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SFX 101 #3000375 07/26/19 01:22 PM
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SFX 101
The Five Food Groups

In spite of the ridiculous number of effects pedals you’ll see in music stores, and online, there are really only five basic types of guitar/bass effects, represented by all those pedals. This doesn’t mean that there are only five basic circuit designs, being copied over and over, although some pedals are made to be exact copies of others: it means that there are five basic types of sound effects that we hear all the time, and of those five, guitarists in particular tend to focus on just three. You could compare the five effects types to the five kinds of tastes we detect with our tongues – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter & the inscrutable Umami, or whatever it’s called. There are many Sweet flavors, for example, not just one – you get the idea.

The Big Three

Number one on our hit parade – Level-Altering Devices, sometimes called Dynamics Devices. Almost anything that makes you LOUDER would fall under this category, Compressors, Pre-Amps, Boosters, Overdrives, Distortions, and Fuzzboxes. Almost every guitarist you see will have at least one box from this category, and very often two or three. Typical controls for most OD/Dist boxes would be Volume, or Gain, Tone, and Boost or Drive, and for most Compressors, Attack, Sustain, Level and possibly Tone. Level-Altering devices usually want to be near the front of the signal chain, i.e., the first box after your Guitar or Bass, but like with so much in Music, there are exceptions.

Next in line are Modulation Devices. Anything that adds a sense of movement to your sound, Phasers, Flangers, Chorus pedals, Uni-Vibes, Tremolo, Vibrato, these are all Modulation effects. If it whirrs, whooshes, or makes you seasick, it’s probably a Modulation effect. Some of these pedals were supposed to imitate the sound of the original, heavy-duty Modulation effect, the Rotary Speaker. (If you’ve ever seen an Organist struggling with a big Leslie cabinet, along with their keyboard amp, that’s the real deal, around $1000, and just under 100 pounds, good luck, and “BOB” help you.) Others were supposed to imitate the sound John Lennon called “Flanging”, created by manipulating tape reels – in the U.S., that same trick was often called “Tape Phasing”. If you want to hear a classic example of Tape Phasing/Flanging, dig up a copy of Super Session, and listen to the whooshing sound in You Don’t Love Me, Baby. Most Modulation effects will have knobs for Rate or Speed, and Width or Depth – Flangers will usually have a Feedback, or Regeneration knob, as well. Modulation effects usually want to go after Level-Altering effects, but before Time-Altering effects, so . . .

The last of the Big Three are Time-Altering Devices, Delays and Reverbs. If it makes a sound like a repeating echo, or a big cavern, it’s a Time-altering device. Time-Altering devices come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from simple Delay or Reverb pedals, to Spring Reverb tanks in guitar amps, to Tape Echo devices, up to huge Reverb chambers – for now, we’ll stick with pedals. These are usually used to create a sense of space around a sound, particularly with Reverb, or to create rhythmic effects, with timed repeats. Listen to some early U2, and you’ll hear how The Edge is playing some pretty sparse guitar lines, but the Delay effects fill out the space, and reinforce the rhythm. Delay and Reverb pedals can get pretty deep, and often have four or more controls, with a handful of Modes, for different types of Delay effects, or different spatial effects in a Reverb pedal. Most Delay pedals will have Delay Time, and Feedback/Repeat knobs, along with a Mix or Effect Level knob, and possibly a Mode knob. Reverb pedals will usually have controls for Reverb Time, Mix or Effect Level, and a Mode/Room knob, for different types of Reverb effects. Time-Altering Devices usually want to be last in line, and often sound best in the effects loop of your amp.

Those are our Big Three. Look on any pedalboard, and you’ll probably see all three represented. A Tube Screamer, a Phase 90, and a Boss DD-3 Delay, or some variation on that theme, covers it all, for most players. But, just in case . . .

Number Four is for Filter effects. Almost anything that’s meant to change your Tone, more than your Volume, is probably a Filter effect. The one few people think about is Equalization!?! Yes, Equalizers are actually Filter effects. Wah-Wah pedals are also a type of Filter effect, and so are Envelope Filters, sometimes called Auto-Wahs, or Auto-Filters. Also, any Bass Synth pedal that says “Synth-Wah” or “Bass Filter” is really a Filter effect, not a Synth pedal – if it’s $100 or less, it’s a Filter. Some Wahs have Frequency knobs, which allow you to ‘tune’ the Wah, to a degree. Graphic Equalizers have sliders for the different bandwidths, whereas Parametric Equalizers may have knobs or sliders, for centering in on specific frequencies, then boosting or cutting them – you are not likely to see a Parametric EQ pedal, however. Envelope Filters/Auto-Wahs, will usually have knobs for Sensitivity (Effect Trigger), Peak (Frequency Peak), and Q, or Resonance (how wide or narrow the Filter effect). It can take a good while to dial in the sound you want from an Envelope Filter effect. Wahs and Envelope Filters usually want to go near the front of your signal chain, EQs tend to live somewhere in the middle, usually after Level effects, but before Modulation effects.


The fifth and final group really is the Umami group – not to everyone’s taste. These are loosely grouped under Pitch-Altering Devices, which include Pitch Shifters, Octavers, Ring Modulators, and some Synth Pedals. All of these effects substantially alter the Pitch & Tonality of your signal – in the case of the Ring Modulator or Synth pedals, beyond recognition. There is little other common ground among this group. Octavers work on a simple math formula, and Ring Modulators are only slightly more complex, in terms of the math they use. Pitch Shifters work by high-speed sampling, and Synth pedals use your input signal solely as a trigger/pitch-detector – you’re actually hearing a Synth, not your Guitar or Bass. In my experience, these types of effects almost want to be treated as instruments unto themselves, and should go right at the front of the signal chain. The possible exception is the Pitch Shift effect – you’ll need to experiment with the placement of any Pitch Shifter/Harmonist pedal, to see if it sounds better before, or after Dist/OD effects.

