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Using Multi-Effects pedal live

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New Member
Joined: 14 years ago
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I've been reading that multi-effects pedal boards are coming into their own now. Their prices have dropped to a reasonable level but I guess I'm not understanding them correctly. For instance, the Boss ME-25 has only three stomp spots. One for memory bank UP, One for memory bank DOWN, and the third is for a looper.

So how do you use it live? You can't possibly scroll and switch between tone #1 and tone #32 seamlessly. I saw a youtube demo of it at NAMM - and the presenter seemed to have planned out his set list so that every time he needed to change effects in a song he just pressed memory UP. So he started his set at patch #1, clean tone. Then moved to #2 distortion, but then to go back to a clean tone he went to patch #3, then when he needed to go back to distortion he went to patch #4, etc etc.

What a pain in the ass, and you end up with tons of duplicate tones.

All I want is the ability to program say 4 or 5 standard patches, maybe two cleans and two distorted and one "other". and I'd like to be able to turn any one of them on or off at a give time.

Am I missing something?

Eminent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 37

Generally speaking with multi-effects pedals. More buttons are preferable, however often the pedals can have different modes assigned to them which you can assign patches ie performance mode vs edit mode. It looks like the boss pedal you are looking at has different assignable functions for its pedals. So the looping pedal can also be assigned a patch for soloing i.e. you start with your clean patch and then click on your solo button. to switch to add typically more distortion for your solo. Multi-effects are great imo but its best to check out the manual first to see if they really will do what you want them to. Because there are definitely learning curves involved that could be spent more enjoyably by actually playing guitar. Especially if it turns out the pedal isn't right for you. Generally speaking the other Boss pedals higher up the line likely have the flexibility you want, download and read some manuals to actually figure out if you want do the work/play necessary to "learn" a pedal.

Trusted Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 62

For instance, the Boss ME-25 has only three stomp spots. One for memory bank UP, One for memory bank DOWN, and the third is for a looper.

So how do you use it live?

I believe that pedals which have three buttons are not considered for live usage, they are mainly practice units. You set up three or five or ten preferable patches and use them when needed. If you want to play live, you are limited to use one patch for one song at best.

For live usage, more advanced processors are available that have separate buttons for separate effects. See Line 6 XT/X3 Live or Digitech RP1000 as an example. They also feature many different connection possibilities.

Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1497

I have an RP355 and it only has 3 buttons (it also has a stomp box mode). I have about 10 presets that I use, and I copied them all in the first 10 user slots. I put the ones I use the most in positions 3, 4 and 5 with 4 the one I use the most. That way there are fewer stomps to go between songs.

BTW, I never do set lists, but instead read the crowd and try to play what will work best according to how they are feeling from song to song.

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Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1305

This young lady simply worked the pedal dance into her act. Go watch, she's got purty feet.

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

I'm sure the Zoom units I have allow you to cycle through your settings without changing how you sound and then you can select the new sound when you get there. Ideal for a verse that uses setting 3 and a chorus using setting 17. I'd be surprised if higher end kit didn't allow you to do that.

A :-)

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Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 309

I use the Boss ME-50.This has 3 pedals and therefore 3 selectable presets at your disposal.I use this with a two channel amp which gives me a clean channel and overdrive channel or boost for solos when using the multi fx.Another greta feature of the ME-50 is that you can use each of the 3 pedals as individual effects eg. pedal one acts as an overdrive pedal.pedal 2 for chorus,tremelo etc and pedal 3 for delays.

If you ever needed more than 4 or 5 presets per song then you would need individual pedals as even the largest multi fx only have around five selectable presets before you have to start banking up and down.Trying to run through banks of presets on the fly would be almost impossible.

As with most things its really about finding an effects solution that suits you.Returning to your original question,no you haven't misunderstood multi fx pedals.The ME-25 is more for home use and not really designed for playing live.There is a huge range of multi fx units available today and they can be a great alternative to individual pedals especially in a live situation.I stopped using individual pedals a few years ago as I play a a wide variety of styles and wanted the convenience of using presets for each song.One thing to remember with any sort of effects is that you usually get what you pay for.If your on a budget (and who isn't these days!) a good quality multi fx unit is more than a match for mediocre individual pedals.



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Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5480

I don't play live, but I do have a GT-10 and know that I can quite easily handle two changes on the fly in one patch. Actually, two sets of changes. I can set up a patch with two different signal paths.

For example, I set up a patch yesterday that splits right after the Flanger and becomes channels "A" or "B". Channel "A" also has a cranked up Tube Screamer model and the compressor on it. The two channels become one again in time for my reverb or other bending effects. Reverb is the one I have "on" for this patch.

I have three control buttons. Well, two are buttons and one is a variable switch. The Expression Pedal. It's always in the on position, but eventually I'll use it for Wah or something.

Button number one, called "CTL1", is my channel switch. I've got two paths in this patch. I assigned CTL1 to the task of channel switching. I can go from really clean ro really dirty on the fly with this one. CTL2 controls an effect that I placed before the signal split. In this case it's a Flanger. within this patch, I can decide without bending over if I want clean or overdriven, and then if I want the flanger on or not.

In another patch, I have two total different outputs. I did a modified Keith Richards set-up. One channel has the Vox and the other the Fender emulation. I can choose to L/R this and send to two different inputs on my cheapo PA, or send it out to one channel (such as regular guitar amp). The L/R gets picked up in Reaper (recording software using ASIO) as "IN (GT-10) 1" and "IN (GT-10) 2" and can both be recorded at the same time on different tracks. I've seen similar functionality used in samples where people have the guitars with different types of pickups. They can send an accoustic piezo signal one place and a magnetic pickup signal to another.

So, like others have elluded to, get the right unit, learn it and you're all set. I think the basics needed are the ability to switch effects (or groups of effects) on and off with the foot and without signal disruption. The more pedals, the merrier, but the unit needs to allow the user to assign the control pedals to what they wish.

"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin