What is your role at Sonoma Wire Works?
I am a Software Developer here at Sonoma Wire Works. That means I help design, implement, and test the software we create. My first day I was testing Riffworks and writing code for GuitarTone. I'm also the resident guitar nerd (well, one of them), so I'll do setups on the guitars we have at the office, and occasional electrical projects like wiring specialty cables or pedal repairs.
What was development like on GuitarTone 2? Anything you are particularly proud of?
GuitarTone 2 was the first full project I worked on from start to finish. By the time the original GuitarTone was released, I had written a 20 page history of guitar amplification, built my own tube amp, and learned a lot doing both. While the first version was fun, I knew that there was a better way to model the amplifiers, and GuitarTone 2 was my chance to prove it. I'm incredibly proud of the new amp models. It's only one line in the update description, but the new improved sounds are the heart of the update. Going to trade shows and events, I love seeing people play GuitarTone 2 for the first time and hearing their feedback. A lot of what I heard at events in the last year went into this update! Any time I see someone get into the zone of playing the guitar using GuitarTone, I feel good about what I do.
How did you get involved with Sonoma Wire Works?
I have been a guitarist for many years, and a recording engineer for a while. I lived in a studio with my buddies from Psychothermia for a year, and lived rock and roll 24 hours a day. But when I wanted to learn about all the tools I was using, I went back to school and studied Audio Engineering at Cogswell College in Sunnyvale. Eventually I took an upper division Audio Programming class taught by Doug Wright, Sonoma's CEO. One day at class I was the only student who showed up, and as we waited around a gas leak occurred in the building. Not wanting to skip a lesson, I went to the old Sonoma office for the class. As soon as I got inside I knew I wanted to work here. Guitars were everywhere! I am a guitarist first and a programmer second, so I couldn't help nerding out over all of the gear. We stayed up past 3AM playing guitars through every vintage effect pedal in the office, listening for the magic in each effect so Doug could put it in the amp modeling project he was working on (which turned into my project as well)! I began as a Sonoma intern that fall, and started working full time May of 2012. I still have to pinch myself that I get to work on such cool projects with these amazing people!
Where would you like to see Sonoma headed in the future?
I love when we make products that make writing music easier. I love my Protools rig for recording, but I'm more creative when I use RiffWorks or even my old 8 track recorder to come up with ideas and work out song structures. I want to make more tools for that creative process. My test is, if I plug in a guitar and forget to stop and do my work, then the software is working and we've done our job. I want to make these tools for as many platforms as possible, so the experience of playing at home, on the go, onstage and in the studio is as seamless as can be. I'm not giving up my computer or my amps any time soon, and working with mobile devices should be integrated into the same experience. I want to work on the same projects on all platforms without breaking my stride.
What do you do in your spare time?
I do a lot of research on guitars and amplifiers, even in my spare time. I am currently on a quest for my dream guitar, which is an extremely entertaining challenge. I am also building a guitar and have previously built effects pedals and a tube amp, a wonderful 18 watt kit from Trinity Amplifiers. I also do some audio mastering work on the side. I write and record music as a guitarist and singer, and do a lot of improvisational work. Besides music and programming, I play video games, go on hikes around the bay, read lots of books and, in a more perfect world, would follow ice hockey as my San Jose Sharks try to win it all.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the music software industry?
It takes real passion for these products to work on them full time. The amount of knowledge needed in math, programming, music, and recording just to get started is pretty staggering. But for those of you who still think it sounds great, then here is what you need to know. First and foremost, be a music fan and, even better, a musician. We've all suffered using gear that obviously wasn't designed by musicians, so having musical experience is a definite advantage. Being a gear nerd is a big help. You have to want to make better gear, and be willing not to be playing while you are making the software (that could be the hardest part)! Next, learn as much math as you can. Math is much easier to learn when you have a goal while you are learning it, so think of sine and cosine as sound waves and get the basics of algebra solid first as everything builds on that foundation. Signal processing builds on the math you learn, so get the concepts behind filter design, fast Fourier transforms, and digital audio. For audio effects, learn to use pureData, and experiment with your own effects designs. And finally, build up your programming skills. C++ is the most useful language to learn at the moment as so many languages are built off of it. Objective C and Java are both fairly common these days and both are much easier once you know C++. When you have all of these pieces, try making a VST and see how it feels to work with these tools. While you are learning all of this, go to trade shows and talk to the people you admire in the field. This is a small industry, and people are often friendly. I got much of this same advice years ago at an Audio Engineering Society convention in San Francisco, just by asking questions at the booths of the companies I liked!