Bass Effects

There are Bass effects pedals, of course, though not nearly as many as Guitar pedals. The main difference is that Bass effects are usually optimized to work with the lower frequency range of the Electric Bass – Delays & Reverbs are an exception, you do not need a special Bass Delay, or Bass Reverb, and most Octave pedals will also work with Bass. Otherwise, there are Bass Limiters, Bass Overdrives, Bass Fuzzes, Bass Equalizers, Bass Chorus pedals, Bass Wahs, Bass Filters and Bass Synth pedals. Bass multi-effects may have even more specialized effects, like De-fretters.


"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000376 07/26/19 01:22 PM
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SFX 101
“Who’s On First?”

Like with anything in life, the simpler you keep your choices, the easier it is to manage. For purists who plug right into an amp, there’s no question of what goes where. If you just add one little box, again, there’s no question, but once you start building an effects chain, it requires a little thought.

One question I used to hear very often – “Do the colors matter?” Well, yes and no. While certain companies like to use different color schemes for different types of effects, there’s no industry standard code. MXR Phasers are orange, so are Boss Distortions, Ibanez Overdrives, like the Tube Screamer, are green, but Boss Phasers are green, too. There are also plenty of plain sheet-metal boxes to choose from. If you were dedicated, you could probably figure out a way so you could have all of your pedals the same color, but that wouldn’t mean you were getting the best possible sound.

Names only help a little, at least when the companies get too creative with them. Any guess what the Crystal Dagger might be? How about the Rainbow Machine? No, I didn’t make those up. The Crystal Dagger is an Octave Fuzz with a Ring Modulator built in; the Rainbow Machine is a Pitch Shifter with Delay & Regeneration.

Even something that seems obvious, isn’t always so – the Tube Screamer has no tubes, and it doesn’t exactly scream, either. On its own, into a low-volume amp, it just sounds kind of squishy to me.

There are a few clues you can usually count on, though. Almost anything that calls itself a Blues pedal will be an Overdrive, just as almost any pedal that calls itself X-something, is going to feature extreme distortion, and anything with Funk in the name is probably an Envelope Filter.

Now that we’ve sorted all that out, let’s think back to our Five Food Groups. If you stick with the Big Three, it’s pretty easy. Level-altering devices (Comp., Dist., Fuzz) go first, Modulation devices (Phasers, Flangers and Chorus pedals) go next, and Time Machines (Delay, Reverb) go last. This is your classic Tube Screamer (or Big Muff), Phase 90, DD-3 (or Memory Man) set-up, seen in some form or another, on pedalboards everywhere, for decades.

The Fight for First Place

Once we get past this point, it gets a little tricky. There are a few pedals that want to respond to the output directly from your Guitar, or Bass – Wah pedals, Envelope Filter (Auto-Wah) pedals, and Germanium diode Fuzz pedals. (Germanium is truly old-school tech, going back to the earliest Fuzz Face pedals. Germanium is highly sensitive to temperature change, and thus, can be unstable in a circuit. Silicon diodes replaced Germanium, in most pedals, by the 70’s, but some die-hards are still making Germanium Fuzz pedals.) Going back to our TS, Phase 90, DD-3 set-up, if we want to add a Wah pedal, usually, we’ll want it first in line, in front of the Tube Screamer or Big Muff, but, sometimes you’ll get a better, or more pronounced effect, by putting the OD/Dist pedal first, and the Wah pedal second. In most examples, though, we’ll want the Wah pedal to go first. If we’re using both a Wah and a Germanium Fuzz, we’re probably going to do a bit of back-and-forth, until we hear which sounds better.

If we’re using a Compressor, instead of an Overdrive or Fuzz, we’re still likely to put the Wah first, but watch out for noise being boosted by the Compressor. If we’re using an Envelope Filter, we’re going to want it in front of the Compressor, because the Compressor squashes our dynamic range, which the Envelope Filter needs to track.

So, here’s where we are, for now. Wah, or Envelope Filter, then Compressor, then we’re back on track.

You will see some Blues/Rock guys using a Compressor, and an Overdrive together – it gives them those nice long tones that sound like they were being squeezed out of a tube. In this case, put the Compressor first, so it doesn’t bring up noise from your Overdrive pedal.

We’re not forgetting our fifth food group, the Pitch Altering devices. Let’s keep it simple, at first, and start with an Octaver. The Octaver is good at simple math, and otherwise, it’s not a real sensitive type. Octaver into Wah or Envelope Filter can be a very cool sound, for deep Funk riffs, or even Synth-like tones, but the Octaver is also happy before the Compressor, because the Compressor can then smooth out any peaks caused by the Octaver hitting the Envelope Filter. Ring Modulators absolutely demolish anything you run through them, so put them first in line where they can do the least damage. I’m only partly joking, about Ring Mods. I love them, but it really is an acquired taste, and learning to use them in a musical context is very challenging. Ring Mod into Wah or Envelope Filter is a very Synth-like sound.

