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Gear Guide: Sound on Sound with El Capistan

Posted by Hugo

El CapistanWelcome to the first installment of our new Strymon Gear Guide series!  I will be providing tips and tricks on using and understanding the various features of our Strymon pedals on a monthly basis.  Hopefully I can help shed some light on any questions you may have about using our gear and harness the full potential from our pedals.  Feel free to let me know what else you might want to learn about  our pedals in future posts in the comments or by emailing info@strymon.net.

For my first article, I’m going to cover the usage of El Capistan‘s Sound on Sound feature.

El Capistan’s Sound on Sound mode can be used to create loops of up to 20 seconds in length using a recreation of a sliding head style mechanical tape loop system.

 

Entering Sound on Sound Mode

To set El Capistan to Sound on Sound mode, set the TAPE HEAD switch to Single and the MODE switch to C.  Whatever you have recorded in modes A or B will still exist in mode C.

El Capistan - Singel Head Mode C   El Capistan - Bypass Switch

When El Capistan is set to Sound on Sound mode, recording is ALWAYS active when the pedal is engaged (BYPASS light is on).

Tape Speeds

There are 2 tape speeds available when adjusting the TIME knob:

Double Speed (10 sec. recording time) with the knob left of 12 o’clock
Normal Speed
(20 sec. recording time) with the TIME knob to the right of 12 o’clock.

El Capistan Time Left   El Capistan Time Right

Recording and Playback

Once you engage the pedal by hitting the BYPASS switch while in Sound on Sound mode, press the TAP switch at the same time you start playing to set the ‘In’ splice, then, press the TAP switch again at the end of playing your loop to set the ‘out’ splice and immediately start playing back from the IN splice.

At this point, El Capistan will be looping everything you played between the IN and OUT splice points. Keep in mind that it will still be recording, so anything you play will also be recorded an layered on top of the original loop.  The Repeats knob controls how many times the loop will play back.  Turn up the Repeats knob to 100% for the loop to play continuously with the fidelity of the recording diminishing over time.

Bypass Modes

Hitting the BYPASS button will cut the audio of the recorded loop, but it will continue to play as if the tape is still rolling with a mute button pressed.  Hitting the BYPASS button again will return the audio from recorded loop.

If you want the recorded loop to continue playing back without adding any additional layers of recording, you would need to hit the BYPASS button to stop recording as the loop is playing back.  Please note that the bypass mode of El Capistan would need to be in Trails mode.  To change between True Bypass and Trails modes, you just need to press down and hold the BYPASS button as you plug in the power supply to power up El Capistan.  Check out the following video showing you how to change the Bypass mode of the El Capistan:

Finally, to clear the splice points and recordings, a third press of the TAP footswitch while the BYPASS light is on will perform a bulk erase of the tape so you can record a new loop.

 

Want to learn more?

Check out the blog post below.

El Capistan Sound on Sound looping tips

 




Looping Tips and Techniques

Posted by Ethan

Looping Tips and Techniques - illustration by Ethan Tufts

I recently had the opportunity to contribute an article for the December 2013 issue of Premier Guitar magazine. The topic? Something very dear to my heart—looping tips and techniques!

“If you want to take your looping from four-bar bedroom jams to a performance environment, start thinking of your looper as an instrument, not an effect. Creating engaging loop performances can require the same type of effort that you put into learning guitar. Really get to know your looper until using it becomes second nature.”

Head on over to the Premier Guitar site to read the whole article:

Read the article

And if you’re interested in seeing some of these techniques in practice, please feel free to check out a couple of my recent looping vids on YouTube. :)




Intro to MIDI for Pedalboards

Posted by Ethan

TimeLine MIDIStrymon Firmware Engineer (and resident Jeep repair expert) Dave Fruehling recently contributed an article for the September 2013 issue of Premier Guitar magazine. The topic? MIDI! And how you don’t necessarily need to fear it!

“MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is an oft-maligned, yet cherished technology. Today, more and more guitarists are joining in the fun by using the MIDI features included with many of their pedals. Once you learn a few basic things about MIDI, you don’t have to fear it. Instead you can use MIDI to add some very cool and useful functionality to your rig.”

Head on over to the Premier Guitar site to read the whole article:

Read the article

 




Pete explains Flangers in the September Premier Guitar

Posted by Ethan

Our very own DSP Engineer and co-founder Pete recently wrote an awesome article on flangers for the September issue of Premier Guitar. It illuminates some of the finer and more confusing aspects of how flangers work and how to best utilize them. Flangers can be challenging to understand … hopefully this sheds some light on the subject. Read the full article here.




Looping with Strymon TimeLine

Posted by Ethan

Strymon TimeLine looperHey there! We just put together a couple videos that demonstrate looping with our TimeLine delay.

