Saturday, 7 October 2017

BeatBuddy, doing your own MIDI tracks, Logic ProX and bass sounds

The BeatBuddy is a great device for playing back your beats and managing / creating your own MIDI beats to play back. New features are being implemented all the time with firmware updates from the manufacturer, Singular Sound. Some of these updates have come from user suggestions or even hacks.

An overall guide to creating beats for BeatBuddy - http://forum.mybeatbuddy.com/index.php?threads/create-your-own-songs-for-dummies.4898/

One of the hacks to the BeatBuddy has been the implementation of other instruments into the BeatBuddy so that it plays back not only beats, but bass and even piano and synth.

To do this, you need to download a 'with bass' kit. There are a couple available over on the mybeatbuddy forums but it's good practice to buy a beat from Singular Sound first and then ask contributors for the 'with bass' beats.

In order to get the 'with bass' kits to work, you need to export the MIDI files from the BB Software (this is the information that the kits within the BeatBuddy plays back). The MIDI files then need to be imported into a MIDI editor, edited, re-exported and then imported back into the BB Manager software.

The ability to export and manipulate the MIDI also means you are able to create your own beats via MIDI then implement them into BeatBuddy. Within the BB Manager software you can add your own beats, replace beats, update beats and change the order of the song.

This is a quick look at the process within Logic Pro X on a Mac.

You can also find help on the forums such as here - http://forum.mybeatbuddy.com/index.php?threads/how-to-create-with-bass-bb-songs-on-a-mac.4896/

MIDI isn't the same as audio. MIDI is information and includes a number of different pieces of information within it - such as velocity etc (meaning the same track can produce different sounds etc). MIDI has a range of numbers and BeatBuddy has to have MIDI information in certain numbers in order for it to play back. So any MIDI file created by you (or edited by you) will need to be set up to play back within BeatBuddy and need to have various numbers to play back the drums. Those numbers can depend on the drum kit within BeatBuddy, so you just need to check, test and test again!

When creating a new track, you can do one of 3 or so things. Firstly you can find a MIDI track online, save it and import into Logic Pro to edit (or direct into BB Manager only if the MIDI files have already been prepared for the BeatBuddy). Secondly, you can create your own MIDI track. Thirdly you can export a MIDI track out of BB Manager into Logic, edit it and then import it back to BB Manager.

More information here - http://forum.mybeatbuddy.com/index.php?threads/import-midi-files.6942/

To be certain you're using the right MIDI notes and everything is in the right place, the best way can be to export a MIDI file from the BB Manager. Select it, right click and 'export as MIDI'. Save somewhere you'll remember (I created a folder called MIDI in the BB Manager folder and in the user_lib folder).

Then you'll need to open this within Logic.

The MIDI track as a software instrument 
If you click the waveform editor in the top left of Logic (the pair of scissors), it will open up the MIDI editor.

The MIDI editor (the colours represent different velocities / sounds)


In this instance, I imported a file from the Blues 6/8 file and then slightly re-arranged some of the sounds to suit the Cory Asbury song 'Reckless Love' (without really getting into copying the beat, which I have done within another MIDi file).

If you were simply using the beats, you can then simply export the song from Logic (File > Export Selection as MIDI file).



If you want to export the file back with bass, then you'll need to know the MIDI location for the notes on the keyboard. I've got the 'Standard Pro with bass' kit which I got off the BeatBuddy forum after buying the Standard Pro drum kit. So for this kit the bass notes need to go above C3 on the MIDI keyboard as you can see in my example below.

Next I simply drew some MIDI notes (or you can play them) on one track and then simply added them into the original beat MIDI track in the correct location (above C3) as below. The alternative is to add the 'bass' track within Logic as a software instrument, then combine the two tracks (beat and bass tracks) via Cmd-J.

Then the song is exported and then imported into BB Manager and onto the BeatBuddy by saving and synchronising.

With other drum kit files (ones that add synth and bass or piano etc. check the creator's information for where you need to place information to be played back accurately for that individual beat!)

The MIDI information on the MIDI keyboard within Logic's editor

Finally


Re-reading this, it may not be the simplest tutorial ever done! But hope it helps someone. When I started trying to create my own MIDI files I was a bit nervous but this is my workaround.

