Old Sounds with New Technologies? Examining the Creative Potential of Guitar ‘Profiling’ Technology from a Production Perspective

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Every once in a while, innovations in music technology alter established practices of music-making and allow new means of expression. Yet, players of some instruments like the electric guitar have been quite disapproving of technological innovation, still favouring vintage guitars and valve amplifiers already available in the mid-20th century. As early as 1948, more modern transistor technology was introduced to guitar amplification, yet it was rejected for its weakness in producing distorted sounds. For better sound control, MIDI-supported modular rack systems with valve circuits became popular in the 1980s. From the 1990s on, digitalisation has slowly found its way into guitar technology but only recently the improved quality of modern modelling amplifiers and plugin simulations have begun to convince guitarists and music producers alike.

In 2011, a new “profiling” technology was announced with the release of the Kemper Profiling Amplifier, promising not only being able to modulate but to copy the exact sound and playing feel of valve amplifiers. It received much attention because it presented the prospect of combining the valued sounds of historical valve amplifiers with the benefits of digital technology. Hence, many professional guitar players and music producers have ventured the step towards profiling technology. A recent empirical study (Herbst et al. 2018) confirmed this new technology to be of high quality and unparalleled by any other digital technology. Moreover, ethnological data indicated that music producers see the benefit of profiling not just in the capability of copying sounds. Rather, changing a vintage amplifier into a high-gain device, shaping the signal’s envelope without any natural counterpart, and combining and layering sounds of various preamplifiers, power amplifiers, cabinets and miking allows to create sounds unheard of before. This paper thus examines the creative possibilities of profiling technology from a production perspective by combining interviews with music producers with the researcher’s own experience as a music professional.
Period1 Dec 2017
Event titleThe Future Sound of Pop Music
Event typeConference
LocationBerne, SwitzerlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational