Guitar enthusiasts love new gear. It’s all about the sound and the thrill of building out the perfect pedalboard that lets you freely express your music. But making music isn’t free. Many of us are painfully aware of this reality as we try to balance life with the tools/toys we want for creative expression. Of course, this has never stopped true musicians from achieving their dreams.

I’m going to introduce you to a single piece of gear that provides unlimited creative expression. You’ll be able to experiment with different guitar pedals, signal processors, synthesizers, and effects systems without ever stepping foot in a music store. You’ll never forget the lyrics of a song again. You’ll perform solo gigs with visuals usually reserved for tour bands. You’ll get the gig, rescue the princess, and save the kingdom — all this for a price that would make even your mama proud of your spending habits.

Are you ready to find out?

It’s an iPad.

(Cue the angry vinyl record player screeching)

I know some of you may have just thrown up a little in your mouth. You may be a purist and believe in analog-only sound. How could we let this geek infiltrate the ranks of the guitarist elite? Just give me a little bit of your time to explain how you can use an iPad to broaden your creative playground while saving some money in the long run.

If you’re reading this magazine, there’s a good chance you’ve already spent thousands of dollars on the latest and greatest gear. If you’re like me, you don’t realize this until you’re going through the boxes of old stuff you’ve stuffed in a closet. We don’t think much about it because it’s happened over time. After all, what’s a hundred dollars here and five hundred there? But if you put together every instrument, cable, and those trips to the music store, you can easily hit the few thousand dollar mark. Sure, there’s that pedal that you live and die by, but how many other pedals did it take to find it?

Apple’s base model of iPad starts at $329 – about the price of a quality guitar pedal. What I’d like you to do is not think about an iPad as a computer. Don’t think of it as an e-reader or a Netflix slab. Think of it as a powerful, multichannel audio workhorse with a beautiful interface that prompts your chords and lyrics, processes guitar effects, adds ambient synth pads, runs drum loop MIDI sequences to an external module, composes DMX lighting scenes, and plays videos on a projector for audience participation – all without breaking a sweat.

The iPad puts you in contact with thousands of app developers that are only limited by their own abilities and imaginations. They get to release their ideas on an App Store at prices that are unheard of in the music industry. The best part is that you can try dozens of these apps to see what works before you commit to a single hardware piece of gear. Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to work an iPad into your new, lightweight rig.

One of the first uses for an iPad can be to replace your music stand and your binder. I’ve seen a lot of professional musicians use an iPad on stage, and it’s hardly noticeable. You’ll need something that lets you attach your iPad to a mic stand. I have an AirTurn Manos because it works with any size iPad, in or out of a case. Many hardware manufacturers like K&M have great options too. Once your iPad is where you can see and interact with it, you can use it to keep reminders visible through a performance, even on a dimly lit stage.

Touching an iPad while you’re playing guitar is not an option for most musicians. You’ll want a foot pedal that lets you interact with your apps. AirTurn makes wireless foot pedals with up to six buttons for controlling your apps hands-free.

If you’re planning to record or process audio, you’ll want to look into some audio interfaces. If you’re integrating with other equipment, you’ll need some MIDI adapters too.  There are a lot of options, but don’t worry. We’ll guide you through all of this soon.

We’ve got lots to cover, so stay tuned for the next issue of  as I introduce you to a new world of possibilities.

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