Starting a new hobby: DIY Effect pedals.

nickcmanning

Member
Messages
53
Lately I've been looking to start a new hobby.

I've been wanting to learn how to build pedals. I wanted to know what the basic supples I needed for your average build and where the best place to get them are. Just from doing a quick google search I came across Mammoth Electronics but I'm sure there are other places.

Any info on where and how the best way to start is helpful.

Thanks in advance.
 

davidnlsw

Member
Messages
269
Go live here: http://www.madbeanpedals.com/forum/

and here: http://www.beavisaudio.com

and once you've got your basics down, you can build things using layouts from here: http://tagboardeffects.blogspot.com

You can order parts from mammoth, small bear, tayda electronics and tons of other places.

I buy mostly from Tayda because the price is right.

*edit* Mr. Beavis recommends that your first build be from a kit, which I did find very helpful. You can buy kits for lots of popular circuits from BYOC.com or generalguitargadgets.com
 

Cerpin Taxt

Member
Messages
600
What experience with electronics and soldering do you already have?

I had virtually none, so I bought a few kits from www.buildyourownclone.com. I've not once been disappointed. They have a good forum there, too.

I've built one project from a Madbeans PCB, and I like it a lot, too. It was just more work to source all the components, whereas BYOC gives you everything you'll need without having to do much legwork.

To me, the most fun is creating the one-of-a-kind decal artwork for the finished enclosure. Here's my pedal board, with 5 DIY pedals on it:




I bought the starter kit that BYOC offers when I first got started, but quickly sought out a better soldering iron. The hand tools were alright, though. Some curved needle-nosed pliers, diagonal cutters, wire stripper. I found it was real handy having a solder-sucker when you eff up and solder the wrong component someplace. I also got one of those "helping hands" stands with the two alligator clips to help hold things while I soldered them. Actually more useful than that was some of that adhesive putty, sometimes called "blue tack."

Read some of the stickies around the forum at BYOC. There's great info there.
 

benjammin_

Member
Messages
267
BYOC is a great first soldering project, but i seriously recommend seeking out knowledge on how effects actually work before ever picking up a soldering iron. the downside of BYOC and kit sites is that they can sometimes create a solder-by-numbers kind of mindset that leads to people not really knowing how the effect works, why it's not working, etc etc. the great part about most effects for guitars is that they are extremely simple and do not require any sort of formal education (i sure as hell am not an electrical engineer) to figure out what's going on. jack orman's site is invaluable http://www.muzique.com/ and any book on analog circuits is going to be really helpful
 

olkie

Member
Messages
291
To echo benjammin, while kits *can* be soldering by numbers, I learned a lot by getting some sockets. So when I built a BYOC Tubescreamer kit, then I able to try all kinds of clipping diodes and different filtering caps without having to solder and resolder and seeing how big (or little) of an effect some of these things had. But I also read the "Technology of the Tubescreamer" article over at geofex.com at least a dozen times too.

I also found this article helpful in identifying chunks in schematics: http://sessionville.com/articles/how-to-make-your-own-distortion-pedal
 

stellablue

Member
Messages
2,412
I have one of these Yihua irons which is a Hakko clone.
http://www.ebay.com/itm/937D-Solder...963?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cdb918d53

My first two builds were Jack Orman's SOS. The parts count is low and the results are very nice. You can build a standard screamer, or a Clay Jones/Eternity style circuit. I would source most of the parts from Tayda. Feel free to use the cheapest stuff they have. IMO, it doesn't matter much. I did my my first CJOD with red 5mm leds and green mylar caps. The second had yellow 5mm leds and box film caps. I couldn't hear a difference.

http://www.taydaelectronics.com/

I would buy the IC chips from small bear or another US supplier.
 

Alchemy Audio

Member
Messages
1,569
I will assume you possess the basic skills necessary to begin - particularly soldering. If you've never soldered before, don't learn how on your vintage Maestro Fuzz-Tone. There are a TON of great tutorials (including YouTube videos on how to solder). Read. Watch. Learn. Practice - perhaps on something like an old VCR.

Still with me? Good. Since this is your first time, I would suggest picking up something like a used Boss DS-1 distortion for your first project. They are cheap and plentiful and the modification options are nearly endless (do an internet search for DS-1 mods). If you mess it up, you are out $30. Also, I find Boss pedals to be one of the easier (and more forgiving) circuit boards to work on. Seek out Brian Wampler's self published book "How To Modify Guitar Effects Pedals."

Here's a good link which walks you through the process of getting started - including the tools / supplies you would need:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Modify-Your-Boss-DS-1/

There are several companies selling "kits" which contain everything you need to modify your pedal. I started out installing Monte Allums kits. In addition to being a good guy, his instructions are detailed and easy to understand. I think I've put at least one of his kids through college with the money I (and my customers) have spent on his products.

You can also purchase a complete pedal kit - which enables you build a whole pedal from scratch. While this option may seem a bit more intimidating, it's actually not too difficult. BYOC and General Guitar Gadgets sell a variety of different effects pedal kits containing everything you need (enclosures, jacks, knobs, circuit board, etc.) Assembling a pedal kit from scratch requires patience, attention to detail and advanced soldering skills. Just know your limitations.

