Integrating Guitar Effects Pedals With a Digital DJ Setup

Over the past few months, we’ve amassed a sizable collection of guitar effects pedals and delved deep into their usability for DJs. Today Ean Golden shares with you some tips and tricks on how to integrate these awesome analog/digital effects into your digital DJ setup while also offering recommendations on which models sound the best.  

WHERE TO START

SOME DETAILS TO KEEP IN MIND

details

All of these pedals are designed with the foot in mind, not your hand, but there are some ways in which they can be used in table-top format as well.

  1. Stay away from the silver peg-style switch; these are nearly impossible to use.
  2. Pedals with spring-loaded platforms (like the Boss series) can be modified with lighter springs so they are easier to press
  3. Pedals like the Mooer series will accommodate arcade buttons with some modifications to the circuit board.

To make things easier, DJ TechTools is stepping in to help, and starting Monday, we will be carrying the best models in our store including:

  1. Select Mooer pedals with arcade-button mods
  2. Select Boss pedals modified with light springs for hand use and dampening to reduce the “clack” sound normally present with a press.

send-return

It’s easiest if you’re using a mixer with a send and return, which will allow you to route any external effects to any individual channel on the mixer.

Most mixers’ send and return will have a mono output, so try ordering your effects with mono devices first, then adding stereo effects after those. Many clubs run their sound systems in mono due to less-than-ideal listening conditions. Often stereo effects can be lost in the mix, so it might be wise to run everything in mono anyway if live shows are in the plan.

Of course, you can set up your effects chain however you like, but, in this instance, Ean starts with a Boss Compressor/Sustainer to bring his drum sounds together, followed by a Bass Synthesizer, Flanger, a Red Panda Particle Granular Delay, a Digital Pitch Shifter/Delay, and so on, and ends with a stereo-signal Digital Reverb.

pedals_flanger

Naturally, mixing analog guitar effects with your digital DJ setup is all about creativity and improvisation, so experiment and have fun with it. Try re-ordering your devices to see what happens, and find the fit that works best for you. With hundreds of options out there it can be hard to decide which will work, especially since testing them out is not a viable option. Here is a short list of the more interesting effects that Ean feels work well for DJing:

  • Boss Bass Synthesizer – Turns any rhythm into a TB-303 with great squelching flavor, however very atonal and difficult to keep in key.
  • Boss Digital Reverb RV5 – Amazing stereo digital reverb in a small footprint. Gets washed out in stereo in a club, and may be best run in mono.
  • Boss Digital Delay DD3 – This is the most popular delay for syncopated patterns that are out of time.
  • Boss Digital Delay DD7 – Like the DD3, but with tap-tempo for synced delays. It also has a unique wet delay fadeout, which is nice.
  • Boss Tera Echo – Very unique-sounding delay.
  • Boss Pitch Shifter/Digital Delay – Basically the DD3 with some extra pitch-shifting effects. Packs a lot of value into a small footprint.
  • Boss Equalizer – Surprisingly fun multi-band EQ, which makes it easy to punch in big EQ changes for musical effects.
  • Boss Compression/Sustainer – Fantastic compressor, especially for drums. This is great for gluing together rhythmic material in the mix.
  • Red Panda Particle – Freeze effects, delays, and pitch-shifting with a foot-pedal input for expression make this a very unique offering.
  • Mooer Analog Delay – Instant crazy feedback and genuine analog delays create deep dub sounds.
  • Mooer ShimVerb – Authentic analog reverb that sounds very warm.
  • Mooer Pitch Shifter – Great for revoicing synth lines.

We recognize that there are hundreds of guitar FX pedals in the world, and many companies (small and large) that provide excellent products. In the coming months, we intend to explore other brands and models, but Ean chose to focus primarily on Boss for this early research since they are prevalent, affordable, and provide a wide range of high-quality options.

Like any instrument, certain effects lend themselves to specific purposes. For example, delays/reverbs and compression compliment drums well, while distortion does not. Things like bass limiters, octavers, and overtones are very good if you want to bring basslines and synths alive. Just be sure to have  good idea of what material you intend to modify, since that will dictate the appropriate pedal types. – Ean Golden

Do you have any effects that work well in your DJ setup? Tell us about them in the comments below.

