Our "That Pedal Show" Blog

Dan and Mick’s $500 Pedalboard Challenge

By Andy Perrin | July 05, 2017

That Pedal Show 7/2/2017

I hope I’m not the only one out there like this, but I spend a disproportionate amount of cognitive energy imagining different pedal combos and board configurations. My daydreamed guitar rigs, however, differ from those in reality in one fundamental way: while the former are economically unconstrained, the latter are bound by budgetary limits of real life.

This week on TPS, Dan & Mick met the challenge every player inevitably encounters and built their own pedal rigs on a budget. With about $500 in the bank, each TPS anchorman was tasked with creating a pedalboard that was inspiring, gig worthy, and had the minimum requirements of overdrive, delay, modulation, and at least one other effect.

At a glance, here is what the two pedalboards looked like:

Dan’s picks: Mooer Elec Lady, Electro Harmonix Soul Food, Boss Blues Driver BD-2, and Maxon AD-9.

Mick’s picks: Electro Harmonix Crayon, Tube Screamer Mini, TC Electronic Corona Chorus+, TC Electronic Prophet, and Mooer Trelicopter.

While these set-ups had some hallmark Dan & Mick sounds as well as a few surprise selections that did not disappoint, arguably the most important take-aways from the episode were insights into how to create a board that sounds and functions well beyond its modest price tag. To that end, here’s my “TPS Top Ten” of ways to maximize your budget pedalboard build.

  1. Double-up on overdrives for a diversity of sounds. Gain pedals are the foundation of any board but even more so for those on a budget. As Dan & Mick demonstrated, pairing a full range overdrive—such as the Boss BD-2 or Electro Harmonix Crayon—with a second pedal that functions as a boost—such as the Electro Harmonix Soul Food or Ibanez TS Mini—means exponential options. You can dial in a variety of overdrive sounds independently, pit the pedals against one another for depth of drive or boost for solos, and even deploy them will minimal gain for a focused clean sound.
  2. Hire a mercenary from the clone army. While Mick entertained the idea of plunking his Klon Centaur down as the sole effect on his board since it technically fit the budget when he bought it years ago, Dan’s pick of the Electro Harmonix Soul Food gave a Klon-esque feel for a fraction of the price. To imbibe your board with even more customization, the JHS Soul Food Meat & 3 Mod pedal inches closer to the original with additional clipping and tone-shaping options.
  3. Reclaim vintage sounds with mini versions. Among the flood of versions, variations, and knock-offs of the Ibanez Tubescreamer out there, the Ibanez TS Mini is that perfect blend of economy of space and budget without compromising on tone. As Mick commented, “We just like this one a lot!”
  4. Opt for mini pedals with a well-earned cult following. While some mini pedals are shrink-rayed versions of sought after originals, others have emerged as modern classics in their own right. The Mooer Trelicopter is a perennial favorite of Dan & Mick’s for both its authentic tremolo shudders and surprising spectrum of pulsing sounds achieved by a micro box with modest control nobs.
  5. Get more options on board with TonePrint. Dan’s pick of the TC Electronic Corona Chorus+ was strategic for its expansive options zapped in via TonePrint. Including TC pedals with this feature means you’re not bound to a single sound. Rather, you can load an endless range into the pedal including artist imprints, custom creations, and curated classics such as the iconic chorus voicings of the original TC Stereo-Chorus-Flanger.
  6. Experiment with pedal chain positions. As Dan demonstrated by fronting the Mooer Elec Lady flanger in his pedalboard, repositioning modulated effects in the chain is an ideal and economical way of customizing the sounds of your budget-friendly board. In this case, venturing into an unconventional pedal order produced big results. Dan reflected how in this position the Elec Lady “at times can be almost like a formant filter, it sort of changes the EQ curve of the [signal].”
  7. Buy a pedal on a blowout to extend your budget. If you’re building a board on a budget, be sure to check out the clearance rack and pre-loved pedal section over at Riff City. As Dan’s half-price score of a Maxon AD-9 analogue delay showed, just because you’re building a budget board doesn’t mean boutique buys are out of reach!
  8. Look for pedals with switchable modes. Front-end switches translate into automatic options for the econo-board. Dan’s delay pick of the TC Electronic Prophet digital delay, for example, provided instant access to three subdivision settings: sixteenth, eighth, and dotted-eighth notes.
  9. Don’t overlook the freebies already on board. Most any guitar and amp combo already comes equipped with two essential yet easily forgotten effects: your guitar’s trusty volume pot and amp’s built in reverb. Rolling off the former extends the versatility of your overdrive effects and dialing in the later enables the pedalboard to open up and breath. The best part? This duo comes in at zero dollars.
  10. Splurge your spare bucks on some bonus items. As Dan’s Wimbledon inspired DIY turf board demonstrated, a few dollars at the end of the budget can go a long way on esthetics. This pocket change can also add value in the practical sense, for example, with the Ibanez BIGMINI Tuner that comes in at a price point under $50.

Whatever your pedalboard needs and whatever your budget, stop in over at Riff City and let us help you build the board of your dreams…or your reality!

TPS Episode Rig Rundown:

Guitars: Dan: 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000); 1958 Gibson Custom Les Paul Standard (ca. 2002). Mick: 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Collings 290 DC S.

Amps: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe.

Effects Pedals: Dan: Mooer Elec Lady; Electro Harmonix Soul Food; Boss Blues Driver BD-2; Maxon AD-9. Mick: Electro Harmonix Crayon; Tube Screamer Mini; TC Electronic Corona Chorus; TC Electronic Prophet; Mooer Trelicopter.