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Mr. Negative Pants, ,
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Discussion Starter #1
When i first read about Parker's "Fly" and "Superfly" guitars in Guitar Player back in 1993 (before they were in production), i was fascinated by the idea of having electric and acoustic sounds on one guitar, and being able to blend between them.

A number of years later, i finally got a Fly Classic, and was finally able to get the sounds i'd been hearing in my head for years. Then i started playing sevens and got my Petrucci 7 with the piezo option. (Thanks, Donnie!) But actually using the piezos in a live context the way i wanted to would have required an extra hand or two in order to blend seamlessly from one sound to the other while playing.

I started looking around for a stereo blend pedal... one that would allow me to go from 100% magnetic to 100% piezo with both at full volume in the middle of the pedal's travel. Much to my amazement, nobody made one. Fishman made a "PowerBlend" pedal for a while, which was essentially a Morley volume pedal with an acoustic buffer/preamp circuit and a pass-through for the electric signal. It didn't really "blend" at all. (Apologies to Blendtec.)

I emailed just about every company that made volume pedals... Morley, Ernie Ball (who also happen to make a lot of guitars with magnetic and piezo pickups), Visual Sound, even a bunch of boutique pedal makers. Nobody made what i was looking for. :scratch:

For a while, i used a convoluted workaround of using a stereo expression pedal (a BOSS FV-300L) that allowed me to simultaneously control the volume of my GT-6 and Yamaha AG-Stomp in opposite directions with custom settings that made the volume pedal only work in half of its travel on each device. It was big and kludgy, but it worked. But i wanted something simple. Something passive. Something i could use on its own or in different rig setups.

So i made my own.



I wanted it to be passive, and as simple as possible. I bought an empty wah pedal shell, a 500k blend pot and a 25k blend pot (i wasn't sure which would work best), and a bunch of jacks. I wired it all up and started testing, experimenting, troubleshooting and tweaking.



What you see here is my second prototype. I use a stereo cable coming out of my guitars, and that goes into the right side of the pedal. The signal is split to the two halves of the blend pot, and then output to a pair of mono jacks on the left side. Simple. Effective. It ain't pretty, but it works. (Any others i make will look a lot more finished. This one is just the raw aluminum shell, which i actually think looks kinda cool.)



In the first prototype, i encountered an issue with a feature in the GraphTech AcoustiPhonic preamp design that makes it work in an undesirable way with a pot placed directly after it in the signal chain. The AcoustiPhonic uses a stereo switching jack and a tiny amount of DC voltage on the piezo side of the preamp's output to detect whether you have a stereo or mono cable inserted. If it's a mono cable (which it detects by the piezo output being shorted to ground), then it automatically jumps the piezo signal to the tip contact, summing it with the magnetic signal so you get both signals going down one wire.

This is a GREAT feature, but a volume pot works by shorting the signal to ground through a variable resistor (the pot), and this would cause a loud POP as the preamp tripped into mono mode. If i reversed the pot wiring so the output was on the wiper contact, the automatic stereo/mono switching was avoided, but the DC voltage on the piezo signal would cause an audible hiss of pink noise when the pot was moved.

I worked around this issue by placing another active device in the chain before the pot. In my particular case, i used my Tech21 Acoustic DI box, which has a sort of "effects loop" configuration. The piezo signal goes into the blend pedal (which essentially acts as a splitter) and then out of the top of the pedal, it goes to the Acoustic DI input, and the 1/4" output from the DI goes back into the blend pedal and to the piezo side of the pot, then to the blend pedal output which goes back to the DI's "Input to XLR" jack. The XLR output then goes to the PA. The "send" on the blend pedal uses a switched jack, so if nothing's plugged into it, it bypasses the loop.



(I've suggested to the excellent and helpful people at GraphTech that perhaps in a future revision to the AcoustiPhonic preamp that they put a DIP switch on the board to allow the end user to disable the automatic stereo/mono switching, for those like me who always run in a stereo configuration, or for those who might want to use a non-switching barrel-type output jack.)

In the heel position, i get 100% piezo (or as close as the pot will get me). In the toe position, it's all magnetic. In the middle, there is a very slight detent, which you can just barely feel through your foot, and both signals are at full volume there. With the tension on the treadle set just right, it's a little easier to locate, and you can quickly find it and the pedal will stay there.

This is exactly what i've been looking for. It enables me to blend smoothly and seamlessly from one sound to the other, or to add a bit of one sound to the other, without interrupting my playing.

If anyone is interested in something like this, i am considering building them to order, now that i've worked out some of the kinks. I've tested it with my GraphTech GHOST-equipped guitar and my Music Man JP7 with piezos. I don't see why it wouldn't work with Parkers, Godins, or other Fishman, L.R. Baggs or RMC-equipped guitars as well.
 