  • Samuel Jabba

    Hi! What is the best way to connect a Boss DD7 and a Boss Rv6 to a Xone 43 mixer?

    Thanks

  • Vecchiarelli

    I know this is an ancient thread but I recently started building an FX rig out of guitar pedals for my synths. The article says to stay away from the silver peg style pedals and I would normally agree except some of the coolest pedals available are the silver peg style. After some digging I found a company that makes machined aluminum “covers” for people that use their pedals without shoes. They are called Barefoot Buttons and make the silver peg style pedals suitable for tabletop use. I don’t work of the company or anything, just wanted to share. Here’s the link: http://barefootbuttons.com

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  • Alex tn

    Richie Hawtin uses a EV5 – Boss pedal in his dj set. What commands that pedal ? thank you

  • Marko Wivolin

    From what I read from a couple of forums is that it is easy to send a too hot signal from the mixer to the pedals, which could fry the pedals in worst case scenario. From what I see in the video, you don’t use any DI-boxes, Preamps or hardware Pad (from the mixers +4 (?) signal to guitar pedals -20db). Have you had any issues with this, or any noise/hiss from the last pedals output to the Aux Returns?

  • Marina Karamarko

    I was wondering can I use a sustain stereo foot pedal to control volumes of 2 external effect as reverb and delay for example? Thanks in advance

  • Marina Karamarko

    I was wondering, can I use stereo sustain padal to control 2 external devices volumes? For example to use One pedal, with stereo outputs (so 2 mono signals) to control volumes of both reverb and delay? Please advise! Thank you

  • albertino

    is the Boss RV-6 still ok as an external effect??? i m going to use it with a Xone 23c..
    Please help! any advise!! 🙂

  • Patrick Young

    Can anyone suggest a filter guitar pedal that I could use instead of the mixer’s filter for example? The ones I’ve seen are wah wah pedals which modulate automatically. I just want a standard filter but a sweet sounding one with resonance control

    Cheers

  • TonedBigfoot

    Can you use any mixer to control the pedals? for example the Komplete audio 6?

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  • mdub

    any ideas how I could sync a delay pedal such as strymon’s timeline to an incoming audio source? I know I could midi sync it with a djm-900 or other midi equipped dj mixer but it would be great to have a standalone audio -> midi bpm detector box so I can use sync’d delay pedals with dj analog mixers like the xone 92. thanks

  • Vince

    Ean, can you give a little instruction on how to effectively use the Boss DD-7? I’ve been having a hard time effectively using the pedal and having it actually sound good! @eangolden

  • Now your guitar can sound like Van Halen, Joe Satriani and other guitarists studio album guitar sound with BOSS GT-10 Patches by James Limborg: http://www.jameslimborg.com/boss-gt-10-patches.html

  • Joe

    What happens if you mixer has only got send and return on it and no mono output. Its a reloop rmx40. Will this still work.

  • vince

    Hey Ean, can you explain this? Does this mean that it would be better to be run in and output as a MONO signal? or that the stereo effect is lost when using this reverb?

    Boss Digital Reverb RV5 – Amazing stereo digital reverb in a small footprint. Gets washed out in stereo in a club, and may be best run in mono.

    @ean golden

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  • William Brennan

    How do I connect my DD-3 to my Xone 92?

    • Shocon

      I have this problem! The Xone for some reason doesn’t have the capability to take a mono pedal. `Help please!!

      • Fabio

        same problem here with a xone 22 🙁 everytime i hit the effects the sound just comes out of one speaker… can someone help? is there sort of a merger box or something?

  • I own an NI Traktor Z2 and I really dig it for most of my playing, but for a lot of gigs I still use only vinyl. I like to use delay, especially when I’m mixing records I’m not really beatmatching and I’ve been trying to figure out how to get some external effects involved without bringing my laptop and using my records as live inputs in Traktor, considering I can’t tap-tempo the delay time and I just don’t want to bring my laptop to gigs. But I think I came up with a solution and would love some advice from you all.

