I have been fortunate enough in my music career to be a part of some very incredible events. Be it on stage in front of hundreds of music educators, to competing in loop competitions with many of my looping inspirations all the way to discovering a new and exciting sound in the confines of my own home. Each has excited me and inspired me in it’s own way, and each has left a mark and provided a waypoint from which I have changed my musical heading. As unique as each of these events has been, are the serendipitous circumstances in which they presented themselves to me.
My initial foray into looping had me piecing together my first rig out of the same components of my leading musical heroes. As I progressed in my skill set, street performing gave way to clubs and corporate shows. Conversations on music in dimly lit backstreet bars lead to dialogues on music pedagogy to leading music educators in the public school setting and finally articulating my musical equipment with my feet lead to my having more control and a lighter touch with my hands than my feet inside the familiar confines of a set of Chuck Taylors ever did.
With this growth and a bit of experimentation, I noticed that my rig I had built for me was getting heavier and heavier and wasn’t condusive to the events and tours I was now part of, but also didn’t allow the ease of movement and set-up necessary to my needs. The time had come: I needed a new pedal board.
So the question remained: How do I keep all of my equipment but keep it in a smaller footprint? I was looking at smaller pedals, lighter materials, consolidating my rig into a laptop and other avenues that were brining me farther away from the organic approach I have subscribed to since my inception as Just Alliance, Loop Artist. After discussing it with a close friend of mine, he came up with the solution.
“Let’s make two smaller pedalboards.”
The answer, albeit elusive, was staring me in the face the entire time. Two boards allows me to carry the same amount of gear, but with each case being just big enough, it would increase the mobility and short set up time I was looking for. Gone are the days of wheeling a 5-foot tall, 60-pound pedalboard through the table games of Caesar’s Palace. Now it was easy in…easy out. The time had come: construction of my new pedalboards.
After a small redesign of my signal path and placing my pedals in a footprint in which my pedalboard and case would be constructed around, a quick trip to the hardware store, the same close friend I mentioned earlier and I were in his woodshop with the following materials:
2 lengths of 10-ply plywood
2 lengths of Birch
1 length of Black laminate
2 lengths of Aluminum Extrusion
The design had each pedalboard fitting into a space that was:
(36in x 15in x 5in)
Or quick metric conversion:
(914mm X 381mm X 127mm)
Boards were cut, corners sanded down, contact cement laid down, black laminate cut to size, aluminum extrusion cut and sanded and after number of hours, the new boards were ready to accept the pedals for which they were built for. I heard of numerous ways to keep pedals attached to a pedalboard. Musicians dismantling their pedals and screwing the chasse into the board or even heard of another guy using glue (!) to attach his pedals to his board. Both of these sounded like bad ideas, so my inner 10-year-old came out. Velcro.
You don’t need to attach your pedals to your board like it is protecting state secrets or hiding the crown jewels, but they do need to stand up to the rough rigors of the road. I cut enough smaller pieces of industrial strength Velcro to cover key points of the underside of my various components and soon stuck them to the newly minted boards.
I was done!
After purchasing the Planet Waves Pedal Board Cable Kit and having Bronson Garza, a guitar and pedalboard guru at the Las Vegas Strip Guitar Center instructed me on how to cut cables to size, my board was starting to look respectable and much cleaner than the one before. My next step was to figure my power needs and establish the correct power supply that would allow me to forgo the wallworts and power supplies that had long made a tangled, yet managed mess on the back side of my rig. The how-it-happened regarding the power management will be saved for a later blog however.
Finally the first stage was completed. I now have two smaller boards that have the same gear as my former pedalboard, but allow it sit in a smaller, lighter footprint! (See below)
The final length as a whole is 72in. As you can see in the pics below the final dimensions for each board fall into the (36in X 15in X 5in) footprint that was the goal from the beginning.
Of course any new gear can’t be properly tested until it is taken for a test drive…in this case, last week’s Summerlin Artist Showcase on the west end of Las Vegas. (Fortunately, the sun had gone down and the mid summer head gave way to…..well…. mid summer-not-as-much-heat)
In the next couple of weeks, I will be getting my new cases and will address the how and why I bought them. If you want to get in touch with the company I enlisted to help me construct the boards then feel free to contact me and I will be happy to connect you.Tonight's blog is the first of a series of blogs that will talk about my new set up. (Cases, power supply, etc) Oh…and if you can keep it a secret….I have new photos coming up soon. Stay tuned!!
Las Vegas, NV
July 7th, 2014
A common question I get when I am out performing is, “What loop pedal should I get?” Many musicians I talk to are in the initial stages of using loop pedals and see so many new units on the markets, they wonder if it is a worthwhile investment and others have used loop pedals for years and are considering upgrading. So after my short tenure performing, teaching, touring and long hours “in the shed” practicing, my answer is this:
“Whichever is best for you.”
