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

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,

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83 Responses

  1. Wow. So that means that I could theoretically use a Morley PWB, which has the longest physical sweep of any pedal I have ever used, as an expression pedal. That would be spectacular, especially with the Lex.

  2. Would this work if I was using the expression pedal to control a 5k pot on a pedal? I had the pedal modded so that a certain knob is able to be expression controlable.

  3. Hello!,
    Is there a way to have an expression pedal and a toggle pedal at the same time into the Timeline? Would love to do this expression trick and to also send tap tempo control into a separate external pedal because I feel like i could break the timeline by tapping it so much.
    Thank u!

    1. Hey there! No need to worry about breaking the switch, that’s what it’s there for! The expression pedal input will only do one thing at a time, so you’d need to choose either external tap or expression. Though you could use a midi controller to control your tap if you like. Hope this helps. 🙂

  4. Could you use an expression pedal to control the volume of a loop going? I have a midi controller that I use to trigger the looper

  5. Hello,
    this is very interesting,
    but how to lower the 250K to 50K to suit the needs of an AXE FX for exemple (AXE FX accepts from 10K to 100K, but 250K is probably too much

  6. Hi lowering the resistance of the pot is a bit difficult without completely ruining the taper, however i would imagine the AxeFx will actually accept the 250k definately worth a try. if it doesnt work the easiest thing would be to just change the pot. also there is no impedance in a resisitive circuit as it is suggested above. Impedance is a re-active measurement and requires a cap or inductor of some sort in the circiut.

  7. Hi:

    I’m sure others may have tried this….but if not IT WORKS GREAT FOR ME.

    I have multiple Strymon pedals as well as pedals that work with an Ernie ball VP Jr as an expression controller.

    In addition to the Hosa STP-201/202.
    I added a HOSA YPP-308 cable … (Stereo 1/4″ Female to 2 Stereo 1/4″ Male Y-Cable)

    Which means I can use one Volume pedal to control 2 effects instead of a controller for each effect….it’s a little too late to worry about saving space on my board , but this helps a little. 🙂

  8. I am very pleased to know this as I prefer the Ernie Ball VP Jr to all the other pedals out there. One question: does the Hosa STP-201 come in shorter lengths?

  9. I just tried it with Boss FV-60 and my Hammond XK-1. I got almost the full range (about 30-127 which is plenty for the Hammond) in the pedal Monitor page on the Hammond (nice feature). So I am going to brush up on my basic electronics schematic reading and modify the pedal to use TRS connectors on a single cable. And the nice thing about it is that it’s a stereo pedal- it has a dual pot so I can make it a double CV pedal- just because I can! This will work well enough for rehearsals.

  10. Hi everyone, I´ve been thinking about how to use my old Zoom FP01 expression pedal with my two Strymon pedals.

    So, I´ve bought a Stereo 1/4 inch “Y” splitter adapter to two 1/4 stereo jacks, this:

    Then, I connected the stereo plug into the expresion pedal input, and use two stereo (or trs cables) to connect my pedals into the two stereo jacks of the adapter.

    I´m not sure if I may damage my Flint and El Capistan on the long run, but they´re working fine by now, can someone tell me if i´m doing something very stupid or kind of clever?


  11. @Jeremy, there’s no reason why that would damage your pedals. Glad to hear that works for you! 🙂

  12. Hi rick, thanks for the reply!

    So if the trick goes for me I hope that someone else read about this and could go try it too.


  13. I wouldn’t use a Y cable to connect one pedal to two units with expression pedal inputs, unless they’re both Strymon. Here’s why:

    Both units will try to put a constant reference voltage on the ground side of the pot. If they’re not the same voltage (and there is no standard), one unit will be draining current from the other.

    It may appear to work, but you may be overheating components, causing them to fail before their expected lifetime. My guess is if you have this problem, one of the units might not show the full range of MIDI values.

    Even without this problem, you’d probably be introducing a ground loop, which might leak as audible noise into the audio chain.

    The other trick of using a stereo pedal would be far better.

    Given that Rick from Strymon assures us this is OK with those pedals, then they’re apparently isolated to avoid ground loops, and they’d be using the same reference voltage so current drain wouldn’t be a problem. But I wouldn’t do this with arbitrary gear, or two units from different manufacturers (even if one of them is a Strymon).

    Hopefully Rick will correct me if I’m mistaken.

    In any case, thanks for this great tech tip, Terry!