    My thought is this: run each of my turntables into a loop selector (maybe the Boss LS-2). Run my Line 6 Echo Park from back in my guitar/bass days through the loop. Run 1 turntable into channel A on the loop pedal and one turntable into channel B on the loop pedal. Keep the delay in the external loop of the LS-2. Then I can just effectively switch channel A and B to THROUGH or ON based on when I want to use the delay, right? The only issue I’m thinking is boosting my signal from Phono to Line but I can use my A6 for that. Thoughts?

    • Eh after looking into the LS-2 more it’s looking like it might not be useful because it has 2 effects loops and 1 input/output and what I really need is 1 effects loop and 2 inputs/outputs. Anyone know of a pedal/box like this?

  • Kyle

    What lighter springs were used for the boss mod (size/gauge)? Have a few old pedals I’d like to make more usable for DJing. Please advise. Thanks!

  • DJ Asiago

    I’m more of a turntablist DJ, but I have been running out of the effects out of my TTM57SL to a Boss distortion pedal then to a crybaby wah. It can add some very interesting sounds while scratching

  • Alex

    Of course FX Pedals are interesting BUT :

    – How to set them up in a club ? Usually no space there, lots of cables and changeover beef with the previous and the next DJ is pre-programmed.

    – How ofter do you really use FX in a regular DJ-Set ? Is it worth the money and stress ?

    – So its more interesting for playing live with analog synths etc. than for a DJ Set !

  • Jeremy Normann

    electrix mofex lets you put effect on different hi kid or low eq areas or combinations i still see them on craigslist from time to time, and are line level effects

  • Jeremy Normann

    been putting an older version of the bass synth pedal on drum machines for years like 15…i like using other delay units that emulate tape echo, also true analog delays sound really good saw a battle dj actally use a wah pedal whenscratching in the early 90’ss…

  • FluffyCL9

    What type or brand of colored USB cables you use for the DJM-900 and X1 controllers?
    Also the same question for that small USB hub.

  • penguinsdoom
  • Zander

    Check out the Zoom CDR70! It’s only 120 bucks and it’s got chorus, delay and reverb on it! Plus you can choose a tempo, and also save presets!

  • Nicolò

    Hey Ean, Can you tell me if the Boss Pitch Shifter/Digital Delay pedal is the one used by Joseph Capriati at 0:55 in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwBhRvXFZjE ? I have always loved it and looked for it and i was thinking of buying the pedal if it is what makes that noise (Which sounds kind of like a flanger flux together with a stretch imo). I look forward to an answer thank you for your time 🙂

    • Nicolò

      @eangolden:disqus

      • Shocon

        The pedal at 0.55 is the DD7 Digital delay petal. The pedal mode is set to 50ms that makes the signal go up to the high pitch you hear on the clip you mentioned. Hope this was helpful.

  • Tyler Snow

    I’ve been using this little gem.

  • lmpygrvy

    “For example, delays/reverbs and compression compliment drums well, while distortion does not.” this statement is laughably false. analog distortion = saturation = drum heaven! 8 bit digital distortion on drums = sp1200 sampler, sound amazing. 12 bit = mpc60. also sounds amazing. stick to DJ’ing bruh

    • kebzer

      Nope, SP1200 is still 12bit, like the MPC60, but completely different on their signature sound (I own both of them). If you want the SP1200 style, get a ring modulator. If you want the MPC60, get a voice processor with a heavy de-esser. Still, distortion on drums sounds terrible, unless you are using generic downloaded drum libraries (which sound lifeless anyway).

      Last but not least, saturation is not distortion. Saturation is over- coloring, not color- diluting and it demands the use of an adequate valve’d processor in order *not* to distort when heavily compressed against that valve. The usual range is +6 or 8dB. If you can afford a hi-end valve, you can reach +12dB.

  • What about the Minifooger Drive? That could fit really nice!

  • Clay Ford

    Seeing as I’m an acid freak, does anyone know if I could use a Roland TB-3 like Ean is using the Boss bass synth? I’d love to be able to make new acid sounds out of existing samples and tracks.

  • DJ Dennis Olivieira

    I’m using the Boss DD7 for a few months in my set up and the results are amazing.

  • Fabrício Delgado

    How can I route these mono effects if my mixer doesn`t have send/return?

  • Dan White

    We’ve now added many of the FX pedals mentioned to the DJTT webstore – check them out here: https://store.djtechtools.com/product_categories/11

  • Coldheart

    No reamping at all ? You better be using Radial product for this aplication, and there is also the PigTronix Keymaster for this.

    https://www.pigtronix.com/products/keymaster/

    • Jeremy Normann

      pigtronix rules!

