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Thread: Troubleshooting pedal boards

  1. #1
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    Troubleshooting pedal boards

    I'm just curious what everyone else does? It's not like I'm not a seasoned tech... but I'm a bit like the odd mechanic that drives beater cars. I have a bit of a complex pedal board that has not passed signal at set up at my last 2 gigs. I just start finger f@@king the damn thing until it starts working.... and it works fine the rest of the night. Then.. at home I can't get it to have a problem at all! It's a bit maddening.

  2. #2
    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Like anything else:

    Isolate the Problem.

    Apply a steady signal to free your hands. A CD player or something. REmember, we are looking for loss of signal, not tone, so it doesn't matter if the signal itself sounds good. Now gently pull out and repush each patch cord to see if one is involved. Might be the cord or the jacks, but if we know WHERE we are mostly there. In fact, just grasping the middle of each patch cord and wiggling it in a circle reveals much.

    The fact you can fiddle with it and it works screams that it is a connection somewhere. So if the connections don't get it, grab a screwdriver by the blade, and whack the body of each pedal sharply. This is a mini version of my fist-whacking the chassis of an amp. If any pedal reacts, it is suspect.

    Gently grasp each control on each pedal, one at a time, and slightly tweak its setting. Does moving ANY control bring the sound back?

    If you are using a supply rather than batteries, then each and every power connection needs to be wiggled and stressed. Don't forget the other end of the power wires.

    lets say you have ten pedals.

    [airplane mode]"you have ten pedals"[/airplane mode]

    then plug your signal into the input of #5 instead of #1. Still lost or now works? And the other way. Plug the amp cord into the output of #5 instead of the last pedal output. This could tell us which half of the pedal lineup has the problem.
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    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

  3. #3
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    Like anything else:

    Isolate the Problem.

    Apply a steady signal to free your hands. A CD player or something. REmember, we are looking for loss of signal, not tone, so it doesn't matter if the signal itself sounds good. Now gently pull out and repush each patch cord to see if one is involved. Might be the cord or the jacks, but if we know WHERE we are mostly there. In fact, just grasping the middle of each patch cord and wiggling it in a circle reveals much.

    The fact you can fiddle with it and it works screams that it is a connection somewhere. So if the connections don't get it, grab a screwdriver by the blade, and whack the body of each pedal sharply. This is a mini version of my fist-whacking the chassis of an amp. If any pedal reacts, it is suspect.

    Gently grasp each control on each pedal, one at a time, and slightly tweak its setting. Does moving ANY control bring the sound back?

    If you are using a supply rather than batteries, then each and every power connection needs to be wiggled and stressed. Don't forget the other end of the power wires.

    lets say you have ten pedals.

    [airplane mode]"you have ten pedals"[/airplane mode]

    then plug your signal into the input of #5 instead of #1. Still lost or now works? And the other way. Plug the amp cord into the output of #5 instead of the last pedal output. This could tell us which half of the pedal lineup has the problem.
    Yeah... that’s pretty much what I did at home. Gremlins. I’m beginning to think the drive vibrates something loose in the signal path. Once it’s corrected it doesn’t fail until the next drive. Time to set the board on some foam and break out the rubber mallet!

  4. #4
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    If you have anything digital in there, there is also the possibility that it's getting hinky with a boot sequence or something. Very often with digital things, appliances, etc. I've seen them not work until disconnected from power and reconnected again. Unfortunately that's not the kind of thing that can be easily fixed But at least it may be possible to isolate and identify if you're lucky (?) enough to get the problem to manifest with the system under test.
    "So I acquired it for the purpose of fixing it up - in case I run out of things to do with the rest of my life..." tubeswell

    "...less ear-friendly but handy for jazz." Leo_Gnardo

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  5. #5
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    I have a EX C9 that gives me grief somometimes. But it doesn't upset the signal path. It just won't engage until reset. Yeah the first thing I do is recycle the power. Intermitants are madding. I feel like the mechanic whose car won't start. And of course my band mates love to piss on me about it!

  6. #6
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Doctors get sick too.
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    "So I acquired it for the purpose of fixing it up - in case I run out of things to do with the rest of my life..." tubeswell

    "...less ear-friendly but handy for jazz." Leo_Gnardo

    "Shut up, you big dumb poopy-head!" Justin Thomas

  7. #7
    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    A good argument for a single multi-effects pedal. I've never liked a lot of pedals for intermittent connections and for the tone-robbing/signal loss they insert.

    A little story. I was in a band with a guitar player once that had to use a bass guitar case for a pedal board. We called it "The Borg". His pedal collection had grown that large. He was constantly fiddling with it to get everything working and constantly complaining about loss of signal and sustain. At rehearsal one night, he was about to go ballistic battling tone problems. I asked him to humor me and just plug his guitar directly into the amp. There it was- the tone he'd been looking for. He sold all but "necessary" pedals and got back down to the little plastic Roland pedal board.

    The rest of the story?: As time went on, he bought one more pedal, then one more, then one more, etc. and ended up back at square one. I guess it's just an addiction for some people.

    I bought a Boss ME-30 years ago and never looked back. One input and one output. There are plenty of good multi-effects units out there.
    “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

  8. #8
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    A dirt box or boost pedal (depending on the type of amp and the gig), a wah pedal, a delay if you don't have reverb on the amp and a chorus pedal for imitating SRV roto tone stuff. What the heck else could anyone need?

    Ok, I do have a couple of other pedals and I enjoy them sometimes in creative moods. But I don't need them on stage.
    "So I acquired it for the purpose of fixing it up - in case I run out of things to do with the rest of my life..." tubeswell

    "...less ear-friendly but handy for jazz." Leo_Gnardo

    "Shut up, you big dumb poopy-head!" Justin Thomas

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    A dirt box or boost pedal (depending on the type of amp and the gig), a wah pedal, a delay if you don't have reverb on the amp and a chorus pedal for imitating SRV roto tone stuff. What the heck else could anyone need?
    I use a graphic EQ pedal for all sorts of tone tweaks. I think these are the most overlooked guitar FX pedals out there. They don't make a huge dramatic change to your sound like kicking in a hot distortion pedal. But they can fix a lot of small problems and can make you sound better if you take your time adjusting them.

    No wah for me (for the music I play, I've never wanted one). I do have a chorus pedal, it stays off except for those times when my wife feels like singing Cindi Lauper's "Time After Time". Gotta have full-on cheesy '80s chorus sounds for that song, it just won't sound right without it!

    I am not playing for customers, though, so I have more leeway than you guys (and gals) who do this professionally.

    -Gnobuddy

  10. #10
    Supporting Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Oh I don't know if you "need" chorus for Time After Time. Here's one of my favorite duo's covering it. Just one guitarist and a singer:



    EDIT: If any guitar player here decided to look into purchasing Tuck and Patti, Tears of Joy just know that you run the very real risk of either changing your ideologies as a player or tossing your guitar at a passing car
    Last edited by Chuck H; 01-31-2018 at 06:49 AM.
    "So I acquired it for the purpose of fixing it up - in case I run out of things to do with the rest of my life..." tubeswell

    "...less ear-friendly but handy for jazz." Leo_Gnardo

    "Shut up, you big dumb poopy-head!" Justin Thomas

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    Oh I don't know if you "need" chorus for Time After Time.
    Okay, you don't need chorus if you have Tuck & Patti's level of talent.

    (And if you do a complete re-interpretation of the song as well. Which, of course, is a perfectly valid artistic choice!)

    Cyndi Lauper's original version, to me, is a classic example of tasteless '80s guitar effects. They ladled on the chorus so thick that the guitar doesn't sound anything like a guitar. It sounds more like a terminally sick clavichord that's crawled off to die somewhere in the mist.

    If you want a quick mental refresh on what a clavichord sounds like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWOhzki9TGg

    See what I mean?

    -Gnobuddy
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  12. #12
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    If anyone is a fan of Annie Clark / AKA St. Vincent, know that her uncle is Tuck Andress.
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  13. #13
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    Something else to consider

    Just curious. Are any of the pedals on your pedalboard "boo-teek" pedals that flaunt true bypass switching?

    I ask because one of the common things I run into has to do with the switches. Inside there are small blobs of thick grease intended to do two things: damp and "chatter" in the contacts for debouncing purposes, and hold the rocker contacts in place during assembly.

    If too much heat is applied when soldering wires to the solder lugs on the footswitch, the heat can get conducted to where the grease is and cause it to essentially liquify and flow over the contact. This can make for either NO electrical continuity, or intermittent contact (i.e., a good half-dozen successive on-off cycles and you're back in business).

    There is nothing wrong with the switches themselves (i.e., buying a "better" switch won't improve anything), but rather the manner in which they were installed. If the builder happened to buy a small lot of switches or had them hanging around for a while, the solder lugs can gettarnished, and the builder responds by applying more heat for longer during soldering, which can potentiate the problem.

    If this is possibly your circumstance, I can show you how to remedy it.

  14. #14
    Old Timer Leo_Gnardo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    If anyone is a fan of Annie Clark / AKA St. Vincent, know that her uncle is Tuck Andress.
    Kool! It's nice to know who's related to whom in this crazy music biz. Last year on MEF I put up a video of St. Vincent giving the Hendrix treatment to the old Beatles' chestnut "I Dig A Pony." Who knows maybe she got her start trying to play like Uncle Tuck. In any case Annie's got formidable chops plus a terrific sense of humor. My kind of gal!
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  15. #15
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    Just curious. Are any of the pedals on your pedalboard "boo-teek" pedals that flaunt true bypass switching?

