Creating a custom Nashville-tuned guitar with the James Tyler Variax and Workbench software

Variax Workbench software – the ultimate tool for creating custom instruments.

Variax Workbench is the librarian software that now comes free with the James Tyler Variax. Since the manual for it is imbedded into the software itself, and the software doesn’t have an offline mode (meaning that you can’t run it without a Variax connected to your computer), most people have no idea what it looks like or what it does.

With the inclusion of Virtual Capo into the new JTV guitars, some folks have even asked why you might ever want or need to use it.

The fact is that Workbench allows you to customize nearly everything about the Variax guitar model – mixing and matching bodies, pickups, pickup orientation/location, pot values, and more. Not only that, it also allows you to graphically enter custom tunings right onscreen. Once you’ve gotten everything just the way you like it, you can save it right to the guitar (and to your hard drive as a backup).

As an example of something that is far easier to accomplish using Workbench, I needed a couple of Nashville-tuned guitar parts the other day. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the practice, Nashville tuning uses only the high strings from a 12-string set. So, the bottom four strings would be an octave higher than usual, and the top two stay the same. The resulting shimmery effect is something you’ve probably heard on countless records and never noticed – it’s normally used to double existing guitar parts, and the Nash guitar is often panned away from the part that it’s doubling. It’s a fantastic sound, and you  owe it to yourself to try it once if you get the chance.

To create the guitar, I simply connected my JTV to the small USB interface that it comes with and connected the interface to my laptop. Once the software boots and you launch the editor, it looks like this:

You can see that this is a Dano-style body, which is what I wanted. All I had to do to create my Nashville-tuned guitar was to Enable alternate tuning, and click on the 24th fret for the bottom four strings (look for the red dots), tuning them up an octave:

I had the amp a bit bright at the time, and the resulting sound (while tuned correctly) was a tad abrasive for my taste. No problem! In three mouse clicks, I tilted the lipstick pickups counter-clockwise to mellow them out a little, and moved the bridge pickup a little closer to the neck for the same reason:

Voila! A sweet-sounding Nash-tuned Dano guitar in two minutes, that actually intonates correctly. Imagine what could happen if you started putting Tele pickups on a Les Paul body, or Filtertrons on a 335. There are few limits to what you can do, and it’s immensely entertaining to play with – don’t get me started on sitar mods!