Building My Pedalboard
Warning: Today's post is incredibly guitar-centric. Enjoy. [dropcaps_default]I'm[/dropcaps_default] not sure if it's my distaste of digital multi-effects pedals or my lack of a gym membership, but I have come to terms with the fact that I will be dragging around a heavy pedalboard for the rest of my roadie-less career as an electric guitarist. In the past I've given mobility higher priority than durability, yet as careful as I tried to be, the board took a beating and fell apart. So for the latest edition of my effects rig, I decided to go with something heavy duty and easily customized.
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Here's my old board--a cheap wooden self-powered pedalboard that came with a gigbag style carrying case. The board itself is actually still in perfect working order (if you don't mind the smell of stale booze), but the AC adapter that went from the board to the wall crapped out long ago (partially due to said booze), and the zipper on the gigbag has been smashed and scuffed so often it can't be opened all the way (this too might have something to do with the booze). Getting set up and broken down before and after a set was becoming a huge hassle. You'll also notice this thing is packed. I wanted to bring my Turbo Rat back into my life, so I needed more room!
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After shopping around, I decided to go with the Pedaltrain PT-2 board with a heavy duty case. I'm confident the case will open quickly and easily every time I get on stage. The metal frame is about the same weight as my old wooden board, but it's got room for more pedals. The only strike against it so far is that the spacing of the cross bars adds some limitations to the way you layout your pedals, especially smaller pedals. However, the spaces do allow your wiring to pass underneath, and the included zip-ties keep everything neat.
Attaching the power supply.
The PT-2 does not have a power supply. However, it is designed to easily accomodate Voodoo Lab's Pedal Power underneath with a couple included brackets.
To attach the power supply:
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Line this up the power supply so the cables will fit through the access holes on the PT-2. I plugged the cable in through the holes to help hold it in place while I marked the bracket's holes for drilling.
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Next you'll have to drill 1/8" pilot holes to mount the brackets. Barring any velcro related accidents, this is the most dangerous part of assembly. As we learned in shop class: Measure twice, drill once.
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Once I got the power supply in place I started to line up my pedals. There are three things to consider when placing pedals on the board:
1) Are the switches easy to hit with your feet? (Hint: Think about the shoes you wear when you gig.)
2) Is there enough room to plug your cables into the pedals? Input, output, and power supply.
3) In what order do you want the signal to pass from the guitar to the amp?
On a board like this, #3 is less of a concern because I can run wires underneath, easily zig-zagging the whole board. Instead, I try to put the pedals that I turn on and off during songs in the front, to accomodate #1.
My layout can also accomodate a few effects that I don't use very often, but could easily loop in before the tuner, between the Rat and delay, between the EQ and AC Booster, or even after the volume pedal.
Once my layout was complete, I started putting velcro on the bottom of the the pedals, but not the board. Save that for the end.
One of the problems I've encountered in the past is the velcro's adhesive not holding firm to the rubber bottoms of Boss pedals. As a remedy, I cut the velcro longer than was needed so about 1/4" extra could wrap around either end. You'll notice I had to cut the velcro around the power supply input.
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Once all the pedals have velcro, it's time to wire up. I've been using George L's cables for a long time. These can be cut to exactly the sizes you need and do not require soldering. Instead, you just cut the cable to the desired length, insert it into the plug. When you bend it through the gap and screw the back on, it cuts the outer part of the cable and creates a connection.
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Set the pedals on the board (remember, no velcro on the actual board yet) and start sizing up the distance from the first pedal in your signal chain to the second and so on. Remember, these don't have to be sitting next to each other on the board. Cut your cables one at a time, and plug them in before you measure the next one. With George L's, it's better to measure too much and trim them down.
Test your patch cables along the way to make sure each one works before you go on!
Here is the signal chain for my board. See the final picture below and you'll notice some zig-zagging happening under the board.
- Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
- Boss GE-7 Equalizer
- Xotic AC Booster
- Dunlop Crybaby 95-Q
- ProCo Turbo Rat
- Boss DD-20 Giga Delay (w/ FS-5U for tap tempo)
- Boss TR-2 Tremolo
- Boss BF-3 Flanger
- Ernie Ball VP Jr. Volume Pedal
(I'm always adding to this collection. See my Gear page for a full list of toys!)
One advantage of custom patch cables: Unlike the pre-manufactured variety, you can point the right angle connectors in any direction you please. Take advantage of this to avoid unnecessary twisting of your cables.
If George L's don't suit your fancy, there are other brands (such as Lava) that will do a similar thing. Alternately, your local guitar store probably sells instrument cable by the foot and a variety of connectors. Whatever you do, don't go cheap. Once you get everything tied down there is nothing worse than trying to find a bad patch cable.
The next to last step is putting velcro on the board, attaching the pedals, and hooking up the power supply. Once again, I do this one pedal at a time and hook each one up along the way. This way it's all nice and tight. And be sure to look at the instructions for your power supply, because certain pedals will need to be plugged into specific outputs.
With everything wired up and plugged in, test the board before tying down the cables. This is your last chance to catch any bad patch cables before the zip ties are in place!
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Finally, use zip-ties to secure the loose wires and cables. Keep the cables neat and as close to the board as possible, but don't kink any of them or they'll break down sooner. If you do this well, the cables can add a little extra support in keeping the pedals in place.
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Now we have a pedalboard ready for the road! Here's the final result (click the image for a closer view):
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