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

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The Pedal File – The Time for Pedals is Now

Is there a more beautiful word than ‘pedal’?  I don’t think so.  Say it.  Say it again.  It feels good doesn’t it?  Mmm, pedal.

I love pedals.  I love experimenting with their sounds, tweaking their knobs, caressing their enclosures, rubbing my face against them, etc.  I’m always on the lookout for pedals that are well built, entertaining, unique, strange, experimental, and/or inspiring.  That’s why I’m here today to tell you about two cool pedals and how cool you are for reading this.  No need to thank me, just doing my job.

Keeley Electronics Vibe-O-Verb

The Pedal File - Keeley Vibe-O-VerbLately Keeley has been pumpin’ it out like Bill Cosby in a coma ward.  Seriously they’ve released like 25 pedals (give or take) in the last year.  Keeley must have employed Underpants Gnomes or something to do all this work for them in such a short time.  Pretty clever because they work for underpants, not money.

Anyway, I just caught a glimpse of the brand new Vibe-O-Verb and I was pretty impressed with Keeley’s most recent reverb rendition.  It’s a modulated reverb (usually reverb with chorus on the reverb tail), the likes of which have been around for a while, but the Vibe-O-Verb takes this idea up a notch like it was bammed by that fat greaseball Emeril himself.  With the Vibe-O-Verb you can achieve sounds that would only be possible with a reverb equipped with an effects loop, plus the other pedals for adding modulation to the wet signal; that could be a whole small pedalboard’s worth of space.  The reverb is dense and moody, full of movement, sway, and atmosphere, especially when utilizing the modulation.  You don’t want your reverb to be modulated all the time?  No worries, just turn the depth knob down and all you’ve got is the nice simple reverb to play with.  You Philistine.

fibonacci

Yup, that’s a galaxy and a cabbage.

Did I mention the delay space algorithms are based on the Fibonacci sequence?  If nature follows this pattern, why wouldn’t it be a good idea to model reverb decay time after it?

Tweakables:

Depth – this affects the amount of modulation on the reverb.  Set it low for a little or high for a lot, or turn it all the way down to eliminate the modulation.  I recommend leaving this up.
Rate – Also affects the modulation section.  Set it low for a nice wash, or high for faster rotary or choppy tremolo type stuff.
Decay – Adjusts the length of the reverb.  I’m not sure of the specifics, but based on the video it can be subtle or pretty cavernous.
Blend – blend in your clean signal.  You get to choose how much effect you want.  How liberating.

Modes:

harmonic reverb – imparts some choppy harmonic tremolo (basically like a vintage Brownface amp trem or Keeley’s DynaTrem) on the reverb tail.  Some settings end up sounding like delay as the reverb reverberates and the tremolo chops.
vibrato reverb – can do anything from subtle to extreme chorus/vibrato sounds on the reverb tail.  I don’t get into vibrato too much, but I really like the way it sounds on this pedal mixed with the reverb.  Of course the chorus sounds brilliant and seems perfect for getting all spacey and out there man.
phaser reverb – the most subtle of all.  Adds a notch filter to the tails.  From what I can tell this makes the brightness/darkness of the reverb shift from one extreme to the other.  Honestly it’s hard to detect in the video, but hopefully it’s more apparent when playing in person.

Check out the video from Pro Guitar Shop for a nice taste:

For more info:  www.keeleyelectronics.com

Mr. Black Shepard’s End

The Pedal File - Mr. Black Shepard's EndMr. Black is a small, but reputable company based out of Portland, Oregon.  They specialize in two categories of effects: dirt and modulation.  When I say specialize, I mean Jack Deville (the dude behind the mysterious company name) eats lesser dirt and modulation pedals for breakfast, which fuels his ability to produce effects that are perfect for getting all heavy and psychedelic like your momma on an acid trip.  Snap!

Mr. Black is kind of a big deal when it comes to modulation.  A lot of guitar players (and players of other things) swear by their Eterna reverb for it’s lush tone and I even once spotted a Black LTD Overdriver on the board of Jamie Stillman (owner of EQD).  My point again is that this guy knows pedals and has designed a real paragon in the Shepard’s End Infinite Flanger.

Now y’all should know by now that I think flangers are the shit, and thanks to this golden age of gear we live in there are more and more flangers coming out all the time; I’m only interested in the ones that sound good and/or have something unique to offer, and that’s why I want you to want the Shepard’s End.

The Shepard’s End is unique because it’s an infinite flanger, meaning it’s capable of producing what is called ‘barberpole flange’.  So what the hell is ‘barberpole flange’ you ask?  Well you see kids, in normal flanger pedals, the filter will oscillate, or move up and down, to create that nice pleasant whoosh that is so thrilling to at least my ears.  In contrast the Shepard’s End tricks are based on the Shepard tone or effect.  The Shepard effect creates the auditory illusion of a tone that continually ascends or descends in pitch, but does not seem to get any higher or lower (if you want to learn more about it click here).  Basically it means the flange wave has no beginning and no end (how zen), which means the filter can perpetually sweep up or down.  Like forever, or at least your brain is tricked into perceiving that it does (damn naive brains).  Hence the term ‘barberpole’ being applied here.  It can also do continual ‘through-zero flange’ and also features positive and negative regeneration, so your flange can sound more chorusy-phaser-like or like an imploding metal tubular black hole respectively.  This means that this is probably the weirdest flanger you’ll come across.  In the video it sounds very synthy and at times almost laser-like.

Tweakables:

Wave – adjusts the shape of the flange wave for upward, through-zero, or downward cycles.  Either way it’s gonna get goopy and it’s gonna go on forever, like a signal sent out into space in search of extraterrestrial life.
Speed – Adjusts the rate of the filter sweep.
Regen – Adjusts the regeneration, or the amount of signal fed back into itself anywhere from none to negative and positive.  Lots of tones reside here in this knob I’m sure.

You can find the Shepard’s End and the whole line of Mr. Black pedals at www.mrblackpedals.com

That’s all for now.  Thank you for reading!  As always feel free to leave me a comment about how your day is going.  Or something about pedals is cool too.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Recovery Effects: Cutting Room Floor

Greetings, I come in peace.  Unless you are an effects pedal – then I wish to become your owner and make you a slave unto me.  I’m not sure why I feel the need to open every post like this, it just kind of happens when I’m alone with my thoughts and a computer…

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But anyway, today I’d like to direct your attention to one of the weirdest and most interesting pedals I’ve seen in a while.  On top of being point-to-point hand-wired with no printed circuit board, I’m not even sure how to classify it because it combines functions not normally seen in one pedal.  Possibly ever.  The Recovery Effects Cutting Room Floor is a pedal designed by someone who isn’t afraid to really get dirty with experimentation (and I’m pretty certain this is expected of the user considering the unorthodox tones that can be brought forth).  This effect is like frankenstein, built of parts that never belonged together in the first place and brought to life through ritual black magic and a big tesla coil shooting lightning bolts into it.  I’m not even sure if Graig Markel, the mad scientist behind Recovery Effects, has even realized the monstrosity he’s unleashed on the world.  And now it’s too late….  The Cutting Room Floor is upon us.

Recovery Effects bills this pedal as a glitch, pitch, echo, modulation pedal.  Here’s a description in their own words:  “[The Cutting Room Floor]…offers mountains of wild modulation, delay, freeze and stutter.  Anything from light lo-fi chorus to broken-tape-deck sounds can be achieved with this unique pedal. Melt, then freeze tones in place, or use it as a gritty echo or faux reverb.”  At first I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that description or the list of features for that matter.  Then I thought about the name – Cutting Room Floor, which is a film industry expression referring to edited portions of footage not used in the final edit of a film.  So you see, this pedal is like taking small bits of different effects units and jamming them into one nice tight enclosure.  Do the pieces belong together?  Maybe not, but it’s companies like Recovery that are raising the bar by re-imagining effects in a market overrun with clones and modifications.   And that my friends is what makes me feel all warm and fuzzy on my insides.