Sorry. No above all-end all pedal. No Excalibur. No great mystery. No silver bullet. Simply put, your pedal should reflect your needs, abilities and aspirations. When I first jumped into live looping, I picked up the RC-20 from the team over at BOSS-Roland. At this point in time, I was performing primarily as a Trumpet player in different musical settings. I didn’t know the difference between an XLR or a ¼ quarter inch cable. I was used to coming to the gig, putting my mouthpiece into the horn and that was the extent of my gear! (Oh, to be so simple again…) Soon after watching somebody loop for the first time, I was hooked and my musical aspirations were altered forever.
The RC-20 from Roland was my initial pedal for two reasons: price point and features. It was sold to me at a price I could manage (Thank you Guitar Center) and the features onboard were simple for me to understand on this new musical path I was going setting upon. Simplicity and stellar construction won out over more complex pedals and computer programs. One microphone and a few cables later I was up and running. My first night I was able to stitch together a (very) rough version of “Stand By Me.” Live looping had taken a hold of me.
Sometime later I found myself needing more room to grow into and the BOSS RC-50 found it’s way onto my pedalboard. I was now a bit more experienced and was needing more than two loops to compose with and was slowly working up my dexterity to build and utilize loops in entire song writing process, rather than just having it a “glorified vamp” as one musician called it on a show. I now had more recording time and had what was to me, easier controls and more options to choose from. Independent EQ’s, MIDI Sync capabilities and all start/stop functions for using in a break in a song to solo over. True, these aren’t the only differences but these are the ones I used the most at this part of my career.
The MIDI Sync was huge. I had picked up the BOSS GT-1OB to start using effects and found that my knowledge was incredibly limited. Compression? Phaser? Delay? Reverb? Not….a…clue. I did what any mad scientist would do. For a year straight asked my elf the same question night after night of practicing, “What does this button do?” Using MIDI sync I was able to sync my loop pedal and my effects pedal for synchronized effects.( MIDI OUT of the Loop pedal to MIDI IN on the GT-10B) I am flattered when people assume I am a technician regarding gear, but at the end of the day, I do what I’ve done since I was little, explore and place the square peg in the round hole. I will save effects pedals for another blog though, so keep an eye out for that.
When the BOSS RC-300 found it’s way to me I felt like a 16 year old kid who was given the keys to his Dad’s convertible for the weekend. Way more options, recording time, huge design and programming changes and….built in effects? The game changer for me was the ease of operations and also the built in effects. While attending my first NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA I witnessed Rico Loop for the first time. To call the man a wizard at looping is an understatement. Bass, voice, harmonica, guitar, melodica, a bottle and vocal percussion were all utilized in the composition of his music, the majority of it improvised. Taking mental notes of tempo changes, modulations and using areas of the RC-300 that I never thought of as a musical device (i.e. using the volume switches for effects) and of course, the built in effects, left my head full of new ideas and avenues to explore when I went home a few days later. If you get the chance, take a peek at Rico Loop’s videos from NAMM!
Now with the arrival of the RC-505 from the BOSS-Roland team, the envelope has been push even further. Longer recording times, more effects, more MIDI options and two more channels to record on make this an even more versatile workhorse to anchor a musician’s pedalboard. Smaller in dimension and lighter, it can fit into a smaller footprint than it’s predecessors. I find the RC-505 easier to navigate in the “brains” of the pedal as well.
The market has numerous options for choices in loop pedals. Digitech, TC Helicon, Vox and Line 6 all have versions of loop machines. I won’t give an armchair of review of each one, because I do not have the experience needed with any of those for a educated opinion about it. I have seen them in action and have heard all of them help the musician utilizing them make beautiful music.
Again, the pedal you decide to invest in your pedal should reflect your needs, abilities and aspirations. There is no perfect car to buy or perfect tool. It has to be perfect for you. I have a six foot table full of pedals when I perform, and I had the pleasure of watching Grison Beatbox win the World Loop Championships with probably the smallest rig of any artist to perform that night! There are plenty of demos, reviews and performances around the web to keep you up for days on end. Read some reviews, think about what you want and then try it out at your local music shop. If your local shop doesn’t have it in stock, there are plenty of looping communities with websites and microsites in just about every social media outlet. Contact an artist who uses what you want, the artists I have reached out to have been very generous with their time and expertise!
Good luck on your own musical path and thank you for being a part of mine and reading about a part of mine. Any ideas of thoughts about gear and such is always welcome on this blog. I look forward to hearing from you!
Just Alliance's Blog
Thoughts, ideas and musical musings from this Silver State Loop Artist.