If 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.
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.
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.
El Capistan gives you the choice of two tape speeds. Turn the Time knob to the left of 12:00 for normal speed, turn it to the right for double speed. You get 20 seconds of looping time in normal speed, and 10 seconds in double speed. Like an actual tape machine, double speed gives you a higher fidelity recording.
The Single Tape Head machine consists of three different modes, A, B, and C (with C being Sound on Sound mode). Each of these modes are essentially one machine with three different settings. Each mode shares the same tape loop, and like a tape echo machine, the tape is a fixed length. When you enter Sound on Sound mode from modes A or B, the machine is already recording, and will play back anything previously recorded to the tape loop in modes A or B. So, if you had been playing a cool drone part in mode A or B, you can enter mode C and have that part available to loop over and add other parts.
The Sound on Sound mode acts just like an Echoplex-style tape loop. Each pass of the loop is played back and then re-recorded to the tape. This will cause regenerative tape saturation and audio degradation with each loop cycle. You have total control over this severity of the audio degradation using the tape/tone controls.
If you’re after a very clean and minimally-degrading loop, try using these settings:
– Set the following controls to zero: Tape Age, Wow & Flutter, Low End Contour, Tape Crinkle. This will provide the cleanest, newest tape, along with a new, well-maintained tape machine sound.
– Set your Tape Bias to 9:00 (approx 20%). This is a slightly under-biased machine that will provide the cleanest sound.
– Set your tape speed to Fast (turn the Time knob to the left). The faster tape speed offers higher fidelity.
You’ll still get some tape-style degradation, but it will happen much more slowly with these settings.
If you turn the Repeats down to just slightly below maximum, older parts of the loop will fade away slowly as you play new material.
By default, El Capistan ships in non-Trails mode, which means when you press BYPASS, the effect turns off without any delay trails. This also affects Sound on Sound mode. When you press BYPASS in Sound on Sound mode, the loop stops. You can change this functionality by powering up El Capistan in Trails mode. This allows the delay trails to continue even after you press BYPASS. This works in Sound on Sound mode as well, and allows your loop trails to continue even after you press BYPASS.
If you want your loop to continue infinitely after pressing BYPASS, make sure to set REPEATS to 100%. When bypassed, the loop will continue but overdubbing will stop. That will allow you to play over the loop without overdubbing.
To put your El Capistan in Trails mode: Unplug the power to your pedal. Plug in the power while holding down BYPASS. When the pedal powers on, let go of BYPASS. Repeat this process to go back into non-Trails mode.