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The Dark Art of Pedal Chaining:

So, you’ve accumulated a bunch of pedals and now’s the time to set them all up and unleash Sonic mayhem… but in what order do they go?

Well, the truth is that there are no hard and fast rules, and for everyone that tells you to run things a certain way, there’ll be another person taking a perverse pleasure in doing it exactly opposite, and getting some creative results.

However, there is some common wisdom available, and we can take a look at this, until such time as you feel you want to ignore it.

What comes first?

As a general rule, anything that can be described as ‘Dynamic’ or in some way affecting the clean signal, should be 1st in the line. So for example a Volume/Wah Wah pedal or a Pitch Shifter has a very dramatic effect on the sound of the guitar, and while a compressor or a filter has a more subtle effect on the sound, they still alter the original signal dynamically.

2nd in line come the Gain monsters, Overdrive, Fuzz, Distortion. These are all representative of the sound coming from the amp, and therefore come before any traditional effects. (You may want to think

3rd up is Modulation.  Chorus, Phasers, Flangers and then finally in

4Th Place, Finally come the time based units. Everything from Analogue and Digital delays through to Reverb pedals. Anything that creates a ‘wash’ is best living at the end of your chain.

Tuners can usually be connected to a dedicated tuner output on a volume pedal, as you really want it out of the way, yet always available.

Now I said earlier there are no hard and fast rules, and this is true. Depending on how you play , or what sound you want to achieve, it’s perfectly acceptable to shift things around.

Let’s look at some options.

Volume pedals at the start of your chain, work very well as a larger version of your guitars volume pot, i.e. when the pedal is back the volume is dropped to nothing, so as you bring the pedal forward the volume increases. This is great for Violin type swell effects, but if it precedes an overdrive type pedal, then it reduces the amount of Gain going to the pedal, hence altering the sound.    If, for example you wanted to keep the sound at the required level of dirt and just use the volume pedal to mix your overall volume to the rest of the band, you need to run the Volume pedal after the Overdrive/Distortion section of your board. This means you won’t affect the input to your gain pedals, but you will be able to volume swell into delays or reverbs.

Finally you could have it as the very last pedal in the chain, and this would work as an overall Master volume control, taking control back from the sound man !

A similar set of controversies can be had with other pedals that follow certain ‘rules’.

Delay before distortion?  For example, no one in their right mind would put a delay, BEFORE the distortion surely?

However, with a little bit of judicious tweaking, you can emulate the sound of those early Eddie Van Halen records, where the ambient guitars were all created using this combination.

Reverb before Delay? Not for me, but if you’re looking for some 60’s guitar vibes, try this out.

Reverb before Distortion? Aaaggh! But actually a decent room reverb added to a smattering of overdrive and you’ll be taken back in time to the ‘50’s and those early rock recordings.

Wah after Fuzz/Distortion? Keeps the travel of your Wah sound intact and makes it a much more distinct ‘Wah’ sound.

Compressor as a Limiter at the end of your chain?  This sounds suicidal, and indeed it is possible to really mess up your sound this way, but, if you keep the compression down, it can act as a limiter/noise gate, and keep any of your wilder pedals in check. Just don’t add too much compression or, you’ll suck the life out of signal path.

Finally a note about buffers:

The signal to your amp can have its impedance changed by all the pedal circuits and cords the signal has to pass through or indeed how long your guitar lead is. As the impedance changes, you lose high end clarity, the bass gets flappy and the mids become foggy and undefined, as well as your overall level getting lower. The more pedals you add, the more this can happen. This is where you require a buffer.

Without going ultra technical, a buffer is an active circuit that preserves the strength and therefore the tone of your guitar signal. Some pedals have a buffer built-in, but you can buy dedicated standalone buffer pedals.

Some pedals feature ‘true bypass’, which means that your signal ‘bypasses’ the pedal circuit entirely when the pedal is switched off, effectively sending the signal from Input straight to Output. However, it has to be said that even if you use true bypass pedals, if you also use low quality, long length cables, you’re just as likely to suffer some form of loss of tone, and a buffer is what you will need.

