For a few weeks I’ve been playing guitar pedals without any input. Or rather, making feedback chains through guitar pedals.
I’ve tried a few things but arrived at setup that’s two distortion pedals followed by a graphic EQ and a tremolo. The first distortion pedal (Big Muff Bass Deluxe) has two outputs, so I can tap into the chain here. I run the sound through an overdrive and a delay. Here is an example:
It is extremely hard to control in general. There’s a lot of knobs. If you start at a point A, move a bunch of controls to get to point B, and then try to move all the controls back to A I find I often get to somewhere new entirely. At least I don’t manage it that often.
As someone with limited instrumental skill whose approach to music has always been quite cerebral, writing or building rather than playing, this is (1) new and terrifying and (2) lots of fun. I would definitely say that it’s an instrument and I’ve been trying to approach it as such, as something I have to practise. And I wonder what someone with more raw musical talent than myself could do with this!
I think the range of just the four pedals together is quite impressive. The sounds themselves are not what I’d call new or radical, sometimes they remind me of simple analogue VCOs… but since it’s so unpredictable it also gives me something I know I wouldn’t have got elsewhere.
The idea is obviously related to the no-input mixing board, and I’ve seen some reference to noise artists using this technique, but not any real discussion of it.
I found the graphical EQ is particularly great, it makes it possible to almost play melodies. Putting the tremolo in the feedback path makes it do more than just add a pulse, it ends up leading to these almost call and response-type patterns of both pitch and tone. I’ve got an ehx Super Pulsar, which is quite advanced with a little step sequencer. Unfortunately the tap tempo doesn’t work so I can’t get it to sync with other things easily. I’ve been thinking about making a replacement - a VCA with a simple analogue sequencer would be a very interesting addition I think.
I’ve got a lot more recordings and some logs on my “blog” here.