Power supply considerations, Not all power supplies are equal.
This is something often overlooked by newbie pedal board builders, the power supply! “If it’s 9v’s its good to go isn’t it?” Well yes and no. What you have to consider is the current draw all your pedals are collectively using. This current draw is measured in milliamps or mA. Voltage is one thing (9v dc in this case) but current is another thing all together. If you feed a pedal more voltage than it’s rated for, you’ll break it, thats pretty obvious right? But with current it’s different. The pedals will only draw as much current as they need and no more. So, you can have as much current on tap as you need (usually best to have more than enough to avoid straining your system) and your pedals will draw it as they need it accordingly. When you daisy chain pedals together (off one power supply) you have to make sure to add the current draw required by those pedals. Normally power supplies that come with your effects pedal are designed to offer just the right amount of mA for that ONE peal alone. When you daisy chain other pedals onto it the mA’s aren’t enough for all the pedals together. So what? Well its all about consistency of the voltage and current and this has an effect on how your pedals behave. The thing to remember about current is that there is NO danger in having more than you need available. But if your power supplies mA rating can’t keep up with demand, your pedals may not even turn on. Worse yet, they could behave erratically or even worse still they could shut down in the middle of a gig. So buy a power supply rated for all your pedals mA needs added together preferably even more mA than you currently need. Most effects pedals will have their mA usage printed on them to help you work out what you need. I wouldn’t go for anything less than a 1000mA power supply unit as a starting point.
MXR Carbon Copy
Strymon El Capistan & Timeline
So what preamps out there on the market right now should I be considering?
Here are some examples of dedicated acoustic preamps that will work perfectly with your Weissenborn...
TC Electronic Flashback
Radial Tonebone PZ-Deluxe
What is an ‘effects loop’? And why should I use it?
So you’ve bought your first Preamp and may have noticed it has something called an ‘Effects Loop” in it. So then you ask you self if it’s there should i be using it? Simple answer is YES you should. Why? Well I will tell you. It's all about how the effects in your effects pedals are applied to your final output signal that go to the PA system. The question here is do you apply them before the amplification of after? The ‘effects loop’ allows you to put the effects pedal effects BEFORE amplification, why should that matter i hear you ask? Well once again there are subtle but quantifiable differences that happen when you utilise the ‘effects loop’ (more so for electric guitarists using distortion and overdrive it has to be noted). When you run delay or reverb straight into the front of your preamp, the pre-amp (or tone of the amp) is coloured by these effects and some guitarists feel that this sometimes makes them sound a little muddy and dull (as i said subjective but quantifiable). Whereas when placing the effects pedals after the pre-amp (i.e. in the ‘effects loop’) it makes for the effects to sound cleaner and crisper especially reverb and delay. If you’re using delay (and you probably are), you might find that the delay repeats ends up becoming less effective and muddier and the tone changes towards the end of the repeat cycle if you don’t use the ‘effects loop’. Another reason often sited for utilising the ‘effects loop’ is help to keep the ambient noise floor lower which to an acoustic guitarist is something more noticeable and preferable. So back to the simple answer for Weissenborn guitarists, if your preamp has an ‘effects loop’ then use it for reverb and delay :-)
But what about COMPRESSORS on a Weissenborn player's pedal board?
Now this is going to open up a whole can of worms here. My simple answer is NOT for the beginner as using compressors on acoustic guitar is a black art (like mastering). It requires a lot of knowledge and experience to get the best out of a compressor on an acoustic guitar.
So what is a Compressor?
Compressors increase sustain by controlling how loud or soft your signal gets, without distorting your tone. When a signal is too loud (or the volume spikes), a compressor limits or “squishes” this spike to a more reasonable level. When a signal is too soft or starts to fade, a compressor can boost the signal to even out dynamics and make notes last longer.
Personally it just sounds like a bad idea to any Weissenborn player. When you understand how a compressor works you start to ask your self do i want an effects pedal in my signal chain that squishes and evens out all those lush high end harmonics and bottom end rich bass tones into a evened out sound? You lose all those subtle human technique traits as well that make your permanence sound dynamic like soft and hard attacks on the strings to emphasis certain parts of your passage. That’s what you’re in danger of giving up if you introduce a compressor into your live signal chain. That’s what is so inherently wonderful about a Weissenborn and here is an effect that will mess with all that, so no thank you. So I would steer clear of compressors in a live setting. That’s a very simplistic response to a complex question but all I will add is I don’t know many Weissenborn guitarists (if any, now i think bout it) who successfully use compressors in live settings. Compression is however a recording engineers best friend as clean sustain and even dynamics can be especially useful in acoustic music recording and mixing. Compression helps a recording sound more polished, and is one of the reasons well-mixed studio recordings sound so fantastic. Some preamps come with a built in pseudo compression features. These features have been specifically modelled by experts to pin point the exact compression ratios to compliment an acoustic guitar, if you tried to replicate that in a separate compressor pedal you would struggle if you weren’t a very experienced musician.