  14. @Learjeff just wanted to jump in here and make a few points. Thanks for the input by the way!

    You said: Both units will try to put a constant reference voltage on the ground side of the pot.

    We actually put out a reference voltage on the ring but there is a 1k Ohm series resistance.

    You said: It may appear to work, but you may be overheating components, causing them to fail before their expected lifetime. My guess is if you have this problem, one of the units might not show the full range of MIDI values.

    This is possible but unlikely given the 1k impedance. It’s there for all things that people might do to abuse the output. It doesn’t protect from all possible scenarios but should handle most.

    You said: Even without this problem, you’d probably be introducing a ground loop, which might leak as audible noise into the audio chain. The other trick of using a stereo pedal would be far better.

    Totally agree with this!

  15. Thanks for the tip! Is a TRS cable the same as a regular stereo to two mono Y-cable or is there a difference? I’m using such a cable, which works no matter which of the mono jacks I put into in/out. But I can’t turn off the expression pedal, it’s on even if it’s set to “off” in the parameters. Could that be because of the cable?

  16. @Steffen, a TRS cable stands for Tip, Ring, Sleeve. They are 1/4″ cables that have two black bands around the jack as shown in the pic above. A non Y cable would have that kind of jack on both ends. It’s tough to say what the issue could be without knowing what kind of expression pedal you are using. Email [email protected] directly and we can dive in a little deeper and try to help you out! 🙂

  17. I just purchased a Bigsky and I can’t seem to get this technique to work. I have the 250K EB Jr and when I plug the TRS cable in(as shown above), the reverb still comes through no matter where the pedal is set at.

    I have tested the pedal and cable separately and they both work. Could I be missing something?

    1. @Derek – The MIDI ports will only accept MIDI messages which the VP Jr. does not have the ability to do. You would need to use a dedicated MIDI controller into the MIDI ports or use the VP Jr as an expression pedal into the EXP jack only following the suggestions from this article.

  18. I have been thinking about the technique of using the stereo cable with a volume pedal and was wondering if the same set up could be used, but instead of a volume pedal, could I use a channel on a mixer, which in theory would allow the fader to control parameters just as the foot pedal would do? I have an old 4 track recorder that I do not use, if I could use it for this, it would allow easier control via the fader instead of accessing various display screens in my eleven rack and / or my Zoom HD16 recorder. I am dying to try this, but don’t want to risk damage to the Avid or Zoom. Thanks for any help you can give.

    1. @Scott – I really don’t think that this setup would work the same, if at all, with your Zoom recorder as that device is much more involved than a Volume pedal with a treadle pot.

  19. What is the pot value that im supposed to buy from the mini-expression knobs? 100k or 250k? Im running through a bigsky.

    1. @Moe Alan – We don’t have the exact spec on his expression knobs, but those look like T1M mini-expression pedals set to 100k-250k Stereo. You should be fine with 100k.

  20. I am interested to know if this would work with the Ernie Ball 6165. I ask because it is rated at 500k and has dual in’s and out’s. I was thinking it might function as both a volume pedal and a expression pedal. If I deselect the preset with the expression pedal will I revert to strictly volume? Thanks!

    1. @Tanner – We have not been able to try this setup with that particular Volume pedal. If the pedal has DUAL IN’s and OUT’s, and you set your connection up for both expression pedal and Volume pedal usage, my guess is that it will control the VOLUME at all times even if you are only trying to use it for expression pedal control. You can try this out to verify, but I think using it for just expression control or just a volume pedal would be easier to manage.

  21. I want to use my FCB1010 midi controller expression pedals. I have tried to do this, but without success. HELP PLEASE

    1. @Jason – The expression pedals on your MIDI Controller work completely differently than what is shown in this blog. You would need to be familiar with programming the expression pedals on the controller to send the specific MIDI CC to control the parameters you like on the pedal. You can use the MIDI Specification page at the back of the manuals for our larger pedals to program your controller to the messages you would like to send. Please shoot an email to [email protected] for further help with this.

  22. Does a TRS cable with the split cables need to be used specifically? Or can this trick be done with a single male to male TRS patch cable?

    1. @Brian – You would need to be able to plug into both the INPUT and OUTPUT of the VOLUME pedal in order for this to work which is why this split TRS cable is ideal. You can use a single male-to-male TRS patch cable as long as you also have the proper adapters to split the connections for the INPUT and OUTPUT of the Volume pedal.

