For playing out with the guys as well as solo busking at farmer’s markets these days I usually play a Lucina keytar because it’s a lot easier to lug around than my full size keyboard and takes up less space in the sometimes small venues (eg coffee shops) we end up playing. The problem with this keytar is that there is really not much you can do to edit the sounds and some of them, while decent sounds are a bit flat and lifeless in some ways. I found that running the sound through my M-300 effects unit in my rack really helped some of the sounds but again, my rack is just another big box to carry around so I did not want to do that, especially when busking (more is less and I already have enough!).
So after some research I invested in a Zoom MS-70-CDR multi stomp pedal that now sits on my home made pedal board along with the other couple of pedals I use.
So now that I’ve been using it for a few weeks I thought I’d do short write up about using it and in particular, using it to play live.
At first I could not figure thing thing out at all as the screen made no sense to me until I found this video http://calpals.com/video/cWJ3ZelxPT4/NEW-Zoom-MS-70CDR-Multistomp-Pedal-Demo.html and realized that you have to think of the effect that is displayed on the screen as being one of up to six effects in a chain.
So basically you add effects to create a chain of them, just as you would on a pedal board but you do it virtually. You can have (subject to processing limits) up to six effects in a chain and you can save the chain to one of fifty locations in the pedal.
So on the screen, what you are looking at is ONE effect in a chain. You can use the scroll buttons either side of the stomp switch to scroll left and right and the stomp button then turns on or off the current effect in the chain.
If you press the middle knob of the three below the screen you go to a list of the currently saved effects chains. There are a bunch of preset ones and you can easily give names to your own and save them in the empty locations or modify the preset ones.
In the effects chain list mode you can assign an identifier to various chains (A, B, C etc) by pressing the right knob and then you can use the stomp button to cycle through them in turn which is pretty neat.
Using it live
This is where I think the pedal falls down a little. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a great little pedal for the money and very versatile but I think that in a live setting it needs some help. More on this later.
Pressing the middle knob toggles you between the effects chain list and displaying one of the effects in the current chain.
In effects chain list mode you can cycle through the pre selected chains by pressing the stomp button. In ‘display an effect in the current chain’ mode you can switch the current effect in the chain on and off by pressing the stomp button.
You cannot switch between the two modes without bending down to press the middle button! This sorta sucks, especially if like me, you are often the only person up there so you are either playing, singing or talking. Stopping in the middle of a song to press a knob on a box on the floor is not really doable and does nothing to enhance the performance (such as mine is LOL!).
If you are in ‘display an effect in the current chain’ mode and there are multiple effects in a chain, you cannot change the effect the stomp button controls without bending down and selecting it using the cursor keys on either side of the stomp button.
There is a way around this latter issue ‘sort of’ in that you can insert a ‘line select’ effect into the chain. This has the effect of enabling you to bypass all the effects after this virtual switch by pressing the stomp button when this is the current effect. Hopefully this badly modified diagram will illustrate that better (the signal goes from right to left, just like on a real pedal board):
So for me at least the main downfall of this pedal in a live setting is the need to bend down too much to do anything.
One feature of the pedal is that you can press and hold the stomp button to either enter tuner mode or tap tempo mode. Which it goes to is selectable via the menus so I think that one simple change they could make would be to also add an option that press and hold switched between ‘chain list’ mode and ‘effect in the current chain’ mode instead of having to bend down to press the middle knob. At least that way you could cycle through effects chains and then switch to effect in chain mode so that you could turn it on and off and then back to chain list mode to select another chain, all WITHOUT bending down to do it!
Another option I think they could consider is adding a fifth jack (even if they had to drop ability to power it with batteries) to take one of those three button switches that would then allow you to switch modes and to also scroll left and right along a chain of effects to select the one you want to control with the stomp button, again all without bending down!
The ability to cycle through effects lists is nice and one way around the problem of not being able to turn an effect on or off in a chain in ‘chain list ‘ mode is to set up multiple chains, one with the effect on and one without it at all and then cycle between them. This is probably alright provided you do not have too many preset chains to cycle through, plus you have to make sure you select the right chain as you cycle through them and my old eyes don’t see that screen too well from six feet above the floor (I am standing don’t forget!).
I do like the pedal though and don’t regret purchasing it. Now I just need to spend some time playing with the effects and my keytar to see which ones pair up best.