Strymon Blue Sky & Styrmon Big Sky
Introduction and outlining aims of this feature.
This feature is primarily aimed at newcomers who want to read some impartial relevant advice on how to take the next step in seeking out equipment and gear that will improve and enhance their Weissenborn sound and tone in a live amplified setting.
Making that next step from unplugged living-room practice to playing your first amplified public performance you will need to acquire some knowledge and gear that will take you and your sound to the next step. And in the true spirit of this website here is some basic impartial information and recommendations that are Weissenborn tried and tested by us at TWiE and players we know and love.
My last caveat for this article before I begin would be to say that although purists may scoff at using any effects on a Weissenborn the fact remains most people DO use and WANT to use effects on their Weissenborns. I do however think it’s important to draw the line at effects that steer your sound away from the acoustic instrumental spectrum and veer towards the overdriven lap steel territory, so think less Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals or Xavier Rudd & The United Nations and more concert classic Ed Gerhard and early solo Thomas Oliver. A Weissenborn played through a quality preamp with some lush reverb and subtle delay is something that is undeniably special.
And remember people great gear doesn’t produce great music, practice and dedication ultimately produces great music, there are no short cuts to sounding good.
Fishman AFX Reverb
TC Electronic Hall Of Fame
LR Baggs Session Acoustic DI
Delay 1st/Reverb 2nd or Reverb 1st/Delay 2nd? What’s the best way round for these effects?
Hell I bet you had never even thought about this question before. What i am asking here is a simple enough question, what order do i run my reverb and delay pedals in? and why should it even matter?
Well firstly here’s the definitive answer for all Weissenborn players DELAY 1st - REVERB 2nd
Why? It doesn't make much sense to follow reverb with a delay. Think about it, you're going to have repeats of a reverberated signal and that is not going to sound very unnatural. Running a delay into reverb will give you nice splashes of reverb with each subsequent delay repeat, which sounds very natural and clean. Ive tried both combinations of Delay/ Reverb and i always go with DELAY 1st/Reverb 2nd. It makes the tonal space smoother because the reverb fades out beautifully rather than being delayed which makes the trail muddy rather than spacey. You can't make a delay sound like a reverb. A delay repeats a sound - once or many times. The repeated sounds can stay at the same volume or trail off getting quieter with each repeat but they do not deteriorate or get modified. It’s like yelling in a canyon or cave. HELLO..HELLO...hello..hello. a delay has distinct repetitions of the original sound, carbon copies that get quieter. A reverb typically has a bit of a pre-delay and then the sound becomes a "wash" of elongated sound trailing off to be more quiet. The sounds become blurred together without the distinct repetitions that the delay has. It sounds more natural for the delay repeats to be copies of the dry signal only, and then have each repeat (as well as the dry signal itself) followed by a wash of reverb. But if you have reverb followed by delay, then the reverb wash (of the dry signal) will get repeated along with the dry signal itself and sound muddy. Have i made that clear lol? Well simple answer here is ALWAYS have DELAY 1st/REVERB 2nd :-)
What effects should i be thinking about using on my pedal board?
Not all effects and effects pedals are Weissenborn friendly or traditionally enhance a Weissenborns sound in a good productive way. I think the first effects pedal any Weissenborn player should buy is a REVERB pedal. A Weissenborn and Reverb go hand in hand like strawberries and cream. A Weissenborn without reverb can sound flat and un-dynamic in a live amplified setting. Reverb opens up a whole world of lushness for those complex harmonics and mid tones in your weissenborn to shine through in. The second effects pedal you should get is a DELAY pedal. Using a delay pedal (in conjunction with a reverb pedal) opens up bags of dynamic space for your sound to air its self. Reverbating a delayed signal until it gently decays underpins your sound and fill out a lot of the empty spaces between notes in a subtle but beautiful way. Delay makes things sound fuller and lusher and gives your sound a roundness and richness that perfectly suits a playing Weissenborn.