As a general rule, if you, like me have a large pedal board, you might want to look at putting a buffer at the front AND the back end of your chain.

After all, no-one wants their tone sucked away….

 

Fuzzy, Overdriven Distortion! The best of all worlds…….?

One of the really good bits about working here at Scan Towers, is the chance to test the cool new pedals that arrive here daily, but just the other day I found myself contemplating just what I was listening to and why… bear with me…

The real shame about the dearth of live music venues over the last 30 years, is the amount of guitarists, who have never got to make a real big noise on stage.

Back in the day, I can remember at least 10 venues in my local area alone, that would feature a Live band at least one of the days of the weekend, and these bands would invariably play a mixture of Rock tunes, famous in their day, which people would know and hopefully sing along with… however the common denominator was the Guitar and amplifier, and the volume was usually LOUD!

Now, what that meant, was that even the most mediocre of bands had the opportunity to get up and make a racket, and in doing so their guitarists began to understand the skillset involved in driving a powerful amp and cab at considerable volume.

And it really is a skillset… A Marshall 100 watt stack has a certain attitude, that requires a definite approach, even before you start to play. Everything from the way you hold your pick to where you stand in relation to the cab affects the overall tone and performance.

Which means that when I now play through a pedal at lower volumes, I have a different expectation based on my experience, than someone who maybe hasn’t ever used an amp in anger, so then, what do these different terms mean and what can we expect from the relevant pedals?

Fuzz:

To me, Fuzz is generic term for ‘Broken’.

Back in the early days of guitar amplification, every so often an amplifier would develop a fault like a misaligned valve or an ‘iffy’ bit of soldering, and the resulting form of distortion became sought after by those of a more adventurous ilk. It was adopted by some of the early Punk bands in the US and is still enjoyed by many as a raucous form of distortion, very suited to fast Rhythmic playing rather than searing lead guitar solos….  Famous examples include the ‘Big Muff Pi”

Distortion:

A more controlled, yet still pretty artificial version of distortion that offers a lot more gain and aggression, but is also capable of being shaped to provide an approximation of High Gain amps from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. Boss pedals were the one-time king of this genre with their DS1 and HM2 pedals finding their way onto 1000’s of boards throughout the ‘80’s. The downside for me, is the lack of dynamics you can achieve, although when it comes to piles of dirty filthy grittiness, these things are the bomb…

OverDrive:

These pedals aim to simulate the very desirable sound of an over-driven tube amp, which can by degrees, be a creamy, smooth form of distortion, much loved by Guitarists because of the ability to control the distortion amounts and shape the EQ to suit many different styles of music. A famous example would be the Tube screamer from Ibanez.

 

So, given that this is my expectation, what else could affect my experience?

Well, this, I think, is where the experience of driving a big amp in a live situation comes into play.

I have played various Fuzz pedals over the years, and as an effect they have worked well, but the sound is still quite artificial when compared to driving a real amp. For my style of playing, this doesn’t work so well for me. Most of these pedals are very definitely a sound within their own right, and consequently, I find them pretty one dimensional, ( albeit if this is the sound you want, nothing does it better… see Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze or Machine Gun or the Stones’ Satisfaction…)

Distortion Pedals are another problem for me. When you play a valve amplifier loud, there is still a varied range of dynamics you can get from the sound, either by reducing the guitars volume or by Pick attack or finger pick strength. Distortion pedals tend to fight to corrupt the sound exactly the way they want, regardless of what you may require, and as such don’t allow the kind of control I require from a sound……

So, that leaves Overdrive pedals…. For me the most satisfying of all the ‘noise’ pedals, because they actually set out to mimic the sound of an overdriven tube amp, and consequently strive to allow the dynamics and nuances through. An easy way to test this is to play softly and then dig in hard…. The amount of distortion should change dramatically…   In a nutshell, these pedals are attempting to force your valves to work harder at lower levels, thus mimicking the effect of playing your amp much louder… Now the good bit…. There are hundreds of them out there!! And most of them very good indeed, but each offering a different sound, a different depth of distortion and a different level of control from one another.

So here, is a quick look at some of our favourite Overdrive pedals, and why…..

LN76105      BE-OD  Overdrive pedal by Friedman

Mr Friedman knows his  amp tones.

As the Father of the ‘Dirty Shirleys’ and ‘Buxom Bettys’, he has taken his amp know-how and pushed it inside this little box… and it shows. This little beauty emulates the Friedman BE-100 amplifier.

LN76104                 Ecstasy Red Guitar Pedal by Bogner

The Bogner Ecstasy amp has been hand built in California since 1992, and this is their own approximation of it’s famous Red channel…..

LN76241                 .45 Calibre Overdrive by J.Rockett

This pedal is startlingly good at one thing.

If you need the sound of an overdriven original 1962 JTM45 (think AC/DC -Ballbreaker, Gar Moore-Still got the Blues or Jeff Beck- Live at Ronnie Scotts) then this is it…

LN72684                       CKK Scream Drive

                                           (Two Gain Stage Classic Overdrive pedal)

Based on the classic Tubescreamer circuit, this offering from GKK gives you that Iconic sound and then the option to wind it up through the roof!

LN81096                   One Control Strawberry Red 

Of all the Overdrives featured here, this is my favourite. It doesnt actually try to emulate any one amplifier or sound. Instead it has been voiced to put out a sound that One Control hope all guitarists will enjoy. And I do.

 

Distortion Units:

So if you want to go Hell for KLeather into the world of pure Distortion, here are our recommendations:

LN72834                           Valeton Darktale Vintage Distortion

This peadl has a sound based on the famous RAT distortion pedal from Pro Co.  Everyone from Jeff Beck to Blur have used this sound, and this klittle beauty brings it straight to your door..

 

LN72836                      Valeton Hell Flame Extreme Distortion

From the vintage to the MOdern, this brings you a very modern ‘Metal’ Distortion with a very aggressive tone.

LN81124                     One Control Anodized Brown Distortion

With this pedal, One Control were looking to give the player a lot more physical control over the distortion sound, and If I were to use distortion, this is the kind of thing I’d be looking for…..

LN78881                    Wampler Pinnacle Standard Distortion

Think Eddie Van Halen’s ‘Brown Sound’ and you’re right there…. A very high-gain guitar sound that exudes liquid sustain, warmth and Organic response.

LN78891                    Wampler Dracarys Distortion Pedal

A Gain monster! With a 3 band active EQ to allow you to ‘sculpt’ the tone, The Dracarys is modern and versatile, and if you like Game of Thrones, you’ll even understand the name…..

And finally, the Scuzzy, Buzzy world of Fuzz!…. Here’s our pick of the Fuzz tones:

LN68968               Fuzz screamer from Xvive Micro Pedal

Cheap and effective, if you only need a fuzz pedal for one or two songs in your set, this little cracker is the most cost effective thing on the market. Classic Fuzz with a 21st century twist…..

LN72837                      Valeton Red Haze Vintage Fuzz

This is based on the legendary ‘Fuzz Face’ circuit, and usimng a special Germanium transistor to recreate the vintage fuzz tone, this is the sound of Jimi’s ‘Foxy Lady’ and other Iconic fuzz tones…

LN79616                       Voodoo Labs Superfuzz

Back in the ’60’s there was a tiny little unit called a Jordan electronics Bosstone. Randy Californis’s band ‘Spirit’ were the famous users of the day, and this pedal gives you the famous tone whilst allowing a wide selection of variations…..

LN76547                   KHDK Scuzz Box Fuzz Pedal

Kirk Hammett ( he of Metallica fame) has put together a company yo make guitar effects pedals, and they are gaining quite the reputation. This is their take on the Fuzz sound, and I have to say it would be my choice too. Two different types of sound, one is a dynamic fuzz tone, where the Scuzz sound is just c razy….

 

LN76245                     Hooligan Fuzz by J.Rockett

To my mind, this is the most versatile of all the Fuzz pedals here, in that it can replicate many classic tones, as well as being capable of creating a right sonic mess…..

So there we have it, take your pick of the myriad pedals here in stock at Scan, and whichever way you like your dirt, we hope you have fun.

We also stock all the nits and pieces you might need to build agreat board including different sized boards, jack leads, brackets etc.

