Part 1 here

Virtual FX pedals

Ok, let’s move on… within the MOD ecosystem, we have access to dozens and dozens of different virtual effects pedals, with various types of applications for just about any kind of music you want to create. The time has come to start putting them in between your guitar or any other electric instrument you play, and your amp. Just take it easy! Ideally, you should be able to explore each pedal/effect separately to try to understand exactly what each one does and doesn’t do to the original sound of your instrument.  If you’ve ever had experience with physical pedals or a multi-effects unit of some kind, then you will find our approach here will be very similar and will help you improve the creation of tones and effects in your music.

Most probably you have already had some kind of distortion or overdrive pedal as your first dedicated effect. Before explaining what each effect is, I want to propose some small exercises, which I will demonstrate below, to provide some clarity in the search for your sound and your tones.

Let’s start by taking a simple digital overdrive or distortion pedal within the MOD ecosystem and insert it between your instrument and your amplifier. All the pedalboards I’ll show you here are available online, at MOD’s website. Just click on the associated link here, with your MOD connected via USB to your computer and they will load automatically on your device. 

The first thing you will want to do is balance the volumes of the instrument with the effect on and off. Play a chord with the pedal turned off and set a measurement for the volume of your instrument. Now turn the pedal on and play the same chord and/or phrase. Is it louder or quieter? Try to make it as close as possible. The second step is to work with the equalization controls on the pedal. Since you have already set the tones on your guitar or other instrument and the equalization controls on your amplifier, try to preserve as much as possible the equalization between bass, mid and treble that already existed before the digital pedal was connected and turned on. Adjust the tone controls on the pedal, slowly, trying to listen to the nuances it causes in the final tone. Some digital pedal controls are more sensitive and react with extreme precision to adjustments, while others are simpler and have only two or three positions to choose from.. Find out what your choice within the MOD ecosystem looks like, and find the right spot. 

Next, the big secret for overdrive and distortion pedals is the combination of volume and gain controls. Basically, with more volume and less gain you get a cleaner, fuller sound, and the opposite (less volume and more gain) will give you a more distorted, heavier sound. Try it and find out! Repeat this procedure with all the other saturation pedals (this includes fuzz, distortions, overdrives and boosters) that you have along the way in your search for the perfect tone.

An important note: in this first example, I created the same setup with and without the amp simulator. If you plug your MOD directly into a traditional transistor or tube amplifier, you probably don’t want to use the amp simulator. It is quite common to plug your MOD into an active sound monitoring system, such as a pair of audio monitors present in any home-studio. In this case, you will not only want to use the amplifier simulators (which are great and will be a separate topic soon in my posts here), but they will also be essential for creating your perfect tone.

Try to listen to both examples below, with and without the amplification simulation, and see what changes tonally. Pay attention to the details, the texture of the tone, the sound envelope (attack, decay, sustain and release, ADSR – we will also talk about this soon).

Example #1b

What are the main differences? Here, it is not a matter of saying which is better or worse, but rather of finding basic differences in approach to help you create specific tones whenever they are needed.

In my opinion, the example with amplifier simulation has a more globally defined body, a more balanced EQ ratio between treble, mid and bass, more saturation, more condensed and unified as happens when we plug an electric guitar into a tube amplifier. Noticing these characteristics and knowing how to identify them will help you create more complex sounds and tones full of aesthetic nuances.

Pay attention to the differences between more or less gain and more or less volume. From now on I will always leave the examples with some kind of amplifier simulation on, but if you are going to use your own amplifier, just turn it off in the effects builder of the MOD or remove it from the sound chain.

Example #3: More gain, less volume

Notice that these two examples contain the SAME choice of pedals. They are identical, except for the volume and gain settings. Same guitar, same player, same MOD device, same virtual pedals and the same amplifier simulation settings. That is why it is important that you know how to carefully adjust and manipulate your virtual pedals and know the tone you want to produce with them. 

EQ is everything

You must have noticed that I have spoken several times about controlling and regulating the bass, mids and treble of your instrument and amplification system throughout this text and the previous post, right? Well, this is for a very simple reason: equalization for an electric instrument is everything. Simply everything. There are so many adjustment options in the instrument itself, in the amplifier, in the speakers, in the effect pedals, in the sound result according to the position of your amplifier, that it can cause a lot of confusion in the heads (and ears…) of all of us. For example, an instrument such as the electric guitar is an instrument with sound characteristics that are well positioned in the mid-frequency region. It is an instrument that can easily become “nasal”, without any punch or sweet middle, so extra care must be taken to regulate the instrument in terms of equalization. It is very common to set our “perfect” tone in the bedroom or studio by ourselves, and when we are playing with the whole band together we find that the sound is lost within the soundscape of all the instruments together. So it is very important that you have control of all the steps the musical instrument signal will take until the final result. 

One of the most serious problems nowadays is that the amount of options and equipment with “ready” sounds is such that many young musicians get lost in this immensity of presets and simulations and end up not being able to really have their own sound with interesting characteristics. The MOD ecosystem, by contrast, offers the musician, composer or producer a multitude of digital effects that are 100% configurable, interchangeable, and can technically and creatively cover the production of any kind of contemporary music. So we have reached an important step in the production of your final tone, especially nowadays… This will be the subject of our next post, see you there!

André Martins

Guitar player, composer, Ph.D. in Music and Improvisation, Brazil