Want to build a killer fly rig? In this video, we check out my top 5 tips for building your ultimate compact, travel-sized board! This one's jam-packed with all manner of tips, tricks, hacks, and suggestions for upping your pedalboard game. Be sure to check it out. Guitar pedal nerds unite! Enjoy ; )
T-Rex ToneTrunk Minor: https://bit.ly/3mB6Mv8
One Control Distro Kit: https://bit.ly/3lwT2QY
EBS Premium Cables: https://bit.ly/2JIbCrP
Online Pedalboard Planners
Temple Board Planner: https://templeplanner.com
Pedaltrain Planner: https://pedalboardplanner.com
Pedal Playground: https://www.pedalplayground.com
Hi, you're here in the studio with Luke from GuitarIQ.com, thanks for watching. If you saw my last video, you'll know that I was right in the middle of building some compact, ‘fly rig’ style pedalboards. They're finally completed now. They're over in the studio waiting and I thought that today would be a fantastic opportunity, firstly, to show you how they turned out and, secondly, to give you my top 5 steps tips, tricks, hacks, and suggestions for putting together your own ultimate mini, compact, travel-sized board! So the hope for today's video is that we can go through some key ideas and concepts that you might not have thought about. And maybe even introduce you to a few resources that you might not know about. And this is all with a goal of potentially saving you a lot of time, and effort, and headaches, and maybe even a little bit of money down the road when you next come to build your new pedalboard. As a bonus tip, if you stick around to the end I'll give you my number one suggestion for the best few dollars you can spend at the local hardware to dramatically upscale your pedalboard building game. So have I teased the video enough? Have I enticed you to keep watching? I hope so. If so, let's head over to the studio and check out some brand spanking new pedalboards!
So here are the two pedalboards that I've just finished putting together. To be clear, in this video I'm not going to be testing out these boards or demoing different pedals. I'll certainly be checking out some of these pedals in some up and coming videos. So if there is something here that takes your fancy make sure to let me know in the comments. Instead, in today's video I'm going to use these boards as a visual reference for some of the key ideas and tips we're going to be going through. So I have a lot of value I want to pack into this video, there’s a lot of things to cover, so let's just jump straight in and I will endeavor to be as concise and to the point as possible.
Now, the first thing we need to think about when we're putting any board together (but particularly if that board is a compact, travel-sized board where space is at a premium) is the fundamental question: What do you want your board to do? What is the intended purpose of your pedalboard? Is it to be used for just practicing at home? Is it a board you're putting together for rehearsals and the occasional gig? Is it a board you want to do some heavy duty touring with? Is it a board you're looking to use for recording in the studio? Or, is it intended to be used for bits and pieces of all the above? And if so, then who are the particular musicians and artists and bands that you're going to be working with? And what are the specific demands of those scenarios and projects?
Another way of thinking about that is: What is the question that your pedalboard is trying to answer? Or what is the problem that your pedalboard is trying to solve? Now, that might sound a little abstract, so let's just go through some examples. Here, as you can see, these are two very different pedalboards. This top pedalboard is for acoustic guitar and this second pedalboard is for electric guitar. And because of that, the purpose of these boards is very different. With my acoustic board, the question I was trying to answer is: How do I get the live sound of my guitar, the sound of the acoustic pickup, closer to what I'm hearing when i'm recording my guitar in the studio? For those acoustic guitar players out there, you'll know that the sound of your acoustic guitar pickup tends to be a lot more two-dimensional, and sterile sounding, and plasticky when compared to the natural resonance of your guitar by itself—in a nice room with a microphone in front of it. Because of that, this board is largely intended to be a ‘set and forget’ style pedalboard. Where I dial everything in to optimize the sound of the acoustic guitar pickup and then pretty much leave it.
Now, that’s very different to the electric board I have here. When I was putting this board together, the question I had in mind was: How do I build something super-versatile and put it into a super-compact package? I wanted something that was a bit of a swiss army knife of pedalboards. Something that would do anything from teaching and clinics to gigs and studio work. So because of that, there are a bunch of different options here to play with and tweak. Over here with the gain staging section, I’m able to get anything from a nice clean sound, to a slightly overdriven sound, to stacking multiple pedals to get a nice saturated lead tone. This modulation pedal gives me basically any kind of modulation sound I could ever hope for. And between the reverb pedal here and this delay pedal, I have an endless amount of reverb and delay options to stack and play around with. So clearly the purpose of these pedalboards is very different. And that has a knock-on effect with every other decision I made in terms of choosing the pedals and planning out each board. And that's really the point here. The clearer you can get on what you want your pedalboard to do, the easier it's going to be to plan out your pedalboard and make every subsequent decision you need to make when you're putting your board together.
