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Rising Above The Noise: The Pedal Board Paradox

Updated: Feb 22

[The jigsaw puzzle you got to start over. Again, and again and again.]

Dirtyworx is hitting Southern Maryland. Our band is tight. Vocals are stunning. Sets are fantastic. Our sound on stage is fantastic. We spend hours on these little details so we can rise above the competition. Rise above the noise. And it's paying off.

So, what's the problem, now, Maines?

My pedal board is a constant struggle. I don't want to spend a butt-load of hard earned cash getting a custom made solution that I'll only need to changed later. I don't want to drag equipment around I don't use, or I use only once a night. And I don't want to drag heavy equipment around the older I get.

This is a paradox.

When regular JOE 2.0 was my band, I didn't even use a pedal board. I just plugged into the amp and left everything on 5. I didn't bother changing channels.

Today, working with more sophisticated music, I need delay, chorus, compression, wah, equalization, tube distortion and a host of other effects to get things to sound right. So, how do I sound right without taking up a lot of room, or adding a lot of weight? Plus, it's got to be fast, easy, portable and affordable. Plus, pack as much punch as possible.

The paradox gets complicated.

Let's start with constraints. Let's think about a 1-1/2 feet by 2 foot rectangle.. If I can get sloped board that keeps the power supply protected and keep the cost reasonable. That's a good start.

Let's say for the pedal board's cost should come in at $150 bucks. Each pedal should be about $100 bucks, and a power supply for 7-8 pedals around $200. So, total cost should come in at just over $1050 bucks. Of course, adhesives, screws and other hardware also add up. I do try not to use adhesives, and rather use machine screws, but the added cost and time make it difficult to work with unless you spend days pulling things together. So, Alien Tape is my go to.

My Guitar Pedal Board held together with double sided sticky tape.

After doing a lot of research, I found this NUX. medium Bumblebee. The power supply's protected under the board's top rung. I got 7 pedals on the board, plus the power supply and a little room to spare that came in on cost. Plus, it came with a soft travel case.

As you can see, I have a wah, tuner, eq and tube screamer all in the guitar chain, and compression, chorus and delay in the effects chain. So this is a medium pedal board that'll get me through gigs with enough effects to pull off most of the music we're playing.

The effects are classic effects those pretty much every guitar player should have to pull of classic rock. For example, if you want to play Boston, You scoop the treble, accentuate the mids using the eq, and then crank the wah pedal just a bit, you can "fake" your way though pretty much any Boston song, so long as you have the amp volume up loud enough.

I use the crunch 100% if my guitar's volume is down. It adds attack, tone and saturation without blowing my eardrums. Analog delay and chorus sound great with any Van Halen tune. Note, I don't use flanger or phase shifter for any song the band plays, so they're not on the board. Same thing with univibe, or tremolo (vibrato). If I want, there's enough room for a "fat boost" if I want it. The stomp box adds breadth and depth to your signal, without clipping. I prefer not to use it because my guitar has a focused mid-range "Les Paul" tone to it. I I like it the way it is.

The thing is, I don't want to mess with stuff by changing it around constantly. I want to know what I can do and leave it. It's not that I don't like experimenting with new sounds. I do. The problem is that adjusting the pedal board to pull many songs off can set everything in the signal chain into a tail spin.

The thing is a gig is just that. When you show up to play, nobody wants to sit around waiting for you to adjust your tone, which can take minutes to get exactly right. Your job is entertaining people, not just yourself. So, losing momentum is another thing you have to keep track of while doing this music business thing.

So, you want to sound good, but you also have to use good judgement. They say good judgement comes from good experience. And good experience comes from bad judgement.

Pulling this all together. I've found a few key and classic effects is all I really need to get through a night of cover tunes. So, my board reflects it. It's an off the shelf solution that looks and works pretty well, that I don't need to spend hours in my tool shop working out. A combination of adhesive and clean surfaces keeps the pedals from flying off within a decent budget. But, I could've spent much, much more money to have a professional and custom rig that does everything. But as I said, my preference is to use economy and good judgement to get the most out of what I use all the time, rather than chase down everything known to mankind for one song.

I think a thousand bucks for a pedal board system is plenty of money. And a 2-foot square to put it in is plenty of space. But if you're a purest, you may think differently. And opposing views are welcome in the World Of Rock!

Until next time...

Love & Rockets,


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