Using guitar effects pedals with other instruments

We guitarists have a long tradition of changing the inherent tone of the electric guitar by experimenting, inventing and developing new tones and timbres through effects. Specifically, effect pedals. I believe our continued open-mindedness has kept our instrument relevant over the decades and proven what a limitless musical chameleon it is.

There is also a parallel, almost as long tradition of using guitar pedals unintentionally in other musical mediums. This time, in honor of our pedal number, I’m going to show you how to set up and use your existing pedals on other audio sources besides your guitar. Before we get too far into the woods and try to connect our pedals to and from our audio interface, I want to briefly touch on two topics – “levels” and “balanced/unbalanced signal cables” – that are important to understand, so you’ll get the best results.

Ranked from weakest to strongest, there are four types of signal levels in the audio world: mic, instrument, line, and speaker level.

Microphone level is the signal voltage generated by a microphone and is so low that it requires the use of a preamplifier (preamp) to bring it up to line level.

Instrument level is the inherent signal output level (impedance varies) emitted by an instrument, such as electric guitar or bass. It also requires a preamp to bring it up to line level.

Line level is the highest of the three levels but still requires a preamp and comes in two varieties: consumer (-10dBV) and professional (+4dBu). The latter is what your audio interface will amplify everything before sending the signal to your monitor speakers.

Speaker level comes after all signals (one of the previous three) are collectively amplified to line level and are then (post-amplified) output to your monitors. Due to the relatively high voltage, that’s why we use dedicated speaker cables and not instrument cables to connect your interface output to your monitors.

Now let me quickly define the difference between balanced and unbalanced signal cables.

Fig. 1

• Unbalanced signal cables: The two most common are our standard high impedance 1/4″ TS instrument cables (tip, sleeve) and our RCA cables [Fig.1].

Figure 2

• Balanced cables: The two most common are XLR cables and 1/4″ TRS cables. [Fig. 2].

Using this knowledge, we can start making musical mayhem and connecting our pedals.

Step 1: Connect a balanced XLR or 6.35 mm TRS cable between a line output of your audio interface and the input of your reamplification box. I highly recommend the Radial EXTC Effects Reamper Class A guitar effects router ($329), which additionally offers the possibility of combining two different effects loops. The reason why one needs a reamp box ( there are many on the market) is that it will convert the balanced, line level output from your audio interface to a unbalanced, instrument levelsignal that guitar pedals are designed to accept. A good re-amplification box can also match the impedance of your particular instrument for even better signal fidelity.

2nd step: Connect a standard 1/4″ instrument cable from the reamp box output to your pedal(s).

Figure 3

Step 3: Connect another 1/4″ instrument cable from your last pedal output to your guitar amp and record your new tracks through your guitar amp, or plug it into a regular DI box (which will convert the signal back to a balanced signal, line-level stage) and take this output to the input of your audio interface If you have the Radial EXTC Effects reamper, you can do all of this in one box [Fig. 3]!

Once this is set up, you can start sending any track from your DAW/audio interface to all your pedals and go crazy! Drench your voice in distorted, off-kilter reverb. Flanger your synths and add a delayed chorus. Or a little mash up your drum tracks.

What I particularly like to do is play around with the feedback amounts and delay times of various delay pedals while I’m recording and get all those offbeat pings and pongs by adjusting those values ​​on the fly . You can also consider adding distortion and harmonies to a vocal over key words or phrases in your song. Your imagination is the only limit!

Finally, I encourage you to message me at [email protected] if you have any questions and requests for future topics to cover. Until next time, namaste!

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