Alternatively, you can purchase individual pedal parts, tools and circuit components from various online parts retailers such as Small Bear, Mammoth and Mouser. The initial cost may be higher but you'll have enough pieces to modify several pedals. I wouldn't recommend this option at the beginning. It's a bit of an investment and not necessary unless you plan to do a lot of modding / building.
 

Surgeon

Member
Messages
1,592
Be careful, DIY electronics is an addictive drug... After 2 years I've built over 50 pedals and going on my second amp... it's just lots of fun and an amazing way to learn, which also demystifies the whole "pedal-hype thing". However, it'll cost you some money and you'll end-up (most likely) with way more stuff than you need... welcome aboard!
 

coltonius

Señor Member
Messages
13,260
Be careful, DIY electronics is an addictive drug... After 2 years I've built over 50 pedals and going on my second amp... it's just lots of fun and an amazing way to learn, which also demystifies the whole "pedal-hype thing". However, it'll cost you some money and you'll end-up (most likely) with way more stuff than you need... welcome aboard!
Isn't this the truth! I end up selling builds to friends or on the cheap, just so I can buy more parts and try something new. It's not always cheaper than buying a pedal (factoring the cost of your time), but it is certainly rewarding. AND you get to decide every minute detail of the build!

EDIT: Electronics All-In-One is a very helpful read, by the way. It's not specific to audio circuits, but it does include a lot of great material about how parts work together.

 

Gas Hed

Member
Messages
1,191
What experience with electronics and soldering do you already have?

I had virtually none, so I bought a few kits from www.buildyourownclone.com. I've not once been disappointed. They have a good forum there, too.

I've built one project from a Madbeans PCB, and I like it a lot, too. It was just more work to source all the components, whereas BYOC gives you everything you'll need without having to do much legwork.

To me, the most fun is creating the one-of-a-kind decal artwork for the finished enclosure. Here's my pedal board, with 5 DIY pedals on it:




I bought the starter kit that BYOC offers when I first got started, but quickly sought out a better soldering iron. The hand tools were alright, though. Some curved needle-nosed pliers, diagonal cutters, wire stripper. I found it was real handy having a solder-sucker when you eff up and solder the wrong component someplace. I also got one of those "helping hands" stands with the two alligator clips to help hold things while I soldered them. Actually more useful than that was some of that adhesive putty, sometimes called "blue tack."

Read some of the stickies around the forum at BYOC. There's great info there.
I like your Hairy P pedal.
 

midwayfair

Member
Messages
2,046
My usual advice:

1. Buy a solderless breadboard. They're $5 and they will save you a world of hurt if you want to deviate from a stock build or need to determine if a part works. They make testing out new ideas a breeze. Smallbear has tutorials on breadboarding.

2. You NEED a digital multimeter. It's not optional. You need to be able to read resistance, DC voltage, and continuity (beep) at a minimum. Smallbear has some good ones now, Harbor Freight sells some really cheap good ones as well. Something WILL go wrong when you are building, and this is the primary tool to figure out what -- not your eyes. If you don't have a multimeter, when something breaks and you go online, no one will be able to give you advice beyond guessing. So get a multimeter. They're useful for other stuff around the house now and then, so it's not a useless purchase if you get out.

3. 25-35W is enough for your soldering iron. You want a pencil tip or a small rounded tip. Get something durable. They're useful around the house sometimes, too. The blue Wellers are just fine and I used one for a year until I bought a Hakko 888 workstation for $80. Don't get the cheap orange ones. The tips will dissolve after a single build. Not worth the added expense. Practice soldering. BYOC has a little tutorial on it written by Stephen over there. Bad soldering is the cause of most problems in builds -- putting the wrong component in the wrong place is usually the other.

4. Learn the basics of reading a schematic, so you can identify a resistor, capacitor, transistor, etc. Beavis Audio has a tutorial. Don't skip this. When inevitably something requires debugging, you'll need to know how to identify the parts in the schematic to track down the issue. As you look at and build more circuits, you'll start to see patterns. Eventually you'll probably need to use an audio probe to debug something, in which case you DEFINITELY need to be able to read a schematic.

5. Do a beginner project. BYOC has the confidence booster and their kits have the absolute best instructions for absolute beginners. DIYStompboxes has a really good one without using a PCB (you have to get the parts on your own). General Guitar Gadgets has a few kits that qualify. Madbean has some "Noob" boards, but you'll have to order the parts on your own. Joe Gore's Tone Fiend has a DIY series with some simple projects with outstanding instructions about the circuits and the build process.
 

nickcmanning

Member
Messages
53
GREAT information guys. I really appreciate it.

Soldering practice is definitely step one on my list and I would definitely like to learn about electronics instead of it becoming solder by numbers but I know myself well enough to know that I also don't hold interest and learn fully unless I'm doing it hands on. I'll have to figure a way to accomplish both at the same time.

