Designing a guitar pedal board with the essentials in mind

Whether you navigate it consciously or unconsciously, building a guitar rig involves several steps. In the beginning, there are all the possibilities and no responsibility. The current state of technology and the state of the market are such that almost anything you can imagine is within your reach. If you want your pedalboard to produce the sounds of yesterday, the guitar hive mind will provide you with several methods. If you want to do something that’s never been done before, the volume of pedals and other gear available creates a set of permutations whose depths can probably never be fully sounded.

As a rig builder, I’m often brought in after the initial design phase. The player at least has a general idea of ​​what this crankset or rig should be and do. There are many potential issues that can manifest at this point. A very common one goes like this: A young player (either in life stage or career stage) gets their first major gig. Their initial desire is to build the rig of their dreams – something with enough pedals and sound to ensure there’s virtually no chance they won’t have what they need in any situation, from stage to studio. This leads to a kind of feature creep as they add more pedals to deal with musical edge cases. “I go on the road with a mid-range American band, but once 10 years ago I sat down with a band to play ‘Shakedown Street’. So I should probably have an envelope filter .

The result of this unfettered spec can be a crankset three sizes too big. For large touring outfits, any size within reason is manageable, as semis are roomy. But I can tell you from experience that unprepared players can expose themselves to reprimands from their bandmates and the team who might perceive the player as cocky or, worse, ignorant. The problem really escalates when this well-meaning player now has to play the employer’s 1–5–6–4 single in the shadow of more than three minutes at the Opry as a crowd of grizzled veterans stand backstage wondering why there’s a spaceship preparing for liftoff at the edge of the stage for an act that’s going back and forth between commercial breaks.

Choosing pedals for a gig means knowing the songs, the arrangements, and having a producer’s ear.

Is the platform “good?” ” Without a doubt. Is this good?” In terms of essential simplicity, maybe not. During this initial design phase, having a very clear understanding of what the board shouldn’t be is just as important as determining what the board should be. You may think that this overzealous speed response is strictly the domain of beginners and rookies, but you’d be wrong. I’ve participated in hour-long consultations with some of the most recorded guitarists in the world. story – card-carrying guitar heroes – and during the first lull in the conversation after arriving at the “final” plan, this supremely confident and utterly secure player will say, “Is there anything else I should put in?” The idea that we might be missing something is not a respect of persons.

I’ve had this same conversation with guitarists of all ages and skill levels for over 20 years. Recently, this reminded me of a certain Swiss patent clerk who said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

So how do we follow patent clerk Albert Einstein’s exhortation to keep it simple? Picking pedals for a gig means knowing the songs, arrangements, and having a producer’s ear to know what sounds and parts are actually needed to get through a full set, a shortened live support position, or a single TV date. . Having drive pedals that are useful separately and stacked can complement your tonal core. Adding your bread and butter modulation and time-based effects will keep this section from becoming too expansive. A multi-effects pedal can capture all of those edge-case scenarios that would otherwise add low-utility square footage.

Consider a more modular approach where a main board can be outfitted with auxiliary boards to expand its usefulness and allow it to easily fold up if needed. Don’t be afraid to add whatever it takes, I built some super complex rigs that were as simple as possible, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a single monolithic crankset setup is the only answer.

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