How Amp Sims Are Redefining Songwriting

Songwriting is becoming one of the biggest ways to make money in the music industry today. While it seems like labels are signing fewer and fewer artists, the demand for good songs continues to grow. Songs with good production (which translates to good guitar tone) quickly jump to the top of the label’s list, here’s why...


Chances are you won’t be anywhere near an amp when inspiration strikes. For touring musicians, the amp might be right next to you in the van, or in storage under the bus. Neither of those options do a whole lot of good when you’ve got a new riff you’d like to capture while going 70 mph.

You know what’s not so hard to find? Your laptop: the smallest, most powerful tool at a songwriter’s disposal.

The digital age has been great to all sorts of musicians, but the portability of laptops was a game-changer. As a guitarist/bassist/songwriter (pick your combo), you can almost instantly load an amp simulator and start playing, capturing your idea in the DAW of your choice.

The Toolbox

Once you’re up and running, you might want to mess around with your tone. Once again, the touring songwriters with amp sims come out ahead:

If you try breaking out your pedalboard on tour just to tweak/rewire/search for your sound, your bandmates may try to kill you. After all, the usually cluttered mess of half a dozen guys on a bus is bad enough without throwing gear in the mix.

Instead, your pedalboard, tuner, effects, amp, cabinet, microphone, etc. is all in your computer.

No searching for a pedal that you didn’t bring on tour. No overwhelmingly cable management. It’s just you, your instrument, and your laptop.

Avoid Ruining Your Live Shows

Say you do get some time to mic up your amplifier on tour – should you really risk it?

For most musicians, live sound settings are sacred. Nobody wants to have to tweak his or her pedals and amp throughout a set. Most of us find a happy medium for our effects that translate well for most of our songs. While slight adjustments and switching are performed, the guitarist/guitar tech doesn’t have to turn every knob for every song.

By using your touring gear for recording, you risk upsetting the balance of your rig. We frequently approach recording in a completely different way than live shows. Some of us like to record at a lower level, while others have great digital effects that can be endlessly tweaked to create a new sound.

Imagine accidentally overwriting your presets though? It’s no fun trying to recall a setting you built at the start of your tour 20 minutes before going on. Amp sims give you a chance to mimic those sounds in a quick and convenient manner, capturing your idea and saving it in a way that you can return to tweak later.

Convenience is King

I’m not going to say laziness is a good trait to have, but the availability to be lazy certainly feels comforting. Amp sims have really paved the way to make it possible for songwriters to capture a sound quickly, freeing up time for anything else.

Songwriting is fun. Running cables is not.

Have you ever sat down to write and lost inspiration? Chances are, it wasn’t while you were playing your guitar.

More than likely, you lost interest somewhere between routing the signal, waiting for your tubes to warm up, trying to find patch cables, or even looking for batteries for your tuner.

By keeping all of this in a simple-to-navigate amp sim, you get rid of the hassle that can accompany songwriting. You make yourself and your music more accessible, and in turn, buy yourself time to be a more creative songwriter.

Looking for a Amp Sim? Check out Toneforge Ben Bruce, Toneforge Menace, or Toneforge Guilty Pleasure.