 

Focusrite Academy : Drum Recording

Starting out on the engineering road can be quite daunting, especially for instrumentalists, often more used to gigging than studio sessions.

Well, fret no more as Focusrite have opened their Academy, a free online video tutorial site designed to teach Producers and Engineers the essential basics of the art of recording acoustic and electric instruments on their computer.

Drum recording is the first course on offer and covers mic placement, recording, processing and showing you all the interfaces, mics and outboard equipment you need to get started.

Through a whopping 25 Videos, session drummers Craig Blundell and Alessandro Lombardo, with producer Tim Harbour, talk about skinning, try various variations of mic placement using between one and 12 microphones, show you how to correct phase problems to get the best results and then how to process and edit the recorded tracks.

Click here to see the full range of Focusrite @ Scan

Akai MPC Makes A Return With Two New Standalone Models

Back in January at NAMM Akai announced the release of two new additions to the MPC line – the MPC X and the MPC Live, with a clear focus on  bringing back the standalone functionality to the range. Beat fiends around the world are waiting with anticipation for the launch date of the new MPCs and while no solid date is available at the time of writing, what we do know is that it is going to be soon!

I’m one of the lucky folk to have actually had my hands on the MPC X and even though my time was limited I can tell you that it certainly impressed from the off. There are so many features on this new line that I could literally write for a week and will have probably only scratched the surface so I’ll try and keep this short. The first thing you notice when sat in front of the behemoth MPC X is that this thing is huge, it feels like you’re sat at the helm of some other-worldly spaceship armed with rapid fire beat blaster rays! Every control and function you could want is surgically positioned to be at hand when you need it, the encoders feel solid and the little OLED screens above each pot is a very nice touch. We’ve got a plethora of I/O, CV outputs, countless controls, a VU meter, 16 RGB pads and a nice responsive 10.1″ touchscreen which I will come to later.

The pads are tight and responsive just as you would expect from the company that basically swamped the world with the things! The easiest way to describe the pads is – they just work, and they work damn well. They are able to capture every nuance of your performance. If you have played with an MPC before then you will be right at home with either of the new models. The MPC swing returns in full glory, breaking up, yet gluing together your drum hits for a natural swing that works flawlessy.

The screen is a big highlight on this new line. The X has a 10.1″ screen while the Live has a 7″ display, both are way more responsive and tactile than I thought they would be. They work brilliantly, integrating the hands-on approach to a deeper level than previously available. It supports multi touch for pinch and zoom allowing you to snip, chop and move as you please with absolute ease. I was genuinely impressed by how well it worked and I’m sure you will be too!

The Live is a gorgeous little black box which retains most of the features of the X with a much smaller footprint. We lose CV outputs and a lot of encoders and front facing controls but this doesn’t detract from the experience at all, thankfully the touchscreen takes over some duties here – so it’s a good job they’ve done a cracking job with it. It also houses a rechargeable Lithium-ION battery so you can unplug from the box, go and sit in the sun and knock out some beats!

The release of the new MPC line also brings with it MPC Software 2.0, fully loaded with critical in-demand productions and performance capability. Both units are able to record audio directly into the unit and use as audio tracks within MPC. The software was still in late Beta while I played around with it and was already solid, I didn’t experience any glitches or crashes. When hooked up to a PC 2.0 allows you to use VST instruments and effects and then bounce the audio down for use in standalone mode! Absolutely phenomenal.

Now I’ve not mentioned one of the new highlight features yet – clip launching! This is the familiar performance mode found on other devices and gives the MPC another weapon in it’s already formidable arsenal. Add to that the outstanding collection of expansions from well respected sound designers such as Capsun Audio, Loopasters, Toolroom and more, and you have a truly fearsome expandable music machine!

So, if the thought of a brand new, all singing, all dancing Akai MPC gets you all giddy, keep your eyes peeled for more info on the release date. If it gets you more than a little giddy then you might want to get a pre-order in and be one of the first to get hold of one of these beauties! In the meantime, take a look at some videos to get more of an idea what the new line brings to the table.

