Would Frank Zappa use Amp Profiling tech today?

the music den

Would the legendary Frank Zappa use Amp Profiling tech like the Positive Grid Bias Amp, Kemper Profiling Amp, or Fractal Audio Axe Fx were he with us today? History says “Yes!”, given the legendary experimentalist’s very own son, Dweezil Zappa, uses modern musical tech to achieve an infinite sonic palette. But Frank was unpredictable, so let’s see what we come up with and conclude at the end!

frank zappa
Frank Zappa with his eccentricity AND Gibson SG copy in tow

The Science: Pretend you get to be your favorite musician of choice for one night. 

Now, we’ve all pretended before, either subconsciously or maybe even intentionally. This can be a motivator and serve the creative purpose of creative musical inspirations that turn into ingenuity. Let’s throw adversity into the mix: Pretend to be your favorite musician whose prized gear has been stolen the same night of a show. You have to go to the nearest local music store to get replacement gear so you don’t let your fans down.

When you Google “local musical instrument store” you find The Music Den. Now, as this musician, you had a lot of rare gear, and maybe even some that may be easily replaced. But that rare gear produces a major issue. And the goal is to get that gear from The Music Den that’s on hand to get the job done the night of the show.

Pretending to be Frank Zappa 

Let’s begin with when Frank Zappa played with The Mothers of Invention in 1964. Frank had a career spanning almost 30 years until his death in 1993. His works consisted of musical improvisation, sound experiments, satire and virtuosity from all of his band members.  His compositions were in rock, pop, jazz, chamber, orchestral and random sounds (sound collages). He was a mostly an independent artist, and started up his own record label to release his works. Frank Zappa was also very forward thinking and was one of the first artists using computers to compose musical history.

Were Frank Zappa here today with his gear been stolen, these are substitutions The Music Den has to help with Frank’s musical conundrum.

the mothers of invention
Frank Zappa (bottom center) with The Mothers of Invention

First Up: Guitars

To get started, some of Zappa’s most well known guitars are: a Gibson SG copy with 23 frets, a Les Paul custom, and a performance strat-style guitar with a Floyd Rose tremolo. Zappa’s Gak guitar was first customized with a built in EQ so he could “tune” his tone to the venue he was playing. Because of his liking of both Gibsons and the Floyd Rose Tremolo, I would suggest the PRS Vernon Reid S2 VR Vela Signature.

The S2 VR Vela was developed with Living Colour founder, Vernon Reid. Initially attracted by the Vela’s offset body shape, Vernon took this guitar to another level through a unique set of appointments. Loaded with two HFS pickups, the S2 VR Vela has an aggressive sound with clear highs and strong mids and bass. The Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo adds new sonic options for players and provides the confidence to dive bomb without going out of tune. The S2 VR Vela also features a “V-shape” neck that feels full and strong in your hand and a unique pickguard designed by Vernon himself.

Next: Pedals

Next, Frank used numerous pedals throughout his musical career, but several were mainstays on his board. Mu-Tron Wah, Oberheim, Voltage Control Filter, Echoplex, MXR Flanger, Big Muff, Mu-Tron Octave Divider, Vox Wah, and a Volume Pedal.  Some of these will be easy to replace as The Music Den carries MXR, Electro-Harmonix, and Vox.

The MXR Flanger, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff and MXR Echoplex are good to go, as they’re locked up tight in our pedal display case with multiple of each in stock. To replace the Octave Divider, the Electro-Harmonix Octavix fuzz (set to an octave above) would nail the EQ that Zappa loved. For the volume pedal, I’d suggest the Budda Amplification Volume Boost pedal which has the perfect volume sweep. Another suggestion would be several EQ pedals to really tune the room since the guitars don’t have EQ’s built in, as Frank had with his above mentioned “Gak” guitar.  The voltage control filter this is RARE, but with both the MXR 10 Band EQ & Q-Tron envelope filter you can get close to that sound!

Lastly: Amps – Would Frank Zappa go Digital or Tube?

Lastly, Frank was mostly known to use Carvin heads and cabs on tour. He would often use whatever sounded musical and good in the studio, including a PigNose! As mentioned earlier, Frank was forward thinking and I believe that – were he still with us – he’d be using modeling or profiling amps. His son and virtuoso guitarist, Dweezil Zappa, uses amps like Fractal Audio during his Zappa Plays Zappa Tours.  I also believe Frank would have sold his tones online. So I would recommend the Positive Grid Bias Head 600 Watt Amp Matching Guitar Amplifier. Using a tablet you can set about 25 tones changing circuit topology and endless tweaking.  Something Frank would use to, again, tune his tone to the venue.

BIAS Head sounds and feels like your favorite classic and boutique tube amplifiers, but offers entirely new flexibility. The advanced component emulation engine captures the warmth, girth and feel of real tube amps, authentically recreating the complex circuit behaviors that make them do what they do. From djent to jazz and everything in between, BIAS Head is deeply rooted in the rich history of tube amplifier design while remaining aimed directly at the future.

To conclude, what do you think about the idea of Zappa going digital? Would Frank use the technology in conjunction with analog gear? Do you think this would’ve helped Frank out in his time of need? Would Frank use Amp Modeling and Profiling technology to carry out his experimental habits to this day? What gear do we carry on The Music Den’s website that would’ve worked for him that we missed?


See also: Sound Like TesseracT Without Breaking the Bank

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