Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

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Chip Korea
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Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by Chip Korea » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:00 pm

Is there a better place on OS to post this? It is effects related, especially if you include loopers as FX.

I am curious to hear other's experiences of complicated signal paths. Twin amps set-ups being an obvious starting point, but anything interesting goes - I want to learn.

I am experimenting on a set-up for writing, practicing and recording live at home solo, and potentially to play out as well. I'm just about to upgrade the current set up to one that is even more complex by adding a second Pigtronix infinity looper. What I describe is what I hope to put together over next 24 hours. Current set-up is pretty much the same but less complex.

PC running Reaper sends output of soft drums to mixer. Also sends a midi signal.

Keyboard > mixer. Non-sync'd, for live keys and drones with taped down keys.

Guitar > Pedalboard 1 with 8 loop switching system and a shed load of pedals. One of the loops runs to Pedalboard 3 (which is small). The whole board then sends an out > Pedalboard 2.
On Pedalboard 2 the guitar signal comes into a ABY.
A > Pigtronix Infinity looper 1 > Amp 1 > mixer
B > Pigtronix Infinity looper 2 [input 1 / output 1] > Amp 2 > mixer
Both loopers midi-sync to Reaper

Bass Guitar > Pedalboard 2 > a few effects and a bass pre-amp > Pigtronix Infinity 2 [input 2 / output 2] > mixer.

Add a vocal mic and I'm potentially running programmed drums, plus keys, vox, bass and four guitar parts (plus overdubbed loops) to 6 channels on a mixer. Hoping that I find it inspiring and curious to know if anyone has any set-ups or experience that they wish to share, or advice for me!

The idea is that with programmed drums I can get a keyboard drone going with taped down keys, loop a bassline, and then layer up to 3 guitar loops whilst keeping in sync and playing live guitar on top. The other idea is that overdubbing guitar loops is not ideal - better (but less practical) if you can maximise the number of amps. In an ideal world you'd have a different looper and amp for every different part (to maximise volume, allow different amp sounds for different guitar parts, aid 3rd party mixing etc). Obviously the dream (playing solo with a backline of six massive amps, one for each part), ain't happening.

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by mbene085 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:54 pm

My bandmate has a signal path so complicated and continually evolving that I can't follow it. It involves routing everything through a mixer with multiple auxiliary outs and parallel paths. Basically, he has three amps (a bass amp, a keyboard amp, and an AC30), a PA, a pedalboard including a looper, and his DAW (logic). He can take any input (3 vocals mics, drum kit, guitar, bass, keyboards) and rout it through any combo of amps, through any combo of his pedalboard, and through the looper and/or Logic. He even has the AC30 mic'd, so you could do guitar-->pedals-->AC30-->mic-->looper/logic-->headphone amp.

The results are pretty cool, but I think he spent many many hours setting it up...

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by InLimbo » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:07 pm

Bro, this is my thing!

Apologize in advance for the length of the post, and the sort of randomness.

I really hope that you have mics between the amps and the mixer, unless you're using modeling amps with a cab model. Otherwise, you're not going to get even close to the sound that you hear, or even a conventionally good sound if you plan on recording.

That being said, if you want to make it complicated, by all means, you've succeeded, haha. While I choose functionality first, with efficiency second, I'll make the following suggestions.

First, it looks like you're into having your rig, minus the keyboard, tempo synced (this is such an overlooked piece for people wanting to do live looping, so I'm glad you've got that covered). By the way, I use an Infinity Looper in my rig for that same reason, and love it.

Second, I'm assuming you're running everything except the guitars through a PA. This makes sense to me; not wanting to lose that precious guitar tone and all that.

Third, drop the mixer and go with an I/O for your computer. This may be pricey considering the number of inputs required. But, I believe this would be better in the long run, especially if you have any desire for recording.


Here's what I would suggest:

Guitar - guitar > pedalboard with whatever association of effects and loopers > amps >mics > I/O > PA.

