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Friday 5 June 2015

Sounds and Patches from the Album "Roots and Leaves"

This article provides some information about the setup, sounds and patches that I used to record the album Roots and Leaves with the @-quartet.

General Setup

This album was recorded with my usual gear at the time: a Fractal Audio Axe FX II, a Roland GR-55, and this pedalboard for remote MIDI control. I used 4 different guitars: a Godin LGX-SA, a Godin Freeway-SA, a Godin ACS-SA and a Godin Multiac Nylon Fretless SA.

The album was recorded without any amplification. The Axe FX II was plugged directly into the console, and I used various amps and cabs simulations to get a realistic guitar sound. Note that this is also what I do on gigs nowadays (I don't use actual amplifiers anymore). Either there is stage amplification, in which case I plug my equipment into the mixer, or I use a couple of Matrix Q12a FRFR active monitors.

The GR-55 was used on several tunes for synth or COSM sounds only. I would be silly to use it for guitar sounds when you own an Axe FX II anyway! However, note that the GR-55 was not recorded separately from the Axe. It was plugged into the Axe's effects loop. This has two advantages: first, you get far better effects from the Axe, so even the synth sounds can benefit from those, and second, when mixing natural guitar and synth sounds (especially on lead and improvised parts), the whole output is much more coherent, as if a single source actually produced the sound in question. This, however, has an important consequence for those of you who will download the GR-55 patches provided below: all these sounds are "dry", meaning no leaking effects such as delays or reverbs. These are all generated by the Axe. There may be a slight chorus effect here and there, but that's basically it.

Sounds and Patches

Here are the Axe and GR-55 patches that I used on the album. Note that these patches won't necessarily work out of the box for you. Many parameters are dynamically controlled via MIDI. This includes Axe FX scene and effects selection, tempo, volume control, GR-55 PCM tone activation etc. The resulting sound also depends heavily on your input volume and the kind of guitar / pickup you use, not to mention the obligatory tweaks that took place in the studio. In general I find it silly to release patches without all that information, so I will try to be exhaustive. Also, for more details on my guitars, strings and picks, see this page.

Old Times and Monday Morning

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin LGX-SA, neck pickup, humbucker position

This is a Scofield-like sound with a slight overdrive (scene 4) or a more important distortion (scene 5). Amp setting is Y.


This one is based on the one above, with the addition of a GR-55 synth sound plugged into the Axe's effects loop.

Vert de Blues

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin LGX-SA, neck pickup, humbucker position

This is a very dark and dry, Metheny-like sound. Picture the Metheny / Holland / Haynes trio rather than the PMG. Very acoustic, not much reverb.

Coconette and Hints, Tips, Tricks'n Cheats

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin ACS-SA, flat EQ (Coconette)
  • Godin Multiac Nylon Fretless, flat EQ (Hints, Tips, Tricks'n Cheats)

This is a sound suited to acoustic nylon guitars, with very little processing.

Petite Mort

  • Axe FX Patch
  • Godin ACS-SA, flat EQ, for the first theme
  • Godin LGX-SA, neck pickup, humbucker position, for the chorus and the final theme

This is a double patch actually, since I use two different guitars on this song. It merges the acoustic nylon sound above with a Metheny-like, warm Jazz sound (think PMG this time). This is also a nice example of how to use scenes for making two very different patches in one.

Minor Nuisance and YYAB

This sound is in the vein of Metheny's mix of natural and GR-300 narrow sound. The natural sound is close to the dark Jazz one, and the GR-55 provides a trumpet background. MIDI controller #77 pitch switches the PCM tone on the GR-55.

Mister Crusoé

This is a classic Metheny-esque GR-300 Horn-like sound, although a pale imitation of it. The GR-55 is not very good at it, especially with piezo-equiped guiitars. And yes, I do have an embedded filter in the GR-55. Anyway, as this is a GR-55 only sound, the Axe is only here to provide effects. MIDI controller #77 pitch switches the PCM tone on the GR-55 and there's also a pitch shift block on the Axe (at some point, I was comparing both methods to shift by one octave).


  • Axe FX Patch as above
  • GR-55 Patch
  • Godin Freeway SA, bridge pickup, humbucker position

This is also a synth-only sound, with two different synth tones for the themes and the chorus. In fact, I think that I actually merged with the natural guitar sound slightly in the studio (on the themes, not the chorus), but I'm not sure that the settings here are up to date. MIDI controller #78 switches between the two PCM tones on the GR-55.

That's it I think. Enjoy!

