« Modulate your way into a soundscape »Published on 02/17/18 at 04:48
Wow… if you like creating or playing music that takes on a different edge, and in the realm of soundscapes or the futuristic then Happiness is up your alley. Below is a sample demo I put together:
Now, the quality of the sounds is amazing, and the people at Dwarfcraft are of a different mindset, developing gear for keyboards/synths as much as guitar. And so, their perspective is a bit different from most pedal manufacturers. I really enjoy working with modulation pedals because they often offer up something completely different and unusual from typical fuzz, distortion and pre-amps. You can get lost in fooling around with modulation and creating unique combinations. Happiness certainly is no exception as the 8-minute video I created only grazed the surface. Here is a rundown of what the controls do and how each affects the outcome.
Starting at the bottom, the STATE switch selects from three filter modes (removing high frequencies, low frequencies or both high and low frequencies). You could almost think of it as a tone control on your guitar. You can get some interesting ambient background drone-type effects when you cut off the high frequencies – ideal for layering sound to fatten up a composition. The RATE controls the speed of the modulation, from a slow ‘glow’ to a faster ‘thrust.’ The SHAPE controls the LFO’s (low frequency oscillation) waveform (at 12 o’clock you have a triangle, but turning it left or right will create a slow ramp or saw). The SPEED controls the rate of the SCRAMBLE effect (if Scramble is turned off the pedal behaves as a steady modulated filter, whereas when it’s on it acts as a ‘sample and hold circuit’ for more of an ‘off-then-on’ modulation… similar to a kill switch on a guitar!).
Moving to the top controls, the FREQ defines the cutoff frequency of the filter. I like it sitting around 10 or 11 o’clock, but as you dial it up you can achieve some interesting lo-fi sounds. The REZ controls the resonance, and it can give you a nice subtle ‘zing’ to the tone. However, as you crank it up you may get a whiplash from your speakers… some really wicked stuff can be produced (I demoed this a bit in the video). DEPTH controls the depth and direction of the LFO modulation (at 12 o’clock it is cancelled, whereas either direction produces modulation, whether you want just a little or a lot). MASTER is the volume control.
What gives Happiness some extra joy is that there are two EXPRESSION pedal inputs. Not sure if there’s a Y-cable out there that allows you to control both at the same time (there must be), but that would be awesome to try. The FILTER XP allows you to control the cutoff for the filter, obviously, whereas the LFO XP controls the rate of the internal LFO. What I like about this is that you get nothing but dry signal when the expression pedal’s heel is down, and then you can tap into just a bit of effect or a lot of effect when you want to… to bring emphasis to certain chords or notes, etc.
Now, there’s a lot more on this pedal that I’ll never use, but the people at Dwarfcraft designed this beauty with studio musicians and keyboardists in mind as well. Happiness includes a Filter CV In and LFO Out, so that you can use other gear to control the pedal. The same with the Scramble CV In, which allows you to substitute another control voltage signal for timing of the scramble effect.
I really enjoy using this pedal, and it’s simple enough to use when turning on and off. However, you’re going to spend a solid day having fun to discover what happens when you turn one knob quarter way, another full, and another half-way… and all the other combinations possible. In that regard, Happiness is not a plug-and-play type pedal, like a basic distortion or fuzz, and it may seem overwhelming to some. What I suggest is that when you discover a sound you like, write down the settings. Because there is so much this pedal can do and in so many combinations, I can see gear sluts buying up this baby only to later throw it away with the bathwater… either forgetting what cool sounds they once had or not devoting the time to dial in something useable in the first place.
Further to that last point, although I have addressed how great this pedal is for weird and unique sounds, very modest modulations can be created and then set low in the mix. This helps to give an added and different dimension to a guitar’s tone, but also helps to fatten up the signal.
If I could change something, I would have preferred the cable input and output at the back (at the top) and the Expression ins along the side(s). However, reversing these would suit my pedalboard configuration better, whereas it may be suitable for someone else.
Finally, Happiness uses a standard 9v center negative plug and draws only 110mA, perfect for most adapters and any pedalboard power source.