Bass - bass > pedalboard with whatever association of effects and loopers > pre amp > I/O > (possibly a cab VST) > PA. Since you're using a pre-amp, I'm assuming that you're not using a standalone amp and do not need mics

Vocals, Keys, Drum Machine, etc - instrument/mic > I/O on your computer > VST effects > PA


Okay, so there's the routing. You're using a lot of effects on guitars and bass, right? To me it logically follows that the keys and drum machines will likely have effects too, even if it's only something slight like reverb and delay. VSTs are perfect for this kind of stuff. Get a cheap control surface to adjust parameters on the fly like you would with effect pedals.

If you're not recording, you could just skip the amp mics and let them play along with the PA.

BUT - THIS IS WHERE IT GETS GOOD. This whole setup also makes it significantly easier to record. You would literally just turn off the PA, use headphones for all instruments minus guitars (which are mic'd now), and there would be no bleeding. Essentially, with correct mic placement, your recording would sound exactly like what your live set sounds like. This is highly desirable not only for sound quality, but ease of use; because a lot of times, loop based writing / performances is on the fly, and if recording is something you want, it is SO MUCH BETTER to be able to quickly hit record and it be consistently the same every time.

I'd also suggest Ableton Live as a DAW, since it's equipped for Live performances better than any other DAW out there.

If you were to use Ableton, the baked in looper VST is seriously fantastic. I use it for my home rig, along with a Line 6 shortboard controller as a generic MIDI controller. Adding one of these to your rig, as I laid out above, would unlock you being able to loop keys, drum machines, and vocals. And yes, you can have a different looper on each channel. But you'd have to be creative on the mapping of the MIDI controller.

Lastly, and this is a little something with my personal taste: While having lots of loops going on with different riffs and stuff sounds cool, I've learned that it gets cramped, after two or three, tops. Especially once you have keys droning, bass, and vocals. This being said, I also use two amps, but run them in stereo. This sounds so much cooler to my ears, (plus it's louder, which means that you can turn the amps down some, which means you have some more headroom for overdubbing at least two tracks, three if you're not playing something really loud). With how you've laid it out below, you could easily have a stereo rig setup, given that you have stereo effects pedals. Plus, if you do use VST effects on the keys, drums, and vocals, they're likely to be stereo as well, so it would nice for it all to match.

Anyway, dude - this stuff is seriously fun. Keep in mind that the more complicated the rig / gear is, the easier the creative flow will get smothered out. There's nothing worse than losing a cool idea due to futzing around with routing issues. Stick with it, learn your rig however you decide to go on with it, and the possibilities are endless.

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by marqueemoon » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:54 pm

My only comment is keep it tight and well organized for live setup. Everybody hates the band that takes forever to set up and tear down and/or monopolizes all the available space on or backstage.

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by Chip Korea » Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:26 am

Mbene - thank you for reminding me never to assume that one is ever pushing boundaries. Whatever you do someone else will always have done it ten times bigger / better / harder / faster / more!!!!

MarqueeMoon - (great album, but I am one of those people whose a bit of a sucker for Adventure!) Good point. I am a long way from wanting to play out with it... but the setup is fairly straightforward.... I am trying to make it simple 3 cables run off PB 1 and need plugging into 2 and 3. All the cables from PB 2 are together in a big bundle and clearly labelled. Not saying it is dead simple but I am trying to be concious of the need to set-up quick.

Inlimbo - I haven't even read your whole post yet, but I will and I will respond! I look forward to learning!

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by Zork » Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:46 am

My experience made me step down from highly complicated signal paths to a compromise between what I need to get my sound but on the other hand keep it troubleshootable. The less complicated it is the less errors occure which is very important if you want to tour with your setup. It's still complex now, but not so much as it used to be and I think it's a rather clever setup now. I needed a phase of totally overcomplex mayhem to find all that out, though...

