A Quick Guide to Programming Effects

Guest post by Jennifer Gamble

I don’t use a guitar amp anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the amp sound! What I don’t love is lugging the thing around, trying to find a spot on the stage where it will fit, and then the volume battles between myself and the other band members. So I plug my pedals directly into the house mixer. My guitar comes through our huge main speakers in all its full glory, while I hear a controlled sound through my wireless in-ear monitors.

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Let’s face it; there are some really good pedals out there today that have everything a player needs. Combined effects, pedals, amp simulators, and cabinet modelers give you the best of all worlds rolled into one and they are fairly inexpensive. I chose an effects unit with a built-in tube, because I found that the tube gave a warm, amp-like quality to the sounds. However, the key is in the programming.

To begin, have a sound in mind that you are going for. My goal was to capture my old Marshall Amp sound. I plugged my guitar into an AB box which I ran to both my Marshall and a JBL floor monitor with my effects plugged into it through the mixer. This way, I could easily switch between the two for comparison. My advice to those of you who are programming new sounds is start with a clean, flat sound, with all the effects off. Now use your ears people! Try to match your EQ to the sound you are trying to emulate. Remember, if you want to change guitars, it will most likely change the sound of your EQ. You may want to store a separate bank of patches for each guitar that you plan to use. Once you have your EQ set, you can move on to the distortion settings. You can use compression to add to your overdrive effect and give it more sustain. Be careful with the distortion, though. Unless you are slamming death metal, you may not want an explosion of noise every time you touch the strings. Satisfied with your sound so far? Go ahead and make a copy of it into another patch now – before you mess with it and lose it!

As for adding reverb, delay, chorus, and flange, my rule of thumb is “don’t go overboard”! When setting these types of effects, you should focus first on the timing and depth of the effect. Once you have it sounding the way you want, mix it into your existing sound by bringing the overall effect level down. Aim for being able to hear the effect without it drowning out the original sound.

Proper programming of effects takes patience. You don’t have to read and memorize the entire manual. Use it as a reference guide. Whether you use your pedals to enhance your amp sound or for your main guitar sound, do everyone a favor and take the time to tune them. How can we hear your guitar if it is buried under a wall of wailing effects?

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