Heaviest. Stompbox. Ever.

I’ve been breathlessly awaiting one of these since I saw this. It’s Korg’s Miku Stomp, a spinoff from the company’s Vocaloid voice synthesizer. It tracks your pitch as you play and responds with a synthetic voice that forms various syllables and phrases.

There’s some cheating here: The effect’s latency is quite severe, so I had to slide the Miku track back in time while mixing. Its triggering is also inconsistent, so I replaced a few notes. Miku tracks best when playing melodies on a single string, hence my awkward, position-jumping fingering. (Actually, it tracks pretty well when you play slow melodies full of sustained notes. But steady eighth-notes at 155 BPM as heard here is a major challenge.)

One of the pedal’s most interesting aspects is the way it interprets slurs. When there’s no break between notes, Miku sings a sort of pseudo diphthong. Detached notes get a syllable with a clear transient.

IMHO, the inescapable facts that Miku is silly and doesn’t work terribly well doesn’t diminish her total awesomeness. No doubt about it: heaviest stompbox ever.

The tune, of course, is “Georgy Girl,” which I’ve loved since forever. It was a blast recording the backing tracks with classical guitar, ukulele, ukulele bass, 12-string, toy piano, M-Tron Pro, and a mix of live and sampled percussion. And of course, gobs of my favorite reverb effect: Universal Audio’s EMT140 plate simulation. Yum.

64 comments to Heaviest. Stompbox. Ever.

  • Your dance moves were a lot of fun. They really added a lot to the video. That pedal is such a crazy idea, I both really want to own it and also know that I don’t actually NEED it, you know?

    • joe

      No one needs it! But you gotta have it! I got mine via EBay, shipped from Japan. I don’t believe it’s available in the States, though I did see a lot for sale. Two warnings, though: It doesn’t perform as smoothly as it seems to in the video โ€” I fixed timing and replaced bad notes while mixing. Also, it runs on two AA batteriesโ€”4.5 volts! It sucks a lot of juice, and who’s got a 4.5v adapter handy? On the other hand, it is the heaviest pedal ever.

  • Oinkus

    Just such n insane thing , too bad it doesn’t track very well. Nice work on the song such a fun little ditty from long ago.There has been a few posts here and there on various forums about that pedal. Nice touch with the Hello Kitty Strat but it might track better with the midi guitar you built possibly ? WTH is the idea behind 4.5 volts? Too early for rational thought, I need coffee.

    • joe

      Well, its tracks okay on slower rhythms. (I’m thinking something like 120ms latency? I didn’t measure) And it you can edit audio, you can MAKE it work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Magical! It brought a smile to my face and mad the whole weekend a lot more fun.

  • Colm

    Have you tried it with keys/synths or maybe reamping an actual vocal through it? How does it react to a delayed/ reverbed signal? A lot of fun by the looks of it but the latency sounds like a deal breaker.

  • Ha! So awesome! Great backing track, BTW.

  • NotSoFast

    The VG 99 has a vowel effect: i e o u a (but never y I think – red states want y to choose). It isn’t nearly as heavy but its still fun and tracks great. I suppose its a model of a some BOSS stomp that I never had.

  • NotSoFast

    Oh, love the backing track you put together. I’d enjoy seeing that sort of thing, too, if it isn’t too much of a pain to put together.

  • NotSoFast

    … or you could make the Logic tracks available for study which sounds easier. More bandwidth though.

  • Peter

    Excuse my ignorance of the Japanese language, but is the Miku spitting out words or syllables without explicit meaning?

    hmmm… Miku out to vocoder carrier wave in. Real lead singer now gets guitarist-controlled japanese translation

    • joe

      There a three setting called “phrase,” which presumably cycle around a set sequence of simulated syllables, and other setting, random, which hurls them out in unpredictable order. My Japanese is a little sketchy, but it sounds like she’s saying, “Watch the gaijin dance like an elephant. Hee hee hee.”

  • Joe, this is awesome on so many levels. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love your cheeky sense of humor! The backing track is fantastic, too.

    Did you see this demo by Rob Chapman? I defy you to watch it without laughing! "Every Breath You Take" will never be the same. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Fred Chapman

    Joe, this is awesome on so many levels. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love your cheeky sense of humor! The backing track is fantastic, too.

