How a revolutionary new amp got me playing guitar every day again
After months of stagnating as real life got in the way, the Positive Grid Spark MINI became a transformational tool in one guitar player’s musical journey.
Images: Adam Gasson
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When I first picked up a guitar as a teenager, it never crossed my mind that there would ever be a moment where I’d put it down. You probably remember that feeling too, and in the ensuing years I did everything that I could to try and ensure that I’d never have to do so. I joined various bands – from broadly unsuccessful to the totally disastrous – and when those didn’t pan out I pursued guitar as an academic vocation, only to find that I was nowhere near good enough to follow that route. Eventually I realised that writing about guitar was my best bet to keep that guitar in my hands all day long, and 14 years later it’s turned out pretty well.
And then the pandemic hit, while everyone else seemed to be falling in love with guitar, I was finding my relationship with the instrument we love curtailed in ways I’d never experienced before. Quite aside from the hugely curtailed opportunities to play out, of course, I found it harder than ever to play at home – you have to have a very tolerant significant other to blast a 70s Marshall in your spare room when there’s a lockdown on and they can’t escape it, and even then you have to be quite the dick to be doing that while they’re trying to work from home downstairs.
When you throw a new baby into the equation, those opportunities become even more curtailed, and before I even realised it, I found myself in the strange position of only really being able to play guitar for work – playing for pleasure was simply off the menu.
One Little Spark
Then, one day a few months ago, a box arrived at my house that would totally transform my playing life – inside was Positive Grid’s new scaled down Spark MINI ‘smart amp’. Like anyone engaged with online guitar culture I’d been aware of the Spark as it had quickly become a phenomenon amongst the guitar influencer community during the pandemic. I’d even been tempted to buy one myself, but talked myself out of it as I’d tried myriad revolutionary practice amps over the years and none had really moved me in the way that a ‘real’ amp moving real air does.
The Spark MINI felt different – smaller, more portable, but with all the features of its big brother, I was intrigued by the rave reviews colleagues in the industry were giving the new Spark, and determined to find out if the hype was real for myself. As my Guitar.com review demonstrates, I came away from my initial test period with the Spark MINI extremely impressed with the whole package, but I didn’t expect what would happen next. In short, the Spark MINI has not just got me playing guitar for fun again – it’s got me playing guitar more than I have since I was the aforementioned teenager.
It’s All Around You
For me, the transformative thing about the Spark MINI is its portability, and especially the impressive life of that built-in rechargeable battery. Instantly this has freed me to go and play guitar where I’m not going to bother a sleeping baby or a working partner – whether that’s in the spare room, downstairs in the living room, or even out in the garage. The fact that I can do it all while sounding genuinely good at a volume that doesn’t disturb anyone, without the compromise of headphones, is just another bonus. It’s quickly become an essential part of my daily guitar playing life.
The other aspect that’s changed my playing life for the better is the free Spark app, and particularly its practice features – whether that’s playing along to songs old and new using the Spark’s built-in tones, or just firing up the Smart Jam or Quick Jam modes, selecting a drummer that suits my mood, or playing a riff for the app to analyse and generate an accompaniment to, and then noodling to my heart’s content.
The Spark MINI has become so essential to my guitar playing life that I even decided to augment my experience with the Spark Control – a wireless, customisable bluetooth footswitch. With the ability to assign various functions to the Control’s four switches, I can cycle through presets and even turn on any of the Spark MINI’s fantastic built-in effects without ever having to put my guitar down.
The older we get, the more full our lives get, and the harder it is to make time for our passions – for me, the way to reconnect with my passion was the Spark MINI, where its brilliantly simple and intuitive interface gets out of the way and allows me to maximise every spare moment.
So if like me, you’re finding it hard to make time in your life for guitar, remember that it doesn’t have to be that way – the tools exist to help you make the most of your free time and help you fall in love with guitar all over again.
To find out more about the Positive Grid Spark MINI, and to save up to $50 this Black Friday, click here.