Look Ma, No Hands!

You know that punch-in footswitch jack on recorders? You remember that? Well, that was me. Yup, when TEAC introduced the 3340 back in the 70s, I figured out how to wire up a footswitch. The guys at TEAC saw it and thought it was a good idea. From there on, their recorders added punch-in footswitches. Other manufacturers then followed suit.
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So why’d I do this? I mean outside of my total inability to leave well enough alone?

Simple: I play guitar. Playing guitar requires two hands, and in the days before automated punching, you had to punch exactly where you wanted the punch to occur. So I really needed to, in the immortal words of James Brown, get on the good foot.

THE NEW HANDS-FREE RECORDING

Two years ago, I reviewed the DigiTech RPx400 guitar processor for EQ. It spun my crank because — when used with the bundled Pro Tracks software — you could use the footswitches not just to bring effects in and out, but to control recorder functions (and with more sophistication than just play, stop, and record). The RPx400 appeared just as I was recording the “AdrenaLinn Guitars” sample library, and it saved me an amazing amount of time. I’ve been a fan of the concept ever since, and later graduated to DigiTech’s GNX4 — a more complete implementation of the “guitar workstation” concept (I’ve since done several tutorials on it for the www.guitarworkstation.com website).

Until recently, though, you could use only Pro Tracks Plus (PTP) with the RPx400 or GNX4. But along with PTP, Cakewalk’s Sonar 4 and Guitar Tracks Pro (GT Pro) use a plug-in architecture for control surface support, and it’s possible to install the PTP hands-free plug-in with these other programs as well. (And note that as RPx400 owners trade up to the GNX4 or the GNX2000, the RPx400 is starting to show up used for prices that make it tempting to use as a control surface, even if you’re not interested in its other features.)

Furthermore, the GNX4 also accepts the GNX FC remote footswitch unit, which parallels the existing footswitches but is used for recording only. This is helpful if you’re using the GNX4 as a tabletop device (e.g., for convenient editing) yet still want to have footswitches on the floor. The GNX2000 works similarly and offer similar control capabilities for Cakewalk hosts.

THE SOFTWARE

If you’ve installed PTP, the required control surface DLL was already installed and will show up in Sonar 4 and GT Pro’s Control Surface options. If you haven’t installed PTP but use Sonar 4 or GT Pro, then install and register this DLL as follows:

  • Go to (and if you're reading this online, you're already there!).
  • Download the file DigiTechRPX.dll (click the file at right to download).
  • Locate the following folder on your computer: C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\Shared Surfaces.
  • Copy the DLL into this folder.
  • Go Start > Run in Windows.
  • Type the following exactly as shown (but as a single line) into the Run field. (Note that there is a space between exe and “C:\ as well as between Program and Files, and also Shared and Surfaces; also, the quote symbols are required): C:\WINDOWS\system32\regsvr32.exe “C:\Program Files\Cakewalk\Shared Surfaces\DigiTechRPX.dll”
  • Click on OK; a screen should say the DLL was registered successfully.

THE HOST

You’ll need to install the USB drivers included with the DigiTech device so it can communicate with your computer, and in your host, make sure DigiTech USB MIDI is selected under Options > MIDI Devices. Once that’s done and the plug-in DLL has been registered:

  • Go Options > Control Surfaces in Sonar, Guitar Tracks Pro, or Pro Tracks Plus.
  • Choose DigiTech Hands Free as the Control Surface.
  • Select the MIDI port connected to the DigiTech unit for the program’s MIDI in field (USB for the GNX4 or GNX2000, your MIDI interface’s MIDI port for the RPx400).

And now you can control your program from the footswitches. There are subtle differences between what the footswitches do with different programs. They work as expected, but note that with Sonar 4, if you press Record to stop recording and press Record again, you’ll start recording in the same track but in a new layer. If you press Stop to stop recording and press Record again, recording begins in a new track.

For more information on using Sonar 4 with the GNX4, and details on what the footswitches do, check out the tutorial and video I did at http://www.guitarworkstation.com/Tutorial17/tutorial17.htm.