The Pedal File – Fun with a Minimal Pedalboard

Hello and welcome to the Fellowship of the Pedal, commonly referred to as the Pedal File.  Today I want to flip things around and make you question your pedal beliefs.  Let’s put your mind in the sweet new shoes of another perspective:

Minimalism

What I mean by minimalism in this respect is but one definition of the word – a design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.  In other words and in this context, do more with less pedals.

I know what you’re thinking.  Use less pedals?  Everything I read and all you talk about is pedals, blah blah, pedals to infinity!  I know it sort of sounds like blasphemy, but sometimes cliches are right, and less is more.

Using fewer pedals means swapping out or switching the order of your effects without feeling like you’re using a Moog System 55.  (Sure pedals are awesome, but you know what are not awesome?)  Cables.  Would you care to put your dirt pedal in other places on the board to see how it sounds?  It’s a lot easier with less pedals – less weight to carry, space to take up, less cables, and less time thinking about turning pedals on and off.

The Pedal File - My Current Board

It’s easy to load up.

It can be hard, but take some deep breaths, and think about limiting yourself to just three pedals.  If you want to get hardcore downsize to one pedal.  Although initially dreadful, this thought can be liberating and inspire you to explore sound in an all new way.  Have you ever dared to not use any dirt pedals?  What about substituting another effect for distortion, like chorus?  How about using a pedal for a tone it wasn’t technically intended to produce?

With a little patience and willingness to explore, I’ll bet you’d be surprised by how much you can do with one pedal (and by what one pedal can do to you).  For instance, since delay, reverb, and chorus are all time based effects, you can achieve all three if you have the right delay pedal.  Set the delay time short (preferably less than a slapback, but experiment with longer delay times too!) and keep the repeats low – this will create a chorus or doubling effect (if you have a mix knob, see how things sound when increasing or decreasing the effect).  Begin turning the repeats up and you should make some pseudo percussive reverb sounds. Experimenting with different combinations of short delay times and the other knobs of a delay can yield sounds you can’t quite get with a reverb or chorus pedal (EQD’s Aftermath and Sea Machine are exceptions).

Remember kids, there is nothing wrong with using a pedal in a way for which it was not intended.  Just also remember, your friends and family may not want to hear about all of your experiences using pedals for ways they were not intended.

All this being said though, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be tasteful and use a knob factory’s worth of pedals.

Check out another fine article on the topic by Caroline Guitar Company’s Philippe Herndon and another by Sam Hill of Tone Report.

Now go out there and get em!

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File: Les Paul (Maybe) Invented Looping

Hey pedal nerds!  What’s been happening?  Today I’ve got something slightly different for you – a short history lesson.  Don’t worry, it’s still about pedals.  Or is at least relevant to pedals.  This one is for all the loopers out there…

Up until recently I had never wondered about where the concept of looping came about for guitar.  I assumed it was a current invention considering how the market has exploded with all facets of loop pedals in the last ten years.  Then the other day I decided to watch some Les Paul videos on YouTube and was blown away by an old video of Les Paul and Chet Atkins on The Today Show.  (Please tell me you know who Les Paul is.  If not, hang your head in shame, recite three hail mary’s, and at least read his Wikipedia page.)

Les Paul - The Pedal File

Aside from their stellar playing, I was rather surprised by a little box attached near the bridge of Les Paul’s guitar, an invention he calls the Les Paulverizer (give the man credit for the clever play on his name).  He doesn’t describe it in terms of loops and whatnot, but watching him demonstrate made me realize that he is probably the first person to cultivate the idea of looping (although Robert Fripp and a few others did a similar thing around the same time), which should come as no surprise as he is the guy who basically invented multi-track recording and shit.

There he is looping a rhythm part, a bass part, percussion – everything that I thought modern people were only smart enough to figure out more recently with dedicated loop pedals.  It seems like the Paulverizer could also manipulate pitch by recording and playing back at slower speeds as it allows him to emulate a bass on the video.  Manipulating pitch by recording at one speed and playing back at another is also what gave him his way-ahead-of-its-time signature lead sound back in the the fifties that sounds like some kind of synth organ octave pedal reminsicent of the EQD Organizer.

The only issue is this video will not play outside of YouTube, so please watch it there after reading the article.  The Paulverizer demo starts at about 4:40.

I did some research and it seems like there is a little controversy surrounding Les Paul and his claimed inventions.  Some people say he claimed stuff that he didn’t invent and that the Paulverizer was hooked up to a reel-to-reel machine offstage and that everything was prerecorded.  The very earliest looping set-ups did utilize tape machines, but one can argue (and hope) the recording (or looping) was done live.  I’m not here to pass judgement because at the very least Les Paul was a fantastic guitar player whose work has shaped music and the technology surrounding it.  Many extra points awarded to him for even conceiving the idea of looping so long ago.  Watch the video and decide for yourself.

If you want to read up more on the history of looping check out these other articles.  It seems like nobody really knows who created the idea of looping.  *Cue scary sci-fi theremin music*

The Birth of Loop from Loopers-Delight
Looping from Guitar Player Magazine

That’s all for now, kiddies.  As always let me know your thoughts, desires, and criticisms by commenting, or you can also get ahold of me through my Contact page.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

The Pedal File: A Cool Pedal for Consumption – Keeley’s Absolute Wurst Random Harmony Generator

Hello, pedal heads!  I’ve been busy lately and I’ve got to say, I missed you more this time than any other time we’ve been apart.  Every time I got a text, I thought it was you…  Let’s not do that again!  Let me make it up to you.  Your pal, The Pedal File, is here once again to check in and provide you with knowledge about a new pedal that I think is pretty damn cool.  There, feel better?

Since I started this here blog, it’s been only getting harder to keep up with all the new pedals and pedal companies and all the crazy new gear related things that are perpetually coming out like a hipster in college.  That’s why I like to sacrifice my time for YOU to save YOU the trouble of sifting through all the clones and designs that have been done before to bring attention to only the coolest, tweakiest, most versatile pedals around.  I could be playing with pedals right now, but I want you to be on the forefront of pedal knowledge so I’ll keep typing.

 

The Pedal File - Keeley Pedals

Robert Keeley is one of the pioneers of the boutique pedal game (along with his mod offerings), but only recently has he been making bigger waves for his original designs.  Most of his pedals seem rather straight forward – boosts, fuzzes, a delay here or there, some compressors (although the Compressor Pro is quite an impressive piece of work), etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with his line of pedals.  Up til now, they’ve just been pretty standard and not that weird.

You even get two finish options.

 

The Absolute Wurst is the pedal I want to talk about today.  It goes way way beyond the aforementioned items of the mundane and was, perhaps, plucked from the board of a guitar player in a parallel universe where down is 6 and up is purple.  Catch my drift?  The short demo video teaser from Keeley (below) doesn’t really begin to showcase all the features, but judging from the descriptions it seems to me like the Absolute Wurst is going to be absolute tits.  I admire the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude that Keeley exudes with this pedal.  Like he’s all, ‘Yea, what?  It’s not another compressor or fuzz or whatever.  What’s up, son?  I do what I want!’  Kudos, Mr. Keeley.  You have been awarded an extra point.

 

What really shrink wraps my baloney is the description of the pedal – a random harmony generator (like a Rainbow Machine?) with pitch up and down capabilities; a ‘broken-sounding’ pedal for ‘Experimentalists, Mathematical Atonal Nerds, and Noise-Scape Artists’.  Robert Keeley, did you make this pedal just for me??  I’m still waiting for it to come in the mail…  I also note that Keeley makes reference to the Gonkulator in the description, which if you’re not familiar was yet another ahead-of-its-time DOD pedal that combined distortion with ring modulation into absolute weird tones that everybody was scared to use when it came out.  This caused the pedal to have a short life, only to be sought after now for it’s weirdness in this more enlightened golden age of pedals we live in.  How much overlap does the Absolute Wurst have with the Gonkulator?  Some?  Not much?  A lot?  I don’t know!  Geez, sometimes you can be pushy….but I’m sorry.  Let’s not fight.

