Saturday, 24 September 2011

On course. Three more cops.

Electronics college is great - though I'm only in the third week. I know about a third of it - which is good going for this point in the two-year course. Sometime we have to pick a project to make for 'microprocessors' - one student asked whether a robot would be possible, and the lecturer replied 'I don't see why not...'          Amazing!!!

I'm wondering whether I could do a 'random generator', with a variable amount of randomness, to switch between upwards and downwards-going envelope wah wah. That's as in depth as I can currently go.

Meanwhile my life drawing class has also started, and I'm not doing that good in it - though I'm enjoying it a lot (which is what it's all about).

 And night-time drawing of 'Homicide' is very sporadic. Here are Detectives Crossetti, Howard and Lieutenant Giardello....

Friday, 5 August 2011

Hey - at least I made a Big Muff!

So I tried making something to do with a distortion, and put together an op amp Big Muff. Sounded really good. In fact, great. Then thinking, so I tweak about with this till I come up with my own thing...

But hang on - that's what every pedal maker out there does! It'd just get rid of the Rainger FX USP! Everyone has their own version, or adds some useful tone knobs and switches, and puts it in a box with a very nice paint job. Got to reach further than that.

So I look out the window a bit, tell myself off for just looking out the window. Put myself in 'new sounds' situations (visit musician friends, listen to stuff, go to events not connected with this, maybe have a life for a moment...), and I've got some things to try - which I'll start today.

Been doing alot of drawing late at night. Here's a few more of the cast of 'Homicide'...

M.E. Juliana Cox (Michelle Forbes), Det. Lewis again (Clark Johnson) and Det. Briscoe (Jerry Orbach, also from 'Law & Order', only guested in 'Homicide').
Weird how 'manga' Juliana has turned out - but when I think about it, that is kinda how she looks...

Monday, 13 June 2011

new post, whole new blog

Just so I can spare you all the chip-by-chip technical details, I've started a new blog at to go into all that gruesome stuff. (Also done to be easily incorporated - soon - into the main Rainger FX website itself ).

Meanwhile this one you're looking at right now will continue, going on about everything else in the world that interests me - including electronics, but from a more 'user' perspective.

And here's Detective Meldrick Lewis (actor Clark Johnson, from 'Homicide'), just to show that this blog still gets all the good stuff... Or at least the sort-of-alright stuff.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Theory Of Everything - sorted

So there's quantum physics, where scientists are delving into the inner workings of the tiniest particles. And there's relativity, where scientists deal with the exact opposite; how objects and waves behave when moving at speeds close to - or at - the speed of light, over colossal distances. Like stars, interstellar space, and light itself.
And one of the main things they're trying to find now, is how to link these two fields...

So I like to do electronics, dealing with the movements of some of the tiniest particles - electrons, moving as one to appear as an electric current. And I also like to draw and paint, basically dealing with how light behaves. Along with music, these two things are big bits of me; not saying I'm any good at them or anything, but is this not linking the two fields?

Anyway, here's my drawing of Detective John Munch from 'Homicide' and 'Law & Order'. He's the first character in TV history to crop up in two totally different shows.
Turned out way better than the drawing I did of Detective Frank Pembleton ('Homicide' only).

Monday, 23 May 2011

ant vs. impedance problem

Spent today correcting new problems in pedals I thought were finished. Actually, not 'correcting', more just 'detecting'. Weird feedback appears - at low volume - and when I adjust the guitar's volume pot it changes in pitch. Plus disappears when I turn the pedal's volume down... But it's NOT a volume thing. I think it's to do with impedance - but the circuit is all buffered up (input and output), and shouldn't be affected by these things.
I'll consult the guru...

My Catalinbread Teaser Stallion pedal makes a feature of this syndrome, the guitar's volume control acting like a strange kind of tiny rotational theremin, but I'm not quite at that point yet.

Meanwhile, here's a photo I took on holiday of an ant struggling to pull a cheerio - which I can seriously relate to at this moment.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

waveforms/college forms

Bought an oscilloscope! A neat little thing that I have no idea how to use, but hopefully soon I'll have a clear picture of what's going on signal-wise in circuits.

