Great Rock Bloopers And Spontaneous Moments

Mistakes. We’ve all made ’em. Some of us more than others. Rock stars are not immune to the embarrassment of a glorious clanger, and sometimes these little whoopsies, wonky notes and unwanted warbles can even make their way onto vinyl/tape/mp3/stream for all the world to hear.

Sometimes they make it through to the listener intentionally, and sometimes they sneak by purely by accident. Sometimes they might not even be actual bloopers so much as ‘in the moment’ things that get picked up and folded into the song. However they get to us, these little gems of humanity are part of what makes rock and roll so much fun, and what keeps kids wedged between a set of headphones when they probably should be studying.

The Beatles – “Helter Skelter” (The Beatles, 1968)

“Helter Skelter” is one of The Beatles’ most frenzied songs – in fact, a case could very well be made that it has a lot in common with the prototypical heavy metal that would soon follow. One of the most fiery aspects of the tune is the intense drum performance by Ringo Starr. According to The Beatles: The Biography, Ringo recorded 18 takes of the drum part on September 9, 1968. The very last take was the one used for the master recording, and it’s also the one in which Ringo performed one of the greatest tantrums in rock and roll, screaming out “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” at the end of the take. You can hear Ringo’s outburst at 4:24.

Joe Satriani – “Surfing with the Alien” (Surfing with the Alien, 1987)

Joe Satriani’s sci-fi tones and out-of-this-world phrasing aren’t just the result of inspiration and perspiration – sometimes a little bit of serendipity and a whole lot of electronic malfunction play a role, too. For the lead guitar tone on Surfing with the Alien’s title track, Satriani used a wah-wah pedal and a harmonizer. The former worked perfectly, while the latter was in its death throes. Satriani told Guitar World, “The sound that came out of the speakers blew us away so much that we recorded the melody and the solo in about a half-hour and sat back and went, ‘Whoa! This is a song, man!’” Then the harmonizer broke down and couldn’t be fixed. “We couldn’t do anything,” he said. “We lost our tone. When we finally got it working again, we weren’t able to recreate the original effect. It just sounded different. So rather than screw up a wonderful-sounding performance that may have had a couple of glitches, we decided to just leave it, because it was just swinging.”

Frank Zappa – “Muffin Man” (Bongo Fury, 1975)

Frank Zappa often said he saw lyrics as a necessity that he didn’t quite enjoy. In his autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book he said he felt that if he had to write lyrics, he might as well make them something that appealed to his particular skewed worldview. Nowhere is this more evident than the monologue at the start of “Muffin Man,” where the text and the voice he reads it in so appeal to Frank’s worldview that he breaks character to laugh at himself (0:48), before saying “Let’s try that again” and giving the line another shot.

Megadeth – “Paranoid” (Nativity In Black, 1994)

Megadeth’s take on this Black Sabbath classic was recorded for an all-star tribute which also featured Type O Negative, Sepultura, Biohazard, White Zombie, Corrosion of Conformity, Ugly Kid Joe, Faith No More and others. Megadeth’s version of “Paranoid” was a little faster and a lot angrier than Sabbath’s 1970 original, and the anger was ratcheted up tenfold when drummer Nick Menza continued playing by himself after the song was supposed to have ended (2:23-2:30). Menza is cut off by Dave Mustaine shouting “Nick… Nick …NICK!” – and when he realizes his mistake Menza berates himself with some choice words of his own.

Metallica – “The Four Horsemen” (Kill ’Em All, 1983)

One of the most unique features of Metallica’s classic track “The Four Horsemen” is its distinctive simultaneous two-headed guitar solo, heard from 4:10 to 4:30. You can hear two Kirk Hammetts, one in each speaker, playing roughly similar but still quite different solos. In 1991 Hammett told Guitar World this cool effect was entirely a fluke. After recording two takes of the solo, Hammett and Co. were trying to decide which one to use. “I listened to both tracks at once, to see if one would stand out,” Hammett said. “But playing both tracks simultaneously sounded great, and we decided to keep it like that on the record. Some of the notes harmonized with each other, and I remember Cliff [Burton, bassist] going, ‘Wow, that’s stylin’ – it sounds like Tony Iommi!’”