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by Chip Korea » Sun Feb 25, 2018 2:41 pm

InLimbo

Thanks so much for the reply. Looking at loopers the Infinity seemed to be the best one for me - midi syncable and fairly simple. Simple is a priority. Mine is a small home studio set-up designed to be portable if I am ever ready.

Currently I use Blackstar HT1Rs line out to mixer. My 410 Blues Deville mic'd is what I'd use if trying to record properly.

Not live yet. My set-up is a writing and practice tool as much as anything.

My theory is that in an ideal world every instrument or loop has it's own amp and cab in the backline as well as direct to desk / mic'd as appropriate. I am a long way from that!

"Third, drop the mixer and go with an I/O for your computer." I had a choice in my mind £100 for a second hand mixer or a lot more to upgrade my midi/audio interface to multi-channel. Went cheap for now.

So much for me to take in over coming months (years?) I do appreciate it!

"Lastly, and this is a little something with my personal taste: While having lots of loops going on with different riffs and stuff sounds cool, I've learned that it gets cramped, after two or three, tops." I hope to combine simple, sparse one / two loops w/ live guitar for some songs with exceptionally dense and repetitive on others.

"Anyway, dude - this stuff is seriously fun. Keep in mind that the more complicated the rig / gear is, the easier the creative flow will get smothered out. There's nothing worse than losing a cool idea due to futzing around with routing issues. Stick with it, learn your rig however you decide to go on with it, and the possibilities are endless."

Spot on - and that's kinda what I'm trying to acheive - something simple to enjoy at home whilst keeping an eye on the bigger picture.

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by InLimbo » Mon Feb 26, 2018 5:42 am

Well, you are off to a good start - I'm not exactly quite where I want to be just yet, but I feel like I'm pretty close to there. Ideally, I'd like to have hardware for my other instruments, but I have to settle with just soft synths and soft drums for now. They are exceptionally good, and the MIDI controllers help give it some authenticity (I'm over the days of meticulously mapping out synth parts on piano roll in the DAW). However, there's something about the direct tactile-ness of touching the "real" knobs on a piece of hardware. The catch is, it's terribly less efficient for the signal path, needing more and more inputs into an I/O or a mixer, etc.

For my home setup (since lugging two amps, a pedalboard, and a guitar to/from the band practice spot is such a pain), I use all VSTs, even for my guitar tone. Guitar Rig 5 is pretty good for my needs, but doesn't quite cut it the same way that two tube amps can swallow a whole room with their sound. That software is a few years old now, so any of the more recent stuff is probably even closer.

I guess what I'm saying is that you can definitely do what you want to do with what you have. Hell, having some hurdles to get around creates the need for innovation, and may spark some creativity you wouldn't have quite found, had it been different.

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Re: Complicated signal paths and loopers and multiple amps etc

Post by rumfoord » Mon Feb 26, 2018 6:22 am

I love hearing about these setups. Please. More.

While not really on the same page as you all, about a year ago I traded a couple things for a small mixer and cheap monitors and I made a little living room workstation to play with my kid (or anyone with sufficient lack of self-consciousness). It's a great little tertiary set up. (My "main" and "extra gear/home" setups are never really very complicated.)

Right now I've got two mics going in along with a little casio running through a 90s DOD multieffect. In the effects loop of the mixer is a ditto looper and a digital delay pedal. I also have an old zoom pedal with a little bit of looping capability and amp simulation to incorporate a bass (although I haven't yet). So far I've only played guitar through the internal speaker of my HT-1, but it also has a direct out that could go straight to the mixer. The only recording I've done is to simply set up my phone to capture the child, although the mixer has a USB out.

It all fits on an ikea coffee table with wheels to roll back into the corner. So it only takes a couple minutes to set up, start a bitcrushed casio drumbeat augmented by delay, and whoop into the mic to hear the echoes. What usually happens next is that I play guitar for a few minutes attempting to jam, and then we put it away. But once in a while we play for longer.

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