Pedal to the Metal



     Since we are now well into the 21st Century, the time seemed right to assemble my own guitar pedal board. It’s what all in-the-know guitarists are doing, and besides, my collection of very 20th Century pedals are dying off and need to be replaced. For the non guitarists in the crowd, a pedal board is a frame or platform to which you affix your collection of boxes that do everything from helping you tune to making your instrument sound like a gargling banshee. Typically you use Velcro to attach your pedals (the boxes) to the board, allowing for easy rearranging. To this you add cables  to connect them all together, and often some kind of power supply so you don’t have half a dozen AC adapters dangling off the thing. Put it together, attach a guitar on the input side and an amplifier on the output, and you are ready to rock…or jazz, country, whatever. Neat, clean, easy, or so I thought. Here’s what I have so far:



     This project is full of decisions! I wanted a pedal board that was big enough to house a versatile setup, but small enough to move around. Since it will be literally underfoot when I’m gigging or rehearsing, there are ergonomic considerations. I chose a Pedal Train 2 with a soft carrying case, and it nicely fits the above criteria. For power, I bought a newish unit called Volto. It is a rechargeable lithium battery (your smartphone has this kind of battery too) that will power half a dozen pedals for 30 hours of use. The Volto is attached to the bottom of the Pedal Train and connected to your boxes with supplied cables, eliminating the need for batteries or power adapters-mostly. One pedal has to run on a 9 volt battery and my big blue Möbius has special needs. By that, I mean it constantly hums an A440 note unless it has it’s own separate power supply.


     Beyond all the technical and ergo stuff, your pedal board is an expression of your artistic flair and organizational skills. There are online forums where geeks post photos of their creations, and argue the merits of their setup versus others, like parents cheering on their kids at soccer games. The pedals themselves are carefully chosen the same way wine snobs or craft beer fans consider what crosses their palate. “This is an especially good vintage with fully distorted flavor and notes of Hendrix and Van Halen”. Sure, you can choose a cheap collection of Chinese diodes, but the world of boutique boxes calls out like a siren song. Why, just the titles are intriguing. Express yourself with pedals named Tim (straightforward, utilitarian), Euphoria (sounds like a fragrance) or, I’m not making this up, the Bag of Dicks (draw your own conclusions). 


     Pedal boards seem to be like guitarists themselves, never quite finished or totally happy with their sound or technique. I’ll be chasing this rainbow for a long time to come.


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