DIY MIDI Expression Pedals

Written by ryan cockerham
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DIY MIDI Expression Pedals
Commercial music studios incorporate a variety of digital audio hardware to prepare and refine their music. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

For the contemporary performing musician, digital audio hardware has significantly expanded the range of sounds and textures available for use. Musical Instrument Data Information, or MIDI, expression pedals allow users to activate pre-configured sounds and effects with the touch of a button. When used in conjunction with a software or hardware effects processors, MIDI expression pedals are a powerful performance tool. Wiring and configuring your own MIDI pedal is a quick and easy task.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • MIDI expression pedal
  • Audio interface
  • Digital audio workstation
  • Effects processor
  • USB cable
  • FireWire cable

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  1. 1

    Connect the instrument or keyboard device you wish to use in conjunction with the pedal to the MIDI device using an instrument cable. Connect the pedal to the digital audio interface with a FireWire cable to allow sounds you create to be output to speakers or amplifiers.

  2. 2

    Connect the MIDI expression pedal or footswitch to your computer or hardware effects processor using a USB cable. Without this connection, your effect or expression device will not be able to exchange information with the pedal.

  3. 3

    Launch your digital audio workstation or hardware effects processor unit. Using the MIDI settings parameter, select your MIDI pedal as the designated MIDI input signal. Your effects processor assigns the pedal a specific channel number.

  4. 4

    Configure the effect or expression you wish to use with your pedal. After making all the necessary adjustments, assign the effect to the MIDI channel number you configured in the previous step.

  5. 5

    Connect the digital audio interface to your speaker or amplifier unit using a line or stereo cables.

  6. 6

    Activate all devices and test the MIDI expression pedal by playing on your instrument and triggering the pedal. The effects and expressions you configured should begin to modify the sounds of your instrument.

Tips and warnings

  • Popular digital audio workstations such as Cubase, ProTools and Logic include extensive documentation on the functions of their included effects processors. Study this information intently to further your knowledge and abilities as a musician.
  • Damaged or overused instrument cables can significantly reduce the overall quality of your audio. When storing these cables, do not wind or bind them tightly, as the delicate wiring inside the cable tears easily.

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