Gearing up – one group’s experience with pedals

Eleventh Hour is no stranger to using pedals in their set. Well, to be fair, they are no strangers to using A PEDAL in their set. EH has been using a bass octave pedal for maybe six years now, ever since we worked with The Fault Line the first time. We’ve always known about pedals. We’ve hosted SONOS at least three times and always drooled on their pedals like fools. Still, we hadn’t ever broken out of our comfort zone. Until now.

 

As we have gone through this season, there were two forces that combined to make a perfect storm of interest to finally force us into using some new pedals. (1) Our vocal percusssionist is also a budding looper / tech geek and (2) we have a female singer who can flat out rock. I don’t mean she rocks like “she sings well.” We’ve had those kind before. I mean she can sing rock. For real.

 

We had decided to perform an arrangement of “Some Nights” by Fun (I know… us and 20 other groups in Ohio alone), and that’s where it started. We were not feeling it. We wondered how we would make the VP work, and thought about adding body percussion in the group to help mimic those field drums. Sam, our VP, said he had been playing with his loop pedal and wanted to show me what he came up with. It was amazing. It also gave me an idea.

 

Whenever I have a student who is really interested in something, I try to foster their creativity. I told Sam that he was in charge of creating a pedal plan for Eleventh Hour. We’ve toyed with the idea long enough, and it was time to take the plunge. I gave him a budget, a copy of my book (read the chapter by Christopher Given Harrison of SONOS, my boy!), and Christopher Given Harrison’s email (after I checked with CGH first). He was in charge.

 

We already owned a BOSS OC-3 bass pedal, a digitech harmonyman (harmonizer) that we had only used once before, and a Line 6 stompbox that I don’t think we ever used (my former assistant bought it for Fusion). We had just been scared to get going.

 

Sam picked out a BOSS flanger for the VP, added a BOSS EQ pedal to the bass rig, brought in his own loop pedal, got some BOSS noise suppressors and direct input boxes for everything. Then we got to work.

 

We had also learned that Katie Moore can rock. So… we had our first ever pedal-specific arrangement commissioned. Kathy Hoye and Jessica Freedman (of SONOS) did it for us. We settled on “Paris (ooh, la la)” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Kathy and Jess not only wrote the chart with harmonies on the tenor line (changing intervals throughout the chart by paging through the digitech harmonyman), but also wrote some guidelines as to what to turn on where for maximum effect.

 

It wasn’t the chart that made everything happen, but the commitment to the project. We finally had decided to just jump off the cliff. Here’s a few things we are learning the hard way.

-Pedals require a LOT of practice to dial in the sounds you like

-Singing into a pedal requires you to change your sound depending on what you want to come out. You don’t just sing your “jigga-jum” line and stomp on the pedal

-If you don’t really tweak the pedals just right or set them up wrong, you can get a ton of feedback

-They make HS kids GO CRAZY with geek lust.

-Despite the learning curve, they are a lot of fun and well worth the experimentation.

The video you see below is the second rehearsal “Paris,” and the first rehearsal on pedals. We had a ton of fun, and while there ARE some areas for improvement (performance and technical), you can get a sense of where we are going with it. It is hard to hear every nuance through an iPhone video, but I think you’ll get the idea.

 

I wish we had tried this sooner. It’s not something we plan to do on every song, but it’s a great treat to throw in the set. Have you tried pedal-ing? If so, do it. If not… at least think about it.

One comment to Gearing up – one group’s experience with pedals

  • Kurt Zimmerman  says:

    Great article, here is an additional tip for your list; Pedals will typically require the appropriate adapters or DI boxes. Pedals are mostly designed for Direct-Input usage with instruments, so you can’t plug a mic right into it. Don’t forget to pick em’ up while you’re shopping for your shiny new pedals! 🙂

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