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In The Studio: Rage Against The Pedalboard Machine
Troubleshooting wimpy tone on your next session; and always remember, the part dictates the sound...
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This article is provided by the Pro Audio Files.

 
There will most definitely be a point in your production career where a bassist or guitarist shows up with a pedalboard. It could be a small, seemingly harmless one or a flat bed sized mammoth.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a variety of sounds. As a guitarist, I want options too. I’m no purist, but In the studio I have a tendency to deconstruct pedalboards.

Here’s why: No matter what circuitry or wiring they claim to have, the sound changes when you run through pedals or multiple connections. Even a true bypass looper affects the tone.

Purity
To get a focused sound, I try to get to as close to the source as possible. I only patch the effects I’m using during tracking.

I’ve tried most cables, buffers, loopers and they all impact the sound in some way. Mostly in a negative way for my tastes.

There are a few occasions where I find the change agreeable. One is using a tape delay (a real one, not a pedal with a tape preset on it). I like the preamp in tape delays. You can bypass the delay effect and just use the preamp section. I use it to push the front end of an amp a little harder. You can try this with bass or guitar.

The other time I might like the color is from various real spring reverbs. Again, it’s has to do with the preamps. So far to date, this has been the only occurrence where I break my rule and leave them in the chain.

Ominous Implications
I’m not implying for any second that you should discourage a bassist or guitarist from using their effects. Sometimes it’s crucial for inspiring a performing or part.

But as much as you may think your fancy outboard gear may do a better job, it’s not always the case.
Modern Chemistry

There is a special chemistry that happens when an effect runs before the amp. It sounds quite different compared to adding after the recording. Both have a place. It’s dependent on the situation.

Try this experiment next time a guitarist or bassist is on on a session:

1) Plug them into their pedalboard and have them play with all effects bypassed.

2) Now, unplug from the pedalboard and play straight into the amp.

Do you hear a difference? Most likely you will say yes. There is more punch and strength to the sound.

You will most definitely notice a difference in tone. Its also worth mentioning that some people like the loss of tone associated with long cables and pedal boards. This is why I suggest you A/B them to hear the difference.


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