TimeLine Looper Basics

In this first video, we go over the basic looping features available from the front panel. All you need to do is press and hold TAP to enter looper mode, and you can access Record, Overdub, Play, and Stop. All of your delay knobs and parameters are accessible while looping. You can also set the looper to be pre-delay or post-delay. Running the looper pre-delay allows you to record your dry signal and affect the recorded signal with the delay sounds. Routing the looper post-delay will record the delay sounds to the loop. Check it out:

 

TimeLine Looper MIDI Control

If you want to take your looping a bit further, you can do so by connecting a MIDI controller to your TimeLine. Here we’re using a Voodoo Lab Ground Control Pro, though any MIDI foot controller that can utilize MIDI CC or note messages should work fine. Connecting a MIDI controller will give you access to additional looping features: Reverse, Half Speed, Undo to Initial Loop, Redo, and Looper Pre/Post. In this video, we showcase of these additional features and advanced looping techniques.

 

Setting up your MIDI controller

You can set up your MIDI controller with either MIDI CC (continuous controller), or MIDI note numbers.

MIDI CC values:

Record – CC# 87, any value
Play – CC# 86, any value
Stop – CC# 85, any value
Reverse (toggle) – CC# 94, any value
Full/Half Speed (toggle) – CC# 95, any value
Pre/Post (toggle) – CC# 96, any value
Undo (to initial loop) – CC# 89, any value
Redo – CC# 90, any value
Looper Level – CC# 98, value range 0-17

Note values:

Record – note 0, velocity > 0
Play – note 2, velocity > 0
Stop – note 4, velocity > 0
Reverse (toggle) – note 14, velocity > 0
Full/Half Speed (toggle) – note 16, velocity > 0
Pre/Post (toggle) – note 17, velocity > 0
Undo (to initial loop) – note 7, velocity > 0
Redo – note 9, velocity > 0




Maxwell’s Silver Hammer of the Gods

Posted by Ethan

Gregg StockOur very own Analog Guru and co-founder Gregg Stock recently had the opportunity to contribute an article for the March 2012 issue of Premier Guitar magazine.

In 1830, Michael Faraday submitted his most famous piece of scientific legislation‚ and this bit of genius described the physics that allows guitar pickups to exist. In this article, Gregg goes over the inner workings of guitar pickups, and how pickup loading can affect your true bypass pedals.

Read the article




Strymon Tech Corner #3 – Volume Pedal as an Expression Pedal

Posted by Terry

In this third edition of our tech corner series, I’ll explain a simple and easy way to use a volume pedal as an expression pedal. This cool little trick was shared with us by our good friend Chad. This article will be the last on expression pedals specifically, although there are many other interesting diy projects we can do in the future with the EXP input on Strymon gear.

If you’ve got a volume pedal hanging around that doesn’t get much use or better yet one already on your board, you can use it as an expression pedal with one special cable. It’s called a TRS (tip/ring/sleeve) insert cable and the purpose of this cable is normally to break out a TRS insert jack (commonly found in mixers) to the separate send and return signals. Luckily we can take advantage of this wiring to convert our volume pedal into a standard 1/4″ TRS equipped expression pedal.

One example of this type of insert cable is the Hosa STP-201 seen below.
1/4" TRS input cable

Once you have a TRS insert cable, simply plug the TRS plug into your exp input, the “ring” plug into the volume pedal input, and the “tip” plug into the volume pedal output. That’s all there is to it! Now you can use volume pedals like the popular Ernie Ball VP Jr or the new Dunlop DVP-1 as expression pedals for your Strymon gear and most other gear featuring expression pedal control. What is actually going on here is that we’re taking advantage of the design of a passive volume pedal and re-wiring it as an expression pedal with this cable. Note that your volume pedal needs to be passive, not active and the impedance (value of the resistance) in the volume pedal’s potentiometer isn’t critical. One thing that may be a little bit different about using the volume pedal as an expression is that if the volume pedal uses an audio taper potentiometer you won’t get a linear sweep of expression pedal values from toe to heel. In other words, much of the action will happen at one extreme of the pedal.

As you can see, the expression pedal schematic from Tech Corner #1
expression pedal schematic
is functionally identical to using a volume pedal with a TRS insert cable.
Schematic diagram for a volume pedal used as expression pedal

Here is a video walk-through:


Hopefully this has been a useful trick to get you rocking that expression pedal.

Happy shredding,
Terry




El Capistan Sound on Sound looping tips

Posted by Ethan

El Capistan dTape EchoIf you have an El Capistan on your pedalboard, you’ve probably spent some time having fun with the Sound on Sound mode. This mode is a complete recreation of a sliding head style mechanical tape loop system. It’s not a standard digital looper, so there are some pretty cool possibilities here.

I’ll be going over a few tips and tricks that you can use to make the most of this tape-style looper.

 

How to enter Sound on Sound mode

To enter Sound on Sound mode, select Single tape head Mode C. When you enter Sound on Sound mode, the machine is already recording, just like a real tape echo machine. El Capistan Sound on Sound mode is like having a tape-based looper inside a pedal.

 

How to splice and bulk erase your loop

You can instantly “splice” your own custom tape length in real-time. Press Tap once to set your splice ‘in’ point, and press Tap again to set your splice ‘out’ point. You can do this as you play or after you’ve recorded material to the loop. Pressing Tap a third time completely erases the tape and resets back to the original loop length.