Steve Vai – “Sex & Religion” (Sex & Religion, 1993)

These days Devin Townsend is known as a heavy metal auteur, solo and with Strapping Young Lad. But when he was 20, Townsend found fame as the singer in Steve Vai’s band, alongside T.M. Stevens on bass and Vai’s fellow Zappa alumni Terry Bozzio on drums. A vocal follow-up to Passion & Warfare was always going to be a bold move for Vai, but nobody was prepared for the hyperactive Townsend, who soared into gorgeous melodies before plummeting down to the lowest pits of hell with piercing screams, often in the space of a single bar. At the end of the album’s title track, Townsend really goes for it with a perfectly pitched but very intense melodic scream which lasts for a whole 18 seconds (from 4:05 to 4:23) – and he doesn’t quite make it back. Townsend passed out after the take, and Vai kept some of what he said after he came to. “Oh I hurt your brain? Oh. My fingers are numb… right now, they’re numb… can I deprive my brain of oxygen?”

The Police – “Roxanne” (Outlandos d’Amour, 1978)

“Roxanne” is a classic for its melody, its vocal performance, its orchestration and the instrumental timbres, but it’s also unique for a different reason. The mysterious piano chord heard at 0:04 is an unusual, atonal cluster that has nothing to do with the rest of the song. So what gives? Well it turns out Sting slinked back to relax on a nearby piano but didn’t realize the lid was up, so he unwittingly played that gloriously dissonant chord with his butt. This also explains his laugh at 0:06.

Led Zeppelin – “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (Led Zeppelin, 1969)

“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is an eerie, moody track to begin with, but if you listen very closely you’ll hear a ghostly voice at 1:43. What is it? A backwards-masked magic spell? Some kind of ghostly incantation? Nope. That’s actually the sound of Robert Plant singing along with drummer John Bonham during tracking, and there was no way to delete Plant’s singing from the drum tracks. Whether that’s his actual naked voice leaking through the drum mics, or perhaps being blasted through Bonzo’s headphones, perhaps we’ll never quite know, but it sure sounds cool, and adds yet another interesting layer to discover among Led Zep’s tapestry of orchestration.

Radiohead – “Creep” (Pablo Honey, 1993)

One of the most unique parts of Radiohead’s hit “Creep” was the salvo of chunky, deadened notes played by Jonny Greenwood right before the chorus at 0:58, and again at 2:00. Bandmate Ed O’Brien told Select magazine that Greenwood’s ear-catching decision was actually born of frustration. “That’s the sound of Jonny trying to [expletive] the song up,” O’Brien said. “He really didn’t like it the first time we played it, so he tried spoiling it. And it made the song.”

Van Halen – “Everybody Wants Some” (Women and Children First, 1980)

This Van Halen classic features oodles of the loose party vibe the band were known for in the early days – you can almost hear the clinking of beer bottles and the boogying of bikini babes. Almost. One thing you can most definitely hear though is the sound of David Lee Roth totally flubbing a lyric. According to his autobiography, Crazy From the Heat, the line was supposed to be something along the lines of “I’ve seen a lot of people just looking for a moonbeam.” But that’s not what came out. Instead, at 1:58, Dave sang something resembling “Ya take a moople-ah, wookie pah-a moopie.” The band decided that the vibe of the new line worked just as well, and the messed-up take was left in the song, an enduring legacy to just how hard Van Halen rocked it.