Fixed the blown up Dr Freakenstein (just replaced the ICs), sent it back, got some more orders... ('orders' plural, so that means two).

AND I had an interview at a college to do a two-year electronics course. I took along a Dr FF, and Compactotron, plus the inside circuits to show them... They offered me a place on whichever course I fancied! They do project-based ones, and apparently I could say things like 'so my project will be the world's first distortion pedal with portamento'.
Analogue and digital they do, plus microcontrollers and a load of other stuff... including a health and safety module.
I have managed to get by without 'health and safety' so far, but probably only just.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Charcoal and fried board

Just got back from holiday, and raring to go.
When hanging around in airports on the way home, I'm always aware of how much I love getting back to my regular life - and that's a truly fantastic thing; I know some people who get quite depressed over the last few days of their escape...

Spain was good - lots of guitar playing out in the sun on the veranda, some reading and lots of drawing. Here are some trees on a hot hill nearby - done with my lovely charcoal pencil.
Several pictures I did took hours, but this took about 30 seconds - and I think I like it more.

A couple of packages waiting for me - one, boring parts I'd been waiting for, and one a broken Dr Freakenstein Fuzz someone had sent back. I'd got an email about it - which I'd opened very worriedly (did I fuck up in the making??). But they'd plugged in an 18V power supply by mistake and fried it - so I'm quite relieved, and interested to see what it's like inside.
Fixing it's fine (I hope), but if they do it again I'll ask them to record the sound it makes as they do it.

Actually that's pretty much the sound it makes anyway.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Smells Like Dub Spirit

I've been working on the dubstep pedal, and the frequency/voltage bit of the circuit is being very temperamental - which is odd, as it's actually part of a car speedometer; should be fairly foolproof. Anyway eventually I got it to work really pretty good - still need to iron out some bits of behaviour, then put the whole thing together (on the breadboard).

I've got to try and remember - the original idea was to do something original, cheap and quick. I'm aware that by the time the first one is finished, dubstep may be deeply out of fashion - so I need to give it a different name. Also, if you walk into a guitar shop, you don't hear many kids playing dubstep versions of Teen Spirit... Anyway, today I'm not discouraged; I'm just trying to make a new sound.

Other pedal makers seem to bring out new models every month... I've no idea how. They have a ton of different products on their websites; are they all variations on a theme (new names and artwork)?

No picture again today - I'm out and about.

Me and J are off on holiday to southern Spain for a week tomorrow - to do nothing. Except drawing, reading electronics books, playing guitar.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Intermittent broadcast

A time of soldering of large numbers of components, lots of struggling with prototypes. Dr Freakenstein Fuzzes everywhere...

Weirdly, I don't loath soldering yet. There's something mindlessly satisfying to it. However I'm getting very pissed-off with intermittent faults on the prototype breadboard; how are you meant to work out problems when the circuit is coming and going??

Weekends, bank holidays, royal weddings - all have been swallowed up in the big push to get to a new stage of Rainger FX.


Thursday, 21 April 2011

That's one more crap idea out the way on the route to the good stuff.

One flavour of fuzz with a different flavour at the edges...? Well it just seems like... more fuzz, really.
Again wondering what I was thinking.

Maybe the fact I keep pouncing on ideas (which turn to shit before my very eyes) is something that means things get a momentum and get made - if they're OK.

On with the dubstep pedal then, which - yeah, you guessed it - I think will rock.

In a weird and unique way.

Today, a big cardboard box arrived full of metal enclosures that I designed! All painted ('black leatherette') and drilled - and the sockets all fit in the holes, and the pcb fits inside! With only a smallish amount of filing needed!
I'd take a photo, but you've seen it already, and I don't want to bore you. It's exciting though.

Instead, here's me at the Big Chill, showing some love to my red Boss analogue delay. Notice the lovely old blue Boss compressor next to it. Boss are so great - and everyone ignores them.

And I've got no pedal board!

And rather big hands!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

It just sounds rubbish. There, I said it!

