Pedalboard 101: a question….

So I’ve been writing this blog awhile… and am getting a ton of hits on pedal board setup and questions how to do so. This question I received last was this one. I really liked the way it was asked and thought I would post it and my response.

hey! Great post… very informative, even though sadly, lots of it is over my head. I’m a worship leader at my church and I’m just slightly transitioning to my electric guitar as we’re doing more of the upbeat Lincoln Brewster type songs, and I’m using a Korg multi-effects processor pedal thing… and I just don’t see many people doing that, and am guessing I can tweak the sounds to my liking a little better using a train of pedals? Honestly I’m just trying to find that ‘appropriate’ church distortion/groove sound that is still hard core and sounds good, but isn’t the metal blasting away everyone kind of sound. I guess I’m asking what you think a good set of pedals (from scratch, including tuners/volume, etc.) would be to get crackin’ at finding a good mix of acousticy/strum sounds, with some good distortions and choruses as well?

Also, I know this sounds silly… but I don’t see how people transition so well between one song and the next, say you need to adjust your distortion… if you’re using say, the SD-1, then you’d have to bend down, turn the dial to crank down the distortion, and hope it’s right… that just doesn’t seem to be what people do, what is normal practice for getting different sounds throughout a set w/out literally tweaking the pedals between songs? Or do you just find a distortion that seems to fit them all?? Thanks in advance! —-

On the multiunits: yeah, I don’t like them. Did once, but they just don’t respond/breathe as well as actual analog effects do! The difference is astounding if you were to A/B them. That said, the newer “multi’s” that I would recommend is the Line 6 M13. This little guy can be tweaked quite well, and responds mostly the way an amp/analog effects do. I have been impressed with the tones I’ve heard from this thing. That said, my ear can tell some difference between a stomp box overdrive and the M13 overdrives, but the other effects (delay, modulations) are fantastic. Of course, as soon as I said I could tell the difference, a buddy of mine tweaked his to a point that sounded great and proved me wrong. So if you are on a budget, I would recommend the M13.

The best part of pedals is you have exactly what you want! You can add, remove etc…. and you get what you need! I’m assuming you are doing Lincoln-type music and maybe some Hillsong stuff. It helps to know your guitar, but we’ll just talk about the basics here and follow-up on the others. If I were leading worship with an electric guitar (as now I play lead and sing background) I would reduce my current board and probably use something like: compressor, 2 to 3 overdrives, tremolo, delay. Boom. That is all. Maybe a reverb. But thats pushing it– KISS method: Keep It Simple Sucka.

If I have to sing I don’t want to have to switch out so many effects, and I won’t be performing as much as I would be concentrating on Rhythm and staying on-key vocally! So for me, the actually pedals I would use would be: a smooth compressor (my fav: Barber Tone Press), high gain overdrive (my favs: Barber Small Fry, Fulltone OCD, Visual Sound Hyde, Hermida Audio Mosferatu) followed by 1 or 2 low gain drives (favs: Hermida Audio Zendrive, PaulC Tim, Barber LTD, Analogman Tubescreamer mod) then a tuner of your choice that mutes when you step on it, then a tremolo (preferably with tap-tempo) and a delay(with tap tempo, my favs: Line 6 Echo Park, and Boss DD20).

As for finding your “place” in the distortion/overdrive: Here is how I approach it. 1) I have 3 ODs on my board. Each is a different flavor. Each handles a different amount of gain. Boom, problem solved. I use this way sometimes. I also make sure the pedals (like the Zendrive) have a lot of headroom- where they aren’t too compressed and retain dynamics of playing. As in, hit a string soft, they are soft sounding, low gain. IF you hit the strings HARD, they ring back hard, medium gain. This also makes stacking drives (like my Small Fry INTO the Zen) sound incredibly good, smooth, and natural. 2) Lately I have been using the “classic method”. (which is what I would do if I were leading). The classic method comes from a time where no one used pedals, and only had amps for the drives. What they would do is set up their amp’s distortion with the volume on the guitar turned about halfway. Once they found that spot, their rhythm was set. Less volume would mean less drive, and a more clean sound. If they cranked the guitar’s volume, you had more gain/volume- thus a lead sound. I do this with the pedals with a lot of headroom (Zendrive, Analogman TS9 and SD1 among others…). Set to a nice rhythm with you guitar turned down. Nice light gain sounds. When I go into a heavy chorus/bridge, I only need to turn up to get harder/more gained sounds. If thats still not enough, I punch another “light” gain drive to boost it in volume and gain. Instant lead sound. I do the same thing with the high gain pedal: use it at 1/2 volume for the good crunchy stuff, more guitar volume for even heavier stuff or a lead sound, and if I need more, I boost with another low gain (this time the low gain is in the front, instead of pushing into the pedal).

But eventually you’ll find a pedal that fits almost everything. 80% of what I do (or have done) I used only an Analogman TS9 or the Zendrive (and now the Tim). The other 20% was clean (compressor usually) or heavy gained (which the TS9 and Zen couldn’t really do so well).

Good luck!

This has spurned some other thoughts from me… so look for them real soon!

One Response

  1. Just a couple of thoughts to add to your answer.

    As you mentioned, the value of a mulit effect is proportional to the amount of time one spends tweaking it.

    My solution (when I used a GT-6) was to program patches that covered whatever territory I needed for a given week (clean, crunch, distorted, with or without chorus or other affects) then group them in banks as needed for a particular song or set. This allowed me to switch within songs as well as between songs without a lot of tweaking or scrolling. This worked pretty well for quite some time, and I found that I could pretty much get through any given week with 4-6 patches. The downside for me was the lack of a lead boost that would have made things much more flexible. So, if the Korg is it, then tweak up a few patches and have at it.

    My current solution is to have on my board the Visual Sound double TS pedal (sorry the name escapes me, how embarrassing is that) which I use for my base (cleanish) tone, and the second for more OD or I can combine them. I also have a Vox Satchurator which covers heavier distortion and it has a boost as well. This gives me 4 options on my board with more if I use the floorboard with my Line 6 Flextone.

    While I am using a BBE Boosta Grande in a similar way to the way you are using a compressor, the rest of my board is delays (Echo Park, Mod Tone analog) Tremelo, EVH Phase 90 and Flanger, and a Sonic Stomp. I also can throw a wah in front or tack chorus on the end.

    I also really like your volume knob suggestion, my teacher has me working on that as well. I do think that you hit it in the head with one or 2 distortion/od’s that can handle 95% of the music you see in church.

    Enjoy your blog, thanks.

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