  • John Slith

    how about ZOOM G3 or G5?

  • Basti

    I like the USB Cables. When are they available in the Store????

  • James L Corrigall

    This is definitely not original. However, good job on making a tutorial of it 🙂

    • most certainly not – we were of course inspired by Richie Hawtin, Loco Dice and many others. It’s impossible to come up with 100% original ideas all year around but it possible to provide good value by helping people research options without spending months and $3k on their own.

      • Oddie O’Phyle

        i have memories of plastikman in the 90’s and the use of guitar pedals with tech 12’s and tr-909’s. richie was my inspiration to route my out from traktor to the input on my guitar rig kontrol.
        i’m running guitar rig on a separate desktop as i use the desktop for running hi-rez automated morphing video anyway, and it has the extra resources to cover the processing.
        it’s still in the dry run phase and not a set up i would use at a club, but it should make festivals and underground parties a bit more interesting.

  • J.sto

    back when i was playing guitar in my ska/reggae band my boss gt-10 decided to act up the day before a gig and i lost my presets, which on a full digital unit is a huge problem. realistically, i only needed a delay cuz i had an overdrive already. the go-to would of been the mxr carbon copy or the boss digital but they were all way to expensive so i asked for the cheapest delay they had and while i still want a c.c or the boss, the $30 chinese box i got has an awesome little sound thats totally different than other delays. don’t let cost or brand names be the barrier, find a knock off or something and see if it doesn’t give your sound character.

  • andrew

    We use Guitar Compressor’s and Limiters (Diamond Compessor) on a vocal mic to limit a PA announcer in the Arena I work at. Works well!

  • zuper_d

    anyone have know if its possible to connect foot pedals to z2?

    • Prof_Strangeman

      Yes, however it will have to be on the master out. I do this with an RMX-1000 and it works nicely, but keep in mind, EVERYTHING will get affected. So if the pedal doesn’t have a DRY/WET; 100% of your sound will get affected.

      • Jeremy Normann

        which is why the keymaster solves all those issues

  • Max Dolensky

    Some other cool things to consider are Kaoss Pads and even a Teensy, which can be programmed to act as a digital effects unit like a guitar pedal. With a nice hard case and a few potentiometers you have a cool open source effects box, good for getting around the fact that Traktor and Serato can’t expand their FX options much.

  • Scott Heppinstall

    Is there anyway you can use these with an s4 or is it a no go .?

    • Prof_Strangeman

      Yes, it will have to be on the master out tho. I do this with an RMX-1000 and it works nicely, but keep in mind, EVERYTHING will get affected. So if the pedal doesn’t have a DRY/WET; 100% of your sound will get affected.

      • Scott Heppinstall

        Only rally interested in the dd7 or dd3 the most … Have these got dry wet nobs .?

  • DJ Hombre

    Guitar pedal compressor with any digital drum machine (like the new Aira TR8) is a great way to bring a bit of analog style warmth to an otherwise pristine sound source. Hadn’t considered it for DJing though.

  • Smeckma

    Im working with an Eventide Timefactor and a Boss RV-5.
    (both on stereo and on a seperate s/r on my X:92)

    And for me the “metal-pin”-switches ar waaay easier to use with your hand than the “platform”-switch on the RV-5!

    And the effects are sounding waaaay better than any Traktor FX or any mixer integrated FX!

  • Mutis Mayfield

    Dub

  • DJblackjack

    this is great but pedals are expensive 🙁

  • Do u Even Compres, Ean?

    is it meant to be that compressed?
    or are you distorting it to hell intentionally?

    • That was a recording issue sadly, the input back into Traktor was distorting but we didn’t notice until after the shoot. The actual mix sounded great – so it’s unfortunate that it didnt get on tape perfectly.

  • Luke Austin Smith

    I really like the idea of arcade effects units.

    • Luke Austin Smith

      Will you please post a gear video on how to replace the foot switches for the arcade buttons. PLEASE and thank you.

      • Prof_Strangeman

        Yes! That’d be dope, kind of like a throw back to the original DJTT-101