The Pedal File – Stacking Pedals for the Maximization of Pedal Fun: Synth Sounds

/or thrid

Hi kids.  You like pedals, right?  Right.  You like when your guitar doesn’t sound like a guitar, right?  Right.  At least I do.  And since I seem to be the one writing I guess you just have to be captive and read.  So let’s talk about a few easy ways to achieve the aforementioned idea.  It’s easier than giving candy to a baby, taking the candy from that baby, and then eating the candy in front of said baby.

The Pedal FileOne method is to think about how a synthesizer synthesizes sounds and treat your effects pedals as if they were ‘modules’.  If you’re familiar with the idea of a modular synthesizer, it’s easy to find equivalent effects (or ‘modules’) that will make up your pedal board.  Essentially when you wire up multiple pedals in a chain, you’re creating a modular system (in that you can stack them in various combinations).

For example, you could employ an envelope filter or something with ADSR controls like the Pigtronix Attack Sustain as your ‘filter module’ and so on.  You only need like 3 or 4 pedals minimum to get down like a clown my friend, and then you’re free to mix, match, shake, and/or stir any combo of ‘modules’ you like.  Granted the control over your signal path is much more limited, but the basic idea is the same.

Another approach is to sort through a slow but steadily growing amount of ‘synth’ pedals on the market – pedals specifically designed to break down your guitar signal and put it back together in the form of synthesizer sounds/textures.

Examples of these would be the Electro-Harmonix Microsynth & HOG2, the Subdecay Octasynth, Earthquaker’s Bit Commander, etc.

The Pedal File - Pittsburgh Modular Patch Box

But for guitarists looking to get their hands into some actual synthesis, look no further than Pittsburgh Modular’s recent foray into guitar effects.  Their floor-sitting Patch Box Enclosure allows any guitarist to pick and choose real deal synth modules (made by Pittsburgh Modular and/or third party modules) to flavor one’s tone tea if you will.  (You will.)  The ability to use the 3.5mm patch cables like a real boy modular synth provides unprecedented flexibility to create new guitar sounds only limited by your creativity.  (Don’t be mad at it if you can’t make it make good sounds.)  This is one of the only ways that I know of to completely break the oppressive chains of a fixed signal path normally found with effects pedals, but you gotta pay over $1000 for it when all is said and done.  Butttt like I said regular pedals are still a bit away from offering this type of flexibility.

My last tip is don’t poo poo even your boring regular old guitar pedals, there are ways to make these work in your synth rig as well (modulation effects come to mind – pretty much any chorus/flange/phaser will enhance your synth sounds).  Most importantly though, experiment and find sounds you like!

I made a video of some of my favorite synth rig pedal combos:

Do you like what you hear?  Do you hate pedals and everything they stand for?  Let me know by leaving a comment!

That’s all for now, thanks for reading!


The Pedal File