I’m playing a new spot this Friday (4/24/2015) 9pm-12 at the NEW Three Dollar Cafe “Tenside” location at 10th and Nothside. BTW- Three Dollar was the first place I ate when I first visited Atlanta over a decade ago (granted, it was the old Buckhead location on Pharr and Peachtree), and I’m looking forward to playing at the newest location!
So, like I said in the last post, some things needed a little hacking before I use the VoiceLive 3 in a live performance. Namely, I needed MORE BUTTONZ!
When I ordered by VL3, I got a bonus pack with the Switch 3 external switch as a throw-in. After playing with it a bit, it was obvious that A) I needed more than 3 external buttons and B) the buttons were too close for my big, clumsy feet.
As it happens, TC recently released a 6-button external switch box called (obviously) Switch 6. The same switches, same spacing, just more of them. I need my big, beefy Nektar NP1 pedals (these are what I’ve been using to trigger the TC-Helicon Harmony G-xt and the Freeze). But first, I’d need to figure out how the Switch 6 works…
It’s solidly built- a steel chassis with the standard spring-touch momentary switches that TC uses in everything else. There are twelve T10 torx screws in the base, holding it together (4 of them are under rubber feet at each corner).
After removing the back, the internal design is pretty simple: a 1/4″ TRS jack connected to a long, narrow PCB with each of the six switches soldered to it with some resistors. There are a total of seven resistors, and they all bear the same color code (that of a 10k 5% tolerance 1/4 watt carbon film type).
Following the PCB traces, and confirmed by testing with a multimeter reveal this to be the schematic of the device:
Now, I know how to build my own (and so do YOU), it’s time to incorporate my trusty Nektar pedals into a 6 switch design to use with my new VoiceLive 3!
So, tax refunds are nice! This year’s refund is going entirely into a new solo performance rig- namely, the all-in-one box that is the TC-Helicon VoiceLive 3! It’s a looper, vocal harmonizer, guitar effects and monitoring solution in one digital wonder-box.
It’s pretty wonderful so far, but learning to use it is like learning a whole new instrument, and things need a lot of configuring and a little hacking (posts on the coming soon) to get it ready for live shows!
The latest addition to my pedal board is the Electro-Harmonix Freeze – a kind of digital sustain pedal for guitar. What I hope to achieve with this is a sort of “pad” under typical acoustic strumming, and the Freeze obliges with a sound sort of like the drone of a hurdy-gurdy. Unfortunately, to use is like the sustain pedal on a piano means stomping on the very loud and “clicky” switch mounted on top of a metal box. When positioned on a pedal board, this would be very uncomfortable (the switch would be approx 2-3 inches off the ground- meaning you would essentially be standing on one leg while playing).
Fortunately, this pedal is DEAD SIMPLE to modify with a jack to connect an external switch to! In use, I plug a sustain pedal for a keyboard into a 1/4″ jack on the side of my unit. To modify the stompbox do this:
1. First, you’ll need some wire and a 1/4″ female mono jack. If you don’t know what kind I mean, you should probably turn back now. Also, you need a drill or drill press with a 3/8″ bit and a soldering iron.
2. Open the case – remove the 4 screws from the back of the case, exposing the Freeze’s GUTS!
I didn’t really measure anything before drilling a hole in the case, just kind of eye-balled things. There’s plenty of room in there, and with the main switch pulled out, it’s easy to get the new jack in.
A – NOT USED!
B – negative/ground – this grounds (via the spring connected to the PCB the switch is mounted to) to the case
C – hot
D – my new 1/4″ jack with leads already connected to the “sleeve” and “tip” contacts
3. DRILL your hole in the side (or bottom) of the case in the nice, empty space below the switch. Measure twice and drill once- or just eyeball it. But make sure that there’s room for the body of the jack behind the corner posts (where the back screws go) and around the switch and PCB when it’s in place.
4. SOLDER the lead from the tip connector on the jack to the hot solder pad (B) on the switch PCB- just right there on the back side of the PCB will do. I found the solder on mine melted easily and a nicely silvered wire will bond tight and quick. Solder the sleeve lead from the jack to the negative/ground (C) in similar fashion. NOTE: the “bare” type of 1/4″ jack lets the sleeve ground to the case, so reversing the leads would short things out. An insulated jack like the one used by Electro-Harmonix for the input and output are isolated from the case, so the polarity would not matter, but it’s best to test continuity with a multimeter before soldering things down, ok?
5. TEST – before closing things up, plug your foot pedal in and test things out with a multimeter first, then plug in power, guitar and amp and give it a go
6. Replace the footswitch, tuck your wires in neatly, and screw the back plate back on the case – you’re done!
A friend recommended that I should write a blog on tech for musicians, as I seem to always know about the latest gadgets and gear – especially for the performing solo musician. So, I plan to regularly update with posts about gear I find, want, buy, build, etc. starting with:
The Beat Buddy is a stompbox sized drum machine that lets you cycle through verse and chorus rhythms with the tab of your foot. I do a lot of building rhythm by banging and thumping on my guitar and recording that into a loop pedal. Often though, this means that the rhythm is the same through the whole song- I might add a layer using the second track on my Boss RC-30, but that usually means additional setup time before I really get into the song.
The Beat buddy comes programmed with 10 or more drum set sounds and hundreds of pre-defined “songs” or set of patterns, and lets you add fills and swap between chorus and verse at the tap of your foot.
This sounds really exciting- a one-stomp box to add a drummer to your set!
The demo video looks pretty good, but I wonder how it would work in a real solo performance setting. For example, to move from verse to chorus, you press and hold the pedal and release it to change. Does the change happen on the release or on the downbeat of the next pattern? If you accidentally release too soon, will it start the new pattern early or change mid-measure? I would hope the change would occur at the downbeat, allowing the performer to instruct the pedal that the change is coming, then possibly tap other pedals to change the guitar sound as well.
An initial Kickstarter campaign has already closed, and they are taking pre-orders now. If I get a chance to demo, I’ll update!
I experimented with making my own custom printed guitar picks this week! I had looked into getting custom ones made, but Dunlop pad printed picks are super pricey, D’Addario ink jet printed picks are $69 per 100, and I wanted multiple thicknesses and wasn’t sure I would stick to the one design…
I found a site that does custom rubber stamps from any B&W design you upload. A 1×1 inch stamp was $12 with shipping. A StazOn ink pad was $7 – it’s solvent based ink like a Sharpie. 100 of my favorite Planet Waves 0.50 mm and 0.60 mm picks were $20 each.
So $59 for 200 custom printed picks, and I don’t have to print them all at once- if I want to change the design, I just order another stamp for $12 and I can do multiple designs! As a bonus: I can stamp my logo onto anything else- cards, flyers, stickers, the bathroom wall…
Last night, my friend Andy Liechty invited me down to WizKid Sound in Atlanta to record a podcast interview/performance session! We had a great time, I told stories about and performed “Saving Grace” and “INT. BEDROOM – PRE-DAWN”.
In the interview, I mention that “Saving Grace” was a bit of a co-write with my californian friend, Kim Hellman- but didn’t actually say her name! Kimmi: I love ya, and thanks for your inspired lyric!
You can stream the podcast episode here.