Tweakables – taken from Keeley’s wesbite

MODES
Random – Insane Random Harmony Generator – Pretty much unüsable.  Enjoy! ;-)  (I’d use it)
Pitch up – Cräzy Harmony Up.  Air Guitarist on Acid (aka “Chorus”)
Pitch down – The Drünken Bäss Pläyer.  Low synth sounds and other strange weirdness.  Unexpected throbs (that’s what I get when I’m in a room filled with pedals, and it also happens to be the name of the band that the Pope started with some of his top Cardinals to ‘back up’ their favorite altar boys ).

CONTROLS
Upper Left (knob) – Blend your original signal, dry to all the way wet.  All the way SELFIE or PANORAMIC for you FB or IG peeps.
Upper Right (knob) – Speed (in Random Mode)  — Pitch Range for Up and Down Modes.
Lower Left (knob)– Proximity – How close, or the Proximity to original note that the “harmony” is.
Lower Right (knob)– Gain – as in PutOut.  (Otherwise known as your mother)

Bypass – It’s either On or… Off.
Battery Free – Shoe Gazing turns it on and stuff – Power Drain 60mA or greater.
Keeley Engineered – Days of experience and thoughtful design in the foolish and absurd.  (And I thought I was the only one…)
3D Glasses – Not Required, but they do make the pedal sound better.

Perhaps I will get my hands on this guy someday and do a more in depth hands on review/demo.  Until then, check www.keeleypedals.com for more info.

What do you think about The Absolute Wurst?  Is there another pedal you really really want to hear me go on and on and on about?  Leave me a comment, or if you have something to hide, hit me up on my Contact page!

Thanks for reading.

Love,
Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature: Earthquaker Devices Palisades Overdrive

Ahoy-hoy, y’all!  If it’s okay with you, I’m going to talk about a pedal today.  You know what I like in a pedal, don’t you?  That’s right: versatility!  I like to be in control of a pedal and tell it what to do, the more options for knob fiddling, the better.  That is what I try to focus on in this blog, and for that reason I want to draw attention to what is perhaps the most versatile overdrive pedal on the market, made by one of the most ambitious and quirky pedal companies around – The Palisades Overdrive by Earthquaker Devices.  You may also know I like to really get into a pedal’s insides, and this particular pedal is so versatile it has just about ten vigintillion (yes that is a naughty sounding word for a 1 followed by 63 zeros) features for tweaking, and tweaking, and tweaking some more until you tweak out from being over-twerked (or as I always say, Miley Cyrus-ed).   Okay, maybe it doesn’t literally have that many features, but the point is still valid; this pedal is like totally covered in knobs and shit.

Overview

 

To make a long story short (or longer), The Palisades is an overdrive.  Remember – overdrives are typically transparent as in they don’t add a lot of color your tone, as opposed to distortion.  If you desire a somewhat clean yet gritty edge-of-break-up tone in between a boost and distortion, overdrive is the ticket.  The Palisades is based on the Ibanez Tubescreamer, or as EQD refers to it, the Tubes Creamer (hee hee).  The Tubescreamer was originally touted like 30 years ago by the great Stevie Ray Vaughn (the only guitar player with the chops to back up his layers of scarves), which helped it reach the status of ‘go-to’ overdrive for scores of guitar players even today who would rather sound like something they’ve heard before.

The Palisades is ready to be the ‘go-to’ overdrive for guitar players of the modern era; it takes the concept of the transparent overdrive pretty far, offering such numerous tonal options that only a crazy person would have set out to put them all in one pedal.  This device is much heftier than any comparably wimpy 3-knob overdrive you find out there.  On top of its rugged build (no plastic input/output jacks or cheap switches), it sports two switchable channels of gain that can go from clean to near fuzz, a switchable boost, a bright switch to shine things up, a buffer to tighten things up, a voicing adjustment to select which components are causing the clipping for different types of drive/compression etc., and a bandwidth control for selecting the amount of girth and gain.  As I’m sure you can guess, if overdrive was made of (s)tones, then seemingly none would be left unturned by EQD when the Palisades was brought forth unto this Earth.  Seriously, every jangle-y 60’s punk garage indie blues pop country jazz noise guitarist can find their tone in there.

Enough!  Let’s move to the tweakables, shall we?

Tweakables

Boost: ‘Sets the level of the output boost.’  You can have just a little, or a large helping of boost suitable to feed Honey Boo Boo on pageant night…
Volume: ‘Sets the output level.’  Lots of volume.  See aforementioned joke.
Tone: ‘Brighter clockwise, warmer counter clockwise.’  Aside from Wampler tone controls, this is one of the most versatile tone controls I’ve encountered – it’s quite sensitive and in combination with the normal/bright switch provides you with all you need to find just the right tonal shade you need.  Bright, dark, and everywhere in between.
Gain A: ‘Sets the gain for the Channel A (lower gain).’  It is lower gain than Gain B, but cranked up it gets pretty heavy, especially when set to heavier voicings/bandwidths.
Gain B: ‘Sets the gain for Channel B (higher gain).’  I believe channel B is a totally independent channel.  I noticed that you can make Gain B your low gain channel, if you so desire, by keeping the gain low while cranking the gain on channel A.  (Not that it makes much of a difference, just wanted to point that out.)
Normal/Bright: ‘Normal is a warm full tone, Bright is livelier tone with more chime.’  This is great if you need to add or take away some treble-y bite from your signal or make proper adjustments for dark/bright amps and/or humbuckers/single coils (if you need to go further than the tone knob can go by itself).  The brightness does make your tone livelier and seems to provide more harmonic richness, sort of like a tube amp.
Buffer: ‘Turns the input buffer on or off.  ON is a tighter and brighter tone while OFF is a warmer tone with more sag. The buffer is part of the drive circuit & is only available when the Palisades is activated.’  The word on the street is that you can ‘feel’ the buffer more than you can hear it.  How zen.  But it’s true – there isn’t really a perceivable tonal difference except for maybe in picking response.  Check out my video below to see if you can hear it.
Bandwidth: ‘This sets the overall tone and gain structure of the Palisades. 1 is the thinnest setting with the least amount of gain and 5 is the fattest setting with the heaviest gain. Everything else is in between. This control has a major effect on all the settings of the Palisades, especially the gain and voice controls.’  It will also have a major effect on the pants of those in hearing range, either filling them with poop or causing them to get a little tighter….  Depending on how you set it.
Voice: ‘This sets the nature of the Palisades distortion by changing the clipping diodes.’  EQD could have stopped with this knob.  Even staying on one bandwidth setting and adjusting the voice knob can give you an astounding array of overdrive tonez, brah.
1- No diodes: The most open and least distorted.  This can be used as more of a clean boost or as a way to shine and grit things up a bit.
2- LED clipping: light clipping with a lot of volume.  More of a low-gain, edge-of-breakup sound
3- Mosfet clipping: light gain OD with great harmonics.’ Medium-high gain, I like this setting a lot.
4- Asymmetrical Silicon clipping: Tighter light gain OD closest to stock 808.  This clips the waveform unevenly or asymmetrically providing more compression/clarity.
5- Symmetrical silicon clipping: tighter distorted tone.  Clips the positive and negative cycle of a waveform evenly giving the effect of more distortion (as opposed to asymmetrical clipping).  Everyone knows symmetry equals beauty.
6- Schottky Diode clipping: Looser fuzzy tone.  I had never heard of this diode before learning about the Palisades.  After some research it looks like people traditionally put them directly in their guitar as a way to add a switchable overdrive boost right to the guitar.  Loose and fuzzy is a great description of the tone as well as for the matriarch of your family.  Ba-zing! Seriously though, this setting is pretty fuzz-like for an overdrive.  It gets pretty nasty and nasally the more you crank up the gain and tone knobs.

Check out my video.  By looping a riff and tweaking knobs, I try to give an overview of different tones and show how the controls interact all without boring you with needless talking.

