We recently heard from pedalboard builder Mike Vegas of Nice Rack Canada, and he gave us the story behind a challenging job to create a board for a Jazz & Chamber Orchestra guitarist, Rob Piltch. We thought the board turned out great and were intrigued by the nuances and wanted to learn more.
We asked Mike to elaborate a bit more on this unique board.
What needed to be considered when creating this board?
Guitarist Rob Piltch has long been one of Canada’s “A List” players with a decided lean towards very clean sounds that don’t have a lot of extra harmonic reach added through overdrives or distortions. The signal path had to be super transparent to allow the guitar to speak very dynamically with the amp while combining the “colour” of the effects. Due to the super quiet stage volume of the chamber orchestra environment, the signal path and “noise floor” of the system had to be as quiet as possible. Each effect pedal’s mechanical switches had to be quiet as possible as well. In respect to the producer and client relationship that a session player has to maintain we built a rig that has a set up and tear down time of less than 2 minutes.
What did you need to do to address the super quiet environment?
Strymon pedals are shipped from the factory with “soft touch” momentary switches that work very quietly, so we emulated that in each other effect pedal that previously had mechanical switches. We used these “soft touch” momentary switches engaging switching relays we installed in each pedal.
To accommodate producer / client effect requests that fall outside the scope of what the system contains, we built an “external” effects loop with clickless switching between the dynamics and post effects for easy insertion of extra effects into signal path. We also built a clickless clean boost circuit of variable gain from unity to +20db.
What is the signal path?
Guitar » DriveTrain OD » Sans Amp Classic » External Loop » Marshall ED1 Compressor » Nice Rack Canada Clean Boost with 3 outputs. #1 » Tuner #2 » dry feed to Sound Sculpture Volcano & line mixer. #3 » Strymon Mobius (mono in – stereo out) » Boss FV500L stereo volume & expression pedal » Strymon TimeLine » RJM Music Mini line mixer combining 100% wet effects with 100% dry signal to create a parallel “50/50” blend of wet & dry signal into the left & right Fender Princeton Reverb amps. The expression pedal jack on the FV500L is connected to the Sound Sculpture Volcano which acts as volume pedal for the dry signal from the Clean Boost into the line mixer.
The Clean Boost’s buffered split to send signal to tuner constantly, provides a visual “cheat” for hitting certain intervals on a pitch bend, also allows for volume swelling a bent note while coming in on pitch with other players. We included switching circuit to sum stereo effects to mono for single amp gigs, no re-patching, no signal loss, no phase issues.
We also sync’d tap tempo from TimeLine to Mobius.
Why does set up and tear down need to be so fast?
For a session player to be able to walk into a studio and set up the rig in under 2 minutes says to the producer & client that not only does the player have chops but is also respectful of the “time is money” credo in relation to studio costs etc. This factor helps the player get repeated calls from producers.
And what did you do to make that happen?
We built latching in & out connection points for signal & power to & from the pedalboard. The amplifier I/O box features switchable ground isolation transformers for the left & right amp outputs and clickless relays for silent switching to mute. A multicore cable with custom cut lengths to reach input jacks etc helps streamline the set up time. In under 2 minutes Rob can uncase the board, plug in all cables in seconds, uncase amps, plug in multicore to amps, plug in to power point, tune guitar, start playing.
Although Rob is not using MIDI to control the system we included a MIDI Integration point for connecting the Strymon pedals to an external sequencer/recording suite for clock input and possible program changes & continuous control movements as necessitated by the session that Rob may be playing on.
Why the dollar coin?
We put one into every system build for good luck. It seems to work for Canadians! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loonie#Lucky_loonie
Nice Rack Canada is passionate about building guitar rigs, bass rigs & keyboard rigs. Our mission is for musicians to get the absolute best tone and functionality from their equipment. We can build a rack or pedalboard system to suit your desire & budget. We offer a number of lightweight & easy to setup systems that maximize your tone and conform to your unique criteria. We are committed to building the best implements we can with the highest quality materials. We consciously source as much of our materials as possible from domestic sources. We seek to help build our community by creating value for musicians through our assemblies while creating jobs through our purchasing and the forward going opportunities that our assemblies create. We value the role that we play in a musician’s creative process and are honoured to have a hand in making many forms music to be enjoyed by everyone.
Rob Pitch is one of Canada’s best known sidemen and session players. Starting in the late 70’s with his brother David on bass, both Piltch brothers played with their saxophone & clarinet playing band leader / father Bernie Piltch. Rob moved on to playing with David Clayton-Thomas in Blood, Sweat & Tears during the Nuclear Blues period. Rob has recorded & toured his own solo works as well as works by Don Johnson, Hugh Marsh, Kim Mitchell, Shirley Eikhardt, Marc Jordan, Guido Basso, and Rob McConnell. Rob also works with his avant cabaret combo NickBuzz which itself is a “super group” of Canadian jazz musicians featuring Rob alongside Hugh Marsh, Jonathan Goldsmith & Martin Tielli. Rob is also a regular contributor to the Art of Time Ensemble which is regarded as one of Canada’s most forward thinking and musically talented chamber orchestras.