Van Halen – “Eruption”

“Eruption,” with its blistering licks and innovative techniques, launched a million shredders, but the technique-redefining tapping section includes – by Eddie Van Halen’s own admission – a little mistake. Van Halen told Guitar Player, “…I took one pass at it and they put it on the record. I didn’t even play it right. There’s a mistake at the top end of it. To this day whenever I hear it I always think,’Man, I could’ve played it better’.” But wher is it? It sounds like a mistake can be heard at about 1.01 – listen for a tiny stutter which breaks up the flow of the tapping pattern. However, there are those of us who believe EVH’s playing to be utterly infallible and will not accept that he can make mistakes, even by his own admission.

Led Zeppelin – “Heartbreaker”

As anyone who has ever tried to jam along to “Heartbreaker” will attest, the song’s iconic unaccompanied solo section is pitched slightly higher than the rest of the song. As Jimmy Page explained to Guitar World in 1998: “The interesting thing about the solo is that it was recorded after we had already finished “Heartbreaker” – it was an afterthought. That whole section was recorded in a different studio and it was sort of slotted in the middle.” Even with the studio technology of the time it would have been possible to match the tuning of the two sections via some deft tape speed manipulation, so why does it sound higher than the rest of the song? Is it possible it was slightly sped up on purpose to appear even more impressive? Maybe we’ll never know.

Led Zeppelin – “Since I’ve Been Loving You”

Led Zeppelin chalk up another little studio mishap in the form of a squeaky kick drum pedal on “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” In 1993 Jimmy Page recounted his discovery of the artefact while putting together the first Led Zeppelin boxed set. “It sounds louder and louder every time I hear it,” he said. “That was something that was obviously sadly overlooked at the time.” Still, it’s one of those great little Easter Eggs that make Led Zeppelin albums such wonderful headphone fodder.

U2 – “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”

At around 3:10 to 3:14, drummer Larry Mullen Jr can be heard dropping a drum stick. He valiantly continues on for a few bars before obtaining another drum stick (I’d like to think that he summoned it to his hand using the Force). The mistake was left in the song – and it lends a particularly cool dynamic shift to the song – although legend has it that Larry Mullen Jr wasn’t exactly pleased with the decision to leave it in.

Frank Zappa – “We’re Turning Again”

On the version of this track from You Can’t Do That On Stage Any More Vol. 6, Mike Keneally loses control of his guitar after the Hendrix section (“You can regulate my fuzztone with your wah wah,” etc). Keneally quickly gets his axe under control but vocalist Ike Willis can be heard chuckling about the incident for a few more bars.

Black Sabbath – “Sweet Leaf”

Black Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf” is a heavy, lumbering ode to a particular extracurricular activity the band often engaged in at the time of recording 1971’s Master Of Reality. The track opens with a tape loop of somebody coughing. Ozzy Osbourne told Rolling Stone in 2004 that the source of the cough was guitarist Tony Iommi. Iommi confirmed, “I was outside recording an acoustic thing, and Ozzy brought me a [not suitable for publication]. I had a puff and nearly choked myself, and they were taping it!”

Pantera – “Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills”

The staccato feedback chops which punctuate portions of this Far Beyond Driven track were created when Dimebag Darrell stood a little too close to brother Vinnie Paul’s drums. Dime was running his guitar through a vintage flanger pedal and a noise gate. As he told Guitar World in 1994, his plan was to “just make a little bit of racket in the beginning of the song,” but by chance his guitar’s pickup sensed the sound of Vinnie Paul’s snare, and its output was enough to release the noise gate, creating a choppy, flanged roar perfectly synced to the snare.

Mr. Big – “Alive And Kicking”

This song instead – from Mr.Big’s breakthrough album Lean Into It – doesn’t include an actual mistake per se, but its main riff was created when guitarist Paul Gilbert was tuning his guitar. Gilbert told Guitar World (March 1991) that he hit two strings while twisting the tuning peg of one string, and the riff’s distinctively sassy first note was created. Gilbert figured out how to achieve the same effect by bending one string instead of messing with the tuning keys, but the riff wouldn’t have happened if not for a creative spin on a mis-hit note. Gilbert also plays off this effect during the song’s intro, both in the studio and live.

