Amp modeling now offers such realism and convenience it requires a special occasion to mic up an actual combo or stack. Plug-ins like Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig and IK Multimedia’s Amplitube evoke the essence of Fender, Vox, Marshall, and more. But having just depleted your piggy bank for Ableton Live, you may not be ready to shell out another hundred or two for amp modeling software. Fear not—if you bought the Live Suite, you can get a gamut of amp and effect sounds without any further spending by using the Amp and Cabinet plug-ins included with the DAW. Combining these two plug-ins with a few others—some included in basic Live, some available free on the interweb—you can dial up “virtually” any guitar sound. Let me show you how to build a software amp and effects rig that will have you thinking twice before throwing that SM-57 in front of your amplifier.
One advantage of performing with guitar through a laptop is the ability to use plug-ins, in addition to pedals. As many amazing and out there pedals as there are, there are still some sounds you just can’t get from hardware. Too, there is the level of control—static and evolving—over parameters, available with plug-ins, but not yet with pedals.
Here is a list of seven plug-ins (okay, a couple are suites, but seven sounds sexy) I have used over the years in recording and performance. They range from vintage emulations to spectral and granular effects, and best of all, they are all FREE!