Pitch Shifters are more particular – they usually need to detect a pretty clean signal, so they have something to work with. I still prefer to have them near the front of the signal chain, so I can process the Pitch-shifted sound, rather than Pitch-shifting other processed sounds.

Synth pedals need to track your instrument, period, and even then, they can be unstable – thou shalt have NO pedal, before thy Synth pedal.

So, what if we want to use all of our toys? This is probably our best set-up – Synths first, Octaver, or Ring Mod next, then Wah, or Envelope Filter, then Compressor, Pitch Shifter next, before Overdrive/Fuzz, followed by EQ, Modulation, and finally Time domain effects. That pretty much covers it. Very few players will use all of those effects at once, so for them, the order is slightly less critical, they can pretty much follow the directions I gave in the Five Food Groups. There are a couple of other things we’ll get into, under Oddballs, Unclassifiables & Useful Clutter. What, you thought that was everything?


"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000377 07/26/19 01:23 PM
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SFX 101
Oddballs, Unclassifiables & Useful Clutter

There are a few other types of pedals, effects & gadgets I haven’t introduced you to yet. Here’s a brief breakdown of some other gear you’re likely to see, if not use.

Combo Pedals – These are pedals that combine two or three popular effects into one box. Fuzz/Wah or Wah/Distortion combo pedals are fairly common. Another example is the Crystal Dagger, with Fuzz/Ring Mod/Phaser, all in one pedal. These are not the same as Multi-effects, which are much larger, digital boxes, or rack-mounted units, with many different effects, and multiple User Memory slots (Patches).

Treble Boosters – These are Clean Boost pedals, with a limited frequency range. They were made to help a guitarist cut through the mix of a large Rock band, and were very popular among British guitarists in the 70’s. Steve Howe (YES), Brian May (Queen) and Steve Hackett (Genesis) used them extensively. Hey, if you’re in a band with Rick Wakeman, you need something to cut through all those synths.

Noise Gates & Attack Delays – Two different effects driven by essentially the same circuit. Noise Gates cut off your signal, once the Level drops below a certain Threshold – this keeps noise from leaking through, during rests. Attack Delays, sometimes called Swell effects, use a similar approach to ‘gating’ your signal, but they open more slowly, creating violin-like swells. Turn the Volume knob all the way down on your Guitar, hit a note, then turn up the Volume, to get an idea what that effect is like.

The Digitech Whammy Pedal – This thing really is in a class by itself, and it deserves the distinction. Other companies have copied this effect, by building it into their multi-effects units, but no one else makes a Whammy pedal. The Whammy is a Pitch Shifter, with a built-in Expression pedal, and the Expression pedal is really the main feature, letting you slide notes up and down, or even ‘dive-bomb’ your sound, like using a ‘whammy’ bar to drop your strings nearly slack. There have been five versions of the standard-size Whammy pedal, with a larger, sixth model available.

The E-Bow – This is another one-of-a-kind item. Although it isn’t a pedal, it’s an extraordinary sound effect. E-Bow stands for Electronic Bow – the name is catchy, if not entirely accurate. A small electromagnet drives the string, producing endless vibrations, and thus sustain. The most famous song featuring the E-Bow is David Bowie’s Heroes, featuring Robert Fripp on guitar. That howling, soaring guitar sound is Fripp, using the E-Bow. It is also possible to use an E-Bow on the Bass, and even the Mandolin, with a bit of practice. It’s a good idea to have a Volume Pedal connected, when using an E-Bow, to pull back on the signal before it slams your amp. *Late addition: T.C. Electronic now makes a device called the Aeon, which is similar to the E-bow. I have both, and tend to prefer the E-Bow.

Leslies, Vibratones & Rotating Speakers – This was the original, monster Modulation effect, the mother of almost everything else to follow, the Rotating Speaker cabinet. The Leslie name came to be associated with that sound, even though Fender also made a Vibratone cabinet, on the same principle. It’s a huge sound, and a huge backache, but nothing else sounds quite like it. There are a number of modern digital pedals intended to reproduce the Rotary sound, and some are very convincing. There are also real Rotary speaker systems available from Motion Sound. I’d heard someone revived the Leslie, a few years back, but I haven’t seen one in the wild.

Modeling Pedals & the POD – These are harder to nail down, because modeling pedals can be designed to model anything. Most often, modeling pedals are designed to emulate the sounds of classic, or vintage, amps and effects. Line 6 developed the POD largely as an amp-modeling device, with some classic effects added in, and it became a hit, almost overnight. The large green Line 6 Delay Modeler is one of the most commonly used modeling pedals; you see them everywhere, with Rock bands, DJ’s and even Electronic/Experimental rigs.

Sometimes, a modeling pedal is designed to model just one classic device, like the Boss RE-20 space Echo, a digital modeler based on the RE-201 Space Echo tape echo box, or any of the various pedals meant to emulate a Rotating Speaker.

Bit Crushers – Current holders of the “WTF?” award. Bit Crushers are Digital Distortion, with teeth. They convert your signal to digital (bits), and then ‘crush’ the sound quality by reducing the bit count, producing a nasty, fugly form of distortion. Of course I want one.

Sonic Maximizers – Honestly, only BBE really makes these, and their pedal version is called the Sonic Stomp. The BBE Maximizers are studio tools that add presence to a mix, with a highly specialized approach to contouring the EQ levels.

Loopers – The name comes from the days of tape decks, when it was possible to create a repeating ‘loop’ of sound by recording to tape, and then splicing the tape to form a literal loop of tape, which repeated the recorded segment, over and over. Modern Loopers are digital recorders, with extensive memory banks, and no fragile tape loops. They can be used to create backing tracks, or for live overdub effects.

