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Thread: Pedalboard Reflections

  1. #11
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    Part I is finished.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hanks View Post
    Watching the thread with interest. I don’t use a pedalboard but the principles and techniques should apply to virtual signal chains as well which is what I use on iOS and Windows. Have a rough idea of what I’m doing but mostly I throw boxes in the chain and twist knobs until I’m reasonably happy.
    Jim, I hope this thread will elucidate some of the finer points of effects and the 'ukulele. Your own posts featuring you on the konablaster are part of what spurred me into affected 'ukulele in the first place place (although I went the more "traditional" route).

    Quote Originally Posted by Rllink View Post
    I have a few pedals that I use, but I've not made a board for them. . . I just use one or two at any given time, depending on the situation . . . Will you be doing anything later on about how you are using them in different venues? . . . Do you take the whole board with you and then just use what you need? That is why I have yet to expand and put them on a board, because I sometimes use different setup depending on the venue.
    Rllink, yes, I take the whole board with me. I actually switch between a few different pedal configurations (I'll elaborate on that in Parts III and V) depending on venue and musical genre, but most of the time, the pedalboard is in a similar configuration to what I posted in Part I. Like you, I generally use a few pedals at a time, but I certainly go through more than just one or two combinations during a given show.

    Also like you, I started out with just a couple of effects pedals: preamp, tuner, and looper and footswitch controller. At first, I placed them on a piece of upholstered plywood for easy transport and didn't bother with a full-blown pedalboard until I added reverb and delay pedals. For what you're doing now, it's hard to say if a pedalboard is necessary. I will say that my life became much easier once I quit juggling 4 pedals, 3 additional power supplies, and 3 loose patch cables during every setup and takedown.

    Quote Originally Posted by hollisdwyer View Post
    David, bravo for taking on this exercise. I believe that it will be immensely valuable to all those afflicted with PAS or have plans to soon be afflicted by PAS. To have the benefit of your experience in one place will be great.
    Hollis, THANK YOU for everything you've shared as well although I'm not sure anyone PLANS to be afflicted with PAS (least of all me). I maintain that my pedals reproduce whenever I'm not looking.

    Well, that's it for now. I'll post the rough draft of "Part II - Core effects for amplified acoustic performance" in the next 2 or 3 days.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 10-10-2018 at 03:32 AM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  2. #12
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    Looking forward to more posts about this kind of stuff! I use pedals when I plug in and my biggest issue is noise. A lot of cheap power supplies like daisy chains are supposed to accommodate up to 5 pedals but the manufacturer doesn’t usuallly tell you that it’ll sound like hornets. Let us know (when you get there!) what kind of power supply you use!

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by haole View Post
    Looking forward to more posts about this kind of stuff! I use pedals when I plug in and my biggest issue is noise. A lot of cheap power supplies like daisy chains are supposed to accommodate up to 5 pedals but the manufacturer doesn’t usuallly tell you that it’ll sound like hornets. Let us know (when you get there!) what kind of power supply you use!
    Best and most boring money you'll spend is on a "real" power supply. I forked out for a Strymon a while back and it's shocking how much quieter everything is.
    Brad Bordessa
    Webmaster of Live 'Ukulele.com
    Admin for The Ukulele Way

  4. #14
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    I have a Pedaltrain-mini pedalboard. It's a start but I could certainly use some fresh ideas. What a great topic! Thanks for taking it on.
    "Everyone I know who is into the Ukulele is 'crackers' so get yourself a few and enjoy yourselves" - George Harrison


    the ukes and year of acquisition:
    Pono RTSH-C-PC Cedar/Rosewood tenor 2016
    Koaloha KSM-02 Koa longneck soprano 2016
    Blackbird Farallon with sound port 2017
    2008 Kiwaya KTC-02 Mahogany concert 2018
    aNueNue Moonbird Spuce/redwood concert 2018

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by etudes View Post
    I have a Pedaltrain-mini pedalboard. It's a start but I could certainly use some fresh ideas. What a great topic! Thanks for taking it on.
    My small board is the pedaltrain nova+, one size down from yours (18”X5”). It is battery powered. It’s in its fourth iteration. Here’s a quick snapshot.