Just remember that if you want to edit a song within BB Manager, it's worth exporting it first, then re-importing it, re-naming it and then saving it first. This avoids editing original files!

Once you've got the hang of this you can create / replicate song beats and bass within BeatBuddy and then have a more flexible, dynamic and accurate drum pattern than simply an audio backing track!



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

TC Helicon Play Acoustic Review

The Play Acoustic is a great sounding, compact and high quality vocal harmoniser and guitar effects pedal that gives you great value for money, including both a looper, an effect to give your guitar a richer sound and a built-in DI.


I've been using the Zoom G3X for acoustic guitar for a while. It's been great and is still great but I often play on my own in worship and at events, so in order to boost the overall sound I thought it would be interesting to get a harmoniser pedal as an experiment. I also play at places where they don't have a PA person or effects such as reverb on the channels, meaning that the ability to have your own reverb and other options is useful. (I also play where I do PA and worship so that can get interesting!)

Play Acoustic


Seeing that the TC Electronics Harmoniser pedal alone costs around £175 or more and that the harmoniser from TC Helicon (the sister company) was around £200, I thought I'd pay a bit more and try the Play Acoustic which offers vocal and acoustic guitar effects and options!

The Play Acoustic in the words of TC Helicon... 


  • - Professional vocal effects and tone
  • - Natural sounding vocal harmonies guided by your guitar
  • - Guitar FX styles from TC Electronic®
  • - BodyRez™ Filtering and Onboard EQ and DI for impeccable acoustic guitar tone
  • - Version 1.2 Firmware offers a TC guitar delay plus per preset Guitar FX storage

How does all this promotional prose stack up in the real world?


Well first of all, here's how it works. You plug your mic (via XLR) and your guitar (via jack) into the Play Acoustic. It then has an output for each channel to your desk via XLR with the guitar output effectively acting as a DI.

Back of the Play Acoustic


The Play Acoustic picks up the key of the song via the guitar input, meaning that before you use the vocal harmonies, you'll need to at least strum a bit on the root chord - unless you pre set the key of the song within the Play Acoustic guitar FX menu beforehand.

With the latest firmware installed (via USB), both the guitar and the vocal effects can have various presets applied by scrolling through - or you can manually edit most of the settings within the 'Vocal FX' and the 'Guitar FX' menus. You can also create your own presets.

You can also assign controls via an external foot switch (any appropriate one is fine - I bought the Digitech FSX3). By default this controls things like setting the key, scrolling, delay on and off and guitar 'boost' mode. You can change what the pedal is assigned to within the Setup menu options.

The guitar presets are around reverb, delay and 'mod' effects like chorus or flange. Again, there are varying types of reverbs included and you can set the amounts, which is highly useful.

The guitar also has a 'BodyRez' option which gives the guitar a 'fuller body' sound. Again, you can turn this on and off and set the level and type, so if you don't like it or prefer a true bypass output, this is also possible.

There is also a Looper (recently had its time limit extended so don't go by early reviews saying the loop time is too short). This is accessed by pressing the 'up' and 'down' foot switches at the front of the Play Acoustic. You can use the external foot switch to control the looper (at least you can with TC Helicon's Switch-3 pedal so I'm sure it's the same for any external foot switch). You can loop guitar, vocals or both depending on how you setup the looper. It's a fairly basic one so it's not going to allow you to bring parts in and out like a dedicated looper, but it's a great option and one I use to strum basic chord progressions and then play over during 'ministry' times.

The vocal effects presets are wide, varied and are a slightly motley mix from 'high' harmonies to 'low and high' harmonies, to radio sounding presets and others that you'll only use if you're messing around. In fact, I'd say that the majority of the presets are very unlikely to be used. You aren't able to change the pitch of the harmonies which is a minor irritation but have to stick with the various presets. For example if you normally harmonise above on the 3rd, you can't specifically change the Play Acoustic to harmonise above on the 5th etc. But you can at least find workarounds and use the presets to suit your needs.

One of the vocal FX presets - use the arrows to scroll through options and buttons to access submenus


The vocal FX come with various types and varied levels of delay, reverb and more. Each of these is useful to tweak your settings and to get the right types of sounds you like. I turned down the level of the overall harmonies on mine so the harmonies didn't overload the vocal mix generally.

The vocal harmonies have the reverb on all the time (again you can adjust the levels) so just be aware of this.

