Monday, December 16, 2019

Best Volume Pedal Mods and Hacks

I know, volume pedals.  Boring right?  I used to only use them with lap steel or volume swells when I was younger.  And most my volume swells could have been done with the volume control on my guitar.  So I never pulled the pedal out much for a long period of time.  I think a lot of people are the same way,  That was until I started playing more dynamic music with a lot more volume changes and had a real need for quick control over my distortion vs clean sound.  The full on/off distortion control I got from my amp switcher or pedals wasn't cutting it anymore for the music I was playing.  I also started loving the clean sound of a driven amp with my volume control down.  With my hands busy playing I couldn't make the changes I wanted on the guitar quick enough, so I turned to my old volume pedal to control my gain with my foot.  Only problem was it was hard to get the pedal to turn down to where I needed it to be for a clean sound and not cutting my volume off completely.  Update* I did the same thing electronically which is a much better mod. 

Heightened Rubber Door Stop
A new minimal heel position for my "clean channel"
Solution:  A shaved down rubber door stop from a hardware store at the heel of the foot control.  There just happens to be a small rubber stop with a set screw there already on the Ernie Ball volume pedal.  If you replace that stopper with something a bit higher you can disable the pedal from turning the volume fully off.  Just find the clean tone position you want and measure the height to shave down your door stopper at.  This really makes for easier changes in a live situation.  Everything from distorting to clean all at your control, and no worries of cutting off your volume completely.

Treble Bleed Mods
Next up: Playing clean tone with a standard wired volume pot turned down leads to another potentially unwanted problem.  Just like with your guitar's volume control, you loose treble as the pot is turned down.  I decided with the way I was using my volume pedal, I would have to do a treble bleed mod.  There are a few versions of the mod to the right.  The best resource online is from JohnH on this board site:
There you will find all the EQ curves at different decibels with all the possible treble bleed mods, best component values and a improved circuit with a stacked dual concentric pot.  For most of my needs I find the parallel mod does a good enough job retaining the EQ curve across different volumes.  If you do end up doing this mod, you will need help putting the pedal it back together with it's string and string pulley. It's not as easy as it looks.  Plenty of tutorials on youtube to help you with that.

Volume Pedal Turned Expression Pedal
The Final Hack: Not a mod, but a use for a standard PASSIVE volume pedal that isn't well know.  Instead of buying an extra expression pedal many companies make for their pedals, you can use a volume pedal with a Y cable with a stereo jack plug.  Just plug the mono jack plugs(Y part) into the volume pedal's input and output, and the stereo jack plug(single tail part of the Y) into the expression jack.  You may have to switch the input and output jacks around if it doesn't work on the first try,  You could also double up or triple up the one pedal to control many different expression controls.  Just use an all female input headphone splitter adapter to run two stereo chords out to different pedals expression inputs.  Or multiply the expression control with more adapters if you want.

So, lots of things you can used a volume pedal for.  So don't overlook them.  Surprisingly it's has become the most essential part of my rig for controlling how much gain I'm getting from my amp.  Probably the most essential part of how my guitar playing works in my three piece band.  These tips and mods aren't all you can do either.  Control the amount of a direct effect in a wet/dry amp setup.  Perhaps make synth like pad sounds with a delay like David Gilmour's sound on sound setup.

Experiment.  Have fun.