    Did you see this demo by Rob Chapman? I defy you to watch it without laughing! “Every Breath You Take” will never be the same. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • ed

    I’ve seen this one on Amazon and will be picking it up soon and am super excited.

    Being a noobish player I’ll probably have better results with tracking! I’m hoping to use it as a “musical accent” for heavier guitars, and hopefully it will work well that way…

    …otherwise that’ll be $130 that I could spend better.

  • The fine line between brilliance and insanity has finally been decimatedโ€ฆFOREVER.
    There is no going back.
    I am working to pass legislation to make it illegal (punishable by beheading) to use a Miku Stomp with anything BUT a Hello Kitty guitar.

  • smgear

    haha! I wanna mod it!!!

  • Thanks for making my morning, though I was hoping you'd bust this out against a Black Sabbath or Helmet style track.

  • this is hilarious! busting some sweet moves there Joe Gore! next cover idea,
    "In the Ghetto" would sound sweet with this box!

  • My almost 4 years old daughter laughed a lot with your video, maybe because she’s half Japanese, or the dancing, or the hello kitty guitar, or all together. The music is great, and the backing awesome. Thanks.

    • joe

      That story makes me very happy, Roberto. Thanks for sharing it. Please tell you daughter that the funny old man in the video is glad he made her laugh. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This video is SO good that it's clear to me that no other song can EVER be played on this stomp box!

  • Spectacular! Love the effect and the song. Can we add this song to the Mental 99 repertoire?

  • Joel

    I had an image of you playing the hello kitty strat through this when I first saw a demo!

  • mwseniff

    Great little video hope they don’t find it if they ever have a sanity hearing on you. Is the tracking delay constant? If so I can probably adjust to it like on a guitar synth, I just play ahead of the song to adjust which becomes second nature with practice. This pedal is at least as sick as my EH Vowel pedals, so $132.99 seems not overly unreasonable. I wonder how it would trigger on a simple sine wave synth note, it might trigger more reliably on a simpler wave form than a guitar. I have an electric kazoo which I plug into the mono input of a Roland GI-10 guitar to midi converter. The electric kazoo triggered well even better with a touch of compression and eq. I used to use it live for midi drum patches and played the “who’s playing what instrument game” with the audience. Thanx for helping me empty my wallet again!! Just promise me I won’t actually post a video like that on the web, even tho’ I prolly make one. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • joe

      Thanks! Well, it tracks a lot more slowly than, say, a Fishman TriplePlay, though it might be comparable to some old-school guitar synths. I just wanted to be candid about the fact that I fixed it in the video. My hand reflect what I played, of course, but I had to move the track to get the sound to align.

      Another thing I noticed watching it again: See how I’m plucking long strings of notes using only my index finger only, something I rarely do? If you look closely, you can see I keep my thumb and middle finger planted, damping the adjacent strings. I didn’t even really I was doing it at the timeโ€”but it helps.

      Michael Ross and I were talking about this on the Facebook thread. What pitch-tracking devices listen for isn’t a strong attack โ€” just a stable pitch they can latch onto. A kazoo would work fineโ€”if you play it in tune and instantly nail the target pitch.

      • mwseniff

        I got mine the other day. It actually tracks very nicely, I had no problem adjusting to the triggering delay. I agree that a strong guitar pitch is what it judges the pitch on it does seem to be looking for an initial attack to start things going. However I found that it tracked the pitch of a slide very well on single notes, it basically follows the pitch. It takes a new pluck to get Miku to sing a new “word”. It likes to be at the front of the chain but it seems to like a bit of compression before it my Pigtronix Philospher Rock is OK but I have a Francesco Pena (abovegroundfx) compressor that is very clean and transparent that I am going to try. I particularly like the fact that this pedal can be made to do some outside things like Ebow strumming, rhythmical hammer-ons with a slide. I was even able to triggering on “two note chords” (if you pluck 2 strings perfectly together it makes a different thicker note I am not totally sure what it is doing but it sounds cool). I think that synths should trigger it well but I think you need some attack in the patch to make Miku start singing a new word. I feel like it’s worth the money if you are a guitar weirdo like myself, it is relatively easy to get it to do it’s thing and I guarantee when I turn that pedal on at the next The Dits session it may make my band mates fall on the floor in hysterical laughter, which means I could play a Miku solo while triggering found audio bits it’s not often one gets to solo in The Dits. Thanks for turning me on to this pedal it is such a nice new toy.

        • joe

          Cool! Where did you find one?

          • mwseniff

            Amazon.com $132.99 shipped from US warehouse, I’m a amazon prime member so 2 day s/h is free. Be careful there are also retailers from Japan that ship from Japan but I was a little worried it could be a hassle. Got here quick. It’s gone up to $134.99 since I got mine.

      • mwseniff

        “Another thing I noticed watching it again: See how Iโ€™m plucking long strings of notes using only my index finger only, something I rarely do? If you look closely, you can see I keep my thumb and middle finger planted, damping the adjacent strings. I didnโ€™t even really I was doing it at the timeโ€”but it helps.”

        I noticed that over the last few years seeing your videos that your finger picking has evolved and that may be due to the synth guitar that makes one clean up ones style and touch because it can sound so awful. I have played slide, Duane Allman style, for nearly 40 years so I don’t even have to think about muting the strings with my fingers. I think left hand string muting gives me the best control over starting and stopping notes. When you get nice clean crisp starts and stops then when you let a note ring out it really jumps at you. It still amazes me that I can still learn and improve my playing after nearly 40 years of daily guitar playing and it looks like there will always be something I can learn to do a bit better or smoother.

        • joe

          Yeah, I think you’re right. Selective damping is one of the main reasons I chose the fingerstyle route many years ago. (I was probably inspired in part by an interview/lesson I did with the late Michael Hedges, where he emphasized the importance of damping.) But I know I became a lot more fastidious with the technique when I got into MIDI guitar for the first time a few years ago. And it totally makes sense that damping would be second nature for a good slide player.

          • mwseniff

            I never said I was a good slide player but your correct slide makes you really concious of muting strings because it sounds so bad except when you mean to do it. I luckily saw Michael Hedges at Wolftrap Farm in the 1986 and he blew my mind. It made me take a whole new look at guitar, he could really make a racket solo, he influenced a lot of people.

          • mwseniff

            I’m no rightist I guess I’m just not selfish or mean enough for that end of things politically. However I will say that playing guitar and my work repairing electronics, I am almost ambidextrous these days it freaks people out watching me repair stuff while holding tools in both hands. I don’t automatically think picking hand since it could apply equally to guitar or nose. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          • joe

            Funny โ€” we share that tendency. I’m a bit right-dominant, but I’ve always had a lot of left/right confusion. You don’t want to go driving with me in the passenger seat: “Turn left up her. No, I meant right! No, LEFT!”

        • mwseniff

          “I think left hand string muting gives me the best control over starting and stopping notes.”
          I meant right hand muting (picking hand). Sorry just a mental hiccup on my part.

          • joe

            Hehe โ€” after writing for guitar mags since forever, at some point it became second nature to say “fretting hand” and “picking hand” rather than “left hand” and “right hand.” I wouldn’t want to be “rightist” in any sense of the word. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I…..I……well, do they make one specifically for the Eastern European market? All those clotted consonants'd be SWELL!

  • Shizmab Abaye

    That song sure takes me back to walking through the grocery store with my mom when I was 5 years old. I thought “why is her name Georgy”? but of course I didn’t tell anyone about my confusion.

    Thanks, I’ve been humming it for the last week, almost belting out the chorus in Starbuck’s!

    I know now there is a movie that goes with this song. I looked up the plotline on Wikipedia, and given that it has James Mason in it, no wonder it’s not suitable for 5 year olds.

  • mwseniff

    OK I Love this pedal! I’ve played it for nearly a week and have hardly turned it off. Not only are there the girly voices like in Joe’s fabulous rendition of “Georgy Girl” this pedal also works on the low notes producing some interesting tones. More over it works well with a vibe pedal as well as phaser but echo is where the fun really starts. With some nice high notes and echo you can sound like the tiny girls that sing in the Mothra movies (I love old sci- fi and monster movies the cheaper the better). It can also produce some nice tones that don’t sound like voices. I am particularly impressed that you only have a mode selector switch and nothing else ( so simple even a guitarist can use it). More fun than a barrel of monkeys (and I mean real monkeys in real barrels not those little plastic monkey and barrel games). Thanks to Joe for helping me keep my wallet slimmed down.:-)

  • Peter

    You may have a lot to answer for if this thing gains traction.