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/akai-mpc-x-standalone-music-production-center-101-full-colour-multi-touch-display-16gb-of-on-board-s

https://www.scan.co.uk/products/akai-mpc-live-music-production-center-standalone-capable-16-pads-7-inch-multi-touch-display-16gb-on

Thomas Blug Signature Pedals by XVive

For those of you unfamiliar with the Xvive range of pedals, I’ve waxed lyrical about them before, but essentially these are USA designed, Chinese made ‘Micro’ pedals that sound very, very cool and take up minimal room on your board.

In an earlier post I talked about German guitar wizard and ‘Tone guru’ Thomas Blug.

Thomas has recently teamed up with the guys at Xvive and helped them to voice 4 different pedals for their range, and as you would expect, each one brings a different but remarkably accurate variation on a classic amp tone.

GOLDEN BROWNIE: LN68957

The first of these is the ‘Golden Brownie’, which is designed to give you the high-gain rock tones of the 80’s style Marshall sound, “Like a JCM800 in a box” is their claim.

The sound is definitely synonymous with the classic British Rock tones of that era, and some judicious cutting or boosting with the Tone and Presence knobs can dial in quite a wide variety of transients to give you more or less of the Presence or Brightness required.

The beauty of this type of in-expensive yet high quality pedal, is that even if you don’t play too much classic rock, it’s just a great tone to have in your palette, just in case you’re called upon to produce a minutes worth of Eddie Van Halen in the middle of your Country band’s set…..

 

TUBE SQUASHER: LN68956

The Tube Squasher is a Low Gain sound, capable of big fat squashy tones, with a little compression to back it up. Add the Bass for a full on Jeff Beck fest, and it takes on an almost “Dumble-esque” quality. Lo-cut the bass, and you have a quintessential rhythm tone, with a sharp, Punky voice as well as a mature Rocky growl….

Again, even if you don’t use Classic tube amp tones in your day to day set, these little units are so inexpensive, it seems silly not to have at least one of these type of pedals in your armoury..

 

SWEET LEO: LN79344

The word for this Overdrive unit is ‘Transparent’.

Your original tone shines through without being masked or shaped which immediately marks it out as being a fantastic rhythm pedal, but it can also conjure up the sound of an old tweed amp being pushed through its paces. Indeed it has a ‘Growl’ knob, specifically to control this.

So if you want a lovely Clear Bell like overdriven tone or indeed to spit out a little more broken up  venom, this could very well be the pedal for you.

 

DYNAROCK: LN79346

This pedal cuts through with a lot of clarity, no mushy tones here. However, it also features a mid- boost that can deliver a lovely full fat tone, perfect for those fusion-y legato players.

If you’re called upon to put on a little Metal or Hard Rock, here’s all your High Gain tones in a little box…

 

 

 

The Scan Pro Audio Show

The Scan Pro Audio Show: Preview episode

Scan Titles
 

Many of you will remember our Pro Audio Webcasts which ran until the back end of last year. For those of you that didn’t manage to catch one, many of them are still archived on our Scan Pro Audio channel.

https://www.youtube.com/user/ScanProAudioTV

Well, this year we launch the new look, Scan Pro Audio show, in which we build on the webcast idea, to produce a full blown magazine type TV show featuring, news, items of interest and demonstrations from the world of Pro Audio.

Last week we aired the very first “Preview” episode, featuring Luke Edwards from Korg talking us through the new Korg Minilogue Synth and an item featuring Ben from TMS ( The UK’s most prolific Hit Producers ) talking us through how they use the Universal Audio Apollo console application and break down in detail the vocal monitoring effect chain that they use when recording acts such as Little Mix, Professor Green, Emeli Sande, One Direction, Jess Glynne, The Vamps & Rita Ora

You can catch the show here…

https://www.scan.co.uk/shops/proaudio-show

and you should also remember each show features the “codeword”, where viewers can email in for some exclusive offers of the week.

Cover Page!

 Congratulations to our own Pete Gardner on reaching the cover page of the prestigious Sound on Sound magazine!
Pete has been a contributor for a while now, but this month, he has put together the definitive version of “What’s the best CPU for todays Audio Production software”.

