Traveling with Electronics: D&D-Distortion and Delay

In my experience, you can do more with distortion/volume/delay, than with any other three effect combination

.....its all about the math of harmonics.



My first D&D rig was: MXR distortion plus - Goodrich volume - Roland 301 chorus echo. The Roland space echo tape delays where big, beautiful, musical and robust (considering you where dragging around a finely tuned tape recorder). The 301 got me hooked on delays and looping.


My current rig has 7 pedals in the chain and gives me: 2 distortions - 3 delays - 3 loopers - 2 reverbs - 1 pitch shifter - 1 wah/volume, divided into two groups - the essential four and the expanded chain.

Essential four in chain order:

Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Fuzz
DOD FX-17 wah/volume
Fulltone OCD obsessive compulsive drive
Boss DD-20 twin pedal delay/looper


There are more flavors of "dirt" pedals than any other category of effects and everyone has their favorites (dirt is personal).  I dedicate two slots for dirt which provides three on/off options (A - B - A+B stacked), and placing a wah/volume pedal in-between (A > W/V > B) opens up a wide range of gain-structure/tone options with the use of playing dynamics and the volume knob on the guitar. My two "desert island dirt pedals" are the Pharaoh by Black Arts Toneworks and the OCD by Fulltone. What I like most about this combination is how transparent and responsive to dynamics they both are. I like the DOD FX-17 wah/volume for it's tone, it's very compact size and the fact that it does two things very well.




Delay/Looper - My absolute favorite delay/looper pedal is the Boss DD-20, major bang for the buck. Sound on Sound looper up to 23 seconds, "no quantize no auto tune", what you play is what you get (don't even get me started on how much "beat challenged devoid of soul" crap is being generated using dumbed down time-stretching technologies). Plus another, 1ms to 23 seconds of delay with tap tempo. You can have two independent loops each up to 23 seconds long, running at the same time or one loop and one tap tempo delay running at the same time. The delay options include modulation delay which covers the chorus/detune area and can be used to stereo-ize a mono input to two amps - panning delay - tape delay - reverse delay (which in the 20ms to 80ms range will get you into the vocabulary of ring modulation) - and a unique mode called warp which takes what you are playing and keeps it looping as long as you hold a pedal down. This is a very versatile and musical pedal!


Expanded chain:
EHX Freeze sound retainer/looper (in front of pharaoh)
Eventide Pitch Factor pitch shifter/multi-fx (after dd-20)
EHX Stereo Memory Man delay/looper (after pitch factor)

The EHX Freeze is like a sustain pedal (looper) for guitar and after you try it you wonder why someone didn't come up with this idea along time ago (leave it to Mike Matthews). You can get a "not as smooth" version of what the freeze does with the DD-20 and I often use them together, but the freeze in front of a fuzz will give you some serious "grind" and is great for setting up drones.

You either like pitch shifters or you don't and if you just want a great polyphonic octave box get an EHX Micro Pog. Forget About It! If you like what pitch shifters can do, the Pitch Factor by Eventide is an extremely versatile, pristine sounding multi-fx unit that covers (in stereo), two voice pitch shifting - reverb - delay - tremolo/panning/pitch sequencing - chorus and even has a mono synth in it. The Pitch Factor covers allot of sonic territory in a box that may be large by pedal board standards but this kind of sonic fire power usually comes in a 3 unit rack box for about $5K. This is a very "knob friendly" unit and really wants to be on a table and not on the floor if you are using it in a more improvisation driven context.

The Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai (SMMH) by EHX is another extremely versatile stereo "knob friendly" unit that pretty much deals with every kind of tap tempo delay vocabulary (long and short) you can think of, with hi/lo pass filtering, reverb and a 30 second looper (capable of both old school and time stretch), thrown in just because they could. I did a simple mod on mine to keep the unit on a table but keep the tap/loop switch on the floor.


My essential four pedal chain gives me two stackable distortion units with a combination wa/volume in-between them and a looper/tap tempo delay pedal capable of acting as two independent loopers or a looper and a chorus or a mod delay or a panning delay or a ring modulator or a sustainer or a two head tape delay or a reverse delay. All on the floor. The addition of the expanded chain adds two tap tempo multi delays - two reverbs - two loopers - tremolo - and two voice pitch shifting all in stereo, in two very improvisation ready units, with the freeze on the floor.

Given the reality of travel today (see last months blog LESS IS MORE), the three things that I look at first when checking out any new effects are:

1- size/weight - can I travel with it or is it going to live in the studio

2- AC - is the ac adaptor international (120/240v 50/60c) and how big is the adaptor

3- bang for the buck, how versatile is this piece of gear

So, I hope that this walk through my pedal board logic will help any of you other sonic renegades out there who are trying to fine tune your effects chains to get the most musically versatile and travel friendly configuration you can for your specific musical tastes and needs.

Safe Travels.....dino