The internet is all spin. Stuff presented in the most positive/optimistic/exaggerated way. If ever you have an idea, and you slyly google it, looking for evidence of it already occurring, don't be downhearted by what you find. Yeah it's all been done before, apparently by some formidible backwater genius on the other side of the world - who's just trying to show themself in the most positive light. I mean, I do it too...

But let me tell you now, my clean attack distortion idea is just not working. I've tried hard, and finally got to a stage where I can hear the circuit doing what it should. And it sounds... not good. What was I thinking??! I can hear in my head what I was after, and I'm just nowhere with it. It's lots of work to get reality to match - but I'm not encouraged enough to persevere.

So. anything else I can do with the bits? Well, with some adapting I could do a 2-stage distortion, a 'regular' overdrive doing normal stuff - but with an insane, circuit-bending, howling fuzz that peaks through at the end of the note as it dies away, or at the very instant the note starts. Right now that seems quite a good idea; relatively simple to do, pretty cheap - and as far as I know, there's nothing else like it.

And what would the regular distortion be? I'm not one of those types who chips away at a fuzz circuit, changing component values, adding and subtracting bits. That's just not that exciting. The most fun stuff (other than playing through it) was coming up with the primaeval fuzz in the first place, and that's already been done. So stick a Big Muff in the box to start with and be done with it - on to the circuit-bending.

Meanwhile, this poster never saw the light of day... So here it is now.
Whenever I look really really closely at an LED, it reminds me of nothing more than the distant star around which homo sapiens' future home orbits.

That's quite far out really.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


So all electric guitarists go on forever about their favourite fuzzbox/distortion pedal, and how there's never been anything to better it. It's all Tubescreamer, Big Muff, Fuzzface, Rat, etc etc. So what's an aspiring pedal builder to do when people are stuck in the products of 30 or 40 years ago?

Make copies of them, of course.
Sure, tweak a few values here and there - but basically make clones. But it just doesn't seem like progress to me.

So, you know I'm thinking of new ideas to make... Well what about a box with all that lot inside in one go - and get it over with?! Fuzz upon fuzz upon fuzz; a Great Wall Of Fuzz; fuzzes in series; in parallel fighting each other, gnarly twisted waveforms in stereo. How fucked up can you get the sound?

Quite a long time ago I was writing for a monthly musicians' magazine, and was asked to do a distortion pedal round-up; basically phone round every company I could think of and get them sent to me to review. After about ten days I was OD'ing on overdrive, but testing and comparing away like a trooper. At the end, of course the editor wanted to know what they sounded like all plugged in at once, so I managed to get 38 jack-to-jack leads together and plugged that many in...

It's safe to say the resulting sound had a nice lot of sustain. In fact, play a single note into the top of it, and a pure flatlining tone was emitted at the other end, which, as the string vibration gradually died away, was gradually overwhelmed by a sort of huge outboard motor sound effect... the background hiss amplified to a whole new order of magnitude.
It soon became apparent though that the most important effect would be the last one; whatever that one passed through or didn't pass through - that's the decider.

So this is the ideal one I'd put last.
All others are rubbish.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Managing to not go crazy

Been waiting around for PCBs to arrive. They're four days overdue (four days!). When they do, I can see if they fit the prototype box I've had made - holes and everything... And if all's OK, I press the big box-making switch!

In the meantime I've been working on a distortion pedal that's clean for the initial strum of the guitar, the pick-hitting-string part, and immediately afterwards is distorted for the rest of the sound. Should lead to some interesting attack punch, something that's often lacking from boxes that squash the sound flat, and also the amp might like that clean hit.

Sometimes when people record guitar, they do experiments like mic'ing up the strings acoustically - to get the plectrum 'zing' - and mixing that into the sound. I did a session with major rock producer Michael Beinhorn back in the day, when we spent twelve hours just getting the guitar sound; no problems, but that's how long it took to position about twenty mics on the Marshall and Mesa stacks and my Twin Reverb, adjust the rack gear (JMP1, Sansamp) and his modular synth also mixed in. A whole row of faders pushed up to make one unstoppable sound!
He didn't mic the guitar itself though. I think he'd be up for hearing this pedal, mind; said he didn't like pedals - but then included my Tonebender/Fender Twin combination.

