Teach your sims the rhythm method
By Craig Anderton
Everyone likes a tight rhythm; unfortunately, stompboxes don’t always listen to the drummer. Tap tempo is a big improvement, but amp sims—when used as plug-ins in a sequencer—take the art of rhythm one step further with sync-to-tempo options. This feature allows rhythmically-related controls (delay time, flanger rate, vibrato speed, and the like) to follow the tempo at a rate you specify (quarter note, dotted eighth note, etc.). These plug-ins follow the sequence tempo automatically, but often, you need to enable synchronization.
With IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube 3 (Fig. 1), a BPM switch enables sync-to-tempo; when you rotate the Delay knob, the value window shows the delay as a rhythmic value. If BPM isn’t enabled, the window shows delay in milliseconds.
Fig. 1: Several AmpliTube 3 effects have a BPM switch to enable sync.
Many processors in Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 4 (Fig. 2) have a button (circled) that opens up a space below the rack with advanced parameters.
Fig. 2: Guitar Rig 4 offers tempo sync, but you’ll need to open up the advanced parameters.
Here you’ll find any Tempo Sync button (outlined toward the left); when enabled, the delay Time readout shifts from milliseconds to rhythmic values. (Note that this is a Quad Delay module, and another button allows syncing delays to each other.)
Fig. 3 shows the Delay stomp box in Waves’ GTR. Click on the Sync button, and again, the display readout shows a rhythmic value instead of a time value.
Fig. 3: GTR processors include a sync button for enabling tempo sync.
Line 6’s POD Farm (Fig. 4) works similarly, but goes one step further: When you enable sync, the display shows both the rhythmic value and the corresponding time in milliseconds—handy if you want to set devices that don’t have tempo sync to the appropriate number of milliseconds.
Fig. 4: POD Farm not only offers a sync button, but displays time in both milliseconds and the corresponding rhythmic value.
Finally, Peavey’s ReValver MkIII (Fig. 5) doesn’t have sync to tempo, but with some effects does offer tap tempo (particularly useful for live performance, where there’s no host sequencer) and includes a readout that shows the delay time in milliseconds and as a rhythmic value. If you rotate Delay while holding shift, you can dial in precise tempo values.
Fig. 5: ReValver MkIII doesn’t have sync to tempo per se, but you can click on the tap tempo button, as well as set precise tempo values.
Some processors, like stereo delays, let you set the tempo sync independently for each channel. This can give some great synchronized ping-ponging echoes. And don’t just stick to the usual eighth and sixteenth notes: dotted values impart a feeling of motion. Tremolo speed is another ideal candidate for sync to tempo, as is chorus rate. Check it out!
Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.