To use the vocal harmonies, you click on the front left foot switch labelled 'Hit'. Click again to switch off the harmony selected. If you hold your foot on the 'hit' foot switch it will bypass all the effects and give you a straight flat signal. This is useful during the times you want to talk!

Hit me baby one more time...


Yes, yes but what does it sound like?

Play Acoustic with the BeatBuddy. Space at front for iRig Blueboard to trigger pads from OnSong


In short the Play Acoustic is brilliant. The BodyRez bit on the acoustic can really lift your guitar. I've got a built-in tube amp on my Takamine, but it even gives that sound a real boost. It really does work in giving the acoustic a fuller and richer tone.


The vocal FX are also pretty good but I would use them very sparingly and minimally. I only use the higher harmonies generally and have turned down the harmony level - but it is useful and gives you another voice (albeit your own at a higher pitch!) Now you can set it to an autotune type 'Cher' sound but it's optional and otherwise doesn't sound too fake.

However (and this is a big one), it only tracks what you sing so if you're out of tune, your harmonies are out of tune. It really has helped me 'up my game' in terms of singing in tune!

Overall, I use the Play Acoustic and may start to phase out using the Zoom G3X. However that does have a volume pedal (sometimes sporadically working) but that would be a useful addition to a mini pedal board. The argument (conversely) is that without a volume pedal, you won't forget to turn your guitar up (as I have done with the Z3X!)

Using this with BeatBuddy (and programming in MIDI beats with bass and/or synths/piano) plus triggering Pads from OnSong via the iRig Blueboard, you've got some serious thinking, foot tapping and band sounding potential at your finger and foot tips...

A good solid investment if you're looking to get a harmoniser and guitar effects unit. Boss do the VE-8 which is their competitor in this market and this also has many good reviews. Go online, go to Youtube and ignore the snide comments you often see and decide which one works for you. Better still, thank the guys doing Youtube reviews for their time and efforts!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

BeatBuddy in smaller worship settings - Review

Help - one of my drummers is missing!


I'm fortunate to be part of a larger church with a number of very gifted musicians - but many are University students and so aren't always around. I also play at smaller events where I may be playing alone or with another one or two people. Recently, two drummers moved away to new jobs. Simultaneously we had a Spring and Summer without a number of other regular drummers - with people being away, busy or unable to play every week.

What was the solution to our beats problem? One student leading worship used our kick drum with the pedal to drive the songs during a recent worship time - with another student playing foot tambourine mic'd up (with a condenser above his foot and a ton of reverb on the channel).

A friend at a church near me started using the BeatBuddy pedal over a year ago for worship. The church is smaller and their drummer isn't always available. The solution is the BeatBuddy which is a bit like having a drummer contained within a foot pedal (and additional footswitch if wanted).

The BeatBuddy - https://singularsound.com




The BeatBuddy (BB) uses recorded and real drums and these are stored on an SD card provided. The one provided is 4GB but others have successfully used up to 32GB cards. The BB comes with a ton of presets within folders in various genres such as Blues, Funk, Rock, Techno etc. So within each of the presets (for example 'Blues') you will have a number of different beats - usually around eight. You select one of these and then you can play back that beat. Navigation is fairly simple clicking the arrows on the pedal.

The BB sounds very good without any mods and therefore can easily used 'out of the box' as soon as you receive it. You also have a BeatBuddy Editor (Mac or PC) which can be downloaded from the BB website (singularsound.com) and this allows you to do various things such as modify the beats, create new folders (effectively acting as Set Lists) and even import other beats created via any MIDI editor (click for a link to the BB forum explaining how to do this). This means you can use MIDI files out there (or create your own) to play back specific songs. You can also buy new kits (and new songs) from the BB website.

The Basics


The basics are this: to start the beat, you click the pedal once. Unless removed via the software, the BB plays an intro of 1 bar. It then automatically plays back the first beat. To use a fill, you click the pedal again. There can be 2-3 fills in-built (you can change / add this via the Mac / PC editing programme). If you hold down the pedal it plays the transition. When you let go of the pedal, it automatically goes into the second part of the song. A double-tap leads to the outro, usually of 1 bar.