PCBs still not here.

I bought some Kevlar a while back - for J's valentine card (bulletproof!). It's mad stuff; looks like regular fabric, and then you get your scissors out to cut a bit... and there's something wrong... What's up with these scissors??!
It's weirdly strong. I was using big sharp scissors, and the bit I finally cut out looked like I'd done it with a penknife.

Hey - how about a new game!
... 'Stone, Kevlar, Scissors'
Kevlar beats stone and scissors.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Protected Christ

I couldn't resist drawing this that I found in the V&A Museum a few weeks back...Left on display in one of the large sculpture rooms, I think they were preparing to move some of the pieces - but actually maybe it was a statement by the museum's curators on religion today. Or why, with all the modern comforts we have, we're still not happy. We're gently but firmly restricted - and it's our downfall... killing with kindness...

I think it's a more interesting picture than if the figure wasn't packaged up; content of a picture is really important, and so often overlooked. Abstract art heads towards pure expression by the artist, but surely the subject someone picks means something?
What do I know.

I've been thinking alot about new ideas for pedals. I've got a number of 'building blocks' that I've developed, sections of a circuit that do a particular thing... That I can put together to do a particular job with a high chance of it actually working. But there's always some problem (often at the end) that needs to be overcome - the thing that makes it really worthwhile and satisfying. It'd just be too easy otherwise.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011



... Well, actually Drury Precision Engineering of Alford, Lincolnshire made this - but I told them what to do, and was (virtually) looking over their shoulder while they forged and welded.
They really couldn't have done it without me!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Flares vs straight

So I paid the money for 20 boxes to be made.
It's a big old lump.
I'm thinking that I should be able to shift that many pedals - it's just a matter of how long it'll take.

The box itself has a slight 'flare' to it when viewed from above, like exaggerated perspective, and it'll replace the current box which looks very 'square' from above. Now, I think this makes all the difference; look at this photo of a motel I made for a video.

The first motel I made had a parallel sided tower - but then I took it apart and (with a load of effort) gave it the false perspective thing... I think it makes a difference.

Hope I'll like the boxes when they arrive.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Like every guitar player, I started off learning blues - as it's pretty quick and easy to sound sort of OK doing it, and it's the starting point of most kinds of modern music. But after a while I got bored with it. I dunno -something to do with the 'english pub lunchtime' feeling about it, old white blokes crucifying it decade after decade. In fact if you ever hang around where guitar players hang around, it's pretty hard to get away from, but I ended up running...

I'm at the stage now where - through some sort of weird filtering process - I like a lot of electro-type music; anything from traditional Kraftwerk-y stuff, to more 'dance' based things, to a whole load of chart-topping studio-based pop. Music that actually doesn't have much guitar in it usually - which I find slightly worrying.

However I can't help thinking that what I do on guitar fits right in with all that - and I'm always into getting new sounds that fit the occasion. Which was the starting point for Rainger FX guitar pedals; make these sounds available to other people. For lots of acts, whenever they play live they always like to make things more exciting, rough things up a bit... And they get a guitarist into their live band. And you see them on TV playing together (often miming) the guitarist gamely strumming away... to a track that has no guitar on it! Get the guy a Compactotron! ( )

So meanwhile, the rest of the guitar world is down the pub at lunchtime - stylistically speaking (though the pub may sometimes be a classic-rock-of-the-future kind).
How does Rainger FX fit in with that?
Well, to varying degrees. I do a few distortion-type of boxes that'd definitely make the lunchtime more fun, but I'm aiming to be the place to go for cutting edge sounds - and not taking for granted the usual (previous) ways of doing things.
Let's see.

And now, here are some pictures of nice fake food...

Friday, 25 March 2011

I've got this fantasy image...

... of how I'll be making pedals in the (hopefully) near future. To my right is a large cardboard box full of finished enclosures, painted and ready to be used. On my left is another large box full of printed circuit boards - stuffed with components, ready to be used.
I pick one from one side, one from the other, and push them together with a satisfyingly gentle 'snick!', the parts meshing perfectly with each other...

Of course this is the penultimate step in manufacturing development, the final stage being when they're made in their millions for almost nothing by happy smiling children in some far off country.

