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Thread: Pedalboard Reflections

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Near Lake Okeechobee, Florida

    Default Pedalboard Reflections

    This post will be the first in a series about 'ukulele amplification and effects.

    About 1.5 years ago, I set out to explore affected ‘ukulele tone. This journey began innocently enough with the decision to build a pedalboard for my preamp and looping setup but soon veered into obsession as I delved into the darker arts of sea-sickeningly affected ‘ukulele soundscapes. Having now returned to the surface with a newfound appreciation for effects, I feel it’s time I distill the experience I've acquired and share what I’ve learned.

    This series will focus on pedalboards and effects pedals in a general application. I will omit such topics as ring modulation, long dirty reverb tails, or chopped up delay repeats and will instead address concerns arising from the more common approach of using effects to thicken or enhance your ukulele’s amplified tone. Throughout this thread, I will share my successes as well as my failures. The thread will be broken up into a handful of parts organized as follows:

    PART I - Pedalboard design and construction
    PART II - Core effects for amplified acoustic performance
    PART III - Auxiliary and expressive effects and signal chain considerations
    PART IV - Power supplies and pedalboard layout
    PART V - 'Ukulele esoterica

    I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the many UUers who freely share their knowledge of ‘ukulele amplification and effects, without whom this entire experiment might never have taken place. I would especially like to thank the following UUers for so generously sharing their knowledge: Booli, Braga2966, Hippie Guy, hollisdwyer, iamesperambient, Jim Hanks, kissing, kohanmike, photoshooter, and ricdoug.

    May many UUers find this thread inspirational. Part I will go up shortly.
    "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. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Central Illinois


    Sounds awesome! Looking forward to it!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    CT, USA


    Can't wait! I play through some effects and love to hear how others are doing it.
    -Abe (ah-bay)
    Abe’s Ukulele Podcast

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Willamette Valley Oregon


    Fabulous idea, can’t wait to review the series.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    JoCo, NC (near Raleigh)


    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.
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - A, WoU Clarity
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG, Eb SC XLU
    Hanson 5-string tenor, dGCEA
    Bonanza SLN GCEA
    Bonanzalele concert
    Jupiter #47, G, TI CF127
    Pelem, B reentrant


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Near Lake Okeechobee, Florida


    PART I - Pedalboard Design and Construction

    To get this thread kicked off, a picture of my board in a layout relevant to this thread:

    Let me begin by stating that the design of this board contains several significant flaws, which I will explore later in this section. For now, enjoy a very brief introduction to pedalboards.


    One of the problems with stringing effects pedals together is all the accoutrements they bring with them: the pedals, patch cables, and power cables and power supplies all make for quite a bit of clutter, and constantly unplugging and moving around your equipment leads to undue wear. The predominant method for organizing and protecting a chain of effects pedals is to use a pedalboard. In its simplest form, a pedalboard is simply a platform on which pedals are placed in an already-connected fashion for protection and convenience.

    Pedalboards are certainly one of the blander topics covered here, but they are an essential component of an effects chain. In addition to the obvious benefits in convenience and protection, they also serve as a stable substrate for the interface between the player and the effects chain itself. Unfortunately, the basal nature of a pedalboard within an effects chain often means that the board itself has the potential to become the limiting factor in later pedal-related decisions. In theory, you could build a pedalboard that stores all of your effects all the time, but there are reasons this is not desirable (weight, size, noise, and signal loss being major concerns). When designing or selecting a pedalboard, the player should endeavor to anticipate the following needs:
    • Size – bigger is not always better when it comes to pedalboards, but leave a bit of room to expand early on (when the player’s away, the pedals will play)
    • Ergonomics – your legs are only so long, your ankles so flexible, and your toes dexterous. Enough said
    • Mounting options – the more flexible your mounting system is, the better off you are. Don’t forget to account for a power supply (more on them later)
    • Cable routing – you don’t want a rat’s nest of patch and power cables on your board; troubleshooting faulty connections is made simpler by well-organized cables
    • Special considerations – do you really like an especially large pedal with wonky power requirements? Make sure to account for it early on