Volume Pedals – It’s in the name. Not really a sound effect, so much as a basic tool, although with a bit of practice, you can emulate the Roy Buchanan trick, using a Volume Pedal. Pull back on the Volume Pedal, hit a note, and push down. Also very useful as an emergency Shut Up control.

Expression pedals – Expression pedals are really control pedals that don’t do anything, until you plug them into some other device that tells them what to do. Many synths, multi-effects, and even some effects pedals will have special Input jacks for Expression pedals.

Guitar/Bass Tuners – Again, it’s in the name. Everybody has one, by now, or should.

Cable testers – Useful but often neglected studio tool, it does just what the name suggests. Older models work with ¼ inch Mono and Stereo cables, XLR mic cables, and RCA connectors, newer models also include MIDI cable testing. Can save you hours of useful life, finding the bad cables before everybody plugs in. I pull mine out anytime I’m going out to play, and I check all the cables I intend to bring, before I pack up to go.

A/B/Y Boxes – Combo switching units, for multi-amp set-ups or switching between two instruments. Some boxes are strictly A/B. meaning you can only choose either A or B – A/B/Y boxes allow you to choose A or B or both. The ‘Y’ designation comes from the obvious cable pattern, when you have one In, and two Out.

Splitter boxes – These are passive In/Out boxes, meant to feed one Input signal to two or more amps, or mixer channels. 1-In/2-Out, and 1-In/4-Out are common configurations. A splitter box does NOT a stereo signal make – what you have is a dual-mono signal, even if your amps are on the right and left sides of the stage, or studio.

Latch & Unlatch Switches – These are also called Toggle and Momentary switches. Latch (toggle) switches act like light switches –turn them on, and they stay on until you turn them off. Unlatch (momentary) switches act like door buzzers, they only stay on for as long as you continue to press the button. They don’t really do anything on their own, until you plug them into something else. A common use for a Latch switch would be to turn the Reverb on and off, in an amp, or to switch amp channels. Momentary switches are often used to advance through presets in multi-effects, or to engage special effects, like the Hold function on a keyboard synth.

MIDI Pedalboards, or Foot Controllers & Audio Signal Routers – MIDI Pedalboards & Foot Controllers aren’t sound effects devices, either, they’re big Controller/Switches for MIDI gear. They allow the user to switch sound effects or synth patches, turn different effects or sound modules on and off, and even switch entire MIDI set-ups. Audio Routers are often controlled by a MIDI pedalboards, or footswitches, which allow the player to quickly switch among different chains of Audio effects devices, without having to tap on a line of pedals or switches for each device. Very useful for keyboard players, studio engineers, and players with far too many devices to control with just two hands and two feet. Go ahead, try and turn on three pedals at once, with the tip of your toe, and BTW, one of them is that Crybaby Wah, where you have to press the Wah pedal all the way forward, and then press down, to engage the switch – Good luck!

Power Strips – Yeah, I know, they’re not exactly music equipment, and hardly anybody ever gets excited about buying a new one, which is too bad, because it’s one of the most important parts of your system. A really good power supply not only turns one outlet into six or eight, it protects your gear against power fluctuations, and noise. If you have a few hundred to a few thousand dollars invested in your music gear, why the hell trust it to a $7 power strip from K-Mart?

Power Supplies – This is another neglected item. While every company wants you to buy their power supply, to go with their pedals, in most cases, you can use a 1 Spot from Visual sound. Get the kit, with the daisy-chain cable, and the various adapter tips. They’ll work with almost any Boss, Digitech, DOD, EHX, Ibanez, Line 6, Maxon or MXR pedal that runs on 9 volts. They won’t work with any of the Digitech Whammy pedals, except the newest Whammy V, and daisy-chains may not work with power-hungry pedals that have higher current draws. Going back to our classic Crybaby Wah - Tube Screamer - Phase 90 - DD-3 line-up, you could power all of those with just one 1 Spot or PA-9.

Power Bricks – The heavy artillery of power supplies, Power Bricks have multiple cable connections for powering a variety of pedals, and are usually mounted onto your pedalboard. The Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2+ (often abbreviated as PP2+) is one of the most popular, but Dunlop/MXR, Truetone and Walrus Audio also offer Power Bricks that will power anywhere from 4 to 12 pedals.

More to come in How They Work . . .

Last edited by Winston Psmith; 07/26/19 04:50 PM.

"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000394 07/26/19 02:41 PM
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Wow. Very thorough!

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Dannyalcatraz] #3000422 07/26/19 04:55 PM
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Thank you, sir, I'm not nearly done, yet . . .


"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000425 07/26/19 05:05 PM
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Thank you for taking the effort to post this. Everything in easy to follow order. If I had to research this online it would take forever.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000426 07/26/19 05:10 PM
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This might be a good one to "Stickie" at the top...


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Caevan O'Shite] #3000442 07/26/19 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Caevan O'Shite
This might be a good one to "Stickie" at the top...

+1


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000482 07/26/19 10:15 PM
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SFX 101: "What’s On Second."
Some useful & popular combinations

Time to take a short step back, and have a little fun. Before I dive deep back into the Signal Chain (the order of your effects pedals), and what to do with all the different pedals vying for 1st in line, here are a few pairings that work well together.