That brings us nicely to step two. Now that we have a clear idea in mind about what we want our pedalboard to do, we need to narrow down on the core effects that are going to form the heart of our pedalboard. This is particularly relevant in the context of a lightweight, travel-size board such as these—because those effects that you kind of like (but you only use in that opening section of that one song and that little bridge bit of that other song) to me they don't really justify their position on your pedalboard. Right? This pedalboard is reserved for the A team, it’s meant for the starting five as it were. And in my mind that could mean one of three different things. Either, the pedals you choose are almost always-on style pedals. That might be something like an EQ or a preamp, it could be a nice transparent compressor, it might be your main gain or rhythm sound, it could be a nice subtle delay that you'd like to leave on all the time. If it's not an always-on style pedal, in my mind it should be something which is then constantly being switched in and out. The most obvious example of that would be something like a tuner or a looper, it could also be something like a clean boost or a secondary overdrive that stacks with your first overdrive, for example. Now if it's not one of those two things (something which is almost always on or something which has been constantly switched in and out), in my mind it should be something which is essential to a specific sound that you're going for. That might be a particular modulation effect, it could be a big ambient shimmery reverb, it might be a wah pedal, or an octave fuzz, or whatever.
How you answer those questions is going to depend on you, the genre you play in and the type of tones you like to go for. The point is that this gets us closer to narrowing down the actual effects we need on our pedalboard. Now, a great way to think about this is by answering the question: If I had to do whatever I'm building this pedalboard to do tonight (that rehearsal, that gig, that tour, that studio session… whatever) and I only had four pedals to choose from, what would those four effects be? Now, I’ll be kind here you don't have to include a tuner in those four effects. So if I had to choose four effects to go do the thing that I want this pedalboard to do tonight, what would those four effects be?
For me… on my electric board, that would be some kind of subtle always-on style compression, followed by a nice low gain, full range, transparent style overdrive, with some kind of analog voice delay. And then I would also stack that with some kind of boost pedal or secondary overdrive. On an acoustic board, for me that would be a preamp style pedal, with some kind of subtle delay or reverb to add a bit of space and ambience. I’d also want a looper and then, if I could fit it on the board, some kind of make gooderer, tone-enhancing, juju-adding pedal like the Session pedal there by LR Baggs. Now, obviously the point here isn't to only use four effects on your pedalboard. Clearly, you can see with both of these boards I have more than four pedals going on. The point is, that those four effects form the heart of your pedalboard and once you've isolated and been able to articulate those core elements, you can then build your board around them—depending on the size board that you're going for and obviously the budget that you have.
So, we know what we want our pedalboard to do, we've chosen the core effects that we're going to build our pedalboard around, now it's time for step three (which for me is probably the most fun part of the preparation stage in building any board) and that's choosing the specific pedals we're going to use and planning out the layout of our pedalboard. A great way to do this is to use an online pedalboard template tool. I’m going to link to a few different resources in the description that are basically free online apps that you can access that allow you to choose from a number of different pedalboards and then to drag and drop different pedals onto those boards and experiment with, not only the position of those pedals, but also the orientation of those pedals and the general layout of your pedalboard. This is a way to virtually plan out what we're hoping to achieve in the real world. Obviously, it's just meant to be a visual template, so it's not going to be a hundred percent accurate but it does give us a really interesting way to visually put things together and experiment with different layouts before we find ourselves elbow deep in the pedalboard building process.
Now, obviously before we start experimenting with the layout of different pedalboards, we need to choose the specific pedals we want to use on our board. For a lot of people that choice is going to be relatively easy because they're just choosing from pedals that they already own. If you're looking to buy some pedals, though, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Obviously, first and foremost, you want to buy something you like the sound of—that kind of goes without saying! Beyond that though, because we are planning a compact, lightweight, travel-size board, we need to consider how everything is going to fit together. Now, for my acoustic board this wasn't much of a problem. I had a lot of space to play with and I was able to fit everything I needed on here pretty comfortably. With my electric board, however, this took a lot more tweaking and planning, and trial and error, to get right. Specifically, one of the decisions I had to make was limiting anything which basically did one job (like a compressor or a booster or an overdrive or a tuner) to this mini-pedal form factor. And anything that was bigger than that, I wanted to make sure it justified its position on the board by giving me multiple options to work with. That’s why these larger pedals are all multi-effects units.