Pete is one of the most informed guys in the country (probably Europe!) when it comes to attaching things to the innards of a PC, and in this issue he shows all the various benchtests he uses to measure the different CPU’s available.

Sound on Sound is probably the best Audio Production mag available, and if you’re serious about the world of Audio Recording, you should make sure of your subscription now.

Its that time again!!!!

It’ll soon be that time of year again!!!
Whilst I don’t like to start any kind of festivities until around a fortnight before Christmas, we have to acknowledge that for Mums and Dads especially, they have no choice but to start planning WAYYYY beforehand, so here are a couple of thoughts as to gifts for the coming season….
Alesis DM7X Session Kit:
For the noisy blighter in your life….

maxresdefault
This is a cracking little version of the DM7X from Alesis.
Packed with premium Alesis sounds and onboard extras, the DM7X module is the heart of the DM7X Session kit. Extremely playable pads offer realistic extras such as a dual-zone snare for accurate rimshots, as well as a crash cymbal with choke. The enhanced bass drum system is fast, responsive, and extra-quiet. The sturdy, all-in-one drum rack features a wide stance with longer feet for improved balance. Compact and complete, the DM7X Session Kit fits easily into a home studio or performance stage. Add an extra tom pad and/or cymbal pad to grow this expandable kit as your needs change.
And for Mum and Dad?

NO NOISE!!!!!!
Seriously, your little Drummer can make as much racket as they like inside their own headphones, they can practise along to their mp3 player or to the 60 included play along tracks, and you won’t hear a thing!!!!

DM7X-session-630-80

COMPACT AND COMPLETE
The entire DM7X Session Kit sets up on a compact and sturdy 2-post drum rack. The wide stance and long feet offer stability for any style of drumming. Four Alesis DMPad 8″ drum pads are provided; three tom pads and a special dual-zone snare pad offering realistic rim sounds. Next, add in a collection of three 10″ cymbal pads—crash, ride, and hi-hat. The crash cymbal pad allows authentic choking of the cymbal sound. Quiet and compact, the bass drum system includes the responsive chain-driven X Kick pedal with an inverted beater for use with the super-silent StealthKick 2 trigger. Additionally, a cable snake is provided for easy and neat connections from the drum module to the drum pads, cymbal pads, and pedals.

EXPANDED SOUNDS
The DM7X module comes complete with 40 classic and modern ready-to-play kits. Easily tweak any existing kit, or create your own using the 385 premium drum, cymbal, and percussion sounds. Drum and cymbal buttons are arranged to resemble the layout of a traditional kit, so it’s simple to assign sounds and create kits quickly. Plus, the backlit LCD screen makes navigation a breeze.

EXPANDED FEATURES
Inside the DM7X module you’ll find valuable extras. The built-in learning mode features, sixty play-along music tracks, and an onboard metronome allow you to improve your skills. There is even an advanced sequencer and a performance recorder to expand your music-making potential. In addition to the USB MIDI connection for use with computers and mobile devices, the DM7X module also offers MIDI In and Out jacks so you can connect to your favorite MIDI-equipped drum machine, sound module or other audio gear. There is a headphone jack for private practice, plus stereo outs to connect to a PA system, amplifier, or recording interface. The stereo aux input allows you to jam along to your favorite tracks on your CD player or mobile device.

alesis-dm7x-electronic-drum-kit

So this Christmas why not treat your budding Buddy Rich to a great sounding kit that they’ll enjoy every day, and that won’t cause you any earache (especially from the Neighbours!)…….

Errrrm, 417 Sleeps……..

So, the best laid plans of Mice and Men eh?
The Manchester Music show has been postponed by a year, and now has a new home to boot….
It will take place on the 6th ,7th and 8th of November 2015, and is now going to be held at Event City, Manchester.
Event manager Chris Martin said: “We made the decision to postpone the show so that we can take the time to refocus the event, ensuring that it offers visitors and exhibitors alike a truly interactive experience, with a packed programme of features for musicians and music teachers, as well as those pursuing music industry careers. We’re also expanding to run over three days instead of two, which means we can put on a more substantial event for the industry.”
So….. See you down there in 2015!!

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