Urrrrgh, I HATE carting my pedalboard around to gigs and events. The thing is so darn heavy, and then I have to also carry my guitar, go back to the car and get my amp and then I ha.....
YOU GET THE IDEA...
I've been trying for a few months now to get my butt into gear and create a mini board for ease of use and so I can transport everything a bit easier. Also, I was pulling apart my board for the smaller gigs which was wrecking my cabling AND my OCD in keeping everything neat and tidy.
So, mini boards....
How do you condense this:
Seriously, how do you do it without compromising the key characteristics of your main sound, which is unique to YOU...
I'll try my absolute best to break down the steps I'm taking personally, on my road to achieving this.
MAKE A PLAN
So the first part of any pedalboard project needs to be a little word starting with 'P'. No, not 'PLAYING'. The word is 'PLANNING'. Boring I know, as playing is what we all love to do. However, it's an essential part of doing this.
You need to decide how much (what we call in the pedalboard world) REAL ESTATE you need. This is a term to describe how much room you need on your board to accommodate all the effects and sounds you need. Remember, we are building a mini board for a project, so no Pedaltrain Grande's 😜
I went for the Pedaltrain Metro 16. I felt their Nano series boards were a bit TOO small for what I needed.
Tangent; I LOVE Pedaltrain's products. They're reliable, lightweight (until those darn pedals enter the fray at least), and super practical. They come with either a soft case or a tour grade hard case (more expensive and heavier!).
I have a Pedaltrain PT-2 as my main board (they've since rebranded it in their new range as the Novo 24 with an extra rail and an open front).
WORK OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH
If you are like me, you like to have a few tricks up your sleeve when it comes to playing live. Here is a brief run-down what I have on my main board.
Buffer (front end)
Two Drives (one dual)
2 Delays (One Analog/One Digital)
1 Reverb (BEAST)
Buffer (back end)
I want to retain some of the sound I have which:
1) still sounds like me
2) still inspires me when i'm playing (very important)
As i've been acquiring new pieces of gear (much to my wife's delight), naturally the old pieces of gear have been lying around, so I can again put these to go use. Here's what I have;
TC ELECTRONIC SPARK MINI BOOSTER - Probably one of the best clean boosts I've owned. This thing is so awesome, that I bought two for my main board. However, I've decided to move the extra one the this mini board. Who knows, I may end up getting a third one 🙈
CMATMODS SIGNA COMP - The only reason I took this off the board I because I got the Keeley Compressor Plus for the main board. I chose the Keeley because it has that awesome squash and a blend knob so I can mix y dry uncompressed signal with the squashed compressed signal. The Signa Comp is still a great compressor though and gets the job done very efficiently.
JHS PEDALS MORNING GLORY - Definitely the best drive I've ever played. It's modelled on the original Marshall Bluesbreaker Overdrive circuit from the early 90's. This thing sounds great, looks great and feels great in terms of response to your touch when playing. The only reason this is not on the main board is because I bought a JHS Pedals Moonshine V2 (modeled on a TS808). Giving the 'shine a run out for a bit, but who knows, I may interchange them again at some point.
CROWTHER AUDIO HOT CAKE (BLUESBERRY) - LOVE this pedal. It's very noisy, and very old. However, it's fantastic for lead lines and octave runs that you want to cut through during big, driving sections. I took it off the main board and replaced it with a Keeley Electronics D&M Drive (Dan and Mick are LEGENDS. Make sure you check out 'That Pedal Show' on YouTube and subscribe for everything you need to know about effects and stuff).
SIMPLICITY IS KEY
Simplicity really is key. Do you REALLY need that 4th Reverb and 8th Boutique Overdrive? No, Go with the basics which is:
- Light Drive
- Heavier Drive
- Delay (ONE!)
- Reverb (ONE!)
This will cover most bases, I guarantee it.
WILL IT FIT???
I mentioned the term, 'Real Estate' earlier, to describe how much space you'll have on your pedalboard. Now, you can get crafty. Things such as small buffers can be mounted underneath boards, provided you have enough clearance under there.
A fantastic site for planning a pedalboard build is pedalplayground.com. They have the majority of pedals on there, and it's a simple case of drag and drop. If the pedal you want isn't on there, they have a neat custom box template, just pop in the pedals dimensions and there ya go!
I went on there and made a plan for my board. Here it is:
Some of these pedals, i'm yet to acquire, so that is why planning your build on the website above is important before you splash your cash on a pedal that is going to be too big and not convenient.
Let me explain MY choices:
KORG PITCHBLACK MINI TUNER - I used to own a regular sized Korg Pitchblack and liked it. It's just a tuner, but the display has to be a determining factor. Sometimes you just don't know where you'll be playing. It could be outside... This display is visible outside, and inside so you can see it. Tuning = very important.
JHS PEDALS LUCKY CAT DELAY - On my main board, I have an Analog Delay for a short, always on delay that is subtle enough not to 'get in the way'. I also have a Digital Delay for the more crisp, longer repeats that I need to be more pronounced. I've been looking at JHS Lucky Cat for a while. It has a Digital/Analog flavor switch on the left hand hand side of the pedal, and also has a 'DARK' parameter know which will be very useful. There are two types of Modulation available on this pedal, one being light, and the other being a heavier type modulation. It has a tempo switch, and a tap tempo out so you can use a external tap switch instead of the one on the pedal.
Also, the jacks are top mounted, which is always handy on a board with limited space (can put the pedals closer together).
DIGITECH POLARA REVERB - I used to own one of these, but sold it to fund the BigSky for my main board. I can't put the BigSky on this mini board, it's too big. However, when I had the Polara, I really liked the Hall and Plate settings that this pedal produced. With the Lucky Cat's Modulation I can use the Hall/Plate settings on the reverb coupled together and provide a nice wash underneath my dry signal.
TC ELECTRONIC DITTO - The only use I've had of a looper has been my DD500's built in looper. This pedal is purely for fun and I think it would be a cool addition to the board.
STRYMON OJAI - Simply put, a nice clean power supply for all the pedals. I may have to resort to daisy chaining the pedals with low milli-ampage together, to the same power outlet on the Ojai, but I can live with that.
I'm halfway through my board building project as you can see below. I'll post a demo/runthrough video on my blog when it's done 👍🏻