    • joe

      Hee hee. You know, for years I’ve half-entertained the crazy idea that artists, no matter how gifted, are responsible for all the bad art they “inspire.”

      Funny thing is, this video seems to more popular than almost everything I’ve posted. Scary thought indeed.

  • pud

    Haha funny stuff, my friend will love this

  • Ron C.

    Have you tried using the Miku with an eBow yet?

  • I wonder if playing with a pick would have helped clean up the tracking… I know you're usually a finger-picker but I wonder if a pick would give a better definition (and better tracking)

    • mwseniff

      I haven’t noticed a big difference between fingers and picks they both trigger the FX about equally. They apparently have areal kickass converter that really I have in the past found that with my old Roland GR-30 guitarsynth that fingers seemed to do better triggering than a standard plastic pick. In that vein I find that the Dunlop soft rubber picks and the felt picks trigger the olg GR-30 better than standard picks. My newer Roland GR55 triggers very easily they really did a lot of work on the electronics like adding way faster processors and better code. IMHO Latency is rapidly becoming less and less of an issue on guitar playing. Besides if you play on a large stage you could easily run for into lag time if you have a backline too far back. If you just relax, listen and feel the beat your brain can adjust to the latency.

  • mwseniff

    I’ve playing around with a version of the Hallelujah Chorus using my Miku FX to build up a guitar choir with sopranos,altos,tenor,etc. I’ve always wanted to have a children’s chorus in some songs and I think Miku can give me what I want.
    I am not sure how it will turn out but even a few layers of recording tracks put together sound kind of cool. It looks like my next release will be a real lulu if this is the direction I go.

  • Drybones

    Joe, you did that entire video with a straight face. I am SERIOUSLY impressed.

    • joe

      Oh, that was easy. I have a way harder time keeping a straight face when playing faux-blues or dick-waving rock. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • mwseniff

        I hear you on that! When the faux blues comes out I usually resort to playing ala Sonny Sharock if even that coherent. Nothing worse than white guys playing crappy blues on $5000 guitars and $4000 amps .I guess I am just a bad sport.

        • joe

          I’ve been disciplined by my musician wife: “No blues licks!” she bellows whenever I succumb. Once when we were recording, she said, “Hey, don’t get blues drool all over my song!”

          Nothing against authentic blues, which I love. I just loathe when players noodle around blues box patterns on muscle-memory autopilot, making scrunched up “I’m feelin’ it” faces.

          • mwseniff

            Damn you have a cool wife! I only ever managed too get a crazy wife (but she gave me a very cool daughter that I raised by myself, best time of my life). Too bad all the great blues players are dead or getting close, I was lucky to see many of them over the last 40+ years and it left me with a real appreciation for the real thing.

  • mwseniff

    I have been racking my brain trying to remember a really cracked version of Georgy Girl. It was the Rudy Schwartz Project an old home taper Joe Newman. He’s definitely a weirdo with diverse musical output but all definitely more than a little strange and funny. I have yet to find it playable on the web but it appeared on the Salmon Dave Cassette/CD (originally a home made tape). It is really cracked sort of a cross between Zappa and Negativeland. He is definitely not a rightist or maybe even leftist sort of an anarchist. I pulled out my CD (my cassette died almost 20 years ago) and listened to it today so weird and cool. It is definitely at least R rated stuff like Zappa etc. It is available on iTunes and Amazon.


    The thing is if you want to be musically weird you’ve got to stand in line because the competion is fierce. I recommend any Rudy Schwartz Project it is very instructive as he had fairly modest recording equipment.

    Here is an interview with him

  • Peter

    A heads up for those still on the fence… and for the deaf, gullible, or indifferent to good taste;
    the street price for the heaviest stompbox ever has dropped dramatically (currently $119 on amazon) and now there’s no reason for this to not go mega ubiquitous and save the world

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