I can already tell how it would be addicting. I'm already thinking about how interesting it would be to just have pedal parts laying around in a tool and parts case and be able to just sit down whenever I want an tinker.

Thanks again for all the help and I look forward to hearing from anyone else who comments! I feel welcomed to the hobby already.
 
Messages
168
my first electronics project was a fuzz face in high school and it led me to go to school for EE and work on music gear for a living...so yeah it's pretty addictive.

ill echo what has been said:

www.DIYstompboxes.com is your forum for tech discussion
Small Bear Electronics has all of the parts you need
Beavis Audio is great
www.geofex.com <- i have read every one of RG Keen's article on there
www.muzique.com <- here too, and Jack Orman is a great guy
BYOC Kits with sockets are a great jumping point to get into building fairly easily
a DMM is required - it doesnt have to be expensive - a $50 one will do you proud
solderless breadboards are also a must - all of my designs start out this way

start out with dirt pedals. dont try to cram your first pedals into small enclosures - work up to it. and get ready to tweak and learn a lot! dont forget to still play music :)

Mike
 

Thewaker43

Member
Messages
177
All good advice so far. I cannot add much other than what's already been said. I will say get a good soldering iron. when I first started out I used a couple $15 irons from the hardware store. I hated it, I was so bad. I finally bought a Weller 51 and it made all the difference. So much easier to use.

And as far as a multimeter, Harbor Freight is always running ads in the newspaper with coupons free ones. I've not used one too much but my dad has a few of them. I did compare them to my $500 Fluke DMM and they seem accurate. Not the most robust but they should work until you can get a nicer one.

And I second getting a DS-1 to practice on. I'm not sure how many times I've changed mine. But you can actually get a pretty descent pedal for $30 just by changing a few components and experimenting with values.
 
Last edited:

fuzzbender

Member
Messages
325
add me to the list of aspiring pedal hobbyists. the info in this thread is very helpful. many thanks!!!
 

benjammin_

Member
Messages
267
My usual advice:

1. Buy a solderless breadboard. They're $5 and they will save you a world of hurt if you want to deviate from a stock build or need to determine if a part works. They make testing out new ideas a breeze. Smallbear has tutorials on breadboarding.

2. You NEED a digital multimeter. It's not optional. You need to be able to read resistance, DC voltage, and continuity (beep) at a minimum. Smallbear has some good ones now, Harbor Freight sells some really cheap good ones as well. Something WILL go wrong when you are building, and this is the primary tool to figure out what -- not your eyes. If you don't have a multimeter, when something breaks and you go online, no one will be able to give you advice beyond guessing. So get a multimeter. They're useful for other stuff around the house now and then, so it's not a useless purchase if you get out.

3. 25-35W is enough for your soldering iron. You want a pencil tip or a small rounded tip. Get something durable. They're useful around the house sometimes, too. The blue Wellers are just fine and I used one for a year until I bought a Hakko 888 workstation for $80. Don't get the cheap orange ones. The tips will dissolve after a single build. Not worth the added expense. Practice soldering. BYOC has a little tutorial on it written by Stephen over there. Bad soldering is the cause of most problems in builds -- putting the wrong component in the wrong place is usually the other.

4. Learn the basics of reading a schematic, so you can identify a resistor, capacitor, transistor, etc. Beavis Audio has a tutorial. Don't skip this. When inevitably something requires debugging, you'll need to know how to identify the parts in the schematic to track down the issue. As you look at and build more circuits, you'll start to see patterns. Eventually you'll probably need to use an audio probe to debug something, in which case you DEFINITELY need to be able to read a schematic.

5. Do a beginner project. BYOC has the confidence booster and their kits have the absolute best instructions for absolute beginners. DIYStompboxes has a really good one without using a PCB (you have to get the parts on your own). General Guitar Gadgets has a few kits that qualify. Madbean has some "Noob" boards, but you'll have to order the parts on your own. Joe Gore's Tone Fiend has a DIY series with some simple projects with outstanding instructions about the circuits and the build process.
^ excellent advice. also, if you can, don't cheap out on your multimeter.. a used Fluke is going to be miles better than a $20 DMM off amazon (i'm speaking from experience here)
 
Messages
168
RE DMMs -

the harbor freight meter is a bit inadequate to have around as an 'only' DMM.

my choice for a $50 meter is the Extech EX330. Here's a meter shootout from a respected EE Blogger if you want to dive REAL deep: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoeUgMFLyAw

being an EE as my profession i have all the expensive gear, but the Extech will do it all with very nice accuracy and durability for pedaltronics.

RE: soldering iron

if you can swing it, get the WES51 from weller for $95: http://www.amazon.com/Weller-WES51-...&qid=1413915787&sr=1-1&keywords=weller+WES+51

it's a professional grade unit. i have 3. it has the power to do some of the more demanding music gear things like unsolder wires from the back of guitar pots and desoldering large switches. and it can also do small intricate work no problem. the stand will also save you from burning every item on your bench, and it automatically turns off after a couple hours (HUGE plus).
 






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