Boost into Compressor: Seems like overkill, but a good Boost/Buffer will keep your signal nice and crisp running through a line of pedals, while the Compressor will contour your signal so it sounds “smoother”, by cutting back on signal peaks, and allowing for a nice decay.

Compressor into OD/Distortion: Gives a little punch & sustain to your OD.

OD into Distortion: More of the same, but using a mild OD as a Boost before your Distortion can impart a different character to the sound than using a Clean Boost. Also allows you to quickly switch from Lead to Rhythm levels, while still having some Dirt in your tone.

In general, stacking Gain Stages (Boosts, Compressors, OD’s) is a very common technique, but overkill (like running a long chain of Dirt boxes, all turned On) is likely to reduce your overall signal strength, while adding useless noise. More on that in How They Work.

OD/Distortion into Phaser: Phasers love harmonics & overtones, and driving an OD into your Phaser gives you both. Thick, chewy sounds for power chords, snaky, smoky tones for lead. Set the Rate to fit the timing of your playing. For fun, you can also swap the order (Phaser into Distortion) for an EVH-style sound.

Octaver into Filter: Running a lower-octave effect into a Filter pedal can give you a nice fat Stevie Wonder sound from your Guitar. Running an upper-octave effect through a Filter can give you more of a fizzy Synth-like tone. Add a little Tremolo, set to Square Wave, and you have a very old-school Synth-like tone.

Ring Mod into Filter: Crazy Synth-like sounds. Big fun, but very hard to play in tune. Perfect for Devo cover tunes.

Heavy Distortion into slow Flanger: You’ve heard this sound; it’s like playing a tuned chainsaw. Very cool with simple power chord riffs. Using a Phaser in place of a Flanger will give you a slightly less aggressive sound, but still very cool.

Pitch Shifter into Chorus: Pitch shift effects tend to sound artificial, no surprise there. Adding a little Chorus after the Pitch Shifter can soften the overall sound, an odd example of making effects sound more “natural” by adding yet more effects.

Delay into Chorus: Instead of the Delay effect chopping up and repeating the sweep of the Chorus, the Chorus adds a sense of motion and texture to the Echoes.

Reverb into Chorus: Sending your Reverb through a mild Chorus (low Rate, low Depth) effect adds texture to your Reverb, similar to the sound of classic 80’s “Dimension” effects.

Wah into Flanger: Set your Flanger for a slow rate, and just hear what happens. If you want to get really seasick, add some Fuzz, and put a medium Delay (250-400ms) right before the Flanger. You’re welcome.

Slow Phaser into Slow Flanger: The different frequency peaks play off of one another, as each LFO goes through its cycle. You could also use two Phasers or two Flangers, or a Filter Pedal that also has an LFO. Surprising depth of sound.

Drum Machine into Phaser/Flanger: Classic 80’s studio trick. If you have a Drum Machine, or MFX or Looper with built-in Beats, just try this one for fun.

Okay, back to work . . .

Last edited by Winston Psmith; 07/26/19 10:17 PM.

"Monsters are real, and Ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win." Stephen King

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000483 07/26/19 10:16 PM
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SFX 101: "I Don’t Know is on Third."
Everybody wants to rule the world

The bigger your pedalboard, the more work you’ll have to do prioritizing which effect goes where. If you just have the Big Three, OD-Mod-Delay, you’re pretty well set, not a lot of critical choices there. Add a Wah, and again, no big deal, put it on either side of your OD pedal, until you hear the sound you want, all’s well.

If you’re an effects freak, as I am, it can get more complicated with each pedal or effect that you add. Let’s take them one by one, and bring a little more order here, if we can. Keep in mind that the order of effects is much like the Pirate’s Code; it’s a set of guidelines, rather than hard and fast rules. However, as a dedicated contrarian, let me remind you of our first hard and fast rule, and why we might break it.

Remember what I said before; thou shalt have NO pedal before thy Synth pedal. Well, yes and no. One exception would be if you have an always-on Boost/Buffer (like an MXR Micro Amp) or just a Buffer pedal (like a Boss Tuner pedal) to help drive a long pedal chain. Either of those would go before your Synth pedal.

Another exception would be a Looper pedal. Say you have a new tune in your head, and you’d like to audition it through ALL of your effects. Play it once, clean, into your Looper, capture and loop it, then try it out with any and every possible combination of pedals and settings that you like, for as long as you like. Now, let’s get back in line with everyone else . . .

Synth Pedals: This would also include the EHX C9/B9, Key9 line of pedals. These pedals are using your Guitar signal for Pitch detection, and for triggering the internal sounds or Oscillators. There’s no point running effects into them, as you won’t hear the effect, and it will just confuse the Synth pedal. You want to treat a Synth pedal as if it were your Instrument, so it goes first in line, unless you’re using a Clean Boost as an always-on Buffer pedal to drive long signal chains, in which case, Boost first, then everything else.

Feedback Pedals: As of right now, I only know of one, the Digitech Freqout. I put it right near the front of the line because when I engage it, it will power through anything else in the signal chain. FWIW, it sounds better running the Freqout into the Ring Mod than the other way around, but it sounds better running the Mel9 into the Freqout.

Ring Mod/Octave pedals: It’s dealer’s choice here, as you’re probably never going to have both on at once. Try it, you’ll see why. Again, there’s no point in sending any other effect into a Ring Modulator, it’ll just get chewed up and spat back out. The Octave pedal behaves best with a nice stable signal going through it.


