56 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2009 www.premierguitar.com
Too Many Pedals?
A guitarist can never have too many pedals,
right? We all love pedals for everything from
distortion (who doesn’t have 10 different
distortion stompboxes?) to special effects
(like that one special, strange flanger we use
for that one song we play live once a year) to
pedals for tuning, routing and even switching
channels on our amps. After all, more is better, right? Who am I to argue against that?
From time to time, though, reality does
come into play. If you have so many pedals
on stage that there’s no longer any room for
you, your vocalist, and your bass player to
move around, or if you need a GPS just to
find your sparkle-green chorus before the
verse of the song kicks in, then it’s time to
take action—before they replace you with
a keyboard player. Even I will admit (
grudgingly) that maybe you can have too many
pedals in your life.
Of course, pedals are fun to collect and play
through. Compared to guitars and amps,
they’re usually a cheap and fun purchase.
Plus, they make great gifts for us on birthdays and holidays, so it’s not our fault we’ve
collected so many over the years. Having a
large selection of pedals to work with while
recording is also wonderful for spurring
creativity and coming up with new sounds.
When you play live, less is usually better
for your sound, your performance and your
band’s show. Tripping and falling as you try to
switch 10 different pedals for every change
does not make for a “cool” vibe or even a
good show ... well, it might be fun for the
audience, but there has to be a better way.
One obvious solution is to use a multi-effect
pedalboard when playing live. It might not
sound quite as good as 25 of your boutique,
handwired pedals, but the multi-effects units
that have been coming out over the last few
years sound amazing. The benefit of pressing
one pedal to change all your effects to the next
song can be worth it alone. Plus, you can still
bring out a few of your key stompboxes and use
them along with a main multi-effect processor.
Rack multi-effects units can be even better
for clearing out the foot clutter, but unless
you have a personal guitar tech off stage
changing presets for you, the best way to
control a rack unit is still with floor pedals.
Controller foot pedals can vary from compact
two-button switching for up-and-down preset
selection to larger MIDI-based units such as
the Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro, which
has 15 switches and an LED display, and can
control up to eight different devices (effects
units, pedals, amps, etc.) all via MIDI. One
pedal to rule them all!
Some rack and pedal multi-effect units (such
as the G-Major 2 and the G-system from
TC Electronic) can also control your amp’s
channel switching, replacing the need for a
separate amp channel-selector pedal in your
rig. Even cooler, the G-Major 2 can save the
appropriate amp channel along with each
preset, so when you change your preset to
the next sound your amp is switched to the
clean or lead channel as appropriate. How
awesome is that?
Finally, organizing your pedals for live use is an
important step in making your playing easier. I’m
often amazed at the duct-taped plywood (even
cardboard sometimes!) contraptions I see guitarist dragging from place to place. Yes, spending
money on a pedalboard is not as exciting as
buying a new stompbox, but currently there are
many affordable solutions from BOSS, Furman,
Pedaltrain, and other manufacturers.
Let’s not forget about powering your pedals.
A bunch of power supplies with cables running to two power strips is not the best solution, nor is changing the 9V batteries on a
dozen pedals each night. Some pedalboards
include integrated power distribution, while
others do not; BOSS, Voodoo Lab, and Visual
Sound all provide great solutions that daisy-chain from one pedal to the next and can
easily power your new pedalboard.
I think everyone will agree that having a
variety of pedals is a good thing; which
effects each of us choose is part of what
makes us each different and unique guitarists.
However, by choosing wisely what you bring
with you when you play, you can play better—and keep your mind on your playing, not
on a pedal tap dance! Play on ...
Jeff Hollman is the married father of two girls, knows his
way around the recording studio, and is still involved in live
sound on a weekly basis. He has been a Sales Engineer at
Sweetwater for eight years, and can be reached at 800-
222-4700 x1285 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have so many
pedals on stage that
there’s no longer any
room for you, your
vocalist, and your bass
player to move around, or
if you need a GPS just to
find your sparkle-green
chorus before the verse
of the song kicks in, then
it’s time to take action.