Your artillery of stomp boxes is finally complete! You now have a nice collection of drive, compression, modulation and time-based pedals. The only problem now is that you haven’t the slightest clue how to build a rig using all your state-of-the-art (and possibly pricey) effects pedals. This month, we run through the basics in using and connecting multiple effects pedals and how you can take your rig on the road.
HOOKING THEM UP
Essentially, by hooking up your effects pedals, you create a path for the audio signal that you want to send from instrument to your amplifier. Notice that effects pedals have two ports-one typically labeled as “input’~ and one as “output:’
You take a cable wire and stick one end into the instrument, and the other end goes into the input port of the first pedal in your chain. Then, you take another and plug one end into the output ofthe first pedal, and the other plugged into the input of the next pedal-and the next, and the next. This is done until all the pedals are wired together. A final cable is connected to the last pedal in the effects chain on one end, and to the amplifier on the other.
WHAT GOES WHERE
You’re free to experiment on which pedal comes before what as there is no fixed sequence of pedals. Here, however, is one way to arrange them. The beginning of the chain can be your tuner pedal, then your compression pedal. Modulation-Chorus, Flanger or Phaser-pedals can be placed next in line. Then, you can hook up the time-based pedals, namely Delay and Reverb. It’s a good idea to place the drive pedals-Overdrive, Distortion, and other gain-boosting effects-later in the line so as to give the other effects a clean signal. Remember: as each effect flows from one to the next, the result is added or integrated into the next effect down the line.
It may seem like a one-time effort if your setup stays at home, but it’s an entirely different story if you plan to take your gear on the road. Luckily, portable cases called pedal boards exist to enable you to transport your rig without the hassle of assembling and disassembling it every time you take it outside.
A pedal board serves as a container or a hub for your effects units. It is usually a hard-shell case that has a removable lid and foam padding on the inside to protect your gear. Some pedal boards also have handles and wheels, thus making transporting your gear from one place to another much, much easier. There are different kinds of pedal boards; some are store-bought and some are custom-made (professional musicians often prefer the latter). There are even instructions online for do-it-yourself (DIY) pedal boards. A pedal board can also sport built-in transformers and power cables, thereby providing a power supply for your effects.
THE DIGITAL WAY
Lugging around an entire pedal board may seem impractical. The primary purpose, after all, of the pedal board is for gigging. Thankfully, the digital age has given us guitar effects modeling software that enable you to build your own digital rig. One application, called AmpliTube by IK Multimedia, lets you assemble a digital pedal board on your computer, iPad or iPhone. Just as how you collect effects units in the real world, you can build your setup one pedal at a time. IK Multimedia also offers a gadget called the iRig portable guitar interface, which allows you to hook up your guitar to your computer or iOS device. AmpliTube can work as a 64 bit plug-in for digital audio workstations (DAW) such as Pro Tools, Logic, GarageBand, Cubase, Live, and Reaper. However, it can also be used as a standalone program in Mac OS X and Windows. The standalone version additionally offers a built-in four-track recorder. Axe men such as Slash, Malcolm Young (AC/DC) and Serj Tankian (System of a Down) have been known to use AmpliTube.
Does building a rig sound complicated (and expensive)? Good news, my lazy and tightfisted buddies! A single electronic device called a multi-effects pedal allows users access to different guitar effects in just one machine. Multi-FX pedals let you select from an array of combinations or presets, but you can create and store a mix of your own.