Attack Delay/Attack Decay pedals. Attack Delay effects are dynamics sensitive, in that these effects “swell” in response to your input signal, so they’ll be most stable at a place where they’ll always get the same signal strength. If you try to use an Attack Delay along with a Synth pedal, to get Synth Swell effects, you may have to experiment with placement, to see what position best gives you the sound you want. You might also consider using a Volume Pedal.

Bit Crushers: Only because I’m crazy enough to want to hear my Ring Mod through a Bit Crusher. Absolutely brutal: like throwing your sound into a wood chipper along with a few glass bottles, just for good measure.


Envelope Filters/Auto-Wahs: Envelope Filters are also dynamics-sensitive; they respond to your signal strength, so they generally want to be placed before Compressors or OD/Distortion effects. Ring Mod or Octaver into Envelope Filter can be a very cool sound. Bit Crusher into Envelope Filter sounds like aliens have abducted your Guitar.

Boost/Buffers: As I said above, if you’re using a Boost/Buffer pedal as an always-on Buffer pedal, it should probably go at the very front of the line. If you’re using it for Boost & Gain, it should go before your Compressor, or before your OD/Distortion effects, if you’re not using a Compressor.

Compressors: In simplest possible terms, Compressors tend to boost low-level signals, and compress, or even clamp down on signal peaks above a certain threshold. While giving you a more balanced signal and “presence” overall, the trade-off is in somewhat reduced dynamics.

Wah Pedals/Volume Pedals: Again, it’s dealer’s choice. I’ve never seen anyone pumping a Wah pedal with one foot and a Volume pedal with the other, although I expect it’s possible? Can’t see that it would do much for your sound, though. Putting either of these after your Compressor means that the Compressor won’t pick up and boost any low-level noise coming through. You may think that your Volume Pedal is quiet, but maybe not. The Wah-Wah effect is not dynamics-sensitive, unlike its Envelope Filter cousins. You may have to experiment with placing your Wah pedal both before and after your OD/Distortion pedals, to see which placement gives you the sound(s) you want.

The Volume Pedal can be a useful tool, an emergency Shut Up control and a special effect, depending on how you use it, and where you put it in the signal chain. There are three places where you might want a Volume Pedal. One is very first in line, before everything else, as a back-up for your Guitar’s Volume knobs. In a live setting, it can allow you to dial your sound back a bit for Rhythm, and push it up a bit for Leads, without having to change anything else. You can also use it for Guitar Swell effects, by pulling back on the Volume, playing a note or a chord, and having it “swell” by pushing down on the Volume Pedal. Takes practice, but worth it.

Next is right after your OD/Distortion effects, again, so you have added control when you turn them on and off. Very often, if you dial back your Guitar’s Volume knob, your Distortion drops back, as well. Having a Volume Pedal after OD can help maintain your Drive tone, even at a slightly reduced volume .If you find that your signal is a little too hot, you can pull back, just a bit. This position also helps to cut off Feedback, even as it starting up, just pull back on your Volume Pedal, and step away from your Amp.

Next position is right before your Delay effects, so you can pull back on your signal without suddenly cutting off your Delay or Reverb sound. Very nice for the end of a song, where just the echoes fade out.

For my own purposes, I tend to go with either First in line, or right before my Delay effects. Right now, I’m looking into a second Volume pedal, so I can have both.

Pitch Shifters: IME, Pitch Shifters tend to like a nice clean signal, for ease of Pitch Detection, and processing. GIGO applies, for the most part, however, YEMV. I find that with most pedal-type Pitch Shifters, cleaner is better. (FWIW, although you’ll sometimes hear someone say “Harmonizer” when they mean Pitch-Shifter, “Harmonizer” is a brand-name, owned by Eventide for their high-powered Multi-FX processors, not a type of effect. Only Eventide makes Harmonizers, like only MacDonald’s makes Big Macs.)

OD/Distortion/Fuzz: Here we are, everybody’s favorite flavor at last. Don’t crowd, there’s plenty for everyone. If you have more than one Dirt box, my general recommendation is to put them in order of OD – Distortion – Fuzz. It can get subjective; is a Big Muff an OD, a Distortion or a Fuzz? While I might say it depends on how you use it, most players would consider it a Fuzz, if not THE Fuzz. If you have a handful of Dirt boxes, and you’re trying to decide on what order to put them in, try this, if all else fails. Turn all the control knobs on all the pedals to Noon, even if that’s not how you use them. Now, listen to them one at a time, to see which are the least overdriven at that setting, which are the most cranked up, and who falls in between. That will give you a range, at least.

“Freeze” pedal: Another one-of-a-kind, as only EHX makes a dedicated stand-alone Freeze pedal. (Boss also had a Freeze effect in their ME-25.) It’s essentially a very short Delay Hold effect that “freezes” whatever you last played through it. I find the effect somewhat static-sounding – no, not “static” as in noise, more “static” as in it doesn’t do much of anything with that short sample of your sound, and you can hear the Loop Point repeating. I find that running it through Modulation effects adds a little motion and energy.

Modulation effects: Time to get things moving, so to speak. As I said before, anything that whirrs or whooshes is probably a Modulation effect. At some point, you’ll probably have more than one, for different tunes, or different textures. In terms of an order to put them in, I tend to go Phaser-Flanger-Chorus/Vibrato-Tremolo. I have seen some players with a Uni-Vibe right up near their OD, for more of a Hendrix-inspired sound.

Volume Pedal: Just a reminder, this is a good place for a Volume Pedal to cut off the noise of your Dirt boxes and the sweeping sounds of your Modulators, while letting the Echoes fade out on your Delay & Reverb effects.