Conclusion

As evidenced by the Palisades, Earthquaker pedals are for tweakers and practically beg to be touched.  The versatility found in them gives one the ability to go exploring beyondThe Pedal File - Scary Carrot Top traditional tones (the Sea Machine & Afterneath come to mind) like a regular Dr. Livingstone (I presume…only the goal is to not make it back from the unspoiled land of new tones).  This ability to cover a fuller spectrum of ‘unusable’ to usable tones makes their pedals perfect for too-cool-for-school noisey noise-makers and square traditional tone hounds alike, which I’m sure is a big part of the success of the EQD pedal line.  I also admire that Earthquaker didn’t buckle to the requests for just another Tubescreamer clone and instead went out on a very large limb and brought to life their own perverted version, like a forsaken monster pieced together from human remains, a.k.a. Carrot Top.  But in pedal form.

If Stevie Ray Vaughn somehow had a chance to check out the Palisades, I think he’d go back in time and let his Tubescreamers take that helicopter ride to oblivion.  Too bad that’s not the way it went down.  No other single pedal more sensitively straddles the line of boost, chimey mid-focused overdrive, and dirty high-gain fuzzyness.  I said it before, but it still stands:  If you need to replace your whole collection of overdrives with one pedal, this one could and should be it.

As always, leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the Palisades, or whatever!  If you really can’t share your thoughts in public, you can also drop me a line via my Contact Page.

For more info on the Palisades, as well as the rest of the EQD pedal line, check out: www.earthquakerdevices.com

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

 

The Pedal File: Cool Pedals to GAS Over

Sup homies?  Word on the street is you’re looking for your pedal fix.  I got just what you need and nothing you don’t.

I’ve gathered a small list of some cool shit that is happening now in the world of pedals.  I can’t possibly keep up with all that’s out there, but rest assured I’ve sifted through lots of pedals and selected the ones which excite and titillate the most.  You see, I’m doing all the thinking and searching for you so you just gotta read (assuming you can).  That’s right, just for you.

Recovery Effects Dead Session Filterbank

The Pedal File - Recovery Effects Dead SessionI stumbled across this beauty on Facebook today.  A new pedal from Recovery Effects??  Why yes, it appears that way!  I did a review of the Cutting Room Floor pedal, and I have to say they are one of the most innovative builders out there combining features not normally seen on pedals.  Recovery don’t try to imitate, no.  They’re all about pushing things forward and the Dead Session seems like a hopeful step in that direction.  No info is available except that it is a filterbank pedal ‘strictly for the freakers and tweakers’.  See, it was even made just for you and me.  If you are neither a freaker, nor a tweaker, why are you reading my blog?  Haha just kidding, everyone’s welcome here…………except no gingers.

Will the Dead Session do resonant LFO sweeps like the Sherman Filterbank?  Will it be more like an envelope-follower like a Mutron?  Will it give one ADSR controls to play with?  I don’t know anything I tells ya!  Quit it with all the questions already…  One thing is for sure – I really really want to find out.  And you should too.

You will probably see a demo of this pedal one of these days….

The Pedal File Editor’s update:  According to Mr. Markel, the Dead Session is ,”basically a 2 filter system- 1 resonant filter [with controls for] resonance, course and fine, and a notch filter section with 2 notch filters (hi / lo). The switch engages the 2nd filter.”

Don’t have any idea what that means?  Rather than confuse you, I’ll let the Wickiemedia video explain resonance and notch filters better than I ever could:

Check out Recovery’s website for more cool pedals

Function f(x) Clusterfuzz

The Pedal File - Function f(x) Clusterfuzz
I’m pretty sure I found this pedal through Effects Database, which is the most extensive pedal site out there (check it out if you haven’t!).

Function f(x) is new on the market with only one pedal to offer, but it’s worth taking a look at.  I don’t get into too many fuzz pedals, unless of course they get tweaky.  Described on their website as ‘a tweaker’s delight; capable of delivering medium-gain overdrive up to raunchy square [wave] fuzz tones,’ – you and your momma both know I had to find out more.

As you also probably know, I’m a sucker for anything with too many knobs plus some switches thrown in for good measure.  The Clusterfuzz is not modeled after any particular fuzz, which deserves an extra point.  Too many people out there just want to clone shit and sell it to you with a different label.  In fact, that’s how many pedal companies get started building before moving on to their own designs.  Function f(x) came out strong, showing maybe they aren’t afraid to do something new, which is why I’m telling you about them in the first place.

