I have a long and complicated history with guitar effects. I’ve been on various ends of the spectrum: from having quite literally no guitar effects while touring for a number of years (not even a footswitch for clean and dirty) to having elaborate pedal setups like the one above, to having everything exist virtually in a software environment.
Now that the majority of my music requires effects by default, I haven’t been merely content with slapping together a board like the kind you’d expect for ambient music, and by combining actual effects pedals and the Line 6 Helix, I’m currently straddling both sides of the hardware and software spectrum.
The Helix does the heavy lifting of amp modeling, but I also make use of delay, pitch and modulation effects on board, as well as its looper. Using two of its FX loops, my physical pedal board is split into two sections: a preamp section including a tuner, EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle, and the sinister DOD Carcossa fuzz (and sinister barely scratches the surface of the depths of grit and filth it can muster–in fact, it’s borderline too much!). The second section comes after amplification in the Helix but operates on a path separate from the Helix’s looper; this allows me to run two loops simultaneously and intedependently of one another. I can then play chords, solos, or whatever I want over them; I’ll admit this last function is a little complicated. As of right now, choosing to play over both loops still requires me to play through one of the two post-amplification paths and while for now it’s serviceable, it can get a little muddled with so much going on–especially when I drown the post-loop in copious amounts of modulation, delays and reverb. I’ll explore some future signal routing options in the future, but for now, it’s working great.
So here’s how to think of this kind of setup–mind you the Helix stands in for what would otherwise be an amp. It is true that there are additional, virtual “stomps” in the Helix, but it’s essentially for amplification, an additional set of delay and reverb and a looper. I’ll go into more granular detail on each pedal on the boards in the future, but here’s a rough sketch:
Guitar > FX Loop 1 (Octave Up > Distortion) > Pre Amp >
Path A > Looper > Delay > Reverb
Path B > Looper > Phase Shifter > Delay 1 > Delay 2 > Reverb
Power Amp > Speakers
Since I change up a lot of the details, I don’t want to be too specific, but here are some staples so far. I can route the guitar through either Path A or Path B with the click of a footswitch (turning on both in the future would be cool!) and I almost always have at least one digital reverb which can be set to max, or what I call a “Wash” to drown out all of the dry signal and just create a pad-like lather of sound–which sounds unbelievable when that lather is made up of some nice grit coming out of the Carcossa or any other mean fuzz/distortion pedal. I almost always use Line 6’s own Particle Verb for this effect. That reverb is magic and I may just have to get one of their modeling pedals to have a dedicated version of this on its own.