MIDI Footswitch

December 10, 2007

I embarked on one of the least frustrating music projects of my career this weekend. I wanted a cool footswitch for my new rig (Tonelab / etc. into Epifani / Dr. Bass). Now, I have one, and the somewhat dicey process worked great on the first try.

Let me explain.

Rather than buy an expensive Tonelab footswitch, with features I didn’t need, or shell out more cash for the floorboard versions of the Tonelab, I thought, “why not get a MIDI footswitch? It has MIDI in.” I tried picking up a cheap one on eBay, but unfortunately MIDI floorboards are neither simple (I didn’t really care about 20 buttons or an expression pedal — just wanted channel switching) nor cheap. And most of them are VERY 80s. Finally I discovered that Randall made some nice looking MIDI footswitches for their MIDI-enabled amps, in particular the RF-4, which can be obtained at Sam Ash for $50. After a few questions asked of Randall’s tech support, I determined that it would work with the Tonelab — but would only select the first four patches. Fine with me. Unfortunately, it used a 7-pin phantom power MIDI cable. The Tonelab uses a 5-pin cable. I bought it anyway (or rather, had it bought for me for my birthday), hoping to figure something out.

When it arrived, it did in fact have a 7-pin MIDI cable. So here’s what I did. I bought a small 5-pin MIDI patch cable. After some nervous deliberation, I cut it in half. Then I cut the end off the 7-pin cable. I stripped off a bit of the rubber casing, and used a multitester to figure out which wire went to which pin. I wired the relevant wires of the 5-pin and 7-pin cables together, and then I wired the female plug of a 9-volt daisy chain to the two remaining pins of the 7-pin cable. To my surprise, when the 9v plug and 5-pin MIDI were plugged in, it worked flawlessly.

Randall RF-4


9 Responses to “MIDI Footswitch”

  1. jantsi Says:

    hello there! can you help me? I’m trying to find a small-sized midi footswitch for my Rocktron Piranha and the RF4 would be perfect for what I need. my question is this: if you press switch number one on the RF4, which preset does it activate on the Tonelab? 0 or 1? I need to know because Piranha presets start with 1, so if the RF4’s switching starts with 0, then it’s no good for me. thank you.

  2. Ben Says:

    Yeah, the Tonelab and RF4 start on preset 1 as well. Bear in mind that the RF4 is only going to give you 4 presets (1-4), though — no bank control.

    One thing to watch out for, too — I’d guess that your Piranha has a 7-pin jack with the phantom power built in? Somebody, I’m not sure who, is reversing the lead and ground on the phantom power. Let me explain. I have an RF4 and also an ADA MPC footswitch, both of which use 7-pin midi phantom power. The only problem is that they have the pins reversed for the power. I don’t know whether ADA is the same as Rocktron or whether Randall is, but if you get the RF4 and it doesn’t light up with your Piranha, I would suggest cutting open the cable like I did and reversing the two extra pins (use a multitester to figure out which wires go to which pins — it’s the two that wouldn’t be in a 5-pin cable. Good luck, feel free to post again if you have any more questions.

  3. jantsi Says:

    thank you Ben. your comment is very helpful.
    I really need only four programs. I have a Rocktron Midi Mate right now, and since the only midi gear I have left is the Piranha, well, the Midi Mate seems to be a major overkill. and it takes lots of pedalboard space, too. 🙂
    in regards to phantom power, yeah the Piranha does have a seven-pin midi-in jack but it has something to do with communication between the preamp and the Rocktron All Access foot-controller, as far as I can remember. I’m thinking about using the RF4 with an AC adapter anyway.
    thanks again!

  4. Ben Says:

    Good luck with that then. I should mention, the RF4’s 9v adapter jack doesn’t fit standard Boss-type plugs, so you may need to go to radio shack or something to find a plug that fits (Randall didn’t send me one when I bought the RF4).

  5. popthree Says:

    hello Ben, thank you for posting your experience with the MIDI controller pedal. I am also looking for a simple MIDI input device…i plan to use it to control some looping software on my computer. I know nothing about MIDI but looking at my software it appears that I can assign functions (like record, play, undo, stop).. my options are

    note 0-127
    port 1-16
    channel 1-16

    any chance you’d have a guess if these type of options would allow assignment to the 4 switches on your Randall footswitch ?

    thanks again


  6. Ben Says:

    I’m pretty sure it would not. I’m not familiar with all the features of MIDI, but the only messages this footswitch can send are Program Change messages, which I think would not be analogous to any of the things you want to do. You’d need something more advanced for that … maybe the “MIDI Mastermind” by RJM? I would email their customer support and see what they say. They may even be able to tell you if it works with your program.

  7. philiptseng Says:

    hey Ben, thanks for sharing. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for (just bought a tonelab le for church use too!). What kind of AC adaptor did you use? Also, I assume you can also use the 4 buttons to turn effect (such as reverb or delay) on and off as if the tonelab is in pedal effect mode? thanks!!!

  8. Ben Says:

    I just used a Boss 9V pedal adapter. I don’t think you could control effects with the RF4, you would need to send Control Change messages for that (see comments above). I actually had the Tonelab Desktop and not LE, but I think the implementation is very similar.

  9. […] de RF4 (in volgende link gebruikt) is wel een MIDI switch, maar de RF4G2/G3 is geen MIDI switch? MIDI Footswitch Dare To Decide Ben ik nu echt zo stom geweest vandat over het hoofd te zien? __________________ Mijn […]

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