At NAMM 2020 back in January, the worst thing you had to worry about was getting NAMMthrax (or NAMMonia), that is, a bad cold from shaking all those hands. We live in different times now; hope you and yours are healthy.
What this year’s winter show lacked in number of interesting product debuts it made up for in decibels. Complaints were constant about being unable to hear the gear, or talk to the vendors. (You can experience this in some of the videos). That said, there were a few cool releases that should appeal to the modern guitarist. If April seems late for the roundup, consider that many of these products are just now shipping.
Life and website issues got in the way of doing timely NAMM reports this year. In my defense many of these products just started shipping a couple of months ago. As has become habit, there were hundreds of cool pedals on offer, mostly variations on pedals you have seen and heard.
With NAMM 2020 coming up, I thought I would do a listing of the things I saw last year that might be different and of more interest to the modern guitarist. The theme in January seemed to be the return of modulation (flange, chorus, and phase), fuzz/harmonizer combos, and guitar synth pedals. I am featuring only what I consider to be the most interesting takes on each. Please check company websites for details.
NAMM 2018 was even bigger than last year, yet much more manageable. The brand new ACC (Anaheim Convention Center) North building housed most of the high tech and pro audio stuff, allowing guitars and related products to be centralized in one area on the main floor of the original building. NAMM further reduced the spread by offering the new boutique manufacturers—previously relegated to downstairs Hall E—smaller, more affordable booths in the main guitar product ghetto. Thus, I was able to cover the show in two relaxed, rather than three grueling, days.
When an artist and session player like Leo Abrahams is continually involved in so many varied and interesting musical endeavors, it is essential to catch up. For the first time we actually spoke rather than emailed and an interview turned into a conversation, starting with a discussion of another wide-ranging guitarist we both love, Chris Spedding (Elton John, Bryan Ferry, John Cale, Robert Gordon et al), before getting into gear and aleatory music concepts.
This year’s winter NAMM was INSANE! Thursday was as crowded as a typical Saturday and it escalated from there. The noise floor was non-stop jet-engine level. I came home with ears ringing and NAMMthrax. Was it worth it? You bet. Three full days was barely enough to cover all the cool stuff. It opened with a terrific concert band doing a modern composition that incorporated either recorded or live recitations from young people (I couldn’t see from my vantage point) about the difficulties of growing up. This boded well for a forward-thinking show and, in fact, there were ample examples of manufacturers leaving the traditional behind to explore new territory.
Other than the upward trajectory of the business evidenced by the crowd, the only trend I noticed was the invasion of the pedal market by Greece and Brazil. As usual, NAMM often stands for “Not Available, Maybe May,” so stay tuned to the manufactures’ sites and guitarmoderne.com for updates, and, if you would like to hear me talk about this year’s winter NAMM, check out Matt Wakeling’s Guitar Speak podcast featuring yours truly.