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Unread 01-26-2008, 02:24 AM   #1
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[Tech] Building a MIDI controlled live rig

Tired of playing the pedal tap dance? Do you want a wide array of sounds with a simple pedal board layout? Do you want to have a reliable, easy to use live rig? Does MIDI confuse you? This article will teach you the basics of building a simple live rig, and the techniques and principals you learn here should help you when it comes time for your rig to grow and become more flexible.

The center of any good rig is your rack. You're going to want something that is sturdy enough to hold up to plenty of abuse, the right size to hold everything you need it to, and strong enough to support the weight of your amp head on top of it.



A good power conditioner is another must have item. Think of it as a rackmountable power strip and surge protector. The optional lights on the front are handy to have around when making those last minute adjustments on a dark stage.



You'll need four machine screws and eight nylon washers for every piece of equipment you rack.



Set one set of washers on the rack, and then set the unit on top of it.



Turn on the screws with another set of washers by hand. You want to leave them all loose as you put them on, so the unit can naturally settle into place.



If you use a drill, make sure to use a low torque setting. Mine ranges from 1 to 24, and I usually set it around 10. Start on one corner, then go the opposite corner. Repeat for the other two. Tighten them down most of the way, then go back around and tighten them all the way down.



Rack mount other components, like this G Major, in the same way.



Here are the non rackmount units I will be placing on a rack tray.




The Nobels ALEX-1 is a simple loop switcher. Use the amp send and return jacks like the input and output jacks of a standard pedal. Use the effect input and output jacks to create your effects loop of pedals. I use this to switch my Tube ScreamerOVchaoS in and out of my signal chain, depending on if I'm on a clean or distorted channel. Amp send to TS input, TS output to amp return, and you're done. I'm planning on getting a second one for my Boss DistortionOVchaoS.



The remote switch jack on the other side of the unit is to hook it up to something that has a switch relay. The G Major has two, several MIDI foot controls have two or more, some amps have an external triggers jack, and a simple one button on/off switch can also be used. I control this with the G Major, taking the pedal in and out of the loop as needed. This takes standard 9V pedal power.



The Amp Gizmo--an amp switcher--is what I use to switch channels and functions on my amplifier. The channel bank on the front controls the four channels on my Roadster. Only one of these can be on at a time. The function bank controls the Roadster's solo boost, reverb, loop, and tuner mute functions. These buttons are all independent of one another. To program it, you use a MIDI foot controller to change to the desired patch number, toggle the buttons the way you want the amp set for that patch, and hold down the write button.



The back of the unit has a amplifier jack that utilizes a custom cable from the manufacturer that attaches the unit directly to the footswitch jack of your amp.. You can also use the four stereo jacks to connect to amps with 1/4" single function footswitch jacks. I put this as the first thing in my MIDI chain, so my foot controller plugs straight into the MIDI in jack. The MIDI thru jack passes the unmodified signal to the next device in the chain.



In this way, you can easily synch up your amp, boost pedal, and effects in one easy button press. Simply pick an empty bank and dial in your rig the way you want, starting with the amp, then adding the effects and setting the switch on/off setting with the effects unit. Write your patch on the effects unit and amp switcher to memory, and you're done. Simply keep repeating this up to 99 times. Or more, depending on the capabilities of your equipment.

The remaining unit is my wireless, which is the start of my signal chain. This will go out to my pedalboard. This, and everything else will go here:



The Amp Gizmo is on the left, with the loop switcher directly behind it, the tube screamer in the middle, and the wireless is on the right. Unfortunately, the Tube ScreamerOVChaos radiated part of my memory card, and I lost my shot of the whole pedalboard cabled up. I'll try to get anther pic soon, but it should be pretty simple to figure out with the descriptions above. Plus, I color code all of my cable jacks and pedals with tape, so I can easily see where everything is supposed to go. This is a life saver when something goes wrong with your rig live, and you need to get it working again as quickly as possible.



I use a good 9V pedal power supply with the expansion pigtails to power everything in the rack drawer, except for the wireless. The wireless uses it's own 12V power supply.



Here is the tray installed and powered up.




