation’s partnership with eJamming, Inc.

eJamming contends to be the first real-time online tool that allows musicians to collaborate who are as geographically diverse as Germany, California and North Carolina. The conundrum of real-time jamming finally was resolved through eJamming’s innovative software AUDiiO, which uses complex algorithms to provide audio streaming without latency or delays. Pretty exciting news for getting the high school garage rock band back together! Check it out for yourself: 30-day free trials are up for grabs at

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LIST PRICE: from $280.00 to $2100.00

KORG USA (distributor of famed UK guitar product brands Marshall and Vox) announces a partnership to distribute the celebrated French guitar manufacturer LÂG and the new line of Tramontane acoustic guitars. In an increasingly crowded American marketplace for acoustic guitars, the lower-end Tramontane guitars (the Standard Range) reminded me of what I like about the Sierra and Seagull brands: an earthiness and rustic quality in a guitar often available for a few hundred bucks. The higher end models (the Stage and Master Ranges) boast finer woods like solid mahogany and Indian rosewood and can reach into $2,000 range for pricing. LÂG acoustic-electric guitars also feature a proprietary on-board electronics system and for this and other reasons, I’d recommend guitarists unfamiliar with the brand to acquaint themselves with these guitars.

Tenori-on Orange

LIST PRICE: $999.00

I’m not even quite sure how to write about the Tenori-On. Part children’s toy—media artist and designer Toshio Iwai originally came up with the concept with his young daughter in mind—and part new-age digital music interface, the Tenori-On creates what Yamaha calls a “visible music.” Basically you play around with 16 x 16 little orange LED lights and create a visual language of music. The interface is made up of 16 layers, with a group of 16 layers being called a block. (Think of one layer as one note or voice, and a block is kind of like a song or arrangement of the notes.) Then there are six modes with names like “Random,” “Draw” and “Bounce,” which present different ways to arrange or perform the song. Wait, it gets even trickier: you can also load presets and sample blocks using an SD memory card. Confused? Me too, but one thing I can vouch for is that—as complicated as it sounds—even a child can have fun intuitively messing around with one of these.

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LIST PRICE: free if you own registered versions of both Serato Scratch Live/ITCH hardware and Ableton Live 8 or Suite 8

What was the most-sold (in terms of units, not total sales) musical product last year? Fender Strat? Martin or Taylor guitar? Yamaha keyboard? None of these I learned as I watched a screen at Ableton’s NAMM booth displaying a new product called “The Bridge” which, er, bridged the gap between Serato’s most-sold DJ-software product Scratch Live and Ableton’s popular DAW interface Live. On either side of the “bridge” is music production (Ableton) and DJ tools (Serato) and now performers have an interface that goes both ways. Pull an Ableton Live set into The Bridge and you’ve got Serato’s turntable interface; save your killer Scratch performance as a set in Live and keep tweaking it as a music production. As the music world continues to evolve and put more emphasis on the live performance aspects of the art form, The Bridge will surely be a heady player.

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