A volume pedal is a necessary control found on many popular musical instruments such as electric guitars, keyboards, and even pedal steel guitars. The guitarist using the pedal usually uses the pedal to manipulate different aspects of the overall sound, most commonly volume. The volume pedal can be used in conjunction with a mixer or as a stand-alone unit. This article describes what a volume pedal does and how you can use it.
The volume pedal, also known as the "tone control," is added to a signal chain. The signal chain is a series of related operations that are mixed together. There are three components to a signal chain, the starting point, middle, and end. There are four components in a signal chain; a headstock, a body, a pickup orenser, and a speaker. The volume pedal acts as a volume control by affecting the ratio of one to the other.
In the majority of applications, the term "volume" refers to the overall tone, rather than to a specific level. One example of a situation where the term "volume" is used specifically is when a guitar is being used as part of a combo, and a cabinet system is utilized in conjunction with the unit. In these cases, the "volume" knob is typically attached to a separate amp via an amp simulator. In other situations, the tone control on a pedal can be made active and function through the amp. The tone controls on many pedal models are semi-active and operate through an amp.
There are several advantages to using a volume pedal. One advantage is that the guitarist does not need to play any sustaining tones during playback if the piece is stopped. By leaving the instrument "off", the player eliminates all sounds that will occur during playback, including sustaining or random tones. The advantage of this is obvious when attempting to play solos. If one is playing a solo with several other players, the soloist does not have to sustain or randomize his own playing. Also, if multiple players are overdubbed, the band cannot hear the lead guitarist's bass unless he uses a volume pedal.
A volume pedal can also eliminate or severely limit the effects of reverb. Reverb is often used to enhance the feel of recorded music and can be thought of as a mono effect. In most cases, a full reverb sound is desired; however, the signal chain may contain some subtle effects that are undesirable. In particular, if the reverb is using a high quantity of reverb, it can often cause feedback. One way to minimize feedback is to turn the volume control down very low.
Some guitars have a jack imbalances option that allows you to use two or more different expression pedals. For example, the Fender Stratocaster, which has an extremely high amount of frets, can only be played using one single-coil pickup. The same Stratocaster can be played effectively using two single-coil pickups, but using two separate fv-500l units for each pickup. In this case, the second unit would serve only as a means of controlling over-driving the first unit.
There are a few disadvantages to using a volume pedal. If you are playing in a system where the master volume control is set to maximum, every instance of your playing will produce the same signal; one could therefore become confused. Also, using a volume pedal will limit your creativity by constricting your signal chain. For instance, if you are using a single-coil pickup on the Stratocaster and use a fv-500l on the bridge, both pickups will be affecting the signal chain, but the volume pedal will determine which track will be played.
There are a couple of ways to use a volume pedal without constricting your signal chain. One way is to place the volume pedal at the bridge or the neck of the guitar so that it's effect on the single-coil pickup is limited by the neck of the guitar. Another way is to position it between the bridge and the fretboard so that the effects of both pickups are heard. Some guitars have expression pedals which allow the guitarist to vary the sound of the low-level strings by using a "stomp" or "lp". Using these expression pedals can create interesting effects. The advantage of using these expression pedals is that they allow the guitarist to control more than one note at a time.