So you have your REVERB and DELAY pedals so what next? well for me that’s all you need to go, these two effects alone are the corner stone of a great sound when it comes to a Weissenborn instrumental set up. So what other effects pedals might you consider? Anything after reverb and delay is moving into the realms of experimentation and novelty in my book. Look some people will say i use chorus pedal and octave pedals or overdrive and a wah-wah pedal with great results but then you start moving away from my core initial statement “steering your sound away from the acoustic instrumental spectrum and veering towards the overdriven lap steel territory”. I do advocate trying all combinations of effects at some point in your weissenborn journey. Some you might like and in band settings for instance and these are something you should delve into further possibly but for all instrumentalists leave that alone for now.
What else might you consider then putting on your pedal board? Well on my own pedal board I have a few extra pedals. One of my favourite pedals is a LOOPER pedal. I use the BOSS RC-3 pedal because not only can I loop with it I can also store backing tracks on it too. I can even make backing tracks on my computer and then download then onto the RC-3 for play back in my live performances. Loopers are so much fun, they open a whole new world or musical opportunities that inspire your creativity into the first footsteps of real music making. Record a simple chord progression, loop it add another simple few notes, loop it and then jam over the top to your hearts content, trust me its a liberating exciting experience. Another pedal I have on my own pedal board is a clean boost (or gain) pedal. I love the TC Electronic ’Spark’ it gives my signal a real punch of volume and clarity that cuts through the mix and makes everything more in your face and up front in your final sound. Use with care and consideration though as too much gain and you run the risk of introducing floor noise and hiss so use with wisely. Lastly a tuner pedal is always a great asset on any pedal board and the TC Electronics PolyTune mini is probably the best choice.
Fishman AFX Reverb
First of all you going to need a Preamp. So what’s a Preamp and why are you telling me I need one?
An acoustic guitar preamp in its simplest form is a device which allows you to either add volume or shape the tone of your amplified sound. Some of you might already have a preamp built into their weissenborn. You know those black control panels you see stuck onto the side of your instrument with EQ sliders on? Those are actually preamps!
But for this feature we are going to concentrate on aftermarket stand alone preamps which are also sometimes known as ‘DI’ boxes too. A preamp is a “pre amplifier” and, as the name suggests, it prepares the signal coming from a pickup or microphones for further amplification. Some pick ups are known as “Passive” (if it doesn’t have batteries it’s ‘Passive’ btw) and they generally don’t need a preamp in theory as they produce a pleasant enough warmer tone on their own, ‘Active’ pick ups (which need batteries to power them) generally sound louder and brighter and often need adjusting with EQ to sound more pleasant to a Weissenborn players ear.
The great thing about aftermarket preamps is that they give you so much more control over your tone than the preamps included with most acoustic guitars or having no preamp at all. So even if your Weissenborn already has an active acoustic pickup system, if you’re not satisfied with the tone you may want to look at getting a preamp. In addition to being able to control high, mid, and bass frequencies, many also include a phase inversion switch, which in some situations can help to eliminate unwanted artefacts from your tone (like the dreaded “hum”). Higher-end models can offer features like notch filters (which help to eliminate feedback), or control over different frequency bands such as low-mids AND high-mids (something that is very relevant to a weissenborn as the mid tones are where all the magic happens). So with these extra controls at your finger tips you have a greater chance of getting a better, nicer tone. Another good reason for you to use a preamp is that they can help guarantee you a consistent sound. Because you can fine tune your tone to a high degree with a preamp, you can also be more sure that when you plug into a P.A. that you’re unfamiliar with you’re are pretty much guaranteed to get to a sound that is at least somewhat reminiscent of your preferred tone. If you gig (this also includes things like open mics), odds are you’re going to get a lot of value out of an acoustic guitar preamp.
For more advanced players and users ’two channel’ preamps are available that allow the use of two pick ups at once to be blended together (with separate EQ settings) to create the perfect hybrid tone. It also allows you to adjust the EQ and the strength of each signal depending on your tastes, whether that’s 50/50 or 70/30. So you could have a sound hole pick up and an under saddle pick up blended together (my preferred combo) or an external microphone and a sound hole pickup, it just gives extra flexibility to shape a better tone.
So having a good stand alone preamp is pretty much a prerequisite to getting a better tone, almost every serious Weissenborn player has one.
Line 6 Echo Park
LR Baggs Venue DI
Line 6 DL4
Fishman Pro-PLT Platinium Pro EQ
Neunaber Wet Stereo
Dtar Solstice Mama Bear
Line 6 Verbzilla
Lehle RMI Acousswitch IQ
An 'In House' feature written by Aron Radford
So what reverb and delay pedals out there on the market right now should I be considering?
Here are some recommended reverb and delay pedals that will work perfectly with and more importantly compliment your Weissenborn.
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