My JTV-59 Variax

My JTV-59 Variax

The Variax is the ultimate rhythm guitar!

In my band I mainly play bass, but there are a handful of songs I sing lead vocals on and our lead vocalist takes over bass playing while I sing. On some of those, I play rhythm guitar. It’s been tough to decide which tuning to keep my guitar in because I’m only going to bring one guitar (I already bring two basses, one standard tuning, one tuned down a 1/2 step) and about 1/2 of the songs I sing are in standard and the other half a half step down. If we decide to throw in a song at the last minute when someone requests it, it’s not convenient to retune my guitar; we like to play without too much interruption to the flow. It would be nice to have an acoustic too, but bringing 3 guitars is enough for me.

Enter the Variax. I’ll admit I’m a bit late to the Variax game, but it’s a great technology. My first introduction was seeing Steve Howe from Yes use one on stage, on a stand just for a couple parts during Yes’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performance featuring Geddy Lee on bass for their classic “Roundabout.” He stepped up to a Variax 700 on a guitar stand in front of him to play the acoustic intro and outro to the song. Sounded great!

Line6 introduced the Variax in the early 2000’s, so the technology has been around just about 20 years now. The latest guitars use the Variax HD technology and newer guitars feature magnetic pickups, where the original line of guitars and basses only had the peizo bridges which are 1/2 the secret to Line6’s magic. Mine is a JTV-59, with the guitar’s designer James Tyler’s initials in the model name. 59, I’m assuming from the much sought after 1959 Les Paul of which the shape is inspired.

Tuning knob (right) and Model knob (left)

In our set, we usually play a Foo Fighter’s song, which I play rhythm guitar on and our singer plays bass on those and sometimes that Foo Fighter’s song is “Everlong” which is in Drop D. Tuning to Drop D isn’t a huge deal but when when I can turn the tuning dial