Pedalboards 2013 - Is 3 overkill?
Pedalboards 2013 - Is 3 overkill?

As much as I love using my full rig (also seen in its full glory in the above photo from our appearance at the Les Vernets stadium, 24 Feb 2012), it’s not an ideal setup for occasions where either I can’t use my own backline, or for songwriting sessions and rehearsing new songs with the band.

The reason for this is that the big rig uses a TC Electronics G-Major 2 for all delays, choruses, etc, all of which are programmed and stored as patches to be used during a live show. This means that it is quite tricky to change sounds and effect combinations on the fly – not ideal when working on new material. Also, as I quite frequently play gigs where the backline is supplied by the organisers, the big rig doesn’t give me an easily portable, plug and play solution with stompboxes, etc, to provide the dirt and distortion.

So, the answer is obvious: I need several rigs or, to be precise, several pedalboards.

Rack rig pedalboard

I’ve decided to move over to a RJM Music Mastermind floor controller, the main advantage being that, with a 7-pin MIDI cable, I can phantom-power the Mastermind from the RJM Mini Amp Gizmo in the rack. This is great! Not only one less thing to have to power but, also, the Mastermind has 5 patches per bank which makes it slightly more versatile for setting up each bank as a song. Although I rarely need more than 4 patches per song, there are a couple of tracks which require it, so I’m looking forward to having this additional flexibility.

The only downside is that a Mastermind and an expression pedal won’t fit on the PedalTrain Junior, whereas the Musicomlab EFX III (my current MIDI floor controller) and an expression pedal do fit perfectly. Luckily, I have a very old Pedaltrain 1 (the original PT-1 without holes for mounting a power supply) lying around, unused and unloved, which is the perfect width.

Also, thanks to the phantom power from the Mini Amp Gizmo, although I won’t normally need to provide power to this board, I am taking the precaution of mounting my old Voodoo Labs Pedal Power (the original Mark 1 version) to the top of the PT-1 just in case I have a problem with my MIDI cable and need to use a 5-pin cable. In a situation like this, the Mastermind needs an external power source.

Getting rid of the glue left by the 7 year old Velcro took a bit of elbow grease, aided by a glue remover product I picked up in the local DIY store. Once done, I decided to add some rubber feet to the front corners (audience side) of the base. I’m sure there used to be rubber pads or something on the corners of these old PT-1’s, but mine seem to have made a bid for freedom and have all disappeared. Luckily, I had a couple of old amp feet in the parts drawer plus some washers and self-tapping screws. I’m not sure how long the self-tappers will last, as I suspect that my drill size was ever so slightly too big for the screws. We shall see…

Finally, I decided to use 3M Dual Lock for mounting the Mastermind and Mission Engineering expression pedal to the PT-Junior. The Mission expression pedal also benefits from having a wah mounting pad supplied by Analogman. The Pedal Power is fixed to the board with a couple of nuts and bolts via little homemade mounting plates (actually, bent bicycle chain links).

Mini Board

The Mini Board is going to be my “grab’n’go” setup, ideal for songwriting sessions, jams, even small gigs if necessary, and the design brief for this board is quite straightforward:

  • Everything must fit on a Pedaltrain Junior
  • Wah
  • Distortion plus boost, or two distortion pedals
  • Programmable delay (I need those milliseconds precise)
  • Modulation – either the Nova Modulator, the Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe Junior, or something new.

Thanks to a surplus of pedals in my smallish collection, I have a few options for each of these effect types. For example, for crunch/distortion I could stick with my tried and tested Blackstar HT-Dual, or I could use the Bogner Uberschall pedal plus the ReezaFratZitz. For delay, I will probably stick with the TC Electronic Nova Delay. It’s a great pedal and can be setup to have 9 presets, plus its sound quality is fine for me. Having said that, TC Electronic has recently issued a new version of this pedal with an upgraded buffer which, funds permitting, could be a good investment.

Big Board

The Big Board will be my number 1 choice for “backline supplied” gigs and Phazy sessions where the rack rig isn’t appropriate. This will cover the same bases as the Mini Board, ie crunch/distortion, lead boost, delay, modulation and wah, but with perhaps some additional pedals for distortion and modulation sounds to give wider flexibility of sounds.

I haven’t yet decided whether to use the Musicomlab EFX III to control all of this, or whether to use a looper such as the GigRig Quartermaster. The pro’s and con’s of each are mainly to do with MIDI, ie whether or not I want to control any of the pedals via MIDI. Currently, of the pedal effects units in my possession, only the Nova Drive is MIDI capable, so perhaps I should just get the GigRig.

Not decided yet whether to go for a Pedaltrain PT-2, perhaps even a Pedaltrain PT-3 (which would work very well with the GigRig Quartermaster. Alternatively, I use the 28″ TrailerTrash board, but this is a big piece of kit and I’m trying to keep size and weight of gear down, rather than up!

And finally…

Why don’t you just buy a TC Electronic G-System and be done with it, I hear you ask. Good question, and one I’ve asked myself more than once in the last couple of years. True, I could probably cover all scenarios with this, though I would need to keep the TC “brain” attached to the board, which would mean running more cables to the front of the stage. Another consideration is the costs – these babies aren’t cheap, and I already have quite a few pedals sitting around gathering dust.

Anyway, I’ll post updates as the various builds take shape. Why not Subscribe and ensure that you don’t miss the next instalment?

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