By Andy Perrin | April 03, 2017
It’s not every day you get a pedalboard building tutorial from the guy who creates rigs for the likes of Noel Gallagher and Ed’Obrien (“Dan here!”) or are invited along as YouTube royalty walk through their own process of creating a professional board (“Mick here!”). This week’s episode on TPS, however, does just that: it’s project time.
At first glance, building a pedalboard seems easy enough. It’s a mix of managing plugs, pedals, and Velcro—my three-year old already has expertise in these areas. Yet what sets a great board apart from simply a good one is planning in design, thoughtfulness in organization, and its built-in ability to evolve with your changing gear needs. While there are definitely some amazing sounds offered up in this TPS episode—to use the words of Dan, “that’s mega,” translated into Mick-speak, “that’s not bad at all”—the real impact is the wisdom gleaned from the process of creating the board. As Mick highlights, “Hopefully, this video is interesting to you not because of the pedals I’ve chosen or because of what I’m going to play but because of what it will help you to do in terms of thinking about your board.”
With that in mind, I’ll offer up a top-five hacks for planning and creating a stellar pedalboard drawn from the discussion and demos of this TPS episode:
Sketch a layout and configure your pedals before buying the board itself. Every good pedalboard starts with a blank sheet of paper, a Sharpie, and a measuring tape. As Mick described, his board’s design took shape through a two-stage process. “I sketched them [the pedals] out on a piece of paper, but then I actually got to the point where I’d get the pedals and set them down on the floor in the configuration that I thought would work.” Here’s when you’ll measure things up to discern if, for example, you need a Pedaltrain Classic, Novo, Metro, Nano, or are into entirely different territory and should consider a customized pedalboard.
Give your most used pedals a front-row seat and position them properly to avoid accidental switching. Whether your board will use an advanced switching system, like the GigRig G2, or will kick it old school with a chain for access to all pedals, be sure that your most used pedals are accessible. This means putting them up front and being aware of their relative position to other pedals so that, say, by clicking the tap tempo of a delay you don’t risk inadvertently activating your fuzz pedal because its switch is an inch away. In short, as Mick said, “it’s about the ergonomics.”
Not all options for affixing pedals to your board are created equal. You’ve got to decide if you want your pedalboard to survive the apocalypse or simply survive the next 48 hours before you inevitably swap out or rearrange pedals. Options for affixing pedals to the board itself range from industrial grade Velcro, that is common to Pedaltrain systems, to Dan’s personal favorite “pedal board tape,” known for its exceptionally strong adhesive and dual lock clips. If you opt for a firmer fix like the latter, Dan offered a genius hack to maximize the hold while making it possible to remove pedals without breaking a sweat. He describes, “I’ll put a thin strip on the back and triangles on the front, so that when you lift up the front it releases easier.”
Know the particulars of your power needs. Most of us lay awake at night dreaming about gear, but for few that gear is pedal power supplies! A while back, Dan and Mick went through the finer points of powering pedals and underscored the importance of feeding them the right voltage to function properly (https://youtu.be/4XRCjHxaYkc). To achieve this in the present episode, Mick’s board featured a central power supply, the GigRig Generator, which was connected to sub-supplies to manage the varying voltage needs of individual pedals. For most small to medium sized boards, the MXR DC Brick, Walrus Audio Aetos, or Strymon Zuma power supplies are excellent options to keep things running and calibrated correctly.
Don’t cheap on the cables and, if possible, customize their lengths. To get things just right, Dan recommended a high-quality solderless patch cable creation package to allow for customizing the lengths of cable needed with reliable joins. If, however, the pedal connections across your pedalboard are straightforward, there are a number of excellent options, like the Fender Performance or Custom Shop cables, that will relay your guitar’s signal while minimizing clutter. Either way, it’s essential that the board is tidy yet provides enough space for necessary connections. For Dan, stretched cables are intolerable: “One thing I don’t like on any build is tension on cables. If they’re tight, you haven’t left enough room.”
For loads of items to enhance your pedalboard build, head over to the Riff City pedalboards and accessories pages. Be sure to use a bit of the money you save there to support Dan and Mick over at www.thatpedalshowstore.com and www.patreon.com/thatpedalshow.
Gear used in this episode:
Guitars: Mick: 1962 American Vintage Fender Stratocaster (ca. 2000); Paul Reed Smith DGT (ca. 2008); Collings 290 DC S. Dan: 1958 Gibson Custom Les Paul Standard (ca. 2002); 1963 Closet Classic Fender Telecaster (ca. 2000).
Pedals: T-Rex Reptile Delay 2; Free the Tone Tri Avitar Chorus; Kinglsey Boost (prototype); Kingsley Maiden; Keeley D&M Drive; Hamstead Signature Tremolo; Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah; TC Electronic Hall of Fame; Bigfoot FX Magnavibe; Kingsley Page; Fulltone Octafuzz; Analogman Sun Face; Boss Chromatic Tuner TU-3s.
Amps: Mesa Lonestar; Victory V40