When it comes to the layout of your pedalboard, the first thing to consider obviously is the signal chain—the order of the pedals and what pedals are going into what. Now, there are lots of suggestions out there which are a great place to start from. Unfortunately, the way that you order your pedals is going to be highly dependent on the type of pedals you have. So instead, what I really want to focus on here is more the practicalities of how everything is going to lay out on your board, in terms of its accessibility. Over here you can see that everything is a pretty tight fit. So to be able to do that I needed to think about what I needed to access and what I didn’t. For example, I know that these two pedals the SP Compressor and the EP Booster for me are always-on style pedals. So I'll dial in the sound and then they're basically set and forget. Whereas, this pedal in front is my main boost pedal which I'm constantly going to be switching in and out. So I needed to make sure that was clearly front and center. And also positioning it here, with a gap on either side, allowed me to easily access the tuner and also access the overdrive pedal if I wanted to switch it off for a completely clean sound.
The other thing to think about is, do any of your pedals have features that are on the sides of the pedals that aren't accessible from the top plate? So, for example, this Cranberry Overdrive by One Control has a base roll-off switch on the side. So in orientating the pedal this way, it meant I was able to access that easily. Whereas, if it was oriented the other way, to get to that control I would need to rip the pedal off the board. The other consideration to keep in mind, in terms of the layout of your board, is making the most of the features that each pedal you have offers. A good example of that for me is this reverb pedal and this delay pedal. Usually, I would always position reverb after delay but in this context it made a lot more sense to put the delay pedal at the end of my board—with the reverb going into it. Now, part of the reason I did that was, given how I'm going to be using this board, I know I'm not going to be using these two pedals on a lot together anyway. So the order of them didn't really matter all that much. But that aside, this pedal is not only a delay pedal, it doubles as a looper. So for me it made more sense to set my looper at the end of the board with my reverb running into the looper.
Additionally, positioning this pedal at the end of the board allowed me to access these two independent stereo outputs. This is a true stereo pedal, and even though this board is mainly going to be run in mono, having these outputs here means I have the option of running to two different outputs if I ever want to go for that ultra-wide stereo ‘ping pong’ delay effect. Now on top of all of that, positioning the pedals this way allowed me to run the pedals either in a standard series setup like I've got it here (where every pedal is just running into the next in order) or to run the pedals using four cable method. For those of you who aren't familiar with what that means, it’s essentially a way of running some pedals into the front end of your amp and some pedals in the effects loop of your amp. And with this setup here, that’s really easy. All I do is unplug the cable bridging these two pedals and then I can run all of my gain staging and modulation effects into the front end of my amplifier, then bring the effects send into the input of my reverb pedal that connects to the delay pedal, and then send that out to the effects return of the amplifier. So I have all of my gain and modulation hitting the front of the preamp and all of my reverb and delays in the effects loop.
Now. you certainly don't need to give yourself all of those complex options when you're building your fly rig. The point here is to think about how you can get the most from the pedals that you're using. Making sure that everything is easily accessible and that you're making the most of all of those features that your pedals have to offer. So we know what we want our pedalboard to achieve, we know the core effects we need, we’ve chosen our specific pedals and experimented with some different layouts to find something we think is going to work. Now it's time to get those core components we need to bring our pedalboard together. By that I mean the pedalboard itself the power supply and our cabling.
Hopefully, by experimenting with one of those online planners it gave you a really good indication of the size pedalboard that you need to go for. There are so many different options out there that you can choose. So I'm not really going to tell you what you should do. But I will tell you what I did and hopefully that can help point you in the right direction (or at least give you some things to think about). Both of these boards are built using the T-Rex Tone Trunk Minor pedalboards. These are the smallest boards that T-Rex offer but I really like these compared to a lot of the other boards I was looking at—just because the dimensions were slightly bigger which meant I was more easily able to house everything that I wanted to fit on here. In addition to that, these pedal boards are a solid lightweight one-piece metal design, so they're super sturdy. They come with a nice soft case as well and the other feature of these boards that I really liked was that they have an air gap underneath. A lot of the other smaller fly rig style boards I was looking at were that slimline low profile design. Which is great but, unless you're specifically using a power supply that's designed for those pedalboards, it means you need to mount the power supply on top of the board. Which just takes up more room and is obviously not desirable when you're trying to save as much space as possible.