David Bowie – “Little Wonder”

While not quite a blooper so much as a clever rearranging of off-the-cuff moments, Reeves Gabrels told Guitar World in 1997 that the skittering riff on this 1997 hit was born after he recorded about 40 minutes worth of random guitar noises, loaded the results onto a sampling keybaord and messed around with the riffage until he found something he liked. Gabrels said that when Bowie and go started playing “Little Wonder” live, he had to figure out how to physically play what he had sampled. “It was really educational,” he said. “To a small degree it changed how I look at my actual real-time playing, which is a cool thing.”

The Mamas & The Papas – “I Saw Her Again”

This 1966 single includes an iconic and much-imitated blooper around the 2:40 mark. Singer Denny Doherty sings the first line of the third chorus a little too early, cuts himself off, and comes in again at the right moment with the rest of the group. Producer (who also produced Carole King’s Tapestry) intentionally left the flub in. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s John Sebastian mimicked the mistake on “Darling Be Home Soon” in 1967 and Kenny Loggins did the same on “I’m Alright” in 1980. A similar mistake can be heard before the start of the first verse of “Discipline” from Nine Inch Nails’ 2008 album The Slip.

Synergy Amps Steve Vai module available now

I’ve posted about this a couple of times now – first when it was announced, and then when it was previewed at NAMM – but the Synergy Amps Steve Vai Signature module is now available and ready to drop into your online shopping cart and then slot into your Synergy gear. I’m super-excited about this because I trust Steve’s ears to develop great-sounding gear that works not just for him but for all of us mortals.

Press release is below. Oh and if you missed the news, I’m writing a book on Steve’s Passion And Warfare album, with cooperation from the man himself. More info here.

STEVE VAI SIGNATURE – DUAL CHANNEL ALL-TUBE SYNERGY MODULE

Synergy Amps proudly introduces the first ever signature module, designed with Steve Vai – without a doubt, one of the most iconic artist and guitar players in the guitar industry.

Over the past decades, Steve Vai has become synonymous with tone, technique, and all aspects of the electric guitar with tenacious, creative energy that explodes through his music, performances, and especially his signature gear designs.

When it came time for Steve to evaluate a new amplifier to endorse, he played them all and after months of consideration – he chose Synergy. The Synergy system allowed Steve to play an all tube system with the versatility of having pre-amps from Friedman, Soldano, Bogner, Diezel, ENGL, Morgan, Fryette, Metropoulos, etc.

“Why play one great amp, when with Synergy, I can play them all.”

Steve Vai Signature Preamp Module Features:

• Built in U.S.A.
• All-tube preamp module custom designed by Synergy and Steve Vai
• Two channels offer switching between clean and overdrive to distortion tones
• Channel Blue: Clean – Gain, Volume, 3-Band EQ, Fat and Bright Switches
• Channel Red: Overdrive – Gain, Volume, 3-Band EQ, Bright and Boost Switches
• 2 x 12AX7 preamp tubes ensure rich harmonic performance
• Easy to install and remove from Synergy preamp docks
• Dual/Single switch allows the module to be used with older Egnater and Randall
hardware
• Three-position cathode select switch allows you to configure the input tube bias
setting for optimum input gain and bass response

STREET PRICE $399.99

I’m writing the definitive book on Passion And Warfare

News time: I’m writing a book!

It’s about the creation of Steve Vai’s Passion And Warfare album: the concept, the music-business deal-wrangling, the gear, the recording process, the creative exercises involved in getting into the headspace to make this stuff happen, and much more. There’s a lot of great info in the Passion & Warfare tab book which I know a lot of you may have already read, but there’s more below the surface. A lot more.

Steve very generously gave me a chunk of his time to answer all the questions I’ve had about this landmark album over the years, and we had an amazing chat last week. We talked about the origins of the Ibanez Universe, the surprising choice of main 6-string guitar on the album (hint: it’s not a Jem), how many amps blew up in the recording of ‘The Riddle,’ more detail on how the album bounced from Capitol to Relativity Records and some pretty damn deep metaphysical stuff.

