Footswitch Pedal

The discussion below is taken from a thread launched by "Scottyee" on the Synth Zone General Arranger forum. Click here to go to the original thread.

12-19-2002 11:24 PM

I'm suddenly in the market for new footswitch pedals for my keyboard (Yamaha Tyros). My cheap freebie Alesis brand sustain pedal stopped working suddenly without warning tonight right in the middle of my gig (job). As a result, I've now learned my lesson and will never again use cheap pedals, especially because I rely on them for my work. It was frustrating, especially as a traditional pianist who relies on utilizing sustain pedal technique, to have to play the arranger keyboard half the night with no piano damper pedal sustain whatsoever.

OK, I've now decided to replace that cheapie damper pedal with the heavy duty (all metal, yet small foot print sized) Boss FS-5U (unlatched) pedal, which is both rugged and well-suited as a damper pedal because it is a momentary type switch. I'm also considering purchasing a second heavy duty Boss brand pedal to trigger my keyboard's vocalizer on/off status, and a third Boss brand pedal to trigger a 'fill' to play.

Boss footswitch pedals come in two types: Unlatched (FS-5U) and latched (FS-FL). The unlatched (FS-5U) is a momentary pedal switch suitable for use as a sustain damper pedal while the latched (FS-5L) version is supposedly designed for turning things (equipment) on/off. This being the case, which pedal (FS-5U or FS-FL) is the correct pedal to use for triggering the vocalizer on/off, and which footswitch pedal is best to trigger an arranger 'fill' to play? Thanks in advance, -- Scott

12-20-2002 01:00 AM

I concur totally with the "don't use cheap pedals" statement as I have also suffered this exact failure! I use the Roland DP6 metal/plastic sustain pedal (the one with the rubber "foot" that you can trap under your heel or [in my case] under one leg of the keyboard stand to stop it migrating). There have been posts about this in the past!

I would definitely expect the "Fill Trigger" to be a momentary switch, and I would be very surprised if the "vocalizer on/off" function wasn't momentary as well.

The latching switches tend to be used on older "analog" gear (Roland space echo?) whereas most "digital" stuff uses momentary triggers for everything e.g. all Zoom effect units (it's easier to detect a 0-1-0 transition than it is to keep checking for 0-1 and 1-0)

A point about momentary switches, which is probably only significant when used as a sustain pedal, is that the switch may operate in one of two modes: Normally Closed (i.e. the contact breaks when you depress the pedal) or Normally Open (i.e. the contact makes when you depress the pedal). "Normally Open" is probably the most popular. A lot of keyboards (PSR 630 for one) have a sustain pedal setting to cover either situation (although it wouldn't remember it one the power was turned off). However I had to re-solder my DP6 because I'm using it on an Ensoniq which expects "normally closed" operation. The DP6 has a double-pole microswitch and so can be reconfigured quite easily; other footswitches sometimes have a "mode" switch will allows the footswitch to work in either mode. For trigger operations this probably doesn't matter - the trigger will be the rising or falling edge of a 0=1 or 1-0 transition and you get both for either 1-0-1 or 0-1-0 operations.

Hope that makes sense!

12-20-2002 03:33 AM

Hello Scott,
If I were you, I'd buy a Yamaha pedal. I just looked at it, but there is no reference number on it.
The Boss pedal (unlatched) is very small to hit on with your foot while at the Yamaha the pedal is at whole surface. I have been using mine over 1,000 gigs so reliability is great. This pedal is all metal with Rubber at the upper and lower side. This is very nice because, if you're standing at a tiled floor, the pedal won't slide as much as others do. Before these pedals, I also used cheap models but these are, indeed, worthless for pro's like you.

One very, very important question is whether you're standing or sitting during performing. Sitting: no problem to use 3 pedals. Standing: don't use 3 pedals!! Why? You're standing unbalanced, it's very bad for your back.

About the other pedals: IMO, I just use a damper pedal only. Most of the time you have time to press buttons instead of using three pedals. It's better to have one moment during a gig that you're a little late pressing the vocalizer switch or fill rather then getting confused about using which pedal (especially at a tiled floor). Hope this helps. -- René

12-20-2002 04:57 AM

Just curious Scott. What happened to the MFC10 you were using? -- Eddie

Uncle Dave
12-20-2002 05:17 AM

The PSR series used momentary for fills and vocalizers, so the Tyros should as well. The nice thing about those Boss pedals (two nice things) is that they hook together, and they have switchable polarity. That way the harmonies start at the depress of the switch and not the up motion. Go with the Boss -- they are an excellent choice and last a long time.

12-20-2002 05:49 AM

I've used the Yamaha pedal for about four years. It's metal and well built and should last a long time. If the Tyros is like other PSRs, the sense of the pedal depends on whether you have the pedal pressed when you switch on or not. It will retain that sense until you switch off again.
-- Bryan

12-20-2002 06:32 AM

Boss Pedals.....Built like a Tank!!