Thursday 6 September 2012

How to rack-mount a GR-55

Plate.jpgThis article demonstrates a nice trick to rack-mount the GR-55 by Roland. The idea is to do this in a non-intrusive way, that is, without drilling any new holes in the GR-55 or even removing the rubber pads. In order to do this, we will first manufacture (thanks dad for the actual manufacturing :-) a small metal plate that will serve both for holding the GR-55 and for fixation on the flight-case rails. See the picture on the right. The plate need not be very thick, as the overall rigidness will be provided once everything is in place. This particular one is less than a millimeter thick.

Fixing the plate to the flight-case rails is pretty straightforward. What might be less obvious is how to fix the GR-55 to the plate, in a non-intrusive way. If you look at the GR-55's underside, you will notice that there are six screws on the border, but also two other screws more in the middle of the device. These are the ones we are interested in. Indeed, if you open up the GR-55, you will notice that contrary to the other screws, these ones provide a solid grasp right into the chasis. This is illustrated by the pictures below.


So we can just use those to fix the GR-55 to the plate, and that will be enough. We need to replace the original screws with longer ones though (4mm diameter). Here are some pictures of the GR-55 fixed on that plate, and a final one with the whole thing rack-mounted. As you can see, the plate is narrow enough to fit between the rubber pads. Pretty cool huh?


If you are interested in doing this, here is the schematics of the plate that I've designed. The exact dimensions should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt, as there were some variations when the plate was actually folded into shape. Enjoy, and happy tinkering !

Oh, one more thing. Maybe you're wondering why the hell we would want to rack-mount a pedalboard... here is the explanation.

Thursday 29 September 2011

10 steps to a new pedalboard

This article describes the construction of my new MIDI floor control setup. With a bit of tinkering, you can get a pretty solid rack-style board for a rather cheap price (nota bene: the devices are expensive, the board is not). You can click on the pictures below to get a larger view.

The 10 steps

Step 1

1.JPGLet's start with the pieces: the board's brain is a Gordius Little Giant Module. There's going to be a Behringer FCB-1010 MIDI foot controller attached to it, plus one Boss FS-6 dual footswtch and 3 Boss FS-500H expression pedals. The devices will be fixated on a plywood board, covered with Skaï and consolidated with U-shaped aluminium bars. The plywood board is only 8mm thick, but that's more than enough because rigidity will come from both the devices screwed on the board, and the aluminium bars riveted around it.

Step 2

3.JPGFirst, we need to remove the rubber skates from some of the devices. The whole thing will already be high enough without them. Next, we need to position the devices at their exact place and put down some markings.

Step 3

4.JPGHere's the clever step. Some people do complicated things with velcro straps and what not to fix their foot pedals in some way or another. My idea is to simply use 4 already existing screw holes under each device, and simply screw them back through the board itself (with longer screws). The only difficulty is to drill the board in a very precise manner. The trick is simple: put some fresh ink on the 4 appropriate screws under each device, put the device back into place and press it slightly on the board. You'll get the exact markings where you need to drill on the board !

Step 4

5.JPGNext step: prepare to cut the Skaï for both sides of the board. Note that the board has already been drilled.

Step 5

6.JPGIn order to stick the Skaï onto the board, you can buy a special glue for this in spray. This is very convenient to use and also much faster to do.

Step 6

7.JPGYou need to put some weight on the board and wait for some time in order for the Skaï to be firmly sticked to it. Do it on both sides, by the way. And while we wait, be sure to take a good look at the new building that is being constructed right in front of my apartment.

Step 7

10.JPGOK. Now that the glue is dry, it's time to saw the U-shaped bars, put them around the board and rivet them once and for all. This thing is beginning to look nice...

Step 8

11.JPGLet's leave the board alone for a while. Before fixating the gear on top of it, we have some work to do. The first thing is to turn the FCB-1010 into a dumb slave for the Gordius Little Giant Module (as if the FCB-1010 wasn't dumb enough already). This is done by replacing the original ship with the one supplied with the LGM.

Step 9

12.JPGWe also need to mount the FS-6 on a couple of flat angle brackets. That is because it is going to be positioned behind the FCB-1010 (on top of the power plug) so it needs to be raised a little.

Step 10

16.JPGAnd voilà! Cherry on the cake: let's install a couple of black handles on both sides of the board, for easy grabbing and transporting.

Some final pictures

Here are some final pictures of the whole thing. I enjoyed myself like a little boy !

14.JPG 15.JPG 15bis.JPG 13bis.JPG