Several other people involved in the album or subsequently inspired by it have agreed to be interviewed. I’ll be talking to Darren Johansen and I’m trying to line up time with David Coverdale right now. The final chapter will be about the legacy of the album so I’m working on getting a wide variety of Vai-influenced guitarists from the last 30 years to talk about how the album inspired them.

My original intention is that it will be picked up by 33 1/3 because that seems like a perfect home for it, but to be honest this thing is already kind of outgrowing the scope of their classic-album books so perhaps I’ll shop it around. (I already have a publisher for another book that I just got a deal for). I’d love to see it come out through Hal Leonard because half my damn bookshelf is from them!

This feels like something that a lot of musicians can learn from whether they’re guitarists or not, Vai fans or not, because the lessons involved in bringing this record to the world are extremely inspiring and instructive, and Steve has graciously shared details far beyond anything I’ve read before.

 

NAMM 2020: Steve Vai’s new Synergy Amps module is badass

You may remember a few months ago I wrote about Steve Vai’s official move to Synergy Amps. Well the Steve Vai module was officially unveiled at the NAMM Show and yes of course it’s on the top of my gear wishlist for 2020 but until I can get my paws on one, here are some videos for ya! Needless to say, it sounds incredible. Keep an eye on Synergy Amps for more info soon.

 

NAMM 2020: The Ibanez PIA is here!

Some lo-res pics of this guitar leaked last week and they didn’t look great. Well guess what! Turns out leaking crappy photos of a sophisticated design doesn’t do the design justice because the new Ibanez Steve Vai model, the PIA, looks a lot cooler than those pics indicated. Especially of note: the new DiMarzio Utopia pickups with really interesting covers designed by Mike Mesker, colour-matched ‘Pia Blossom’ inlays (except for the white model which has all white inlays) and a little scoop above the handle in the body.

Here’s Steve to tell you all about the new guitar, including all the subtle differences compared to a Jem, like a new forearm contour, repositioned volume knob, new super high access sculpting on the inside of the treble side cutaway, and more. Seriously, if you’re one of the people who trashed this guitar last week because of those dodgy photos, you really need to watch this video to see how much thought and elegance has been put into this design.

We’re talking Stainless Steel frets, switchable high pass filter, magnetic back plate, redesigned contours, new neck shape, Luminlay glow-in-the-dark side dots, Ultralite carbon fiber tremolo bar… basically it’s a Steve Vai guitar for 2020 instead of 1987.

As for the Utopia pickups, they use the DiMarzio Evolution as a starting point but with softer highs and mids and more output. That sounds pretty damn cool to me.

Bridge – https://www.dimarzio.com/pickups/high-power/utopia-bridge
Middle – https://www.dimarzio.com/picku…/standard-strat/utopia-middle
Neck – https://www.dimarzio.com/pickups/medium-power/utopia-neck

And I think the pink version seen in this pic of Steve is particularly cool.

Here are the other three colours available. The Envy Green, Panther Pink and Sun Dew Gold are limited edition while the Stallion White (which is a pearl white finish) is the standard model.

 

Hear Steve Vai on the I Heart Guitar podcast

If you’ve been reading this site for any length of time you probably know I’m a massive Steve Vai nerd. I’ve interviewed Steve many times over the years and I just got the chance to chat with him again, this time to promote the new Generation Axe album.

Listen to the episode here:

Wanna support I Heart Guitar (and by extension my little family and our dreams of getting another dog soon)? patreon.com/iheartguitar or paypal.me/iheartguitar.

Steve Vai has unveiled his new Synergy Amps module

Since Carvin rolled down the shutters for the last time, Steve Vai fans have been wondering what Dr. Vai is going to do next amp-wise. At NAMM he was talking up Synergy Amps, whose interchangable modules are damn fine indeed. And today Vai his previewed his signature module. Thus tweeteth Steve:

 

We can’t glean too much from the photo other than that it’s a two-channel preamp with three-band EQ and a couple of voicing switches. Typically with Synergy these are three-position Treble and Bass voicing switches. I love the green face plate, and you better believe I’ll be getting one of these when funds allow!