    IMG_1765.jpg

    These are the pedals that are on the board pictured above:
    TC Electronic Polytune2 Noir
    LR Baggs Session pre-amp & DI
    Electro-harmonix Nano POG Octaver
    Keeley Caverns Reverb & Delay
    Keeley Super Phat Mod Overdrive
    Keeley Red Dirt Mini Overdrive (soon to disappear and be replaced by my TC Electronic Ditti looper)
    All of the above are powered by a Rockboard Power LT XL rechargeable battery pack which is mounted under the board (Note to allow this to fit I had to glue on taller rubber feet that I got from a hardware store. I can get at least 6-8 hours out of this before having to recharge).
    Last edited by hollisdwyer; 10-11-2018 at 01:25 AM.
    "All worthwhile things in life should be easy to learn but hard to master"

    Boat Paddle ML tenor - Red Spruce over Cocobolo
    Barron River 8 string tenor - All Honduran Quilted Mahogany
    Collings UC2 Concert - All Mahogany
    Hoffmann Lutherie - Baritone - Master Grade Ebony and AAA Red Spruce
    Beau Hannam Custom Tenor - Vintage Hand Rubbed Sun Burst all Tassie Blackwood
    Barron River Tenor - Sugar Box Maple and Alaskan Cedar
    Hoffmann Lutherie - Concert - Angry Owl Ebony and Cedar

  6. #16
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    PART II - Core effects for amplified acoustic performance

    INTRODUCTION

    When applied sparingly, effects in acoustic-electric performances can be used to subtly reshape the sound of an instrument or to thicken the tone of the pickups.

    Part II of this series focuses on the effects most frequently found in an electroacoustic setting. These effects collectively serve as the backbone of an amplified acoustic tonal palette, with many becoming increasingly useful as a signal chain expands to include more intrusive effects. If you use an acoustic multi-effects pedal, every effect it provides is most likely covered here.

    Part II is long, but bear with me; I promise not to waste your time. Part II is broken up into two sections: essential core effects and non-essential core effects.

    SECTION A: ESSENTIALS - PREAMPS, EQUALIZATION, TUNERS, MUTE & BOOST SWITCHES, AND REVERB

    Special note: Although I am considering each effect separately in this post, many items in the section are often combined into a single unit (preamp/DI box, acoustic amplifer, or PA system mixer).

    A.1: Preamps

    I'll begin by addressing the elephant in the room: preamps. In short, just get it over with and buy a decent preamp. You'll thank me later when you start dabbling in other effects; even active ukulele pickups often don't generate enough signal for many effects pedals to work correctly, but the outputs and effects loop sends on preamps do. If your instrument is equipped with a passive pickup and you intend to use effects, you need a preamp/DI box. For a thorough explanation of why you should invest in a preamp for your passive pickups and how to choose the right preamp for your needs, see UUer Booli's website: http://bd.entropyadept.com/faq.html.

    Even if you use an active pickup, a preamp/DI box might be a wise investment. Many preamps and DI boxes provide myriad benefits to the effects-savvy 'ukulelist, including but not limited to:
    • EQ controls for tone shaping
    • Anti-feedback features like high-pass filters. notch filters (high-Q, narrow-band EQ cuts; see A.2: Equalizers) and phase reversal switches
    • Noise control features like a mute. boost. and ground lift switches
    • Effects loop for keeping your other pedals out of your signal chain when not in use
    • Balanced XLR outputs for longer cable runs to a mixer or PA system

    And that summarizes preamps: not exciting or glamorous, but imminently practical. That brings us to our next boring-but-oh-so-useful "effect"....