Tweakables include:
– Five clipping options for different saturation levels (no diode clipping, LED, FET transistors, and two silicon options).  Cool.
– A Filter switch for a second voicing.  Sweet.
– Volume, Tone and Fuzz knobs.  Probably necessary for a fuzz pedal.
– An “8-Bit” knob to dial in gated fuzz sounds.  Super sweet.
– Soft touch bypass.  Yes.  I prefer a soft touch (or momentary) switch on a pedal.  No noisy clicks or anything to clutter your sound upon engagement of pedal.

Check out Function f(x)’s website for more info

 

Alexander Pedals

I want to tell you about this fledgling company because they make very cool delay pedals – specifically The Radical Delay.  Started by Matthew Farrow of Pharoah Amps and Disaster Area Designs (they make awesome MIDI controllers for pedals), Alexander Pedals is off to a great start with a small yet unique line of effects that include another really cool delay pedal, a boost, and tremolo.

The Pedal File - Alexander Pedals Radical DelayThe Radical delay is like the name suggests – you know, different.  This pedal makes sounds that would only be possible otherwise with an effects loop-equipped delay with a bit crusher, phaser, some chorus/vibrato, and pitch shifter, and probably some other stuff thrown in the mix.  If you’re boring you can just have fun with the dotted-eigth note setting for cool rhythmic delays.  If you’re a wild and crazy guy (or gal) you’ll appreciate the gnarly ascending delay effects that sound almost like a Rainbow Machine.

Tweakables:
Time — Adjusts the maximum delay time from 10ms to 900ms.
Repeat — Controls the feedback of the delay.
Tweak — (Extra point for this label.  Also it is the word of the day.  Er, blog.) Tweaks a different parameter in each mode. See the mode descriptions for full details.
Mix — Controls the blend between fully dry and fully wet echo sound. 12 o’clock is an equal mix of clean and echo.

Mode Toggle:
Mod — Super-clean digital delay with adjustable modulation. The Tweak knob adds a luscious modulation to the delay.  At 12 o’clock there is no modulation. Clockwise adds a slow chorus and counter-clockwise adds a fast vibrato.  Chorus and delay sound like angels having orgies in heaven.  Such a pure sound.
Glitch — Pristine digital delay that you can mangle in unusual and interesting ways (I’m into that).  With the Tweak knob fully counter-clockwise, the Radical Delay will echo exactly what you play. Turn the Tweak knob clockwise to add some “ghost in the machine” style glitches and odd pitch modulation (Ok I’m aroused).  And with the Tweak knob fully clockwise, the Radical Delay sounds more like a synthesizer or video game console (And now I’m finished).  It kind of sounds like a bit crusher is added to the delayed signal only, which I have to say again sounds pretty god damn amazing.
Bend — Delay with pitch shifting that’s based on the earliest technology (aliens?) and spirals up or down with each repeat. Turn the Tweak knob counter clockwise to shift the pitch down or clockwise to shift up.  This one sounds kind of like a Rainbow Machine, which also has my ‘sounds god damn amazing’ stamp of approval.

*Hint: Turn the delay time all the way down and the Radical Delay will take on a whole new vibe. In Mod mode, you’ll find analog-flavored chorus. Glitch mode turns into a “bleep bloop” robot machine. And in Bend mode, try blending the dry signal in for glitchy pitch-shifted harmony lines.  Extra extra points for this feature.  The Radical Delay is asking for it, think of all the naughty things you and this pedal can do.

All that and a portion of your money goes to a cancer charity in honor of the builder’s brother Alex (hence the name).  So you can receive an awesome pedal and give some of your money to charity?  I guess that’s cool.

Check out Alexander Pedal’s website for more info.

That’s all I got for now.  Go forth, and live your life knowing you learned about a few more pedals that you should buy.  Just don’t forget who sent you.

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment, or feel free to follow me to get updates on my next post.  Also, I almost forgot, I’ve added a Contact page so you can contact me directly with any questions, suggestions, or bad words you need to get off your chest.  Or on.

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File