DIY MIDI Pedal Board

Written by ryan cockerham
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DIY MIDI Pedal Board
Digital audio devices are capable of manipulating virtually all facets of an audio signal. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Digital audio technology has enabled musicians, composers and performers to create a variety of programmable effects and sounds using non-traditional instruments. Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, controllers allow users to program specific sound tools or effects processors for use with their traditional instruments or vocals and activate them with a switch or pedal. Constructing a MIDI pedal board can be accomplished affordably and without a steep learning curve.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Computer
  • Digital audio interface
  • MIDI trigger
  • USB cable
  • FireWire cable
  • Digital audio workstation
  • Hardware effects processor
  • Plastic lid
  • Mountable shelf

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  1. 1

    Determine which effects processors you would like to incorporate into your pedal board. Assume that each of your desired effects will require one MIDI footswitch or activation pedal.

  2. 2

    Obtain the MIDI triggers and footswitches you will use with your pedal board. Although individual MIDI trigger switches are available for purchase, larger collections of triggers incorporated into a single shell are also available. Audio equipment retailers such as Musician's Friend, Sam Ash and Guitar Center stock a variety of compatible MIDI controllers.

  3. 3

    Connect the MIDI triggers to your computer or digital effects rack using a digital audio interface and USB cable. Typically, audio interfaces connect to their computer host using a FireWire cable. After making the appropriate connections, launch your software digital audio workstation (DAW) or hardware effects processing unit.

  4. 4

    Open the MIDI settings menu within your effects processing utility and select the MIDI devices you have plugged into your computer as the designated MIDI inputs. Your effects processor should automatically assign individual channel numbers to each of your triggers, although you can also make these assignments manually if you so choose.

  5. 5

    Load the desired effects into your digital audio workstation or hardware processor and assign each individual effect to a single footswitch or trigger. Use the MIDI assignment menus associated with each effect to accomplish this task. Test each MIDI controller assignment before unplugging the devices.

  6. 6

    Obtain a plastic lid or mountable wooden shelf with a large lip. Turn the lid upside down and arrange your MIDI triggers inside of it. If you decide to use the wooden shelf, place the edge of the shelf that would typically adhere to the wall next to your foot, using the lip as a backstop for your MIDI triggers. Place each trigger inside of the shell, arranged in your preferred order.

  7. 7

    Plug the triggers back into your audio interface or hardware device, ensuring that you are making the exact same connections as you had previously.

Tips and warnings

  • Digital audio workstations such as Logic, ProTools, and Record incorporate a menagerie of effects tools and mastering utilities that can significantly improve the quality and diversity of your production. Use the documentation provided with these software packages to further understand the true capabilities of your equipment.
  • Latency, or computer processing delay, begins to occur when a computer operating system attempts to complete a large number of processes and operations simultaneously. This slightly synchronisation error can create difficulties when choreographing intricately-timed musical operations. Always test your MIDI pedal board before a live performance to ensure that latency is not occurring.

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