    A.2: Equalization (EQ)

    A feature common to many acoustic amplifiers and PA systems, EQ is not always located on the pedalboard itself. EQ allows the player to boost or cut different bandwidths (called bands) of the frequency spectrum to modify the timbre of the output signal. A dedicated equalizer is generally broken up into several roughly discrete bands, each with the following properties:
    • Gain - the degree of cut or boost applied
    • Center - the median frequency value in the band
    • Quality factor (Q) - a ratio of the frequency to the bandwidth. A high Q means a sharper peak or valley will form within the response curve of the band whereas a low Q means the cut or boost in gain will be dispersed over a broader part of the band

    Technically, most pedals can be thought of as EQ pedals, but I will limit this discussion to dedicated EQ pedals. Three types of dedicated EQ pedals are commonly available:
    • Graphic - visually represents frequency response settings with a set of vertical sliders. Easy to use and affordable, but often voiced specifically for electric guitar
    • Parametric - flexible, with highly editable bands and robust anti-feedback features. Present a steep learning curve and can be expensive
    • Semiparametric - combines a 2- or 3-band EQ with a parametric mid-band. An effective compromise between the complexity of a fully parametric EQ and the ease-of-use of a graphic EQ

    Many semiparametric and parametric EQs include anti-feedback features like phase reversal switches and notch filters.

    A.3: Tuners

    Put a tuner on your pedalboard; your audience demands it.

    Tuners come in four main forms:
    • Stroboscopic - compares an input signal to an internally generated pitch. Latches on almost immediately. Can be extremely accurate but expensive
    • Microprocessor - processes a few cycles of a tone before latching on. Noticeably slower and slightly less accurate, but more affordable
    • Otic organs (left or right) - extremely fast once trained, but prone to fatigue and is rendered dysfunctional by background noise

    Many tuners come with additional features. Common features of tuners include:
    • backlit needle or LCD or LED display
    • buffered output, sometimes true bypass with a switch
    • polyphonic tuning
    • display brightness controls
    • mute switch that turns off the output when the tuner is activated
    • power jack out for powering another pedal when not in use
    • Ménière's disease, vertigo, and tinnitus

    One special factor to consider is the brightness of the readout display. Some are blindingly bright in the bedroom while other are too dim to use in direct sunlight.

    With a bit of practice, you can learn to watch a pedal tuner's readout in your peripheral vision and pretend you are the master sommelier of intonation or a demigod born from the loins of Apollo and Euterpe.

    A.4: Mute Switch

    Does what you'd expect: turns the signal off when activated. This is surprisingly valuable when trying to control feedback or limit instrument handling noise.

    Please note that many tuners and DI boxes feature a mute switch. If you don't already have a mute switch in your chain, you should consider adding one. They're listed here in the Essentials section for a reason (just make sure you find a quiet one unless you want to hear a pop every time you unmute).

    A.5: Clean Boost Switch

    Raises signal level. A boost switch can help your solos cut through the mix or give you a second gain stage to adjust to changes in audience size. Alternatively, you can use a clean boost to drive an overdrive pedal into a greater amount of distortion. Note that a "clean" boost will raise gain and almost always color your sound a bit. As before, boost switches are common on preamps and DI boxes.

    Special note: preferences regarding boost are varied, and many alternatives to accomplish this effect exist. Some options include:
    • Graphic equalizer - very clean option. cut the bass and highs, boost the other bands a bit, and you'll cut through the mix very effectively. Very unobtrusive
    • Volume pedal - set your level at the amplifier for soloing, then back off the volume pedal until you're ready for a boost. This can prove especially helpful if you use dirt in your rhythm tone
    • Overdrive/distortion/fuzz - set the level high to boost your signal and introduce a bit of grit and compression. A very popular method
    • Compressor - set the compression/sustain low and the level high. This will sometimes limit your maximum volume but will minimize distortion while also adding a bit of your compressor's EQ


    Second special note: a clean boost expects a high-impedance signal and generally won't work as intended if you plug a passive pickup straight into one. For this application of a clean boost, you will most likely need a preamp.

    A.6: Reverb

    In many cases, you can rely on the PA system or acoustic amplifier for a touch of reverb, but you can also put highly editable, dedicated digital reverbs at your feet.