And speaking of power supplies, the power supply that I went for that's mounted under each of these boards is the ‘Micro’ or ‘Tiny’ Distribution Kit by One Control. These power supplies are super lightweight, they’re incredibly compact, they have a bunch of different outputs, and enough juice to power everything here that I wanted to. It also has an additional output which can be set anywhere between 12 and 18 volts. Which is super handy if you have pedals which can take a higher voltage. I’ve actually done a separate video featuring both the pedalboard and the power supply that I've gone for. If you want to check out them in a bit more detail, I'll leave a link for that video in the description.
So the last thing to consider is the type of cables you go for. Now again, as with everything else, there are so many different options out there to choose from. But the bottom line is, as long as you go for something which is good quality and durable from a trusted brand you can't go too far wrong. The only thing I would say in the context of keeping things as compact as possible, is make sure you go for something which is a slimline design. Here I have these slimline pancake style heads which are about half the size of a standard right-angle patch lead. Now, that might not sound like a whole lot but over the space of a whole pedalboard, it was basically the difference of me being able to fit everything I wanted to on this board and me not being able to fit everything I wanted to on the board. There were also situations where these fatter pancake jacks wouldn't really fit. So I went for an even smaller slimline option which are these EBS Premium Gold cables. There are a number of brands out there like Rockboard which do a similar thing. But these are really handy in situations where you either have the output right next to the power jack (so a fatter, wider pancake jack just wouldn't fit) or a situation where you have a number of input and output jacks in close proximity. For example, this NUX pedal that has an effects loop where these other pancake style jacks just wouldn't fit. The last little tip I'll leave you with to do with cabling, is for situations where the cables are packed in pretty tightly up against the adjacent pedal. A little hack which is really handy to keep in mind, is just going down to the local hardware and picking up a few adhesive dots with a felt backing. You can then put those dots on the back of the jacks and they just add a little bit of cushioning, which means as things are being moved around you're not going to be scratching your pedals. Which is always a good thing to avoid if we can!
So to recap, use that online pedalboard planner to get a good idea of the type of dimensions you need from your pedalboard. Do some research, look at all the options out there and get something which is going to work for the pedals that you're going for. When it comes to your power supply, make sure firstly it fits with the pedalboard that you're intending to use and make sure it's capable of powering all the pedals you have correctly. And, if possible, go for a slimline patch cable design. There are a number of brands that do this, they won't necessarily cost you any more money, but they'll definitely save you space (and hopefully a few headaches) when it comes to putting everything together.
So they are my top four steps for building your ultimate compact fly rig. Again: 1) Know what you want your board to achieve. 2) know the core effects you need to get there. 3) spend some time in the planning phase to make sure your board is as user-friendly and versatile as possible. And 4) based on the previous three steps, try and make some smart decisions, not only with the specific pedals you're using, but also with the pedalboard, power supply, and cabling you're going to use to bring it all together.
Now, I said at the start of this video that I would leave you with number five—my bonus tip for the best few dollars you can spend at the local hardware to dramatically up your pedalboard building game. And this has to do with cable management. Now, I know it's not sexy but it is important. When you're at the local hardware buying those small felt dots for the back of your cables, pick up some small cable ties and some cable tie mounts. These cable tie mounts usually come in a few different sizes. You can use bigger ones for the patch leads and some smaller ones for the power leads. Why is this important? Well, you can use these not only to neaten things up visually but to help secure everything to the board.
Usually, the first thing that's going to fail on your pedalboard is anything that's moving, the moving parts. So the more we can secure things in place, the better. A good tip for this is to pick your pedalboard up after you've finished putting it together to give it a little shake and to listen for anything that's rattling. And where you hear anything rattling around, you want to secure it in place. Now, when we're using cable ties we’re just wanting to secure things in place. We’re not really wanting to tighten these too much, or squash the cables, or add any excess tension. We’re just wanting to tidy things up and stop things from moving. Now again, cable management isn't the most exciting of topics. But I've built so many pedalboards over the years and it took me an embarrassingly long time to incorporate proper cable management into my builds. And since I have, I've never looked back. So hopefully that tip can help save you some problems down the road. And with that, we conclude my top 5 steps, tips, tricks, and hacks for building the ultimate compact fly rig!
Well that's it for this video, thank you so much for watching. I really hope that there was some stuff in there that can help you out when you next come to build your new pedalboard. If so, make sure to hit that like button. I’d also really love to hear your thoughts, and feedback, and questions, and comments in the comments section below. And, of course, if you're interested in more videos like this one (particularly if you want to hear some of those pedals in action) then make sure to subscribe to the channel for any future videos. Also, if you're keen to check out my educational books for guitar players then head over to GuitarIQ.com for some great resources over there. That’s it from me, I better go play with some new pedalboards, and I'll see you in the next video!