So the pedal has essentially 6 parts:

1. Intro
2. Part 1 of 2 of the main beat
3. Fills
4. Transition
5. Part 2 of 2 of the main beat
6. Outro

Drum Kits


The other thing to note is that you have a list of genres - Oldies, Pop, Punk, World etc. When you select the patterns within those genres / folders, you can also amend the drum sounds within the pedal directly but only temporarily (at least that's what I've found).

For example, if I'm using the 'Rock' kits, when you select on an individual pattern, you'll see that there will be a 'drum set' shown not he screen. In the rock kit, the drum set is the rock drum set. But you can change that, so you play back say the Rock 1 pattern, but with another drum set (for example the brushes kit).

Going away from that and returning to the Rock 1 pattern, you'll find that the drum set has gone back to the rock set. But if you then go to the software and copy the Rock 1 kit into a new folder, you will have the option of saving the Rock 1 pattern with another drum set. Once you synchronise with the BB pedal itself, this will be available as one of the 'folders', alongside the existing folders.

Patterns


Onto the actual drum patterns. There are a range of patterns which should cover various types of songs and genres. Admittedly as ever with all products, there are some that you won't ever use but they are there for your help. There are some varied time signatures as well - the usual 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 but also others like 12/8 and more - many found within the 'Odd time' folder. There are also beats with a swing timing as well.

Footswitch


There is an option of an external footswitch. At the moment, the BB firmware allows for only 2 assignments on an external pedal. By clicking down the Drum set and Tempo buttons, you go into a settings menu which allows you to define an external footswitch if needed. You can also select what action you want an external footswitch to do - for example tap tempo, move to another song etc.

The default action for the left switch of a footswitch is an accent (again what the accent is can be changed within the BB software on Mac or PC). So in a song, you can click for an accent such as a cymbal crash at the start of a section etc.

There are two options for footswitch selections for when the BB pedal is stopped - so you can assign the left switch to one thing and the right switch to another thing. You also have two selections for what you want the footswitch to do when the BB is playing - so my right switch is set to end a song - as it can be a bit tricky to double-click to end a song (you can easily end up doing a fill instead etc).

Worship That Flows


OK, so one area that you'll need to think ver carefully about is the flow in worship. As a worship leader, this is an essential part of leading people - making them feel at ease and transitioning between songs naturally. We have extended times of worship at every service and ministry at the end, so flow is important so as not to break the Holy Spirit working through worship. The same is true of anyone leading a service - sensitivity to people and especially to God is a pre-requisite. Without this, your service will break down into a series of songs! Nooooo!!

The BB needs to be used sparingly therefore - and likely in combination with a keyboard player or with pads, so these can give time to load up the next song on the BB.

The other thing you will need to consider is getting rid of intros and outros on the BB. Sometimes they're quite distracting as often we'll have a click into a track - or have just the acoustic start a song and the drums build. This is much harder to do on the BB, without using a metronome / click. So just be aware that your worship leading practice and skills will need to consider new elements if you use the BB.

Other Downsides?


The downside is that you can't individually assign 3 actions. I have the Digitech FS3X footswitch which has three switches on it. The third one simply does what the first two individually do, but together). So if the left switch is set up to do an accent and the second one is set up to tap tempo, clicking a 3rd switch will accent and tap tempo.

Presumably there are only 2 options because the BB external footswitch only has 2 switches. But this should be extended to 3 options in my opinion - or more. Now, you can set up more using MIDI but the trouble with MIDI footswitches is that they tend to be very large (for example having 8 assignments). On smaller stages this is impractical, especially if you're using other pedals - for guitar / vocal effects / triggering samples / using OnSong etc.

There is a mod called the 'Norbert Hack' which involves voiding the warranty - by drilling another hole into the pedal, soldering onto one of the diodes inside and opening up the option for a 3rd switch to be used with the pedal. You can find this mod here - http://forum.mybeatbuddy.com/index.php?threads/norberts-beatbuddy-hardware-hack.2109/

One other downside I've found is that the crashes on the Rock Kit are way too loud relatively!

Worship Songs



So what have I used / what do I suggest? Here is a very brief list, partly taken from the BeatBuddy forum, partly from the list on Singular Sound and partly from my currently limited experience..! These will just give examples of what to use. Note these are all beats already on the BB.

10,000 Reasons - Matt Redman: Blues2. Tempo 81bpm.

Be Thou My Vision (3/4): - Odd Time 4 (6/8 sounds like 3/4) at 90bpm.