The Pedal File - Recovery Effects Cutting Room Floor

Tweakables:
*Don’t quote me on any of this since I don’t have a manual to use as reference.  Basically, I’m typing out my ass right now.  Just don’t smell my keyboard….

Time – sets the delay time.  Probably something like one or no repeats at minimum up to a 1000 ms at the max?
Intensity – sounds like it controls the amount of pitch shifts only on the repeats, like a modulated delay but the pitch shifting is random like someone (or something??) is cranking an invisible delay time knob up and down on the repeats.  This control (I think) can make sounds like hatching a Yoshi in Super Mario. Awesome.
Modulation – controls oscillation or rise and fall (like a sine wave) of the delayed repeats.
Blend – to blend or mix in your clean unaffected signal.  And yes, I do always have to point out that I really like this knob on any pedal.  And yes, stupid, I like it because it provides a lot more versatility than an effect that is ‘all or nothing’.  (I kid, you’re not really stupid…I mean, you can read, right?  If you’re American, that’s pretty damn good!!)
Volume – duh, to control how loud this naughty pedal can get.  Not sure if it goes above unity gain or not.
Stutter/reverb toggle switch – switches between stutter or reverb.  I can’t be sure how the stutter is controlled, but I get the feeling it makes the repeats cut off abruptly to make them sound choppy and tremolo like?  I think you press the freeze button and it momentarily engages the opposite function of what is selected by the toggle switch.  The freeze button also sounds like it slams and/or pounds the delay time knob causing crazy lo-fi tape delay self oscillation whirlpools that can suck you down faster than if you were caught alone in a dark alley with Justin Bieber.

Since I don’t have a manual or much to reference, you should definitely watch Recovery’s video and see for yourself.  It’s short, and I get the feeling it only scratches the surface of what this pedal can do.  Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think!  I think noisy noise heads would probably love this pedal as they can expect it to do a bunch of crazy things loosely related to delay, reverb, and unpredictable pitch shifting anarchy.  I love all the sounds on the video from the slap back garage verb, to the ambient chorus/reverb, to the lo-fi analog delay, and of course the ‘slamming the tape head’ crazy oscillating helicopter sound.  Anyone who is looking for that weird or experimental tone for their board should deeply consider owning this pedal.  I know I am as I would love to see everything The Cutting Room Floor can do.

Check out Recovery Effects’ website for more info.  As always, feel free share your opinions in the comment box below!  Oh and I almost forgot.  Head over to the Look page to see some cool new pedal acquisitions!

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File

Pedal Feature Update – MAK Crazy Sound Technology Space Reverb

Hello fellow pedal aficionados!  Welcome back to my ramblings.  It’s been a whole month since we last met and I’ve really missed forcing you to read what I write.  It fills me with sick pleasure, not unlike that of effects pedals.  Today I’m going to elaborate on my previous post about an obscure effects pedal company.  Yes my friends, I finally received the MAK Crazy Sound Technology Space Reverb!  Yay!

mak_000

It only takes 29 days to send a package from the Ukraine to Ohio.  In case you were wondering.


I used to think reverb was boring, like why would I ever need more than one reverb pedal?  But there’s lots of crunchy-outer-coated-gooey-centered reverb-ery pedal flavors out there, some with one knob, some with controls over every parameter.  It turns out the world of reverb is much bigger than I ever suspected.  After some exploration I realize it’s cool, not boring, and useful because it adds extra depth and dimension to your tone.  It’s an effect that can take you out of whatever room you’re in and place you in a bigger room, or hall, or chamber, or canyon, etc.  Or you can just throw on a little and be subtle with things.  I have reverb on my amp that I have set low enough that you only really notice when it’s off.  I like that.  However I realized recently that sometimes it’s cool to make your chords or leads or farts sound really really big.  Something to make you feel like a rock star at some big arena, like Steve Perry at The Q.  I still leave a subtle amount of reverb on the amp all the time, and have the pedal out front for the big tones.  The Space Reverb is perfect for this.  It makes for a great subtle reverb, but excels at those big tones I’m talking about.

