Of late I’ve been talking a bit downsizing and portable-izing (is that a new word?) my guitar rig. This is partly because I can’t be bothered to lug big heavy stuff anymore, partly because I’m trying in vain to get it all on my motorcycle (yes really!) and partly because I think so many dream rigs that guitarists covet and copy are really overkill for what we do in the average church worship band setting.
One important but oft overlooked piece of equipment is the actual pedal board itself. A well thought out pedal board saves you set up time, hassle and in the long run money as cables will last a lot longer if you don’t have to plug and unplug all the time.
The thing is with pedal boards is that most guitarists at some point dream of their ‘ultimate’ rig. This invariably involves a 37 pedal set up with every sonic eventually covered, just in case they need that sound. So in preparation for when they can afford the dream rig they order a full flight type case. Its big, it’s rugged and the thing ends up weighing as much as John Candy’s coffin. I remember one of my guitar student’s proud home-made effort. It was genuinely made out of half of a full sized metal door! They actually had trouble fitting it in one of their cars!!
So because I downsized my pedal set up I took a punt on an ex demo Pedaltrain Mini that I found at a music show for about £25. I’ve still got an original Pedtrain that I bought about 9 or 10 years ago when they came out and its still going strong. So this looked like a no-brainer.
Like its big brother the Mini has an aluminium (or alloooominum for my American friends) base board, some heavy duty Velcro to stick your pedals to it, and case to carry it in. In this case, a nice nylon gig bag with an extra top pocket to house picks capos, strings and other gubbins.
It can only house about five pedals but for me, with the Line 6 M9 I got and a couple of overdrive pedals, it’s enough. I can even put an expression pedal in the top pocket to give me control over the wah, volume swells, Uni-Vibe etc.
So here are a few tips, learnt the hard way about assembling a useable pedal board.
What pedals do you actually need? If you are playing Tomlin/Redman/Hughes songs a decent Tubescreamer type overdrive and a decent delay will probably suffice 95% of the time.
Does your board have a decent tuner? If not, get one! Tuning is the most important thing!
Don’t go overboard (no pun intended). Just because you want to capture Pink Floyd’s sound in worship doesn’t mean you need a Dave Gilmour sized board.
Do you need a full flight cased board? It looks cool but are you actually touring with roadies throwing around your equipment? If not save some energy and your back!
Start with assembling your pedals and check what size of board you need. If you like your pedals get the right sized board to fit them, not the other way round
Don’t forget to allow space for connectors and cables.
Don’t use cheap patch cables! I like George L’s. The cable doesn’t last forever but the connectors are small and you can cut the cable length to your exact specs
Think about how you’re going to attach the pedals to the board itself. Velcro? Cable ties? NB. If your pedal has large feet you may not be physically able to get the Velcro between the base of the pedal and on the board to stick together.
If the board comes with a built in power supply make sure it will actually work with your own pedals. It’s pretty frustrating and pointless to have to take a mishmash of odd, weird voltage power supplies along with you just to feed a single pedal needing 27.4 volts.
Some pedals require an isolated power supply and will hum if you are daisy chaining them together from a single power supply. If this is the case try a Virtual Battery from thegigrig.com. these little wonders look just like a square 9 volt battery and if you connect them in line in your daisy chain the hum goes away! Works brilliantly if you have a germanium fuzz or one of the Line6 single pedals like the Echo Park