    In my board's case, the design process consisted of laying mock-ups of pedals on a piece of plywood resting on some books. These tests gave me a rough idea of things like overall dimensions, tilt angle, etc., and from these tests I designed a pedalboard that met the following criteria:
    • total cost under $90 USD (including the Dual Lock tape)
    • small enough to fit between my stool and music and microphone stands
    • large enough to accommodate between 12 and 15 Boss-style pedals
    • flexible mounting options allowing for the placement of pedals in either portrait or landscape orientations
    • shallow tilt angle
    • sufficient room underneath the board to mount a power supply

    The board itself is constructed of 1" x 2" (20 mm x 45 mm) pieces of red oak "scrap" from the local lumber yard and measures roughly 22" x 13.5" (560 mm x 350 mm). The top surface of the board contains 5 rails for mounting pedals and is tilted toward the player at an angle of 13 degrees, yielding approximately 2" (50 mm) of relative elevation on the side opposite the player. Extending under the board towards the rear are a pair of supports connected by a 6th rail. A handle has been affixed to the 6th rail, theoretically allowing for the board to be carried without the need for a case. A pair of rubber sliders are mounted to the underside of the 6th rail to keep the board from sliding around. 3M dual lock has been affixed to all rails (including the player-facing side of the aforementioned 6th rail).

    This pedalboard design met each of my criteria, but a year of constant use has taught me that the rail-based design is deeply flawed. The major flaws in the design are as follows:
    • inferior mounting options compared to large flat platforms
    • cable routing is unnecessarily complicated due to the rails and placement of the power supply underneath the board
    • space underneath the board is barely sufficient for my chosen power supply; I was fortunate that I did not have to cut out a part of the board to mount a power supply
    • the centrally located handle on the rear of the board is not sufficient to bear the weight of the complete board, and the board's center of gravity causes it to be very unbalanced when held in this manner; handles located vertically on either side of the board would be far superior
    • 3M Dual Lock is too strong for general use, requiring tools for safe dismounting of pedals; industrial velcro would suffice

    I am currently designing a Mk. II version of the board. The redesign abandons the rails design in favor of a flat platform (probably lined with industrial velcro or perhaps even regular carpet with small patches of velcro). I have also eliminated the tilt (except for under the volume pedal...will probably include a tilted mounting block for the volume pedal) and will instead incorporate a second level above the rear row on the main platform. The power supply and always-on pedals can then be placed underneath the second level without sacrificing space while also allowing for cleaner cable lines and better access when troubleshooting connections.
    Last edited by bacchettadavid; 10-11-2018 at 06:18 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. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Ames, Iowa


    I have a few pedals that I use, but I've not made a board for them. I would like to get more organized. I just use one or two at any given time, depending on the situation and I just put them on the ground. That limits me. Will you be doing anything later on about how you are using them in different venues? I ask because I find that some effects work well in some venues, say a small space like a coffee shop, while others seem to work better in larger venues or outdoors. Some seem to work in both. So I am interested in your experiences. 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. I am interested in what you are doing. I have no idea what I'm doing, I'm still trying to sort it out.Thanks.
    Last edited by Rllink; 10-09-2018 at 04:16 AM.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

    I just want everyone to understand that I am not a ukulele expert, even though it may look at times like I'm pretending to be.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Melbourne, Australia


    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.
    "All worthwhile things in life should be easy to learn but hard to master"

    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 - Satin Box Maple and Alaskan Yellow Cedar
    Hoffmann Lutherie - Concert - Angry Owl Ebony and Cedar

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Pensacola, Florida


    I am keenly intereted in this topic as well. I have not yet bought my first pedal, but I have been thinking about a few. This thread is a timely one for me.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA


    I am new to all of this. I have some effects through my small Boss amp. But want to know more. Geat topic.

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