» Click here to read the rest of the article »




Strymon Tech Corner #2 – Build your own expression pedal

Posted by Terry

Recently, I ended up with a broken crybaby wah. I was already lucky enough to own a 70′s thomas organ crybaby which I love, so sacrificing this second newer crybaby for a project seemed like a fun idea. Since the crybaby chassis is extremely rugged and I like the action of the pedal, I set out to turn it into an expression pedal for my El Capistan. This article assumes that you have experience soldering and using basic tools like wire strippers, etc. Of course, always observe proper safety precautions and wear safety goggles while working on any type of electronics.

crybaby wah sitting on green felt
Here’s my wah on the workbench.
crybaby wah pedal with back cover removed
First, opening up this box couldn’t be easier. Just remove the 4 thumb screws from the back plate and remove the plate.
crybaby wah pedal with electronics removed
Then, unscrew the two jack nuts from the input and output jacks and also remove the single screw holding the PCB (printed circuit board) to the chassis. Unplug the cable connector, remove the PCB and set aside.
crybaby potentiometer and switch with wires desoldered
Connect your treadle pot to a standard 1/4″ TRS (tip/ring/sleeve) jack according to the schematic in tech corner #1. Desolder all wires from the pot and switch and set aside.
crybaby wah pedal with original electronics removed and re-wired as an expression pedal
The “sleeve” of the jack is ground, so first connect that to the pin of the post closest to the footswitch. Then, connect a 1k resistor to the wiper (center pin) of the pot. Connect the resistor to the “tip” of the jack. Lastly, connect the pin of the pot closest to the jack to the “ring.” You’ve got an expression pedal!

Watch the youtube video for a walkthrough of the build process and an El Capistan demonstration with our completed diy project:

Happy shredding,
-terry

*All product names used in this article are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with Strymon or Damage Control, LLC.




Strymon Tech Corner #1 – Anatomy of an expression pedal

Posted by Terry

Welcome to the first post of our new Strymon Tech Corner series! I will be posting technical articles on music electronics as part of our blog at least once a month. Pete, Dave and Gregg from our team may also write an article here and there when they can get time away from their PCB layout programs and DSP emulators. Hopefully you’ll find these posts helpful and informative.

In this first edition I’ll be going through the inner workings of the common expression pedal. Once we know how one works, then comes the fun stuff … tearing them apart, modding, etc, etc. But that will be left to next month’s article :)

expression pedal from moog

We knew from day 1 that we wanted some of our pedals to feature expression pedal inputs. So, the question was “what’s the standard?” That is, do all manufacturers make their expression pedals the same way? Luckily the answer is yes … mostly.

Expression pedals work by feeding a control voltage to a device, such as a guitar pedal or synthesizer. The voltage is read by the device and then used to change some type of parameter. The voltage range depends on the design of the pedal or synth. Our Strymon pedals, for example, read control voltages from 0 to 5 volts DC. Turns out that this is a fairly common voltage range, especially in music electronics where MIDI (a 5V system) is still popular and widely used after over 25 years. The expression pedal itself, however has nothing to do with the voltage range. It’s only function is to manipulate that range and control the control voltage. The way almost every expression pedal out there works is that it takes a reference voltage from the device it’s connected to, divides that voltage down by a certain amount and then feeds it back to the device. In electronic terms, this is most commonly accomplished with a TRS (tip / ring / sleeve) 1/4″ cable where the reference voltage is on the “ring,” the control voltage is fed back to the device on the “tip” and the “sleeve” is ground.

Here  is what a standard 1/4″ TRS plug looks like:

As you can see from this 1907 diagram, TRS has been around for a long long time ;)

Here is the schematic for a typical expression pedal:

As you can see, the simplest and most common method is to use a passive potentiometer. A reference voltage from the device would enter the expression pedal jack on the ring. Then that voltage gets connected across a 10k load which is the resistive element of the potentiometer. When you move the expression treadle up and down there is a mechanical mechanism that physically turns the treadle potentiometer or “pot” as it’s commonly known. You can visualize the arrow at pin 1 of the treadle pot moving from pin 3 to pin 2 as one moves his/her foot back and forth on the pedal. This is what varies the voltage at pin 1. This is the control voltage which then travels out of the pedal on the tip of the jack. R2 is only present as a current limiter and not applicable to this discussion.

The Moog EP-2, Roland EV-5, and M-Audio EX-P all work in this manner, and therefore, work with our pedals. The nice thing about this standard design is that the control voltage is very stable and the value of the potentiometer in the expression pedal doesn’t matter so much. The Line6 EX1 is the only one we’ve see that works differently, with only a simple resistor divider and a mono cable. The nice thing about their solution is that it uses a mono cable. Two disadvantages are: 1. The expression pedal input circuit is highly dependent on the value of the potentiometer in the expression pedal.  2. Their products won’t work with other manufacturer’s expression pedals and vice versa.

Watch our video for more info and audio demos with our Brigadier delay and Orbit flanger.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first edition of the Strymon Tech Corner. Tune in next time where we’ll make our own D.I.Y. expression pedal from a broken crybaby wah!

Happy shredding!

*All product names used in this article are trademarks of their respective owners, which are in no way associated or affiliated with Strymon.






 
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