    I ask because one of the common things I run into has to do with the switches. Inside there are small blobs of thick grease intended to do two things: damp and "chatter" in the contacts for debouncing purposes, and hold the rocker contacts in place during assembly.

    If too much heat is applied when soldering wires to the solder lugs on the footswitch, the heat can get conducted to where the grease is and cause it to essentially liquify and flow over the contact. This can make for either NO electrical continuity, or intermittent contact (i.e., a good half-dozen successive on-off cycles and you're back in business).

    There is nothing wrong with the switches themselves (i.e., buying a "better" switch won't improve anything), but rather the manner in which they were installed. If the builder happened to buy a small lot of switches or had them hanging around for a while, the solder lugs can gettarnished, and the builder responds by applying more heat for longer during soldering, which can potentiate the problem.

    If this is possibly your circumstance, I can show you how to remedy it.
    c5123ed7-2c23-4f7f-a03b-da12c5e2128f.jpeg

    This is the beast. I can’t get it to act up now... so we will see Saturday night . The A/B/Y Switch toggles my input to my talk box amp. The power supply is a daisy chained One Spot. The other power supply is for the EHX C9. The other block on the power strip is an AC voltmeter so I know instantly if there’s a mains problem. I “true bypassed” the compressor. The whole mess is a bit of a cludge but I’ve been using it for 10 years. I’m not a gear snob. It’s just plywood and Velcro. I just get annoyed with “board gremlins”.. especially 5 minutes before you start a gig. But I don’t think I’ve ever had a gig where someone didn’t have an issue with something.

  16. #16
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    I think I found it. Intermittent power supply jack on the compressor. Even though it is “true bypassed” when engaged it won’t pass signal with no power. But the indicator is only lit when engaged. So when it’s dead it LOOKS like it’s in TB mode.
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  17. #17
    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by olddawg View Post
    I think I found it. Intermittent power supply jack on the compressor. Even though it is “true bypassed” when engaged it won’t pass signal with no power. But the indicator is only lit when engaged. So when it’s dead it LOOKS like it’s in TB mode.
    Then it´s not "true bypass"
    Solid pieces of metal do not need power to pass electricity, including Audio signal.
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    Juan Manuel Fahey

  18. #18
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    It is true bypassed when not engaged. If engaged with no power it does not pass signal. But the "on" indicator light is off making you think it's not engaged. It would also do it VERY infrequently.

  19. #19
    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    True bypass means hardwired switch. If it needs power to pass signal, then an active stage is in the path, and so not TB.
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    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

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    Does it have to be a hard-wired switch. What about relay contacts? For example my Ditto looper has "true bypass" proudly printed on front, but the switch does not sound and feel like one of those 3PDT switches, more like it's depressing a little button on a board. Not sure of the technical term for it.

    Maybe TC is being disingenuous, I don't frickin know.

  21. #21
    Supporting Member eschertron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by olddawg View Post
    It is true bypassed when not engaged. If engaged with no power it does not pass signal. But the "on" indicator light is off making you think it's not engaged. It would also do it VERY infrequently.
    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
    True bypass means hardwired switch. If it needs power to pass signal, then an active stage is in the path, and so not TB.
    Quote Originally Posted by minim View Post
    Does it have to be a hard-wired switch. What about relay contacts? For example my Ditto looper has "true bypass" proudly printed on front, but the switch does not sound and feel like one of those 3PDT switches, more like it's depressing a little button on a board. Not sure of the technical term for it.

    Maybe TC is being disingenuous, I don't frickin know.
    I think Dawg is saying that the pedal can be in the 'engaged' mode, but with no power, it looks like it aught to be in bypass. So, no signal. If the pedal uses a relay (like mimim suggests) instead of a switch, the true bypass can be defaulted on the de-energized contacts, so anytime the pedal is not on, it has to be in bypass. Seems like a better option to me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Conner View Post
    If it still won't get loud enough, it's probably broken.
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  22. #22
    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    I didn't intend a tangent, but...

    A relay IS a switch.
    Education is what you're left with after you have forgotten what you have learned.

  23. #23
    Old Timer J M Fahey's Avatar
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    True.
    And as escherton said, it´s good Engineering to wire it so with no power it defaults to "bypassed".
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    Juan Manuel Fahey

  24. #24
    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    What I meant is that comp pedal is a notorious gain attenuator when not turned on so I modified it with a 4DPDT switch to be in true bypass mode when not being used. But if there is no power you can have the switch in the on position with no on indicator and no signal passes because the circuit isn't energized. Most of the pedals on that board are true bypass. There are a couple of buffered ones. I have several dirt boxes and such that I swap in and out from time to time depending on the rig or the project.

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