Home » Backpacking in Thailand » An impolite dinner guest

An impolite dinner guest

(Guitar alert, again)

Hello. It’s been a week since I thought of anything to share with you, after I ate all the apple crumble.

I’ve been quite excited by the launch of a new piece of technology, that will revolutionise the art of sitting in your bedroom, morosely twanging an electric guitar in the hope that one day you will sound like Jimmy Page. He played lead guitar with Led Zeppelin. They were a rock band. In the 1970s… A decade in the 1900s… Oh well. Another guitar player, then.

Anyway, for a while now my friends at Guitar Guitar have been bombarding me with emails about this new amplifier. Imaginatively, it’s called Amplifi. I discovered last night from watching the video from manufacturers Line 6 that it’s pronounced, not ‘amplifee’, but ‘amplify’. Why they couldn’t just spell it phoneticalli, ee don’t know.

Anyway, it’s a genuinely evolutionary breakthrough, the first guitar amplifier that talks to your mobile phone, and vice versa. You get an ‘app’ for your mobile phone, and it offers you a screen with 200 different tone icons, and you send one to Amplifi and it changes the sound of your guitar to an organ, or maybe a violin. Any instrument you don’t play.

And you can phone it up and tell it to sound like some other amplifier, you have a choice of 50, so if you can tell the difference between the sound of a guitar played through a Vox AC30 and a Carlsboro Cobra 110, a Marshall or a Fender Mustang whatever, you can make your guitar sound like you are playing it through the most expensive amp money can buy. Why settle for less?

What’s more, you can go online to a thing called The Cloud, which at the moment is helpfully downloading gallons of water on my little garden, and find all the tones and amplifier combinations and little tunes you made up, that have been recorded for you, and play them back through Amplifi so you can strum along to them. And you can find all your friends’ little tunes and tones, if you have any friends by now, and play along with them too, and it sounds like you do have some other friends in your room and they are all professional musicians and you are playing happily along together, at MU rates. And then you can share your fuzzy tunes with your virtual friends at Facetweet, what’s not to like?

A kind of musical ‘selfie’!

And, miraculously, you can play the tunes-u-love off your mobile phone or wee-fi or whatever, your laptop (stop playing with your laptop, little Jimmy!) or iPadphone thing, that you have recorded to listen to while jogging or on the train – any piece of music – into Amplifi’s plughole, and Amplifi will listen carefully to the song or the symphony or whatever and you can select which instrument you want to be and it will make your guitar sound exactly like that instrument, including its tone settings. So you can twangalong to yourself, to Wrong Direction’s latest chart topper, to a late Beethoven quartet (it stores four voices, helpfully!), Paco Peña or whatever, Pat Metheny, and it sounds like they are all in the room playing along with you.

How cool is that?

Amplifi comes thoughtfully in two versions, the big one and the little one. It doesn’t even look much like an amplifier, so (according to the video presenter) your wife won’t complain that you bought yet another amplifier, because she’s too stupid to notice and besides it’s also a docking station for her wee-fi and you can plug your stereo in using wire-free Bluetooth for parties so guests don’t trip over the cable and it looks good in your living room. Being two-tone, it goes with any two items of furniture that happen to be red or black. And because it has lots of speakers, it will play lots of instruments out of different holes and you just play through the big one in the middle and all the instruments get blended together but sounding separate and it’s just fantastic what it can do.

But the best thing is, it’s dirt cheap! The little Amplifi is only £275 and the big one only £375. I had to call the ambulance service out to have myself forcibly restrained from pressing the Buy Now! button on the Guitar Guitar email, offering me the opportunity to Win an Amplifi! along with the 800 other entrants who had already correctly guessed the answer to the multiple-choice question and pressed the Enter Now! And Be Forever Humored by the Gods Above button. I knew that if by some chance I did not win one, I would have to buy one.

And that would be where I might start kicking myself.

For a start, I am an elderly wannabe jazz player and a purist. I only want my guitar ever to make one tone, and that is the purest, flattest, jazziest tone you can make this side of 52nd Street. Not a loud buzzing noise, like a bees’ nest you are poking with a stick. Not a noise like a herd of desperate crocodiles sliding down a blackboard. Not the loud wailing sound of the Ebmi7 arpeggio played repeatedly in the 3rd position, with anguished bendy blue notes, sounding uncannily like the inner mind-workings of a petulant teenager banished to his room. Neither an organ, nor a violin, that I don’t play, but Joe Pass’s Holy Epiphone.

Secondly, even assuming I could arrange to sound like that, I don’t possess an iPadphone thing; nor do I understand how to use Bluetooth, or what an app actually is, or where and in which dimension and why The Cloud exists, or what is in it for me, that is not going to result in a huge phone bill or an epiletic convulsion. As far as I’m concerned, it may as well be The Cloud of Unknowing*. I have no friends whose little fuzzy tunes I want to suck from The Cloud; nor are the tunes-I-love stored anywhere other than on CDs – alright, I may have managed to transfer about a third of them to the Media Player thingy on this, muh li’l laptop, so I imagine there is a possibility that my son could instinctively work-out how to persuade Amplifi to make my guitar sound like Joe Pass’s Epiphone, if he could stop sneering at me long enough.

And I do have an Epiphone! But the only thing that will realistically make me sound like Joe Pass is to be granted another twenty years of life, a good teacher, and the money to pay for them. While all Amplifi will do for me is to sit accusingly in the corner, clashing hideously with the decor, head in a cloud, phoning its friends on my bill.

An impolite dinner guest, the future always arrives too early.

*Late medieval mystical text. I haven’t read it either. Look it up.

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