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State of the Stomp: A Brilliant Pedalboard Book

Japanese audio guru Yukihiro Hayashi shares his techniques for building the perfect pedalboard.

System Construction Manual is simple yet it imparts invaluable knowledge for those who want to improve their guitar system’s overall sound and function.

Several years ago my company, Godlyke, Inc., was appointed North American distributor for the Providence brand of effect pedals, cables, and switching systems from Japan. While our business relationship with Providence didn’t last very long, it allowed me the privilege of meeting and interacting with their chief design engineer, Yukihiro Hayashi, or Yuki for short.

Yuki Hayashi is something of a legend in the Japanese music industry, very much akin to the likes of Pete Cornish or Bob Bradshaw. Besides designing many of Providence’s best-known products such as the Stampede Overdrive and PEC-2 Effect Switcher, Yuki also ran the “Free the Tone” custom shop, where he handbuilt pedals of high quality to exacting specifications. Yuki is also a highly sought-after consultant and systems designer who’s worked with many of Japan’s top guitar players, assembling pedalboards and full audio systems for both live and studio performance.

The Holistic Approach
In Yuki’s approach to achieving great guitar tone, every piece of a system is scrutinized to determine how it interacts with other components to blend seamlessly and achieve the desired results. Yuki recently left Providence and launched Free the Tone as an independent company. In addition to designing and building FTT’s limited-run guitar effects and switching systems, Yuki has refocused his efforts on assembling effects systems for professional musicians.

In an effort to share his vast knowledge, Yuki has condensed his experience in the field of systems design into a handy book format, allowing anyone to benefit from his decades-long commitment to the relentless pursuit of great guitar tone. Published in Japan several years ago, System Construction Manual for Electric Guitarists & Bassists has recently been translated into English and is available as a download from iBooks or Amazon Japan ( Using easy-to-understand language, Hayashi takes the reader through the basics of audio and electricity and explains how to build a great-sounding, noise-free guitar rig that will withstand the rigors of the road.

System Construction Manualhas three main chapters, each with several sub-sections. This format makes it easy for the reader to drill down to a particular topic and quickly find the information they need.

Yuki Hayashi is something of a legend in the Japanese music industry, very much akin to the likes of Pete Cornish or Bob Bradshaw.

Chapter 1, Basics for System Construction, contains a lot of the fundamental info that should be understood before attempting to design a pedalboard or system. Starting with a very basic explanation of how a note becomes an electrical signal (Section 1.1), Hayashi uses Section 1.2 to explain the difference between high and low impedance and how these measurements can dramatically affect sound quality. Section 1.3 covers the four basic switching types used in effect pedals, the pros and cons of each, and how they can affect the overall sound of your system. Section 1.4 is an explanation of signal phase and how out-of-phase signals can cause deterioration of signal quality. Hayashi also offers tips on how to test for phase inversion in a variety of effect types and related equipment.

Nixing Noise
I found Section 1.5 to be particularly useful, as it covers all the types of noise that can occur in a guitar system, and how to identify and avoid each one. There’s valuable information regarding cable and connector care that any musician can use to easily and affordably improve their rig’s performance. The section closes by explaining why power supplies are among the most important factors in a system’s design. Detailing the various aspects of the power chain, from wall outlet through power connection to effects, Hayashi offers several invaluable tips on how the selection and proper placement of a power supply can be the determining factor in a system’s noise level.

In Chapter 2, “Outline of System Construction,” Hayashi covers six basic questions to address before beginning work on a system, and then shows how the concepts from Chapter 1 can be applied to either reworking a system or building one from the ground up.

The book closes with “Examples of System Construction.”Hayashi goes through the design and production of four systems he created for professional musicians, discussing the system-specific challenges he faced and how he overcame them. This chapter gives insight into the meticulous analytical process that is the backbone of Hayashi’s exceptional design ethic.

System Construction Manualis an easy yet thought-provoking read. The language is simple, and there is no ’rithmetic involved. There are even hand-drawn sketches of Hayashi’s written explanation so that readers can gain a visual perception of the concepts. Despite the book’s simplicity, the knowledge it imparts is invaluable and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to improve his or her knowledge of how guitar electronics work, or anyone planning to update or create their dream guitar rig.

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