I was drawn to the Space Reverb primarily because it sounds superb and has versatile controls.  What really sold me was the multi-mode toggle switch.  Nicky likey multiple functions on one pedal.  Why?  Versatility, stupid!  This pedal can easily be your tool chest of reverb.  Whether you want familiar sounds or crazy ass ones you’ve got everything you need to put yourself, your band, and your audience out to sea.  In space.  And for real, the shimmer mode can get pretty freaky.  Like when they find out the alien is on the ship.  Or you can be a pussy and stay in the shallow end of the reverb pool with your swimmies and wimpy short room reverbs.  Just kidding short reverb has a place too!  …And all this can be achieved with one pedal!

Tweakables:
Decay – sets the reverb decay from a short room slap-back verb all the way to putting your amp in caves inside caves inside a volcano on Mars while you play and listen from Earth.  It can be barely there or it can be a powerful intoxicating cloud that takes you over like you’re locked in the garage with the car running.  Be sure to get some fresh air and don’t got lost in any hazy corners of your mind.  Or jam room.
Hi – sets amount of hi frequency you want in the reverb or effected signal (controls the high intervals of the shimmer mode)
Low – sets amount of low frequency you want in the reverb or effected signal (controls the low intervals of the shimmer mode)
Mix – wet/dry mix for adding the clean signal back in.  Every pedal should have a mix knob!  Retain just enough pick attack to make your playing stand out over the reverb washes.  With this maxed out, it gets reallllllllly spacey.
3-Way Toggle:
Plate – emulates a plate reverb.  Not a dinner plate, silly, metal plates.  Not many pedals do the plate reverb.  It’s a different sound than a spring or room reverb.  It has a metallic quality to the reflections.  It’ll make your surf riffs sound a little sweeter.
Ambient – is what it is.  The higher you set the mix knob the more your intitial attack will disappear and the deeper you will descend into a blissful watery grave.  All the way up there is no attack, which creates a sort of reverse reverb or swell effect.  With the decay maxed it sounds kind of like a freeze pedal, or an analog delay softly self-oscillating reminiscent of an Echoplex.  It creates a beautiful and gentle wash behind what you’re playing, like a modulated infinite delay.  So great for adding drama and texture to your tone, and it even works great on keyboard.
Shimmer – sounds kind of like a harmonizer.  In octaves and 5ths possibly?  It’s hard to say, it seems to change interval depending on where you’re fretting the neck, lower fretted notes make a nasty tritone.  It’s easy to get organ or synth pad sounds by controlling the shimmering octaves with the hi and low knobs.  If you turn the octaves down, the reverb is has a hall or cathedral character.  Also with the hi knob down and low at different positions I was able to get a very nice low octave (electric) bass guitar sound and reproduce low strings like cello or bowed upright bass.

As much as I’d love it if this thing wasn’t named and labeled in English (something about globalization?), the name ‘Space Reverb’ certainly describes the pedal more efficiently than I ever could…  Spacey, atmospheric, trippy, ethereal, ambient, etc. are all good words to describe this pedal.  With any mode selected you’ve got instant depth to the depths of depth, man.  Don’t take my word for it, check out my demo video and hear it for yourself.


One thing is for sure.  MAK has my seal of approval on pedals, I only wish they were more readily available in the States.  What do you think, does this get your approval?  Don’t be a-scared, you’ve got a computer to hide behind!  If you’re like me and you have to have one, send them a Facebook message or snag one off EBay while you can.

MAK’s Facebook Page

I wish them the best of luck with their pedal endeavors.  I’m sure they’ll do well if they keep on making sweet and inspiring pedals!

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nick
The Pedal File