 

REVIEW: Eventide H9 MAX

“The H9 is that rare sonic tool that is capable of inspiring your entire musical direction.”

Eventide has been a part of the musical landscape since the 70s: David Bowie and Brian Eno famously used the hell out of an Eventide harmonizer starting from the Low album and that’s good enough for me! In the guitar world, Steve Vai practically created an entire genre of psychedelic progressive shred wackiness through his use of the H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer. But you’ll find Eventide’s family of harmonizers all over the place: recording studios, sound design, radio production… the company’s footprint is all over the last four decades plus of sonic history. Eventide doesn’t cut corners, so it can be a pretty costly proposition to add one of their rack units to your arsenal. Thankfully there’s a range of great stompboxes available in the form of the TimeFactor (delay), ModFactor (modulation), PitchFactor (pitch shifting), and Space (reverb). Each is a dedicated unit with plenty of controls and functions and they’re all serious stuff, but Eventide has found a way to cram every one of those pedals into a small, pedalboard-friendly unit called the H9 MAX.

The H9 gets away with this Tardis-like approach to effects management by placing the controls not on the pedal itself but on your computer or smartphone screen via the H9 Control App which gives you instant access to over 500 presets and practically endless editing capability. There is a degree of control available on the surface of the pedal itself in the form of a Hotknob and three assignable parameters, but this is a pedal designed for those who are comfortable dialling in their tone on their screen. 

Get Connected

Connections include stereo inputs and outputs, an expression pedal jack, Mini USB and MIDI Out/Thru (plus the 12v DC jack for the included power supply). It’s important to note that the H9 is not a multi-effect pedal – that is, you can’t combine multiple effects in a chain – but many effects include delay or reverb capability alongside their main function. And you’re not forced to commit to using it just in your amp’s effects loop or just through its front end. The stereo inputs and outputs can be treated as two totally different signal paths to select between, allowing you to send, say, a chewy-sounding vintage phaser preset to your amp’s front end, then switching to a delay or reverb preset that goes through your amp’s effects loop. It’s a really ingenious system that allows you to get the most out of the H9’s stunning range of capabilities as the song demands. 

Variations On A Theme

There are actually three variations on the H9 available, which differ only in the pre-loaded effects: the base H9 Core which comes loaded with the PitchFactor’s H910/H949 settings; the H9 Harmonizer which has two algorithms each from Space, PitchFactor, ModFactor and TimeFactor plus the H9-exclusive UltraTap Delay; and the full H9 MAX which is loaded with 50 effect algorithms and 99 presets, with over 500 presets available via the H9 Control app. You can upgrade the H9 Core or H9 Harmonizer to H9 MAX specs online for an additional cost using the MAXOut Program, so even if you don’t have the spare bucks to get the MAX up-front, you can get in on the ground floor with the H9 Harmonizer or Core and upgrade as you’re able. And it’s worth doing because here’s what MAX comes loaded with:

H9 Exclusive:

UltraTap Delay

Resonator

EQ Compressor

CrushStation

SpaceTime

Sculpt

PitchFuzz

HotSawz

From Space:

Shimmer

Hall

Blackhole

Spring

Plate

Room

MangledVerb

Tremoloverb

ModEchoVerb

DualVerb

DynaVerb

Reverse Reverb

From PitchFactor:

Crystals

H910/H949

Diatonic

MicroPitch

Quadravox

PitchFlex

Octaver

Harpeggiator

Synthonizer

Harmodulator

From ModFactor:

Chorus

Phaser

Q-Wah

Flanger

ModFilter

Rotary

TremoloPan

Vibrato

Undulator

RingMod

From TimeFactor:

Tape Echo

Vintage Delay

Digital Delay

Mod Delay

Ducked Delay

Band Delay

Filter Pong

MultiTap

Reverse

Looper

Some of these are pretty self-explanatory. Others are really unique. For instance, Sculpt lets you split the audio signal into high and low frequency bands and then apply different levels of gain and filtering to each, then add compression either before or after the distortion. In stereo if you want to. PitchFuzz combines fuzz, three pitch shifters and two delays for some truly filthy sounds. CrushStation is a stereo distortion that can do anything from blues tones to ultra pissed-off. And HotSaws is a pitch-tracking monophonic synth with modulation sources including LFO, Envelope Follower and ADS Gate, with four assignable destinations (Filter Cutoff, Volume, Pitch and Oscillator Depth), with each modulation source able to be assigned to any destination at any time. 

In Use

And that’s just the new stuff available only in H9 MAX: there are also plenty of classic Eventide effects that you’ll recognise from either the ‘Factor’ series of pedals, or earlier devices such as the H3000, H949 and H910. For instance, y’know Steve Vai’s classic ‘Ballerina 12/24’ pitch-shifted delay setting? That’s in here. The pitch shift preset from ‘The Animal’ is in here too, as are various EVH ‘1984’-inspired sounds (and I’ve been able to dial in a perfect replica of Eddie’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge-era chorus-like subtle doubling sound). In fact, the huge number of sounds in here from previous Eventide products like the H3000 really hits home just how innovative that classic rack unit was. The DigiTech Whammy Pedal? It’s basically just a particular H3000 mode with a built-in expression pedal, and you can do it with the H9 and an expression pedal too. Dynamic reverb, chorus and delay effects that respond to your picking? That’s all here just like it has been since the H3000. Extensive looping capability? Ditto. But there’s other stuff in here that has been criminally overlooked. Frank Zappa was a fan of using dynamic flanging effects, and Eventide gives you this capability (which works especially well as an ‘into-the-front-of-the-amp’ effect); trigger a flanger-sweep every time you pick a note, or deeper sweeps the harder you pick. Or assign the flanger resonance to an expression pedal. The signal-processing possibilities are endless, and that means your creative and expressive options as a musician are endless too. The H9 is that rare sonic tool that is capable of inspiring your entire musical direction.

The sound quality is so great that you can get away with using the H9 as front-and-centre feature effects in a recording environment – as you’d expect from a company whose gear is in every serious studio in the world – but what really impresses me is how utterly clean and noise-free the sound is when used with my roaring Marshall. I’m used to battling against hiss and hum in outboard gear and I’ve figured out various ways to get rid of it over the years but the H9 is so damn quiet. The dynamic range isn’t unnaturally squished, there’s no buzz, no hum, no white noise. And this becomes really apparent when using delay and reverb effects. 

The MIDI capability is also extremely handy. Although the H9 has become my go-to reverb and delay unit, I’ve been connecting the H9 MAX to my trusty old BOSS GT-8 Multi-Fx floorboard so I can use the GT-8’s delay and reverb effects when the H9 MAX is otherwise occupied with another algorithm through my amp’s front end (eg: Octave, Flanger, Wah or PitchFlex effects). This also lets me add H9 presets with my GT-8 presets, and also to use the GT-8’s expression pedal to control H9 effects. In a perfect world I’d have an Eclipse V4 sitting in a rack to take care of delay and harmonizer effects in my amp’s effects loop and an H9 on a pedalboard to look after front-end effects like fuzz, distortion, wah, flanger, phaser, pitch and whammy. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig into some serious editing on a smartphone, tablet or computer screen, the H9 will do absolutely everything you can ever think to ask of it. (If you’re a little put off by the control method but you still want some great Eventide delay and modulation effects – from the natural to the freaky – check out the new Eventide Rose Modulated Delay). The H9 is a serious piece of kit, which is why Living Colour’s Doug Wimbish had four of the dang things on his pedalboard when I saw the band live recently!