  23. Hello

    I just bought The Ernie Ball VPJR 6180 to see how it works. But then i saw the comments of @Learjeff about the best option is a Stereo pedal to avoid noises.

    Just to be sure, It is actually safe? the last thing that I want is to damage any $449 Mobius, BigSky

    I am having some noises already with the configuration. BB Pream> Prime Distortion> Volume X Dulop>Mobius>TimeLine>BigSky>Deco (allways On)

    Should I use a Stereo Volume Pedal? .

    1. @Julio – We do not have a stereo volume pedal to tell the difference, but you can certainly give it a try. Using a mono or stereo volume pedal as an expression pedal will not harm the Strymon pedals.

  24. @Hugo, I wonder if you can help me. I am trying to use an expression pedal as a volume pedal (madness I know, but bare with me). My ultimate goal is to have an expression pedal running through a Mission Engineering Expressionator, so that I can have one expression pedal for 3 other pedals. I wonder if this method would work in reverse? So plug the TRS into an expression pedal and then the tip into the input of the volume pedal and the ring into the output of a volume pedal? There is a volume pedal without the ‘foot lever’ by nose pedals I was thinking of using. If this trick does work in reverse, I would use the expression pedal into the expressionator and one of the out puts being used by the nose pedal. I have a real problem with real estate so having a proper volume pedal and an expression pedal is not an option. (I hope I’ve explained myself well?)

    Thank you in advance for your help,

    1. @Ollie – Thanks for checking out the blog! 🙂 I was not too clear on what you are trying to control with this setup. It sounds like you want to control a volume pedal with an expression pedal. This would only work if the volume pedal has an expression input as your audio signal would still need to pass through the volume pedal. Please email me at [email protected] if you have further questions.

  25. @Hugo – Thanks for your help. Indeed I am trying to control a volume pedal with an expression pedal. You’re absolutely right, the signal chain ends to go through the volume pedal- I can’t believe I missed that…. Doh. Thanks again for your help.

  26. Hi,
    Just came across this great post and wonder if anybody tried this with success using a Goodrich 120 volume pedal??
    Thanks in advance for coming back to me on this.

    1. @Borg – It may work just the same, however, we have never opened one of those up to know for sure. You can try contacting them to see if this is possible with their volume pedal.

  27. So I’ve read this whole thread looking for a solid answer on creating a duel expression pedal. Do you think I could use a stereo volume pedal with two inputs and two outputs to simultaneously work as two expression pedals. If a stereo volume pedal is meant to control the left and the right channels with out mixing them could I assume that I could run two trs-> 2ts y splitters one on the left and one in the right going into the two separate expression inputs on two different pedals with out any cross over? I have four effects on my board that I want expression pedals for and I have room for no more than two expression pedals. I looked into trs ab boxes as expression splitters but they claim they can only run one pedal at a time and that deselected pedals will automatically default to toe down function.

    1. @Mark – In theory, it sounds like it should work that way as 2 independent expression pedals for each side of the stereo channels. However, as we have not tested this with any stereo pedals, I cannot guarantee that it would work without any sort of complication that may arise from the design.

    1. @Alexander – This cable can only allow you to use a Volume pedal as an expression pedal through the INPUT and OUTPUT jacks. The Volume pedal will no longer work as a Volume pedal in this configuration.

  28. Ha anyone tried this with the MXR M300 Reverb? Trying to figure it out but can’t seem to get it to work with my vp jr.

    1. @Daniel J – We have not tested with one of those MXR pedals, but I believe that they do use TRS connections. If you are having trouble controlling the M300 after following the instructions for that pedal, check to see if you can control another pedal that has TRS expression capability to see if the VP jr. works with any other devices when set this way.

    2. Hey Daniel J,

      Any luck with the m300? I have just embarked on the journey also.


      Do you have any more advise on this one?


      1. @Shaun sandison – A pedal with a TRS expression connection should work with this type of expression setup, however, we have not tested with this particular pedal. Hopefully Daniel J can provide further insight if he got it working.

    3. Daniel,

      Using the basic setup listed above worked for me (10k pot with 1k resistor inline with the output) You might have to look at the internals of your pedal. I will be gutting mine and installing this setup.

      Good luck.

    1. @Sam – As the blueSky does not have any Expression jacks to connect a pedal to, there is no way to do this on the blueSky pedal.

