Five creative ways to use your expression pedal
Expression pedals can be set up to control just about any parameter you want. Depending on the capabilities of the pedal you connect them to, you may be able to choose from many different options.
I’ll break down five common ways to use expression pedals and explain the results they produce to give you some ideas to get started.
The blend of wet and dry signal determines the overall strength of ambience effects like delay and reverb.
Varying the wet/dry balance with an expression pedal can create contrast between sections, or provide a textural effect at extreme settings.
Controlling wet/dry mix is as simple as moving the expression pedal to the heel position and setting the mix control fully counterclockwise. Hold the save button to assign the expression value to the heel and repeat the process with the mix control clockwise and the pedal in the toe position.
Now you can gradually fade in washes of ambience that obscure your dry signal completely at the highest setting.
Who doesn’t love the classic runaway delay oscillation effect? When it’s a great vintage-style delay, the unique distortion and wailing trails are always fun to play with.
When you adjust the delay time, the oscillation pitch changes as the signal feeds back into itself.
The Echosystem’s tape mode can be configured for expression control of the delay time parameter. With the feedback set high enough you can use the expression pedal to “play” the pitched oscillation of the delay, even as you play new notes into the feedback loop.
It’s a great way to get musical wails and unpredictable pitched feedback as you play.
Modulation speed and depth
Modulation is a broad category of effects pedals.
Despite the different styles, this effect type almost always relies on an LFO to control the speed and depth of its action.
LFO stands for low-frequency oscillator. This waveform is so slow that you don't perceive it as a musical tone. Instead, the LFOs frequency, depth, and waveshape define the character of a modulation effect's sweep.
Changing the rate or depth of the LFO sweep with an expression pedal has unique effects for different modulation types.
For example, setting an expression pedal to control the Empress Tremolo 2's rate lets you ramp up and down from a shaky stuttering effect to a slow pulsing tone.
Johnny Greenwood famously used this technique in the rhythm guitar track on "Bones" from The Bends.
Another classic rocker-controlled effect is the dive-bomb pitch shift made famous by the Digitech Whammy.
The original pedal comes with a rocker treadle built-in, but it's large, heavy, and requires a high current power supply.
If you don't want to devote all that pedalboard real estate to a full-size whammy pedal, you can accomplish the same effect using an expression pedal and a compact pitch shifter like the EHX Pitch Fork.
Several of the best expression pedals feature additional outputs to control two or more parameters at once.
Sweeping the range of multiple controls creates a morphing effect that blurs the parameters together.
Also many digitally controlled pedals allow for control of multiple paramaters at once. The Empress Reverb and Echosystem offer comprehensive parameter control via expression pedal. In fact, you can blend between two positions on every knob as you rock the expression pedal from heel to toe.
The ZOIA is inspired by the flexibility of modular synthesis. It offers expression control of nearly every parameter in any combination and direction!
If you're looking to create evolving textures with hands-on control of a whole chain of processors, there's no better way than with ZOIA.
The control port on the Reverb, Echosystem and ZOIA can be used for
expression pedals, MIDI, an external switch, tap tempo, or CV.