Be Thou My Vision (4/4): Country 5. Tempo 100bpm or in and around that tempo.

Cornerstone - Hillsong: Funk 4 with Brushes drum set. Original tempo is 71.5. I've got at 74bpm.

Forever (Give Thanks To the Lord ) - Chris Tomlin: Pop12. Tempo 118bpm

Guardian - Ben Cantelon: Techno 4 with standard kit. 106bpm

Here For You - Passion / Matt Redman etc: Funk 3. Tempo 85bpm or around that.

How Great Thou Art: Brushes 1 at around 110bpm for a driving kind of rhythm

This Is Amazing Grace - Jeremy Riddle / Phil Wickham: Rock9 at 100pm is one possibility (use the standard kit if the ride is overpowering).

Can also be done with Country 8 as per suggestion on forum. 106bpm.

They also suggest Techno 1 with Rock kit which gives it a more driving sound. I also replaced the first transition in Techno 1 with the transition from Techno 4 (Fill 13) as the Techno 1 transition is a bit over the top. I further replaced the excessive outro with the same fill as the intro. 106bpm.

We Have Come - United Pursuit: Techno 2 with brushes drum set. 87bpm.

In general you can find a good beat within the Blues 1-2, Brushes, Rock (loud cymbals), Funk, Pop and by slowing down Drum & Bass.

Conclusion


The BB is a brilliant bit of kit. It can also link via MIDI into OnSong which is incredibly useful albeit slightly complex to set up.

The ability to have basic drums in a pedal is fantastic. The capacity to then amend within the software, create your own set lists and import MIDI signals to use with the BB kits is exactly what's needed. You can also purchase excellent other drum sets and songs from the online store.

The one thing that is missing is the ability to customise a bit more within the software / firmware and the limit of only 2 foot switches. Aside from that it's a great tool.

Just be aware that you need to practice your stomps and you need to create set lists beforehand for individual songs. In this way your worship will be enhanced on the songs you choose to use kits. Just keep things varied and creative - the same songs with the same drum patterns can become a bit monochrome. So a few changes here and there will enhance and enrich worship!


*Note I have no affiliation with BB or Singular Sound and bought this pedal myself.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Free Worship Backing Tracks

Over the years, I've probably put together over 100 backing tracks for worship songs. Obviously backing tracks aren't flexible (unless someone's controlling it in something like Ableton Live). You're limited to the format of the song you've put down, which not everyone likes.

There are also various options like the TC Helicon Voicelive 3 Extreme which mean you can add numerous backing track elements and then trigger playback via the interface or separate footswitch.

But set backing tracks can have their place!

So here's our Youtube link to our Youtube worship backing tracks - some you may like, some you may not. But they're there to inspire, even if they inspire you to write your own better ones!


Latest one is Bethel's incredible 'Take Courage' -



Our Worship Backing Tracks Youtube Playlist

Here's the link to our backing tracks on Youtube. Just wanted to put this link up as always want to inspire and help others in worship - so feel free to use or ignore :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWrsZZDupVs&list=PLOBi-HWvRc_fbichLy8_H_3AyHADAvNjH 

More Free Worship Pads - Spacey Worship Pads

A bunch more worship pads uploaded to Youtube.

These are only in the keys of G, A, B flat, B, C, D and E

The link to our Pads playlist is - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6K429HuBcs&list=PLOBi-HWvRc_c07fBQ7WR2B7-UMOifY2sr 

Spacey Worship Pads in G



Spacey Worship Pads in A



Spacey Worship Pads in B flat



Spacey Worship Pads in B



Spacey Worship Pads in C



Spacey Worship Pads in D



Spacey Worship Pads in E

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Free Worship Pads / Synths

Created a few worship pads (staying on the root note mostly, but with harmonics and notes within the key). Been using these in worship when I'm playing on my own and don't want to use backing tracks.

Thought I'd put them online as others may benefit from them. Haven't done them in every key but please comment if you'd like another key and I'll do my best.

These are free for personal use in church / worship / events etc but are not for resale. The copyright remains with us. Thanks!