12-20-2002 07:07 AM

I've always used Yamaha for Volume, Sustain and Harmony. I've had them for at least 10 years and they still work. Let me clarify something though. When I use the footswitch for Vocal Harmony, I must press it once for ON and press it again for OFF. When I had an external Digitech harmonizer, I could set it for momentary and the harmony would be on only while the switch was depressed. I haven't been able to get the PSRs to do this. Is there a way I have overlooked? -- DonM

12-20-2002 08:52 AM

Many thanks to everyone for sharing your valuable thoughts and answering the burning question I've had for a long time, that a momentary (unlatched) footswitch pedal is the type to be used for (what I'd assume) all arranger keyboard footswitch functions. In the past, for 'on the road' synth keyboard playing, I've used those larger acoustic piano style damper pedals (Yamaha FC4, Roland DP6, etc.), but found their taller and longer length a problem 'on the road' because they seem to more easily slide or be kicked over. On the other hand, the smaller and lighter weight square type footswitch better stays in place mounted (via industrial strength velcro) to the 1/8" plywood board, which sits under my KB stand.

Yamaha FC5

Yamaha FC4

ReneT, Pilot, and DonM: Exactly which specific Yamaha Pedal (model #) do you recommend? Is it the Yamaha FC5 or the Yamaha FC4 ?

Eddie (btweengigs): Yes, I still take the Yamaha MFC10, but only for the larger, more elaborate (higher paying) stage show venues where it makes sense to drag along the over 7 lb bulky Sherman TANK (MFC10) for all its added features. For the small-medium sized and shorter length performances, traveling light is a higher priority.

UD & Donny: Yes, I too like the idea of the Boss pedals because they are built like a tank and lightweight to boot. The fact that they can be connected together sounds like an interesting concept as well. Once connected, can they very easily come apart, or are they permanently locked? I will definitely look into possibly purchasing 3 FS-5U's.

DonM: Yes, I had been wondering the same thing regarding the Vocal Harmony on/off pedal function. I've experimented on my Yamaha keyboards (PSR-2000/Tyros) as well, and as far as I know there is no way to get them to do it the way the Digitech does. -- Scott

12-20-2002 09:07 AM

I have FC4, FC5 and FC7. I usually take the FC7 for volume and an FC5 for Vocal Harmony.
When I had the PSR9000, which had three switches, I took two FC5s and the FC7. When I need to use more Sustain, (not often) I take the FC4 or an FC5. -- Don

12-20-2002 09:18 AM

HI: Scott. I also have the FC5 and FC7 -- very good footswitches. All metal construction, and they are reasonable priced. You could buy an extra FC5 for a spare, but I don't think you'll need it for many years.
-- Denny
PS: Like DonM said, he's had his for over 10 years and they still work.

12-20-2002 09:21 AM

Scott, the Boss FS-5U pedals connect by a sliding track channel (Tongue and Groove). They also have 1/4" jack inputs (Not Hot Wired) for more options.

12-20-2002 04:27 PM

The FC4 is like a piano pedal and the FC5 is just a flat tin box affair. I have the FC5. It's half the price of the FC4. You might also want to have the FC7 as well since you can use both at once for the extra functions. Go bananas and get the FC9 stereo pedal as well, though if that's the case, go for the MFC10, which will do all the functions and more. -- Bryan

12-21-2002 05:12 AM

I am using the FC-5 pedal. I have something more to say about the latched Boss pedal. We are using it to switch on/off our reverb. Yes, indeed, it's built like a tank, but there is a small minor problem with it. It has a small switch located at the back to switch the led on when making contact YES or NO. I had to solder this switch at 1 position to be sure making contact is always led=on and breaking contact is always led=off. -- René

12-21-2002 07:58 AM

Many thanks again to everyone for your advice and further clarification re foot pedal purchasing options. After checking out all of your recommendations, I decided to purchase the Yamaha FC5, especially after hearing that DonM's FC5 has lasted for over 10 years and is still working. I purchased the FC5 for $13.49 US dollars. Though the Boss FS-5U certainly is well constructed and looks rugged, it surprisingly doesn't even include a required cord (1/4"). In addition, the Boss pedal list price is $39.50 ($26.99 sale price), so adding a required cable would cost even more.

René, I believe the switch you are referring to at the back of the FS-5U is called a polarity switch. What's nice about the PSR and Tyros keyboards is that they allow you to set the polarity (+/-) for each foot pedal, on the keyboard itself, so a physical switch on the foot pedal itself is not required, or as René points out, not recommended, especially if it can easily be inadvertently switched over to the wrong setting by mistake.

Btw: Thanks to MacAllcock for his detailed explanation of the way momentary switches work.

-- Scott