Mixing with guitar pedals can be a great, and often cheap way to add some real life hardware FX into your mixing process. From the range of options to the added grit that a guitar pedal bring, adding a little randomness and originality can breath real life into your tracks.
In this article we’ll cover all the basics from how to get sound out of your soundcard, how to plug your pedals in, using them as FX sends and show of the vintage tones we can easily achieve. Let’s dig in:
How Do I plug pedals into my Soundcard?
For this you’ll need a Soundcard that has more than 2 stereo outputs. Many lower budget Soundcards offer anywhere from 4-8, with 1-2 being used for your speakers.
To get the sound out we’re going to use 2 x ¼” cables, one for coming out of the Soundcard (send) and one for going back in (return) from the pedal.
This loop will allow us to send sound to and from the pedal, either directly on a channel or as an AUX FX (more on that later).
How To Use Pedals With Your DAW
Plugging Pedals into your DAW can be daunting but worry not. For this we’ll use Ableton’s ‘External Audio Effect’ plugin. As with your soundcard, we need to line up the cables with the settings on the plugin.
Audio To – This is the send and is the cable going to the pedals.
Audio from – This is the sound coming back (return) from your pedal.
This device is a great tool for seamlessly sending sound and out of your soundcard with little effort or confusion. These devices can be placed on any channel, send or master offering endless flexibility.
Using Pedals As An Aux FX
By placing the ‘external effect’ onto our Aux track we can start sending signals to it from different sources. Using this way can mean your mixes have better continuity and cohesion as they share the same FX thus live in the same world.
A personal favourite of Touch Loops is using Spring Reverb pedals for that vintage, 70’s spring touch.
Note: Try and ensure the mix is fully up (100% wet) on your pedals or you may get phasing between the original channel and the aux.
Reverb & Delay FX Pedals
For me, reverb and delay pedals are where the magic really starts to happen. It’s the random nature of the delay times and the sound that make your tracks truly unique.
Many delay pedals need the time setting by ear or by ‘tapping-tempo’ which gives your track a more natural, organic feel.
These slightly out delay times can also add to the natural swing of a drum or instrument part, adding yet more flavour and vibe!
Do I Need A Re-Amp Box?
Now here’s the fun bit, the signal coming out of our Soundcard is pretty high and known as ‘line-level’, where as a guitar pedal accepts instrument level which is substantially lower.
The role of a re-amp box is to do the following:
1 – Step the level down to a reasonable level.
2 – Prevent any ground hum which can occur.
Note: Some modern guitar pedals can accept line level but you’ll need to test this. You might end up with a super noisy signal / hum without the re-amp box.
Perform Your Pedals
And finally, the best bit about using hardware and guitar pedals. The performance! Try running through your songs, sections and elements a few times and get twisting those dials.
Why not turn the delay feedback to max and use it in a build up?
Change the delay times for extra dub FX?
Go wild people! We can’t wait to see these skills in action!