Apr 112018

With digital recording software, you can create cool virtual pedalboards with plugins—no patch cords or batteries! Here’s how.


All DAWs have effects bins (aka, “virtual racks”) for inserting plugins in series. The simplest option is to insert an amp sim—such as the Line 6 Helix, IK Multimedia AmpliTube, NI Guitar Rig, etc.—arrange its effects like a pedalboard, and you’re done. But you can also supplement your sim, or replace its effects, from the huge variety of third-party plug-ins.

After creating your virtual pedalboard, save it. Many recording programs can save Track Presets—also called Track Templates. These save a track’s settings (pan, volume, etc.), any effects included in the track, and the effect settings, so that calling up your virtual pedalboard is just a few clicks away.


Track inserts generally don’t allow parallel effects. No worries. Plug-ins such as Blue Cat’s PatchWork and DDMF Meta-plugin can host other plug-ins. For example, insert PatchWork (Fig. 1) as a plug-in in a track insert, and it can host up to eight parallel paths of series effects—just as if they were track-insert effects. What’s more, some host plug-ins can “translate” normally incompatible plug-in formats—like hosting AU or VST plug-ins within Pro Tools (which accepts only AAX format plug-ins). Slick.

Fig. 1—PatchWork is a plug-in that hosts plug-ins.

If you don’t want to spring for a plug-in host, create a parallel signal path with an effects or aux send to a bus, and add a second effects chain in the bus’ effects bin or rack.


This can get complicated, because you’ll need to link some kind of MIDI hardware to controls within the program. Footpedals are usually easiest, because parameters often have a “MIDI Learn” function where you simply move the pedal, and it’s assigned. Or you may need to link a parameter to controls or macros that then respond to MIDI. Check the documentation.

For footswitches, not all effects have automated bypass. Sometimes, your best option is linking to an effect’s mix control, and switching between processed and straight sound. But unless you’re using the virtual pedalboard live, it’s easier to enable/bypass effects for particular parts of a song, and punch in where you want any changes to occur.


Fig. 2—Studio One’s Effects Chains provide series and parallel effects paths.

These let you create your own multieffects by setting up effects chains, and assigning knobs and buttons to various parameters, or even combinations of parameters. For example, you could assign an FX chain’s “Distortion” control to distortion drive, midrange EQ boost in a parametric EQ, and overall level to maintain a constant level as you change the distortion drive. The FX Chains in PreSonus Studio One (Fig. 2) provide series and parallel effects chains, and include eight knobs and eight buttons. Cakewalk Sonar’s FX Chains (Fig. 3) provide six knobs and six buttons, as well as the option for custom graphics.

Fig. 3—Cakewalk Sonar’s FX Chains let you customize the graphics.

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The Virtual Pedalboard
Source: Guitar Player