Using Effects Pedals to Enhance Your Tracks
Your favorite stomps are real-time, tactile sound processors. Plug them in and expand your DAW’s options.
Welcome to another Dojo. This time I want to help supercharge your creative process by advocating for a hybrid approach to effects processing. Specifically, I want you to embrace using stomp pedals as real-time, tactile effects processors and combine them with your favorite DAW effects and plugins.
You should be deeply familiar with how to insert plugins directly on your DAW tracks’ aux sends (for serial processing with modulation and time-based effects, like reverbs and delays) or aux buses (for parallel processing, like compressors). But what about guitar pedals? Yes, they’re typically used in live performance settings and get a lot of abuse on the stage and studio floor, but with the explosion of modern, programmable, MIDI-capable pedals on the market and their ever-increasing processing power, “lowly” stompboxes are long overdue to be elevated to the same level as rack effects and kept within arm’s reach on your mixing desk.
Pedals can add analog warmth, hands-on control, and modularity, are easy on your computer’s RAM and CPU resources, are always OS compliant, and retain their value.
Turning Knobs vs. Mouse-Clicking
When it comes to tracking and mixing, turning knobs on a physical, controllable surface, such as a pedal, mixing console, or MIDI controller, can provide a more tactile and intuitive way to make adjustments to your sound, compared to using a mouse to click and drag on virtual knobs and sliders within your DAW. Let’s face it, in the heat of a session this can be tedious—especially if you run out of trackpad or mousepad space while recording or mixing.
But what about exploring some hybrid approaches that take advantage of both formats? After all, plugins provide flexibility, precision, consistency, automation, portability (nothing to lug around), cost-effectiveness (cheaper than outboard gear), and compatibility (the same plugins can work on multiple DAWs). Pedals can add analog warmth, hands-on control, and modularity, are easy on your computer’s RAM and CPU resources, are always OS compliant, and retain their value (how much are original Klons going for now?!). They can also help you achieve a unique and personalized sound that can be difficult to replicate with digital plugins and their stock presets. Many modern foot pedals can also handle both line level and instrument level inputs.
Builders—Strymon, Eventide, Boss, EarthQuaker, Empress, Meris, Chase Bliss, and many more—have a wide range of pedals that are MIDI capable and, quite frankly, have processing power that far surpasses many classic rack effects units.
So, I’d like to offer some creative ways to use pedals, in addition to your regular plugins, in your next session or mix:
Before starting, remember to be aware that some pedals are looking for instrumentlevel and not line level inputs (the latter is what typically is output from your interface). You can find helpful info by reading my September 2022 Dojo column, “What You Should Know Before Using Guitar Pedals with Other Instruments.”
To start, duplicate the track(s) you want to process with your effects pedal(s) in your DAW and route the output of those tracks to one or two of your line outputs on your interface. Depending on the pedals in question, you may have options for mono in and out, mono in/stereo out, or stereo in and out. Connect all relevant cables and connect the output of the last pedal to the input of your interface. If your incoming signal is low, switch from line to mic on your interface for each input.
Next, in your DAW, create one mono or one stereo track, depending upon how you are going to return the processed signal from your interface and record-enable the track(s). Now you’re ready to record new, processed material (from one pedal or your entire pedal board!) in real-time and take advantage of every parameter on each pedal.
You can now use your pedals to adjust distortion levels, reverb, and delay times in real-time (with all the glorious artifacts, glitches, and smears), as well as adjust tremolo rates and chorus depths on the fly. Get creative! Take chances and invite any and all happy accidents!
One particular approach I love is throwing loop pedals into this equation, after all the other pedals, for some wild, abstract processing. My signal flow usually goes from overdrive to mod-based effects (chorus, phaser, tremolo) to time-based effects (delays and reverbs) followed by a looper. At present, my favorite looper pedal for this by far is Habit by Chase Bliss ($399 street). It has three minutes of loop time and can take user-definable snippets of your loop, play them back asynchronously, feed that back into the loop itself, and record all modifications as well (and this is just scratching the surface). Highly recommended!
Combine this “out-of-the-box” technique along with your normal “in-the-box” workflow and you should be creating some pretty amazing sounds. Let me know if you find a cool approach! I’ll share it in the Dojo channel.
Until next time, blessings, and continue to share your gifts with the world. It matters, and you matter!
A transparent compressor featuring unique Dynamic Threshold technology.
DSM offers a new DT Topology which dynamically modifies the threshold with a fixed gain reduction, achieving a natural and transparent compression effect, with lower noise floor, less coloring and higher dynamic range.
- Compression: Controls the input gain of the compressor, hence, the resulting overall compression.
- Ratio: Adjusts the gain reduction ratio, from slight compression (1:2) to full limiting (1:20).
- Attack: Controls the attack time, from 5ms for snappy slaps to 100ms for a more natural feel.
- Release: Adjusts the length of time the gain reduction is applied, from 30ms to 3s.
- Blend: Blends the compressed signal with the unaffected input signal.
- Level: Sets the output level of the compressor.
- Threshold Switch: 3 position switch that sets the starting point of the dynamic threshold on either HI MID or LOW. Depending on the output level of the instrument being connected, select HI for high power pickups or active instruments, MID for regular output guitar and basses, and LOW for low output instruments, like vintage single coils.
DSM Humboldt ClearComp 1078 - Dynamic Threshold Compressor
The new ClearComp 1078 is priced at $299.00 USD and it will be available from early June in all stores. Additional information can be found at www.dsmhumboldt.com.
Nu-X Unveils the Amp Academy
A stompbox platform amp modeler with IRs and essential effects.
The Amp Academy inherits NUX TS/AC-2K (White-box Amp Modeling) algorithm which delivers the sound and feel of world-class tube amplifiers in a super-portable stomp-box enclosure. It features 12 legendary amp models such as Vintage (Fender Twin Reverb), Classic (Fender Vibro King), Modern (Mesa Boogie Mark 1), Brown (Friedman HBE), Red (Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier), and Iridium (Bogner Uberschall). 1024 samples IR resolution with 3rd party IR loader capacity makes you easy to bring your favorite amp sound everywhere. The A/B foot switch lets you switch from clean amp style to crunch amp style immediately. Besides that, the SCENE footswitch can toggle SCENE1, SCENE2, SCENE3 sequentially. You can save your custom block engagements with 3 scenes; it offers you all the live application needs.
The edit software can let you tweak all the signal blocks and parameters. Amp Academy offers NR, EFX, AMP, IR, S/R, EQ, and RVB, you can adjust the sequence freely. Amp Academy supports USB audio stream and can be an USB recording interface with Normal / Dry Out / Reamp / Loopback routing.
- Pro-Level Amp Modeling with Bias Tweaking.
- 7 Independent moveable signal blocks with Send/Return effect loop.
- 1024 samples IR resolution and 3rd party IR loader slot with auto format editor.
- Versatile application scenes with independent 1/4” & XLR IR outs.
- Ultra-low system latency(1.2ms) and premium powerful NXP RT DSP(1GHz).
- Ultra-wide dynamic range: 110dB
- Comes with Insert Y-cable for send/return effect loop.
- USB recording interface, firmware update, AmpAcademy editor software
Nu-X Amp Academy carries a street price of $199.00. For more info, please visit: nuxefx.com.