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Dream Crusher
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21,053 Posts
This will take a stereo output (say, from a chorus or delay pedal) and allow you to dynamically blend it between two separate amps or signal chains, correct?

Also, you need a sweet logo and finish on it... raw aluminum looks badass (I scratch-built a RAT pedal using a similarly unpainted enclosure), but I think it's screaming for some sort of two-tone finish and sweet decals... I know, minor niggles (and much more expensive and difficult to produce) but, the 'pedal nerd' in me is speaking.
 

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Mr. Negative Pants, ,
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14,796 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
This will take a stereo output (say, from a chorus or delay pedal) and allow you to dynamically blend it between two separate amps or signal chains, correct?

Also, you need a sweet logo and finish on it... raw aluminum looks badass (I scratch-built a RAT pedal using a similarly unpainted enclosure), but I think it's screaming for some sort of two-tone finish and sweet decals... I know, minor niggles (and much more expensive and difficult to produce) but, the 'pedal nerd' in me is speaking.
I wasn't too concerned about aesthetics on this one, as it was my "test mule" and will only be for my own personal use. I couldn't be bothered painting it if i wasn't even sure it was going to work.

I'm not sure why you'd want to blend/pan between the stereo channels of a chorus or delay, but you definitely could. Or you could use it to blend the output of a whole effects chain with your dry guitar sound. It could be used by guitar synth players to pan between the guitar and synth sounds as well. There are lots of potential uses, but it was conceived as a magnetic/piezo blend pedal.
 

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Mod Britannia
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7,233 Posts
That's a really neat solution Darren, good work :yesway:

I really love the raw look of the current pedal, but with a name like that the production pedals need something more "pimp". Maybe candy purple with a groovy Austin Powers style font for the logos, maybe even using verigated gold leaf. :pimping:
 

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Banned
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2,695 Posts
Brilliant. I think young Darren needs his own company out there right now.

A monkey grip handle and swirl finish would entice Chris in, surely, as well. He might want the enclosure built out of Basswood for tonal reasons however.
 

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Mr. Negative Pants, ,
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14,796 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
I think there might be room left in the enclosure for a DiMarzio Blaze.

And i can always make a special CQ Edition in black.
 

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Banned
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2,695 Posts
On a serious note, Darren, you have really solid ideas. What makes you even more "dangerous" is that you can self-execute them. You should seriously consider a business plan if you havent already. Be bold, get out there. You owe that to yourself.
 

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Is Actually Recording
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32,765 Posts
Chalk me up as another big fan of the bare metal look. :yesway:

That's awesome, Darren. Good work!

EDIT - where did you get the enclosure? I have no idea how hard this would be to execute, but I've been sort of dreaming of a "blend" pedal for a delay for some time, so I could adjust the wet-to-dry ratio in real time.
 

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I am Groot
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32,450 Posts
Blenda? Outstanding. :D
 

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Mr. Negative Pants, ,
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14,796 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Thanks, Lee!

Part of the problem is that i'm by nature somewhat risk-averse, so to leave my current career to do something that's a lot harder to make money at is a hard psychological hurdle to get over.

The other risk is that if i take a hobby that i enjoy and try to turn it into a business, if that business is not successful (for whatever reason) it could suck all the joy out of something i love.

I have a lot of ideas and i like to execute on them, but i just don't have that "entrepreneurial" gene.
 

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Mr. Negative Pants, ,
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14,796 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
Chalk me up as another big fan of the bare metal look. :yesway:

That's awesome, Darren. Good work!

EDIT - where did you get the enclosure? I have no idea how hard this would be to execute, but I've been sort of dreaming of a "blend" pedal for a delay for some time, so I could adjust the wet-to-dry ratio in real time.
The enclosure came from Small Bear.

Actually, this pedal (with a few modifications) could work for exactly the application you're thinking of. Wet signal into one input, dry signal into a second input, and a summed signal out the other side. It could be used to selectively blend in an effects loop as well. The only thing that kinda sucks is the pedal shells come pre-drilled with one hole on the right and two on the left, so you'd have to either run the signal through it left-to-right, or holes could be drilled elsewhere and the existing ones plugged.
 

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Is Actually Recording
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32,765 Posts
Hmm. Interesting... Thanks man! :D
 

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Slow Money
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14,612 Posts
thats cool. if you were to build them to order, any chance of having the active buffer inside for people who would shoot straight to a board?
 

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Mr. Negative Pants, ,
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14,796 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
I'd love to make it an "all-in-one" solution with its own active DI box built in, but that would probably require more electronic wherewithal than i possess. That's why i'm trying to keep it as simple as possible and allow for people to use it with gear they may already have.
 
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