If you own a Digitech RP355, keep reading, because this is about a feature that doesn’t exist on the RP250/255/350. If you don’t own an RP355, keep reading if you want to see what you’re missing.
The RP355 has a “stompbox mode” that you access by pressing the two rightmost footswitches at the same time. In this mode, the left footswitch is an on/off switch for distortion; the middle footswitch turns whatever modulation effect (such as pitch shifting, chorus, flange, rotary, vibrato, tremolo, etc.) is programmed into the patch on and off; and the rightmost footswitch turns delay on and off.
About a week ago, I played a gig that involved six bands, of which I played with two. I used my Fireball mic and an RP355, and I ran the output from the 355 straight to the PA. It worked great–after a song or two the sound man had it dialed in, and I had plenty of volume and a great sound through the monitors. It was great, even though I was anxious at first about being the only guy onstage who didn’t have an amp.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Well, the problem is that damn looper that’s built into the RP355 (and RP255). Every once in a while one of the guitarists, drunk on music (and whatever else was handy), would wander into my space and step on the RP. After a while, one of them managed to start the looper. It took a few minutes for me to figure out what was going on, during which time the melody for “Lo Rider” worked its way into at least two other songs.
I don’t much like the looper in the RPs–it’s not a very sophisticated piece of kit–and even worse, there’s no way to disable it. The only solution is to make sure that there’s enough space between you and the guitarist in your band to prevent an inadvertent step from changing your sound or starting the looper up. If necessary, plant yourself between the guitarist and the RP.
Connecting the RP to other gear, like your amp and your mic, is really pretty simple. You don’t need a preamp between the mic and the RP; the RP is a preamp. You don’t need a direct box between your RP and the amp or mixer you connect it to, unless the cable run is more than 50 feet (20 meters), in which case you’d need a direct box whether an RP was involved or not.
There are basically only two kinds of moving parts on an RP: the expression pedal, and the up/down footswitches. There are a couple of ways these break down that have easy fixes.
The expression pedal can break down when the nuts that hold it in place get too tight or too loose. The fix is simple: with an appropriately sized wrench, loosen or tighten the nut as necessary.
The up-down footswitches are held in place by big paper clip clamps (no lie), and these can sometimes get loose and fall off inside the RP. It’s not all that common, but it happens. When it does, I recommend that you remove the bottom panel of the RP (using a philips head screwdriver), and then epoxy the paper clip clamp(s) in place. Just make sure not to epoxy the footswitches too.
A lot of people who buy a used RP find that the electronics aren’t working right. If that’s the case, doing a factory reset on the RP almost always cures it. Follow the instructions in the manual.
Overall, my RPs are very reliable. But these are a few things that I’ve had repeated problems with. When they happen, don’t freak out–just fix it.
You can get different kinds of organ sounds with one, two, or three RPs.
If you have one RP: use one of my patches with a rotating speaker effect, a phase shifter effect, or a univibe effect. Work the pedal to make the rotating speaker sound speed up and slow down. If you can, use both left and right outputs into a stereo PA–the spatial quality it gives to the rotating speaker effect is amazing.
If you have two RPs: Put the rotating speaker effect on one, and run the output from that RP to the input of the other. On the second RP, use my 8+16U patch, which gives you an octave up plus two octaves up, under footpedal control, with no amp modeling. This is a sound that cuts through a mix, especially the double octave up setting.
If you have three RPs: Put the rotating speaker effect on one, and run it in parallel with another running a low octave patch (i.e., send the outputs of both devices to a mixer to be mixed into one signal), like the FBD8D or FBA8DW patches. Take the mixed output and put it through the third RP, again running the 8+16U patch. This sound has a lot of octaves in it, and it’s big and very organ-like.
Here are a couple of clips of organ-style leads that I played using a three-RP setup. Both were improvised over the same 3 or 4 layer harp loop, played on a B Dorian Minor harp in second position (f# minor). The first is a very rock-organ sound; the second is a dreamy Lowry organ style lead that might have been played by Garth Hudson of The Band.
RPs are cheap, really, when you compare the cost of an RP to the cost of a dedicated effects device that only does one thing. There are plenty of guitarists out there who use more than one effects pedal, and there’s no reason why you can’t do the same with two RPs.
All you have to do is run the output of one RP into the input of the other. Now any sound that comes from the first RP in the chain will be processed by the second RP in the chain.
This works great for stuff where one patch just won’t do it. For example, let’s say you really like one of the low-octave patches, but you wish you could run it with a rotating speaker effect for an organ sound. With two RPs, you can put the low octave patch on the first one in the chain, then put the rotating speaker effect up on the second RP. And you’ve got footpedal control over every effect in the chain.
If you do this, it’s a good idea to put any reverb or delay FX on the second device in the chain, not the first. Things get muddy pretty quickly when both devices have reverb or delay on them.