Since I'm using loop switchers for pedals now, the only thing I need on my pedalboard is a wah and the MIDI foot controller. I use a Nobels MF-2, which supports 4 expression pedals and gives you four switch relays. I used to have the loop switcher and tube screamer out here, controlled by the foot controller, but it was too cluttered, making it easy to step on something by accident and unplug a cable. I operate my wah pedal with my left foot, which is completely opposite of most right handed players. This came from four years of standing on stage left, keeping that pedal as far away as possible from am aggressive singer with big feet.



Here you can see how color coding everything makes setups a snap live.




I keep these wires velcro tied together at roughly six inch intervals. The blue tipped guitar cable stays permanently plugged into the back of the wireless. The MIDI cable stays permanently plugged into the Amp Gizmo. The MIDI signal leaves the Amp Gizmo along the red MIDI cable, into the MIDI In on the G Major.



The only guitar cable without a strip of tape sits at the front of the rack, waiting to plug into the amp head during setup.



The effects loop guitar cables are also run during setup. The ones on the G Major side stay permanently plugged in.

Here is the specialized cable that attaches the amp switcher to the amp.



Now, if we step on "1" on the footswitch, you can see that several lights come on on the Amp Gizmo--signifying my clean channel and the solo boost--and the G Major is set to the first patch.




Step on "2", and some more lights change on the amp switcher--this is just channel four, my rhythm channel--and the second patch on the effects unit.




I currently use nine presets, spending most of my time on three.

There you go, a simply, easy to use, easy to setup and strike, reliable live rig.
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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:13 AM   #2
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Sweet, good stuff man

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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:16 AM   #3
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Excellent post, very informative!

Now send me your rig.
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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:28 AM   #4
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Nice post Dave
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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:48 AM   #5
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Nice setup! Racks and MIDI are sexy.

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Unread 01-26-2008, 05:35 AM   #6
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I'm liking it, my rig is gonna be going this way within the next 6 months, I already have the G Major and midi floorboard (although tempted to get that Nobels one now, mines falling apart), just need to add all the effects switches and stuff like that.

Damn fine thread though
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Unread 01-26-2008, 05:42 AM   #7
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I highly recommend the Nobels stuff dude
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Unread 01-26-2008, 09:24 AM   #8
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Aaaargh, just looked into the manual on the Nobels, and it will deal in ONLY Program Change messages, I need Control Changes to use the pedal mode on the G Major.

Out with that idea then

Don't know if I should start a new topic with this, but are there any Midi Floorboards people can recommend which don't omit Control Changes because manufacturers think all guitarists are idiots, and are not the Behringer FCB1010? I have one and despite it not being used for the past year and a half, the moment I got it out of storage, its performing worse than it used to.....
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Unread 01-26-2008, 09:53 AM   #9
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Very nicely done, Dave! Informative!
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Unread 01-26-2008, 11:38 AM   #10
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Unread 01-26-2008, 02:37 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stuh84 View Post
Aaaargh, just looked into the manual on the Nobels, and it will deal in ONLY Program Change messages, I need Control Changes to use the pedal mode on the G Major.
You're going to be spending at least $350 for a foot controller than can handle control changes. For the amount of effects and channel switching I do, program changes are all I need. If I want to add chorus to an existing sound, I just make a new patch for it. If I ever need a lot of different patches for a song, I'll put them all in one bank.

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Unread 01-26-2008, 02:46 PM   #12
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Yeah, I mean my Behringer can handle it, but the build quality is deffo nothing to write home about.

Problem is, most of the boards I see have seperate modes for using control changes. All I want is pretty much the same functionality as my FCB1010, but without the crappy build quality

I think the main reason is for when we are rehearsing/song writing and jamming on a section, if I feel in the mood for adding, I dunno, Phaser or whatever, then I can just whack it on, rather than having to stop, click it, get the right effect and go.
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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:00 PM   #13
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Funny thing is, when rehearsing or jamming, I just throw some pedals on the floor. All the MIDI control is for my live rig, just because it makes everything straight forward and reliable.

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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:10 PM   #14
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Sounds like a plan, I just like having my rehearsal rig exactly the same as the live rig. I'm gonna have to search out all midi floorboards I guess.....
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Unread 01-26-2008, 03:16 PM   #15
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Sexcellent ....ing work, Dave. From pics, to tutorial, to setup. Nice job.