But sadly, neither situation is quite happening yet; I just got a quote for the pcb part for £17 per box for just the labour in sticking the components on. I can do one in about an hour, and this quote is for a batch of only 20... So it's back to the soldering for me.

Which is OK!
It's weird, but - when it's your own thing - you don't mind the process of 'board stuffing', which is pretty handy. Yes, I could've been one of those smiling happy kids.

In the meantime, here's a picture of a pedal someone else made; simple and funny, it's pretty inspiring...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Possibly Changing The Course Of Modern Popular Music

I had a brief moment of calm recently when I could actually have a think about some new ideas. Tried to think of some relatively simple pedals... Small, cheap, strange things, that people just might be compelled to buy. And that may possibly change the course of modern popular music.  That sort of thing.

I thought of using a key part of something I'd made already; the triggering system from the Compactotron, but instead of my distortion and lo-pass filter inside, plug in - externally - any other effects the user owns... It's a triggered panner, panning quickly from one effect to the other - left to right if you want (or mono).

Called the Short Attention Spanner, it would sort of look like this...

The Red LED flashes with each trigger, and the heel switch trigger bit permanently attached via the black cable out of the bottom panel. The user changes its use to suit the situation, ie two modulation pedals, going at different speeds? Or distortion and echo? Whatever.

Green seemed weirdly intense. And with a green knob and green LED - even more so. And with black fittings and a red flashing light... I think when I'd made it, I would carry this pedal around with me from room to room for several days, just so I could always look at it.

Anyway. I also had an idea for a compilation CD; 'Music To Solder By'. Stuff that made you feel you were in a film, working solo deep into the night on a tough project that would eventually set the world reeling with its magnificence... Hmmm. Possibly not changing the course of modern popular music.

BTW have a listen (in the background) for a day or two to - a marvellous music player of electronic ambient music with a live feed of New York emergency radio frequencies over the top.

If that doesn't sound totally brilliant to you, try it with Los Angeles, or maybe Chicago.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Extreme Metal

I've been preparing blank store-bought boxes for effects pedals, and I've got to say, doing metalwork is JUST HORRIBLE.

Drilling holes in it involves brute force from a dangerous machine, throwing nasty metal splinters everywhere. Then you have to file the holes by hand to position them precisely - especially if you've gone and opted for any rectangular ones (you fool!). Filing in itself is hard work; muscles aching, you knock your fingers on jagged edges... It's awful. Blood, sweat and 3-in-1 oil everywhere...

I've had enough of all this. So I'm trying to get some boxes made specially by someone else - holes and everything, painted, ready to go, and - to be fair - it is slowly moving ahead. But this isn't easy either - finding the right companies to contact, emailing with all the spec, trying to coax them into actually replying. When you've found one, then starts the process of communicating exactly (that's exactly) what you want. And that's after you've put the work in designing the thing.

In fact, I've got a theory that it takes exactly the same amount of energy to push this through as drilling/filing pre-made boxes yourself, only a different kind of energy - spread out over weeks instead of one savage burst.

Plus of course a whole stack of money.

But in the end - hopefully - I'll get a really cool unique box! Here's a picture of a cardboard cut-out of what I've got in mind. Check out that overhang on the right!

Department Of Connections


I'm David Rainger - a guitar player, interested in guitar playing, music, guitar effects pedals, drawing and painting, electronics, cosmology, London, and US cop TV shows. I'm trying to get Rainger FX going, my guitar effects pedal company. At the moment - other than a few key companies that help out - it's pretty much me, making a mess on the dining room table, but this blog will (no doubt) be about the journey from dining room table to internationally-renowned mega-brand; gripping stuff, I'm sure.

Of course it'll also be about inventing stuff, making beautiful things, art generally, chocolate, girls, and the highs and lows of modern day-to-day life. Not necessarily in that order.

I was told it's good to have links in things, so here's one; . And pictures too - here's a drawing from my life drawing class that I've just finished. It's OK, but doesn't actually look like the model.

Next, I'm doing 'Portraits 1', so maybe there'll be more of a similarity in future.