As I write this, we are six weeks, three days, 42 minutes and 16 seconds away from NAMM, but who’s counting? Well, actually, I think a lot of people in the music industry are, and you can be sure they are ready to re-connect and show off their latest products, as well as all the classics that make their brand iconic.
I feel extremely honored to be representing Yamaha at the show again this year, where the focus will be on second-generation Revstar electrics and two new TransAcoustic cutaway models: the FGC-TA and FSC-TA (along with another cool launch I can’t talk about yet!) . As you can imagine, the Yamaha team spends months to organize and prepare every detail for such an important annual presentation. My job is to make their lives easier by being upbeat, willing and prepared. I take my role just as seriously as they do.
I’ll be doing product demonstrations at the booth and will also be on hand to chat with visiting dealers, artists and end users. In addition, there are always lots of industry journalists wandering the show floor looking to film interviews for their media channels (almost inevitably without advance warning!), and I’ll be called upon to do some of those. This generally involves a short introductory product demo, followed by a rundown of the specs and available options. I’ll have to do my homework ahead of time, preparing short pieces of music to play as well as ensuring that I have a solid knowledge of all the Yamaha guitars on display.
There are also several pre-show events that I’ll be involved in, including performing at a reception for the AIMM (Alliance of Independent Music Merchants) network of dealers. This is a great way to solidify friendships, forge new relationships and discuss the latest product strategies in an informal setting. I’m currently preparing my setlist and rehearsing for this two-hour show. I’ll be playing acoustic guitar instead of electric, so I’ll have to adjust my repertoire accordingly and re-balance volumes for backing vocal and percussion loops. The room will be filled with Yamaha executives, sales teams and dealers — many of whom are incredible musicians in their own right. No pressure there!
The day before NAMM opens, final touches are made to the booth display. Guitars and amps are unboxed, tuned, checked over and polished before being placed in a pre-determined location on the show floor. At the same time, artist sound checks will be taking place on the performance stage. I’ll set up my Line 6 Helix rig in the electric guitar section and play through it with various guitars to get a general feel for the tones on tap. It’s a team endeavor, and we are all pulling together to manifest the big picture from those countless hours of planning.
I am sometimes fortunate enough to try out new Yamaha guitars before they launch, but there are still lots of new instruments I’ll get to play for the first time at this year’s NAMM.
The Revstar RSP02T is at the top of my list. I haven’t yet had the chance to play a second-generation Revstar with P90 pickups, and I’m curious to hear how the single-coils work with the five-way pickup selector switch and those out-of-phase tones on positions two and four. I’m sure the focus switch will also interact differently with single-coil pickups than it does with humbuckers.
I’m also looking forward to being able to A/B between Standard and Professional model Revstars to see if I can hear a difference between the two. My two favorite finishes will be in the booth as well: Sunset Burst and Swift Blue. The new color palette is pretty rad, so I’ll be taking lots of pictures for a post-NAMM summary.
I was lucky enough to play, record and film the Yamaha FGC-TA TransAcoustic (the “C” in the model number means “cutaway”) for the product launch last year. That’s one amazing guitar, but I’m thinking that the smaller FSC-TA (which has all the same sonic accoutrements such as onboard reverb and chorus, but in a smaller, lighter package) may actually fit my personal playing style better, especially for live performance. I’ll be playing one at the pre-show event and look forward to demonstrating it extensively at the show for acoustic guitar aficionados, so I should have lots of opportunity to find out.
Speaking of the FSC-TA, it comes in three distinctive color finishes: Ruby Red, Vintage Tint and Brown Sunburst. I’ll be playing a Brown Sunburst model at the show … and plan on wearing a complementary shirt, along with a big smile!
Last but not least, I’m curious to hear the new Line 6 Catalyst combo amplifiers. The 60-watt version packs the same Helix engine features into a smaller package than its larger 100-watt and 200-watt compadres, and seems perfect for the studio and small club dates. I think I may need one!
I thought it would be cool to put together a montage of performances from my studio that feature a variety of guitars that will be at the show. If you’re going to be attending, perhaps it will inspire you to stop by the booth and try out some Yamaha guitars. I think you’ll be impressed!
If you’d like to see full demonstrations and comprehensive reviews of these guitars, you can always check out my YouTube channel and settle in for a while.
There’s a wonderful team spirit that permeates trade show events — not just during the exhibit hours, but in the preparation that goes into making it happen. New contacts are made, old friends come together, lifelong friendships are forged, and music lives on as the conduit and common thread between us all. Look forward to seeing you at NAMM!