From Inspiration to Realization: How the Line 6 James Tyler Variax Provides the Shortest Route to Realizing Your Musical Ideas



When talking about a particular multi-effects unit he uses live, renowned guitar player and Manchester City Football Club supporter Johnny Marr noted that one of the things he liked about said unit was the availability of so many tones available at the mere tap of his foot.

He likened it to being able to produce with his feet.

Line 6 is, of course, very well known for effects and modeling devices like the M5, M9, M13, and Pod HD series of units that enable guitarists and bassists a like to construct the rigs of their dreams, not to mention the extremely powerful modeling technology that has basically set the standard for modeling amplifiers.  But Line 6 is also doing exceptionally unique and fascinating things with the guitar itself.

JFT-grouchoEnter the Line 6 James Tyler Variax guitar line.  First off, if you don’t know who James Tyler is highly-regarded Los Angeles-based luthier that has been in the guitar business since the 1970s.  Tyler guitars are particularly popular among heavily in-demand session players whose chops, musical vocabularies, and ability to play a multitude of styles need to be on-point at all times.

So it makes a lot of sense that Tyler and Line 6 would put together a guitar line made that, with the spin of a knob (or two, maybe), could go from AC/DC approved riff rock to Americana-styled banjo breakdowns to thick, blues-approved wails dropped a half step.  Think of it as producing with your finger tips.


Line 6’s Variax HD technology impeccably captures not only the sounds, but the individual control responses of a wide range of classic electric guitar types.  Classic Gibson, Fender, Gretsch and Rickenbacker models from ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s are all available here.  Line 6 uses an intuitive bank system that lets you select a model type, say, “Jazzbox”, “T-Style”, “Lester”, or several other model types and then use the 5-way pickup selector to choose either different pickup positions or, on some models, pickup types.  The modeling can also be easily turned off, transitioning the Variax to a standard electric guitar.

The Variax also puts a bevy of acoustic classics from Martin, Guild and Gibson, the brassy, bluesy honk of the 1935 Dobro Resonator and 1928 National Tricone models, the tripped-out psychedelia of a Colar Sitar, the funky, lipstick tube pickup powered vibe of a Jerry Jones Shorthorn, and the rolling, down-home twang of a Gibson banjo all there in your hands, allowing you to experiment with different textures and timbres to give your tunes depth and interest in the studio or keep your live sets streamlined and efficient by removing the need to change to instruments.  The Variax also has two open banks where you can store your own custom creations using the powerful Variax Workbench HD software.


And we haven’t even gotten into the alternate tunings options.  Line 6 puts ten of the most commonly used alternate tunings with easy reach while empowering players to load their own custom tunings as needed.  This is particularly useful for players that frequently use a capo.  With the Variax, now you don’t have to fumble around between tunes or worry about forgetting your capo altogether (a particular shortcoming of this author).

Let’s also include the aesthetics of the Tyler Variax guitars in the list of cool features.  Tyler and Line 6 have done an exemplary job of keeping things visually streamlined.  The guitars themselves are eye-catching and unique, echoing the modern touches Tyler incorporates into his takes on classic designs.

It’s been said time and again that guitar players today have it good.  The Line 6 James Tyler Variax line is further proof of that.  Even with the proven staying power of vintage technology looming over everything, pioneers like Line 6 continue to take the guitar to new levels, which ultimately takes our creativity to new levels.  Not to mention expanding your storage space at home.  Sure, we all dream of having this, but with Line 6, you have a guitar that can help you craft and refine new musical ideas at the flip of a switch.  Think of it as turning your inspiration up to “11.”

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