Update March 2017 - Pads added in keys of B flat and F


Worship Pad in Bb


Worship Pad in F


Worship Pad in C




Worship Pad in D


Worship Pad in E


Worship Pad in G


Worship Pad in A


Worship Pad in B

Monday, 26 September 2016

Zoom G5N Review - plus Zoom G3X comparison too

Having posted about the Zoom G5N and its flaws, I had a mood shift. Instead of carting around a huge pedalboard with loads of great pedals on for your average worship service, I decided to try the Zoom G5N and its simplicity - and light weight!

The Line6 HD500X (and its equivalent) is a great pedal but it is ridiculously complex. Yes you can get good stock sounds but the Zoom G5N scores highly in that you don't need to spend ages flicking through menus to get good sounds (or get a degree in programming while using a microscope to access the HD500X's small screen)...


The Zoom G5N is pretty simple to use. There is a menu screen at the top; four individual screens across the main body of the unit. Each of these has a click on-click off pedal. Underneath these is a tuner button, a scroll left button, a scroll right button and a tap tempo. An assignable pedal on the right can act as things like a volume pedal / way pedal etc. There is also a 'master level' knob on the top right with a booster and tone knob underneath.

The unit has around 99 stock sound patch setups - these can include up to 9 simultaneous effects. Zoom have put together these stock sounds so you can have an easy setup to get different types of sounds - whether it's a 'rock' sound, a metal sound or some weird psychedelic type setup. Fortunately there are very few of the nonsensical sounds you can get in the average multi-effects unit!

You are able to save you own patches and to edit and save the existing effects within the patches. To change these you click on the Memory / Stomp pedal at the bottom of the board. On the top screen you will then see the list of effects that make up the 'patch'. This is the equivalent of your traditional analogue pedalboard with pedals daisy chained together. The individual effects can then be changed by scrolling through the 'type' buttons above each of the four screens. You can edit the parameters for each effect by twisting any one of the four knobs under each of the screens. You can then scroll through the individual effects you have by using the 'scroll' pedals at the bottom of the unit.



In the image above, I set up my own mini pedalboard for a worship service. At the top of the board you can see the individual effects I've used (and the order). On the four LCD screens below are the current four effects selected. You can see which ones are selected on the top screen (highlighted). On this board I have a tubescreamer emulation (TS Drive), a 'Sweet Drive' which I think emulates the Fulltone OCD. I've then got the rocker pedal setup as a volume switch. There's a delay, reverb and tremolo after the pedal. On each delay/reverb etc effect you can turn on 'tails' so the effects carry on with the volume pedal down (where available). I keep tails on for swells.

On a later setup, I added a compressor ahead of the TS drive (to act as a boost etc). I also added in another delay.

I have mainly used my amp so didn't set up any Amp or Cab emulations, but these can be done if you don't have an amp with you - see here - https://www.zoom-na.com/sites/default/files/products/downloads/pdfs/E_G5n_FX-list.pdf (note the amp list has been updated, unlike this download).

I did use an amp for a recent gig as wasn't allowed amps on stage. Due to the often-found processor overload, I found I was only able to try two amp modellers - the FD-B-M and the FD-DLXR. The FD-B-M was incredibly noisy without any ability to lower the gain. The FD-DLXR was also pretty noisy (the PA guys put a noise reduction on it, which didn't help with swells!) but was needed. The sound wasn't bad to be honest but it had way more noise than my Fender Blues Jr amp.

The Sound Quality

Like the excellent G3X, the reverbs are pretty good and the delays are too. I used the Mod Delay and it really gives a good modulated (almost slightly detuned) decay. The analogue delay was also pretty good.

But it's in the overdrives that the sound quality either shines or lacks. So what about the G5N? Well, the G3X overdrives are honestly pretty awful. I've seen some people say they managed to get good sounds from the G3X but I have no idea how! The Zoom G5N was quite a pleasant surprise. The TS Drive does sound quite accurate with that slightly midrange bump and the Sweet Drive does sound sweet, giving a fairly transparent overdrive sound. I put my separate EHX Glove pedal in front of it and the Glove + Sweet Drive stack really well. The Sweet Drive was my go-to sound at church (putting the overdrive setting up very high).  I also played with the Gold Drive and was pretty impressed with that too.

Obviously as ever with these units, in order to match the bypassed volume of your guitar to the amp, you have to turn the overdrive effect volumes down from about 65 to about 20!

