hello fellow travellers,
just checking in before 2016 gives way to 2017, I have been quite preoccupied of late with my new guitar system, I’m building three pedalboards at the moment, and I am in the middle of creating 200 MIDI presets to call up an enormous range of ordinary, unusual, and ambient guitar sounds – from massive distortion (as in, Crush Station and Sculpt) to beautiful modulations to amazing delays to gorgeous reverbs (thanks to Space) or incredible combinations of delay, echo, repeat, and reverb (as in SpaceTime, Ultratap, and Resonator – three amazing H9 modules) so instead of uploading tracks and writing blogs and putting items up on Twitter – instead of any of that, for something like the last two or three months now, I’ve been slowly working out the way these three boards should work.
I have, in an attempt to at least release something for the New Year, I’ve uploaded two completed tracks to the new “music for apps: garage band – an eternal album” record and they are a couple of really interesting pieces – the first one, “preponderance”, is eight minutes plus of something so strange, involving so many interesting sounds and loops, and musical events, that I find it almost impossible to describe. the best thing is to give it a listen, it’s quite unusual.
the second song is much shorter, and features a strange, dissonant bass line that I actually played on my iphone, on the Apple “McCartney” style bass interface, and then looped in Garageband – and then, I proceeded to create an entire song, entitled “demonstrations of affliction” (in honour of Bill Nelson’s “Demonstrations Of Affection” – of course!) over the top of this very strange and repetitive bass line. But – it’s interesting, and I look at “what works” with what in a slightly different way after this experience. there are times when the bass loop clashes loudly and horribly with the overdubs, but, I do insist – it’s SUPPOSED to be that way! Really, it is.
these two pieces brought me a lot of joy in their creation, and there are two or three more that I’ve been working on that are not quite ready for prime time – but, once I’ve finished those – I will put them up, I am really enjoying the “garage band experiments”.
now – back to what is important – these crazy pedalboards.
why are there three? – well, because that’s what works for me. everyone does pedalboards differently – I want three, but, the three work together to form one giant system. and that is actually really awesome!
so the first board, is for non-MIDI stompboxes, such as, pitch, distortion, overdrive, EQ pedals. that’s a small board, with perhaps, 8 or 9 devices – and, it can be used standalone for practice or rehearsal, or for very small gigs where you don’t want to haul all of the equipment. this board is known as the “Input Board” – this is where the guitar signal starts.
then – there is the MAIN board, which is for MIDI-controlled stompboxes. This is where my Eventide devices live, along with their dedicated power supply and a MIDI splitter and cables. this is where the magic happens, by combining different patches across the H9s, or using the Pitch Factor and Space stomps to provide harmony and … space…the possibilities here are staggering. so this is the heart of the system. The output of the Input Board, plugs into the Input of the Main Board…so I drive the non-MIDI effects into the MIDI controlled effects.
finally – pedalboard three – is the “Control Board” – this is the simplest of the boards, it contains a large MIDI pedal, that can be programmed to call up all of the different patches on the five devices. Along with that, are two expression pedals, which are used to alter different parameters on different effects, you know, like the speeding up and slowing down of a leslie speaker simulator, or increasing the spaces between the beats on a tremolo and so on….plus a third expression pedal to operate a stand-alone non-MIDI delay that I use (exclusively) for reverse guitar sounds.
yes, I could have got reverse guitar sounds from the H9s (and I do, actually) but I wanted to free up a bank – so by adding the delay, that means, I freed an entire bank that had been dedicated to reverse sounds. so I am much happier this way, because I can now make any of the 200 patches – play in reverse. That is brilliant!
but this is where this whole pedalboard building experience really amazes me…if I step back a moment in time, to when I was about 13, and I was in my first real band, and I had a no-name red semi-acoustic electric guitar, and I played through a single channel of a tiny amp, with another guitarist (the owner of the amp) plugged into the same channel of the one channel amp – I didn’t have an amp of my own, so I had to plug into one of the other guitarists’ amps! That – was my “set up” in 1971.
I remember speaking with the drummer in the band, Brian Monaco, he and I were the main singers, so we solemnly both decided that we would each buy a Radio Shack best quality vocal microphone for something like $25.00 – which was a huge amount of money, and then we had to buy the mic stands, too…no boom for me, just the straight stand with the massive, heavy weights at the bottom. Brian had the expensive stand with the boom, because he needed it – he was the drummer, after all.
We plugged both mics into one tiny guitar amp, and with the guitars all plugged in together in a way that you just should not do… and that was the bands’ set up. Three tiny no name amplifiers, with three guitars and two microphones plugged into the six possible inputs – and all three amps were single channel, so the sound must have been terrible. But – we didn’t notice – we just played. Amazingly, there is a tape of that band, which you can find somewhere on this blog, in the “companion” to the blog – there are a few tracks from that gig posted.
So when I think back to that, and I then consider what my guitar system is like today, some forty plus years later – with my MIDI controlled presets (20o of them!) and the endless combinations of effects and sounds I can retreive with one button push – I can’t really believe this is happening, it doesn’t seem possible, but – it is. I’ve just done my first sysex backup of the Ground Control Pro MIDI Pedal, which was very exciting. It actually worked – which means I can back up and restore the entire contents of the MIDI pedal as needed – which is great!
I often wish that my “13 year old self” could just see my current 2016 set up, so he would know (have known) what the future held.
I remember when I was 15, I began to use guitar effects, first, I had a wah wah pedal that I bought myself, which was a great tool, and then later, a cast-off and not very good sounding Arbiter Fuzz Face, the old red one – which I now wish I still had! and then later still, I had the use of an Echoplex, which was simply an amazing tool, when I was something like 16 or 17. If I could have seen where that was headed, to modern delays, loopers, and so on – I would have said “no way, this is simply not possible”…
My 13 year old self would not have believed what can be achieved with MIDI and guitars, it’s simply astonishing technology – and I was blissfully unaware of it until much, much later in life. But I’m glad Ive gone through this, and I think that it’s better to have a good sounding guitar, with a range of different interesting patches, than just ONE GUITAR SOUND – always the same. That does seem dull, and I know that as a guitarist, I should love the idea of plugging my strat into a tube amp, with NO pedals, and just wailing and waxing poetic with the pure sound of tubes – and yes, I do love that sound, but…not to the exclusion of all else.
I think effects are important, and I do spend a lot of time, trying to get them to sound as natural and as organic as possible, I want you to hear the guitar playing first and the effect, second – definitely. I don’t want to be defined by effects, but by my note choices and the songs I write and record and play. So I do try to remember my roots, try to remember what it was like, always playing through a borrowed amp, for years, as a teenager, because I couldn’t afford an amp!
The truth is, the last time I even OWNED a tube amp, was at least ten years ago – no, at least 12 or 13 years ago (a beautiful small black MESA Boogie which I should NEVER have sold – SIGH!!) so perhaps someday, I will get into amps again. I think in this day and age, using a high quality device such as the H9 for my main sounds – that I can do just as well (using only a pedalboard into a clean stereo power amp) as a tube amp and no one will really know the difference, – except other guitarists.
I have never hidden the fact that I love effects, and I mean, I have gone pedal mad, I read about pedals, I dream about pedals – and I think there are some truly wonderful pedals out there that can transform your playing and take your guitar sound into the realms of the beyond. I’ve finally realised that that, is where I want to go. Beyond.
We have the technology – so – why not?
If you see what I mean.
I must now return to programming, I am on bank D now, so, I have about 140 of the 200 presets entered. Wish me luck on the rest…
Dave at pureambient
Happy Very Belated Christmas and a Merry New Year to all !!!!