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Unread 01-26-2008, 04:10 PM   #16
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By the way noodles, sorry for de-railing the thread slightly, after a lot of looking at the manuals and things, I've decided on the Rocktron All Access. Bit pricy, but it has every feature I want and more. Thanks for the anecdotes and comments though, much appreciated, and I REALLY like this thread a lot, reminded me what I want to do with my rig.
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Unread 01-27-2008, 12:51 PM   #17
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Cool.

I need to get my rig and my life controled via MIDI.

Back to da 'hood (sevenstring.org)
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Unread 01-27-2008, 01:12 PM   #18
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Hey, that rig looks familiar. Nicely done.

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Unread 01-27-2008, 01:14 PM   #19
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I'll be coming back to this thread in the future

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Unread 01-27-2008, 05:22 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stuh84 View Post
Aaaargh, just looked into the manual on the Nobels, and it will deal in ONLY Program Change messages, I need Control Changes
Rocktron MidiMate does CC changes. it's also one of the rare pedals that will do a "split" Program Change and CC mode, with 5 of the buttons doing Program Changes and the other 5 doing CCs. and used, they cost only ~$150 or so, or they did 8+ years ago when i bought mine. one drawback, they have rubber buttons that don't have a firm click like stomp switches. but definitely a controller to look into if you need CC changes.

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Unread 01-27-2008, 06:31 PM   #21
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Yeah, looked into the MidiMate, and it seems cool, but I think the All Access is what I'll go for, the manual put lots of ideas in my head so must be a good sign
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Unread 01-29-2008, 08:17 AM   #22
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this has to be one of the coolest informative posts I've seen in a loooong time.

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Unread 01-29-2008, 10:50 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stuh84 View Post
Yeah, I mean my Behringer can handle it, but the build quality is deffo nothing to write home about.
Not had any issues, and my gear isn't babied. Sturdy and made of metal, and at the price I can't argue with it at all, had it for 4/5 years and it's been fine!

Anyway, very good post about all things midi, although I'd add to this:

- If you're dealing with loads of cabling, or like me, need to split up the rack into several parts (like pre and power amp) for weight considerations then:

Have a "master" module in your rack, all cables attached to this, and cable tied if they leave the rack in bundles, ie, I have:

- a midi + power lead bundle leading out to the behringer FCB1010 to power it
- stereo out to the power amp
- power to the power amp
- Any switching signals to the power amp (I had a grouping of 3 leads when i had the 2:90)

And if you can, colour code! Nothing is worse than trying to figure out what goes where in a rack when it isn't working!

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Unread 01-29-2008, 11:44 AM   #24
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^ James speaks the truth. I really need to take pics of mine (that was the inspiration for Dave's) sometime soon and post them here. I have everything color-coded, and I built an interface box for my pedalboard so everything plugs up in one place. Works great.

Division - American metal that doesn't suck. Much. Even on Facebook, and Soundclick might eventually be updated, too.
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Unread 01-29-2008, 12:09 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eaeolian View Post
^ James speaks the truth. I really need to take pics of mine (that was the inspiration for Dave's) sometime soon and post them here. I have everything color-coded, and I built an interface box for my pedalboard so everything plugs up in one place. Works great.
Aye. Racks can be absolutely close-to-tears material if they go wrong at gigs. Nothing is more embarressing than having your blinky light racvk of doom not work (gets you laughed at).

Hence a few other tricks:
1) The rear rack rails are your friends. Cable ties will attach cabling that goes out, and prevent most accidental pulling cables out of their sockets

2) Really make sure the wiring inside is idiot proof and secure. Cable tie, cable tie, and then cable tie some more

3) Keep units in racks that belong together. If you're rack is in two parts, then you want:
- TWO signal cables at most (one for left, one for right) going from one to the other
- ONE power lead if you can help it.

4) Keep cables attached to the master module of the rack via cable ties.

5) If you can get your rack up and running in less than 5 minutes (plug, plug, connect to cab, connect guitar and done) and pack down in 5 minutes then you have a good rack design.

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