    Most reverb pedals feature several different algorithms for generating different types of reverb (usually based on analog analogues like plate reverb or spring reverb), with each algorithm category having its own unique flavor. Common algorithms include:
    • Room - decay starts out simple but becomes complex. Especially useful for subtler touches or livening up an acoustically lackluster space
    • Hall - nice wash of reverb with long tails; useful for soaring melodies or ambient harmonies
    • Spring - classic electric and archtop guitar or organ reverb type. Extremely flexible and an evergreen option
    • Plate - similar but not identical to room reverb, with greater complexity and more evenness across the decay

    Many reverb pedals supplement these algorithms with additional features. Examples include:
    • shimmer - pitch-shifted (generally augmented) decay tails
    • predelay - varies the time between the attack and first reflection of the decay
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 10-15-2018 at 03:51 PM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  7. #17
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    Wow David, well researched and articulated. This is going to be so helpful to so many people. Once again, Bravo!
    "All worthwhile things in life should be easy to learn but hard to master"

    Boat Paddle ML tenor - Red Spruce over Cocobolo
    Barron River 8 string tenor - All Honduran Quilted Mahogany
    Collings UC2 Concert - All Mahogany
    Hoffmann Lutherie - Baritone - Master Grade Ebony and AAA Red Spruce
    Beau Hannam Custom Tenor - Vintage Hand Rubbed Sun Burst all Tassie Blackwood
    Barron River Tenor - Sugar Box Maple and Alaskan Cedar
    Hoffmann Lutherie - Concert - Angry Owl Ebony and Cedar

  8. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by haole View Post
    A lot of cheap power supplies like daisy chains are supposed to accommodate up to 5 pedals but the manufacturer doesn’t usuallly tell you that it’ll sound like hornets.
    Haole, mind if I ask what pedals you are trying to power? I might be able to recommend a quick fix that will bring the noise down to a usable level.

    In the meantime, I second Brad's sentiment that a good power supply is some of the best money you'll sink into a pedalboard and ask that you stay tuned for Part IV when I get into the nitty-gritty of power supply selection.

    Quote Originally Posted by haole View Post
    Let us know (when you get there!) what kind of power supply you use!
    My ambition for this thread is not so much to recommend specific products as to provide a convenient place for ukulelists to become informed about the world of effects. Before I posted Part I, I actually thought about censoring all the pedals on my board specifically to obfuscate what I was using. I am still reevaluating that position, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

    Power supplies are especially difficult to recommend. I will examine the subject in detail in Part IV, but a power supply should be chosen with respect to the particular configuration of jack, voltage, amperage, and polarity requirements of all the pedals on your board (in addition to other considerations). I will say that my power needs are extremely specific, that my power supply is pink, and that I might find myself on thin ice with the moderators were I to post a picture of my board's undercarriage.

    Quote Originally Posted by hollisdwyer View Post
    My small board is the pedaltrain nova+ . . . It is battery powered. It’s in its fourth iteration. Here’s a quick snapshot.

    IMG_1765.jpg
    Hollis, I love your placement of the reverb and delay before the stacked overdrives. You might be getting pretty deep into fizz and feedback territory there, but I bet that sounds wicked! I can see why you're switching out the second overdrive for a looper, but I'll be sad to see it go.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 10-11-2018 at 06:41 PM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

  9. #19
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    David,

    Good job distilling a lot of technical data into an easily readable guide. A real service to the uke community! We'll stay tuned.
    "Everyone I know who is into the Ukulele is 'crackers' so get yourself a few and enjoy yourselves" - George Harrison


    the ukes and year of acquisition:
    Pono RTSH-C-PC Cedar/Rosewood tenor 2016
    Koaloha KSM-02 Koa longneck soprano 2016
    Blackbird Farallon with sound port 2017
    2008 Kiwaya KTC-02 Mahogany concert 2018
    aNueNue Moonbird Spuce/redwood concert 2018

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by etudes View Post
    I have a Pedaltrain-mini pedalboard. It's a start but I could certainly use some fresh ideas. What a great topic! Thanks for taking it on.
    My pleaure, Etude - I'm getting at least as much out of posting this thread as anyone else is reading it. What pedals do you currently have? I might be able to give you some ideas for experimentation while you wait for the later parts that will be more closely aligned with your own needs.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 10-11-2018 at 06:57 PM.
    "Who hears music, feels his solitude Peopled at once -- for how count heart-beats plain / Unless a company, with hearts which beat, / Come close to the musician, seen or no?" - Robert Browning, "Balaustion's Adventure"

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