Delay & Reverb: You’re pretty much home, now. I put these two together because Delay & Reverb are like Conjoined Twins; you can’t have one without the other, in some form. Delay is just a series of Echoes, repeating at a fix interval of time, while Reverb is essentially a wash of Echoes, all coming at us at different times, from different angles. Still, Delay tends to reinforce a sense of Time, while Reverb creates a sense of Space. There is a law of diminishing returns with Reverb, however; you can crank up the Reverb to enhance that sense of “Guitar playing the Grand Canyon”, but in truth, your sound becomes more ‘distant’ and less defined when you do. In a live setting too much Reverb can wash away your Guitar sound like a flood.

Almost done. Here, at the end of the line, you might want to try a Looper, as a sketchpad, memory aid, or for experiment’s sake. Capture and Loop some tunes or some ideas with you current pedal array, play them back to listen, then you can play along with yourself, trying different effects and settings, without changing the Loop(s) that you saved.

Now, someone out there might say, “Well, I always have my XXX first, then my YYY!” No argument, it’s your sound, if that works for you, cool, I may even try it in that case. There’s no real wrong order, so long as you get a sound that you like, the only thing you might damage are your Amp or your ears, if your turn up too loud, or push a Delay effect into self-oscillation. You can get some very interesting sounds by using things wrong.

Last edited by Winston Psmith; 07/26/19 10:24 PM.

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000484 07/26/19 10:25 PM
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Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I am done for the night. Any question, comments, insults, please PM me. Thank you for taking an interest in my ranting.


BTW, I'm not done, not altogether, just taking the rest of the night off . . .

Last edited by Winston Psmith; 07/26/19 10:46 PM. Reason: brain cramp . . .

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000511 07/27/19 03:26 AM
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allhail


Great job Brother Winston...a lot of great work and we all appreciate all of the information you posted so that we can refer back to it. Thanks!


Take care, Larryz
Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3000545 07/27/19 03:12 PM
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Drive stacking - I'm stacking drives again. I waffle on that. I go between hating it and liking it. The big board I would have 4-5 dirt pedals each set for a different tone and would never stack. I didn't like stacking because it raises the noise floor. Because of a hernia issue I downsized to a small board with two drives that I use in combination.... Also have a Russian Muff but it never stacks due to noise floors. For really high gain the Rectoverb amp gives me more than I need. On Foo fighters stuff my goto is the Mesa amp with no pedals. I really avoid gates if I can help it.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: CEB] #3000550 07/27/19 04:04 PM
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@CEB - Stacking Gain stages is tricky, noise issues being one component. Because so many Dirt boxes create their sound with some form of signal clipping, each Dirt box you add to you signal chain is likely to be trying to clip the incoming signal from the previous box; the noise levels go up as your signal degrades.

Another issue is that other types of pedals may have signal boosts where you don't expect them. You think you have all your Dirt boxes set, then you kick on some Delay or Modulation pedal, and WHAM!, where did that come from? My Malekko Analog Delay has an internal Boost control, for one example.

I've also had the experience of a First Stage Gain pedal goosing up the internal boost of other pedals further down the line. Again, it's those hidden Gain Stages that can get you.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3003777 08/18/19 03:28 AM
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Spent some time at GC trying pedals. Getting the Keeley compressor and Fulltone 2B. It's my birthday next month and my father gave me $250. budget.
MXR Micro amp>Keeley compressor>EHX Satisfaction fuzz>Fulltone 2B>JHS Tidewater mini Tremolo>MXR Carbon Copy Delay.


Jenny S.
Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3003788 08/18/19 05:20 AM
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Happy Upcoming Birthday Surfer Girl! Let us know how you like the two new additions to the lineup and now you'll have a couple of new pedals to celebrate with! I have the MXR Carbon Copy Delay and it's been a great little workhorse! cool


Take care, Larryz
Re: SFX 101 [Re: surfergirl] #3003791 08/18/19 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by surfergirl
Spent some time at GC trying pedals. Getting the Keeley compressor and Fulltone 2B. It's my birthday next month and my father gave me $250. budget.
MXR Micro amp>Keeley compressor>EHX Satisfaction fuzz>Fulltone 2B>JHS Tidewater mini Tremolo>MXR Carbon Copy Delay.


[Linked Image from en.davno.ru]

(In advance.)

Last edited by Dannyalcatraz; 08/18/19 06:02 AM.

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: surfergirl] #3003792 08/18/19 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by surfergirl
Spent some time at GC trying pedals. Getting the Keeley compressor and Fulltone 2B. It's my birthday next month and my father gave me $250. budget.
MXR Micro amp>Keeley compressor>EHX Satisfaction fuzz>Fulltone 2B>JHS Tidewater mini Tremolo>MXR Carbon Copy Delay.
Be sure to try powering the 2B by 18v; I bet you'll like it even more at 18v than at 9v. More headroom, more clean boost power, greater dynamic 'leverage', if you will, just "more".

Also, for comparison's sake, try that EHX Satisfaction Fuzz first in line before anything else, and decide if there's any difference, better, worse, or no difference in tone and feel, being sure to try adjusting your guitar's volume-knob with the Fuzz on.

Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
Another issue is that other types of pedals may have signal boosts where you don't expect them. You think you have all your Dirt boxes set, then you kick on some Delay or Modulation pedal, and WHAM!, where did that come from? My Malekko Analog Delay has an internal Boost control, for one example.
Been there, done that! crazy laugh


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Caevan O'Shite] #3003824 08/18/19 03:12 PM
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Haven't found out whether the Satisfaction is GE or SI-based? If it's a Germanium Fuzz, try it first in line, but don't have the Micro Amp or the Compressor on when you first try it.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3003837 08/18/19 04:26 PM
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Im just commenting on this so I never lose it! Very informative. A definite must-read.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: DavidFord] #3003855 08/18/19 06:16 PM
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@DavidFord - Welcome, brother!

You'll find there's a wealth of knowledge here in the Forums, I'm just particularly long-winded.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3003861 08/18/19 06:56 PM
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Several things here.
Caevan, since I haven't actually tried the 2B, they didn't have one. My plan is to use it to boost the 2nd gain stage of my Supersonic 22.
Winston, I did some research on the Satisfaction and am fairly certain it is Si, but I emailed EH to be sure. I bought it last year when I was in Long Beach just because I wanted to bring something home with me and it was cheap. It is in line for a future upgrade. I did get the blue one, very cool.
It will be a week to 10 days before I get them. Free shipping to my father and then sends them USPS to me, cheaper that way
David, this is just a sample of kind of information you can get here. I get a feeling you also have a lot to contribute.

I guess I should add they didn't have a Supersonic 22 so I was using a Deluxe Reverb RI. They are compatible on the clean/vintage channel but DRRI can't compare on channel 2, so still some experimenting to do.

Last edited by surfergirl; 08/18/19 10:03 PM.

Jenny S.
Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3003911 08/19/19 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
@DavidFord - Welcome, brother!

You'll find there's a wealth of knowledge here in the Forums, I'm just particularly long-winded.

Thank you Winston Psmith. I like long reads. Knew another guy like you on another site in regards to recording tips. Took 2 days just to get past the greeting alone grin

Quote
David, this is just a sample of kind of information you can get here. I get a feeling you also have a lot to contribute.

Yes, finding this place very knowledgeable. Some of the info I found here, used to cost big bucks at one time. Now its just an Internet page away. And I do hope Im able to contribute. That would be nice.


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3003919 08/19/19 01:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
Haven't found out whether the Satisfaction is GE or SI-based? If it's a Germanium Fuzz, try it first in line, but don't have the Micro Amp or the Compressor on when you first try it.


For what it's worth, in spite of its namesake song and associated seminal Maestro Fuzz-Tone, it seems that the EHX Satisfaction Fuzz is based primarily on the hoary aulde Jordan Bosstone- and, like that pedal, most likely deploys silicon transistors. (I think.)


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3006330 09/03/19 07:11 PM
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DIdn't expect my SFX 101 to become a Sticky thread!


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Winston Psmith] #3006344 09/03/19 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
DIdn't expect my SFX 101 to become a Sticky thread!


Well, now you're stuck... wink


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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Caevan O'Shite] #3006638 09/05/19 06:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
Another issue is that other types of pedals may have signal boosts where you don't expect them. You think you have all your Dirt boxes set, then you kick on some Delay or Modulation pedal, and WHAM!, where did that come from? My Malekko Analog Delay has an internal Boost control, for one example.


Now, besides the obvious stacking of boost, overdrive, distortion, fuzz, and such boost, gain and "dirt" pedals having the potential for large unexpected jumps in gain and volume-

-various filters and modulation pedals can have similar nasty surprises in store for you.

For example, running a wah, a phaser, and a mid-humped Tube Screamer-style overdrive can result in some nasty transient peaks when all align along with a mid or upper register note or chord, especially with a little forward-assist from some feedback. Just such a unilateral resonance confluence managed to hurt my ears AND fry my Guyatone SV2 pedal! "Don't cross the streams!" grin



Attached Files Don't cross the streams.jpg
Last edited by Caevan O'Shite; 09/05/19 06:29 AM.

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Re: SFX 101 [Re: Caevan O'Shite] #3007136 09/08/19 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Caevan O'Shite
Originally Posted by Winston Psmith
Another issue is that other types of pedals may have signal boosts where you don't expect them. You think you have all your Dirt boxes set, then you kick on some Delay or Modulation pedal, and WHAM!, where did that come from? My Malekko Analog Delay has an internal Boost control, for one example.


Now, besides the obvious stacking of boost, overdrive, distortion, fuzz, and such boost, gain and "dirt" pedals having the potential for large unexpected jumps in gain and volume-

-various filters and modulation pedals can have similar nasty surprises in store for you.

For example, running a wah, a phaser, and a mid-humped Tube Screamer-style overdrive can result in some nasty transient peaks when all align along with a mid or upper register note or chord, especially with a little forward-assist from some feedback. Just such a unilateral resonance confluence managed to hurt my ears AND fry my Guyatone SV2 pedal! "Don't cross the streams!" grin




@Caevan - Mixing Filter FX can produce NASTY frequency peaks, if you're not careful. It's the inverse of the Cocked-Wah effect, in a way. Instead of choosing a Frequency band to emphasize, the LFO's create a sort of moving soundscape, and the Frequency peaks hit at random times, when everything briefly comes together.

This brings up an area I've been reluctant to dive into, although it's a personal obsession: the correlation between Processed Guitar and Synthesis. Tweaking the Filter Frequency & Resonance is a very large part of tone-shaping in Subtractive/Analog Synthesis. Let me think on this, before I dive down that particular rabbit-hole, and lead us all into Wonderland . . .


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