Pedal Power! How to Use Stompboxes in the Studio

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They say a studio is truly measured in its pedals.

 Well okay, they don’t actually say that. Have you ever heard anyone say that? Either way, today we’re going to talk about all the fun we have with pedals at BB4 Studios.

Pedals provide a portal to fresh dimensions of new expression. We love to plug them in to the signal path for our guitars, keyboards, and even soft synths coming out of the DAW.

 It wasn’t easy, but we curated three faves from our collection. BB4 sez: Step on THESE:

Avalanche Run Stereo Reverb and Delay with Tap Tempo – by Earthquaker Devices: This DSP-powered pedal has up to two seconds of delay and a very lush stereo reverb. “We appreciated that it has 96kHZ capabilities,” says Kiara Mudd, Studio Manager/house engineer for BB4 Studios. “Since it’s stereo, we can use it for keyboards. We’ll often use it for stereo instruments that we have in our Komplete collection, without losing any sound quality at 96k.”

One highlight of the Avalanche Run is its individual mix options for the reverb and delay. We also love the Swell and Reverse options for the delay, which can make for some very interesting sounds – when you’re in “Swell” mode, the delay starts off very softly and then goes up in volume.

Our signal path for applying this panel to ITB synths like Kontakt within Komplete goes like this:  Komplete runs out of our DAW and through our Prism converters. From there, the audio signal runs into the patch bay, then into the Avalanche Run, and from there into two of our preamps — usually the API 512’s.

Don’t have a patch bay in your setup? Fear not. “In that case, you could run the audio from the output of your audio interface into the Avalanche Run,” says Mudd, “and then from the output of the pedal back into your interface. If you only have a mono signal/single preamp, you would just use one XLR-to-1/4” into the Avalanche Run’s left mono channel.” 

We love to use this pedal on more aggressive tracks for alternative, hip hop and pop. Mudd says, “It’s great for charging up any track that may only have stock plugins, because it gives you entirely different options for what you have in the box. ‘Avalanche Run’ is a good name for this pedal: I envision it on top of a snowy mountain; Then you yell, cause an avalanche, and all hell breaks loose.”   

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Rumble Seat — by Analog Alien: The Rumble Seat sure is sweet, because it has three effects in one: Rumble Drive simulates a vintage Marshall 69 Plexi amp, there’s a great delay, and a reverb inspired by the “Holy Grail” of spring reverbs from the famed fender “Black Face” amp.

This pedal was actually designed with Rockabilly players in mind, giving it an exuberant attitude that really fills a niche at BB4. It has a tube-driven overdrive function that sounds very warm and fat, so much so that we haven’t even gotten to the delay and reverb yet.

“The Rumble Seat often gets used for our guitar tracks, especially if they’re aggressive and fast-paced,” Mudd notes. “We usually like to record playing through this pedal, as opposed to going back and adding it via the DAW — if we definitely know what sound we’re going for, we’ll put a pedal on it right away.

“This pedal is terrific for lead guitar and rhythm section work. It’s an ideal match for our Fender Jaguar, as well as our candy red Fender Stratocaster. Pair this with our Marshall amp, and it sounds very warm, with just the right touch of crunch.”

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Blurst! — by Electro-Harmonix. The mysteriously-monikored Blurst! is a masterpiece from NYC-based pedal gurus Electro-Harmonix. A modulating filter, it modulates an instrument’s sound like an envelope filter, but instead of the filter’s response being controlled by playing dynamics, it’s controlled by an internal oscillator.

“There are a lot of different combinations you can get out of this pedal -- it’s extremely versatile,” Mudd states. “We can get all types of rate combinations, and with the ‘Range’ function you can set your starting point for where the envelope hits, meaning you can get all types of different sounds coming from the same signal. We use it more as a tremolo, primarily on guitars and also on ITB synths.”

With the stomach-squelch sound effects it excels at, “Blurst!” is a bull’s-eye of a name for this brilliantly bodacious stompbox.

David Weiss