  29. Hello, I’ve been reading the comments above, and I just wanted to voice a small concern of mine.

    I am trying to use a Boss FV500L (which comes with stereo volume control and one expression control) to control the expression of multiple pedals at once. Using the method described in this blog post, I attached my usual TRS cable into one pedal via the FV500L’s expression port, and then another pedal using a cable similar to the one in the link below via one of the FV500L’s input/output ports (note: i used a 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter to plug it into the pedal).

    Although I did notice that both pedals did have a signal change, I started researching more to see if this set-up was potentially damaging to the pedals, and found some users saying that it could be harmful when using pedals from different companies (i.e. with different electronic configurations). What are your thoughts on this?


    1. @Daniel – We have not come across any problems when using an volume pedal as an expression pedal with the adapter you linked, however, we have never tried with a pedal using that method AND its own dedicated expression output. If you have any doubt, just don’t use it that way.

  30. Hi everyone,

    I am just new to this volume and expression pedal stuff.

    Could anybody help me out whether Morley M2 VC could be used as both Volume or Expression pedal?

    If so, what would be the trick to use it in both purpose, Do I need stereo cables or something or it just simple, plug n play.

    Thank you for answerswering me.

    1. @DP – Not sure if it will work the way you like, but you can certainly follow the steps in this blog to use IN1 and OUT1 for the expression control, then, use IN2 and OUT2 for your signal to see if it works as both expression and volume at once.

      1. Thank you Hugo for the quick Answer.
        I will definitely apply the tricks you mentioned and let see If I could achieve the stuff.

        Thank You Again.

  31. Hello!
    Tell me, are there any analogs of the HOSA STP-201 cable? In Russia, this cable is not specifically sold((( What other brands can you advise? Not all TRS cables support the send / return!
    Please help me!

    1. @Egor – That is one option but not familiar with another brand that offers this in that length, especially in your country. I recommend performing a search for “1/4 TRS Male to Two 1/4 TS Male” online to see if you can find this available from a local dealer or business in Russia.

    2. Any so called “insert” cable will work, and there are plenty available in Russia. Just ask for any 6.3mm TRS to dual 6.3mm TS insert cables, and you’ll be good.

    1. @Scott – This will work on any pedal with a TRS expression pedal jack (which the Pitchfork does have).

  32. I’d like to accomplish something slightly different. I have an RJM Mastermind PBC, a Mission Engineering SP1-RJM and 3 Strymon Pedals (Mobius, TimeLine, BigSky). Is there any way at all I can use my expression pedal in conjunction with at least one of these Strymon Pedals and make it act as a volume control? (I have no room for anything else on my pedalboard)

    1. @Rek – There is no VOLUME pedal mode available for the expression control on any of these 3 pedals. You would need to either use a dedicated VOLUME pedal or another device that has a volume pedal expression mode.

  33. Hey Terry
    I tried that and it worked on TimeLine. Of course only after all the “heel” toe “settings.
    I also wanted to have that on “Mobius” and “BigSky” … but it does not work.
    After contact with Strymon Support (Gohan Ruiz) I got informed: the whole thing would not work with EB Vol. Pedals.
    Ok, I bought three Korg Moogerfoogers EP (recommended by Gohan)
    Again, the same problem: I want to mix the “dry” signal with the “wet” signal.
    For this I took for Heel / Toe the Skyline the MIX controller and the Mobius the LEVEL control.
    No success.
    And with the TimeLine the signal is not really WET, but still mixed with the DRY signal. 50/50
    For a few helpful tips, I would be very grateful 🙂
    Please note: I am 59 years old and absolutely no technician 😉

    Thanks in advance


    1. @Harry – Sorry to hear that you are having trouble with this. I’m not too clear on what may be happening here. Please send us an email to our support team at [email protected] with full details on what you are experiencing along with a video recording that clearly shows all the steps you take to get this working and the results you are getting.

  34. Works really great with Ernie Ball 6181 VP JR Volume Pedal and a morningstar MC6 MKII, it is the only way to make it work. Thanks so much. Hugo

  35. Ok so I’m new to the expression pedal scene, I’m running a Strymon timeline and I have a Korg EXP-2. Will the Korg work the same way- do I need a STP 201 type cable or can I just run a single TRS to the Strymon?

  36. Maybe a dumb question, but can I use a Tremolo pedal (which doesn’t have a boost function) for expression automation or can it damage the device?

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