Before and ... After

I know I said I wasn't going to do it, but, having taken a day off work to make up for an extremely long day yesterday, I decided that I'd go ahead and rebuild my pedal board. So, here's the "before" setup:


The effects order was modulators (Rubber Chicken, tremolo), overdrive/amp/cabinet simulators (Blonde, Roto-Machine), delay, and then master volume.

The two keyboard volumes are set up to control "expression", and the DSSP dual sustain pedal is set up as "damper" on both the X50 and the PS60. The Mic Mechanic is, of course, not in the keyboard loop -- it's just for my vocals.

You'll notice in this shot, the Ernie Ball VP Jr. is hanging off the bottom of the board. Another problem with the old setup is that the power connections were pure afterthought, and just kind of piled up at the back of the board. That looked really sloppy.

The new configuration is much neater:

... and after

Obviously, with the Zoom G3 taking over all of the other effects, there's much less going on. The keyboard volume and sustain pedals are pretty much the same. There's now an expression pedal for the G3, which in my basic setup controls vibrato rate (there's no rotary simulator in the G3, so I had to make one out of a phaser and a vibrato -- it sounds great, by the way).

I cut out the upper shelf on the board to accommodate the Ernie Ball pedal, and made space for a second one. It can be wired to work as an expression pedal, and the action is great for controlling the vibrato on the G3, so I'm going to order a second one.

There's now some open space I intend to use for a button mod for the G3 that eliminates the need to press two switches at once for the scroll and bank select functions.


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I Said I Needed a Pedal Board...

Three weeks ago, I mentioned that I needed a pedal board to keep the area beneath my keyboards under control. Well, three weeks later ...

And here it is. There are still a couple of details to fill in. I'm short one jumper cable, and a couple of the pedals are inexpensive "place holders" until I can find/acquire better ones.

In the top row, right to left, we have the Lovepedal Rubber Chicken (a dynamic filter/auto wah); a Behringer tremolo and analog delay (these are the cheap-o place holders); the Tech 21 NYC Blonde amp simulator/overdrive; and the Line 6 Roto Machine rotary speaker emulator/over drive).

On the bottom, from right to left, is the volume/expression pedal for the PS-60; the DSSP dual sustain pedal; volume/expression pedal for the X-50; and a master volume pedal for the effects loop. The open space on the lower left is reserved for a TC Helicon Mic Mechanic vocal effects pedal. A Gator soft case is on order, and should arrive on Tuesday (it was supposed to arrive Friday, but FedEx totally blew it).

The big, fat "cable" coming off the top-center is the umbilical to the keyboards, bundle up in a wire loom to keep things looking neat. The big bundle off the top right are the cables to the amp.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the result from this project. Long term, I will probably replace the amp simulator/overdrive with a more straight-forward overdrive pedal. While I've got it dialed in a little better, the Blonde is still really, really sensitive, and goes from clean through overdrive and into hard distortion way too easily.

Some thoughts on el-cheapo effects...

When I ordered the two Behringer pedals, I knew that for $25 a piece, they'd only be but so good, and I was right. It's not the design and sound that's disappointing -- they're nice copies of some vintage pedals -- but the build quality is pretty cheesy. On the outside, almost all of the construction is a high-impact plastic. Inside, low-cost made-in-China circuit boards and components are the rule.

Mounting the Behringer pedals was somewhat humorous. The bottom of the pedals have thick rubber cephalopod-like feet. I stuck a big hunk of Velcro to the underside, plopped the pedal on the board, and then went to position it. The rubber pad came right off the bottom. Fortunately, the stickum on the Velcro is really good, and I didn't waste a 2"x4" hunk of that! After discarding the rubber piece, the Velcro grabbed to the stamped metal plate on the bottom of the pedal (I think it's the only metal part in the entire thing) and is holding the pedal fast.

I knew going in that these were intended to get me an effect I need quickly while I search for the "holy grail" pedals. For instance, Lovepedal is working on an upgrade to the Gen5 Echo, and I can't imagine it being anything but stellar. I love the sound of the Gen5, but I want to hear the new one before I buy. And, Earthquaker Devices have the incredible Dispatch Master. I know, the Dispatch Master has a digital delay, but it sounds really, really nice, and the price is quite tempting. What's more, Earthquaker Devices are made in Akron, OH. That's where I was made!

For the trem, I'll be looking for something along the lines of the Suhr Guitars Jack Rabbit. The features that make it the top of the heap, in addition to great sound, are the array of modulation controls -- variable wave shape is a big deal that will allow going from subtle pulsing to radical chop sounds like those heard on The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again.

Finally, the replacement for the Blonde will probably be something along the lines of the J. Rockett Audio Designs Blue Note OD. It sounds super-smooth and subtle.

The project to build the pedal board ended up costing more than I had hoped, and took longer than I wanted it to. But, in the end, I'm getting exactly the pedal board I need -- there simply isn't a commercial pedal board that's made that's "right" for a keyboardist. I did play with it in an incomplete state at our last practice, and everything fell into perfect place.

Now to learn four new tunes by Thursday...

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I Need a Pedal Board!

It's pretty normal for guitarists to have pedal boards. They usually have an array of effects to modify the sounds of their guitars -- overdrive, fuzz, reverb, echo, modulators, and more. Keyboardists, on the other hand, generally rely on effects built into their instruments. That's all well and good, in a studio. Most modern keyboards have all kinds of incredible effects that sound really great. But, they're a pain in the backside to control quickly and easily on stage. Guitarists have really got it made when it comes to effects that are portable and easy to use live.

Before the days of digital keyboards, when rock keyboard players had things like Hammond B3 or Farfisa organs, Rhodes or Wurlitzer electric pianos and Hohner Clavinets, they used guitar "stomp boxes" for their effects, too. I've decided that, for my "rig", I'm going to go old-school and build a pedal board. I'm getting tired of chasing three volume pedals, sustain pedals, and effects around under my keyboard stand.

The picture shows my planned pedal board layout. Along the bottom, from left to right, are a master volume, dual sustain pedal, and separate volume pedals for the Korg PS-60 and X-50 keyboards. Picking up on the top row, moving from right to left, will be a Rubber Chicken, Pickel Vibe and Gen5 Echo from LovePedal, a Line Six Roto-Machine Leslie simulator and a Tech 21 "Blonde" amp simulator.

Of course, I don't own all the effects yet, but I'll start building the pedal board and add the "missing" pedals over the next few weeks or months. And, based on sound, cost, and availability, the actual pedals used may change (or I may put cheaper pedals in temporarily).

Not shown on the board will also be a couple of vocal effects units. I've already got the TC-Helicon H1 harmonizer, and I'll be adding their new Mic Mechanic pedal when it becomes available. They will not reside on this pedal board, as I will operate them with my hand instead of my foot.

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