Updated: Feb 16
Let’s face it, we’re all gear addicts. We love our pedals, probably much more than we like to admit, and try to squeeze all we can onto our pedalboards. Some of us have compact Nano or Metro sized boards that have all we need, some of us have spaceships like those of John Frusciante or John Klinghoffer. Regardless, if you find yourself having to turn on and off several hard-to-reach pedals at a go, or knob twisting song after song for different settings, MIDI could be the way to go.
MIDI lets you turn on and off multiple pedals, sync up tempo times, and change settings with just one switch press. We gave an earlier introduction to MIDI here if you want to know what MIDI can do for you. A couple of questions still remain: Just how do I get MIDI on my board? Is it even easy to get my board MIDI-ed up? Well, the answer is yes, it really isn’t hard to get MIDI implemented on your board regardless of however many pedals you may have. Today we will show you how to set up MIDI on your pedalboard. We've also put together a list of possible accessories you might need to get MIDI on your pedalboard ( list at the end of article).
First, of course you need MIDI-capable pedals. While most MIDI pedals generally cost more than their non-MIDI counterparts, a MIDI pedal allows you to have endless settings at the click of a switch, allowing it to act as multiple pedals, which could actually be a cost and space saving investment. For example, instead of utilizing 2 seperate delay pedals, using the Empress Echosystem essentially gives you 2 different delay pedals in a single stompbox, with dual MIDI-capable delay engines. The same goes for the Chase Bliss Audio Brothers, which lets you run, in series or parallel, any combination of boost/overdrive/distortion/fuzz effects, essentially replacing 2 dirt boxes while having the order be instantly switchable and even set to parallel. Even 2 dirt boxes will not be able to do that at the click of a switch.
Many pedals like Strymon, Eventide and Free the Tone have 5-pin MIDI in and MIDI thru ports, allowing you to easily chain your MIDI pedals together. All you need are 5-pin MIDI cables to connect your MIDI controller and pedals. Other pedal makers such as Empress Effects and Chase Bliss Audio use ¼” TRS jacks for MIDI. Such pedals require a MIDI box (linked a few in the descriptions below) to work with a standard 5-pin MIDI controller. A MIDI box converts standard 5-pin MIDI to connectors to ¼” TRS. Most ¼” TRS MIDI pedals do not have MIDI thru, so the number of pedals you can use is limited by the number of MIDI outputs available on the MIDI box.
A MIDI Controller