Now don't get me wrong. These don't sound as good as the original pedals. There is also a definite (albeit slight) tone suck. If I run my EHX Glove into the G5N (with no G5N effects on) and to my amp - and then compare to the EHX Glove pedal direct to the amp, there is definitely more life, more body and more colour without the G5N. However, the difference is slight and there's no way that 95% of people in your average church (or crowd) will notice any difference compared to an analogue boutique pedalboard!

Usefulness of the Zoom G5N

Having had huge doubts about the G5N (due to Zoom weirdly removing the XLR output), I'm pretty impressed with the G5N. It's about 1/4 the size of my pedalboard and about 1/5 of the weight! It's easy to scroll through the pedals, the tuner is great and the proper tap tempo is a brilliant addition. I still do have one or two problems with the volume rocker (as on the G3X) where often you have to turn it to 'off' then to 'on' and back to 'off' in order to mute the pedal. But I've learned to live with that. I've even started using the G5N without the EHX Glove ahead of it.

I like the simplicity of the pedal and the ease of use of the menus. The sound quality is pretty good and for the £220 I paid for the G5N, I'd highly recommend it. I'm also happy that unlike the G3X, the G5N is packed with useful effects and not the silly useless effects that no-one ever uses! I still wouldn't use things like the Octave pedal which doesn't track even one string let alone six (get a POG for that). But chorus, tremolo, reverbs, delays etc are great. And the overdrives work well too. I haven't used the distortions or fuzz so can't comment on them too much.

What could be improved? Well, things like the particle verb, the shimmer etc that are offered by Line6 (or even other Zoom pedals) would be a nice addition to the G5N but I'm guessing that Zoom want to keep their snappily titled 'MS70CDR' pedal sales up - this being the only Zoom pedal that does shimmer type effects. That would be a great pity though. I'd rather use my Boss RV6 for shimmer as it's better than Zoom. I would however use the Zoom shimmer if it was on-board the G5N.

The other thing that could be improved is simply the lack of on-board memory / processing power. This becomes an issue very quickly - meaning that you potentially won't be able to have all the effects you want - and I'm sure you won't get nine effects on a regular basis. If you get this problem (and you will), you'll get a message pop up saying 'Process Overflow. Change Effect.' (See below).



For example my board was set up like this:

Compressor > TS Drive > Gold Drive > Volume pedal > Analogue delay > Church reverb. The next effect was a Mod Delay which was fine. However, if I replace that Mod Delay with (for example) any of the amp models or other delays / some of the modulation effects / some of the compressors / any of the other overdrives, the 'Process Overflow' problems reared its head - meaning that the G5N has run out of processing power. I was surprised quite how easily this happens and this is quite an issue in my view.

The flip side is that Zoom promised to bring out new sounds every month and they have been faithful to that. More than that, they've made more of their own patches (think of patches as a series of effects) and asked various guitarists to do the same.

In terms of cases, I bought a Gator GK-2110 case which fits the G5N quite well (with a bit of extra padding as you can see in the pic below!)


What about comparing to the G3X?

Well the individual effect controls are the same. However, on the G3X you get more control over individual effects - often getting 2 'pages' of options rather than just the 4 options to control each effect on the G5N. The G3X also has some other controls if you care to look for them. In some respects the G3X is a bit more random in its layout (certainly 'behind the scenes'). However, the G3X gives you an XLR out, which the G5N doesn't.

As mentioned above, the overdrives are a definite improvement on the G5N (from the G3 / G3X). There are fewer effects on the G5N but that's because there's less 'fluff' - fewer pointless effects no-one really uses. The G3X is probably a bit more 'experimental' and the G5N knows a bit more what it is - really being aimed at dialling in effects easily and simply. Both pedals are actually pretty good. I will now use my G3X for acoustic and the G5N for simpler electric setups in worship. 

The G5N is an improvement with the easy tap tempo button and having the ability to easily scroll between effects and see which effect you're looking at more easily. The screens are bigger and easier to see in varied lighting. The G5N looks a bit more the part, whereas the G3X is smaller and looks slightly less professional (if that matters to you!) It has good big pedals and footswitches that look resilient enough (having said that my G3X has been used all over and survived nicely!) 

So there we are. I can't say whether each effect on the G5N accurately reflects the original effect it was intended to reproduce but I'd recommend having a go and seeing if it works for you. Yes you will lose some tone but it's there to make life simple, easy and lightweight and it does that very well.