Pete Cornish is a leading rig designer in England. He's been designing switchers for a long time. His routers are like Bradshaw's, though he's made much bigger ones (24+ channels). He builds a gigantic microprocessor-controlled pedalboard that contains pedal switches & knobs for whatever 'effect boxes/pedals' that you supply to him, and also remote switches to control outboard gear. For a long time, Lou Reed and David Gilmour used gigantic Cornish systems.
Pete provided this address, 12/2000:
email: petecornish at appleonline.net
PETE CORNISH: FX GURU - March 4 1976 was the day that Pete Cornish, one of the world's top guitar amplification and effects authorities, started work on designing his first effects pedalboard for David Gilmour. And more than 20 years later, he is still assisting the band's frontman. Gilmour's first Cornish board consisted of a two guitar input selector and strobe tuner feed, while the actual effects were a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, an MXR Phase 100, Dynacomp and noise gate, a Uni-Vibe, Pete Cornish Custom Fuzz, and a Jim Dunlop Cry Baby. The board featured three Cry Baby sweep pedals, modified as a tone control, volume pedal, and wah-wah respectively, and three outputs with independent on/off switches allowed Gilmour's simultaneous use of any of all of his amps.
Modifications, including the addition of a Colorsound treble and bass boost unit, were made to the board for the "In The Flesh" tour of 1977, and for the same tour, Cornish made a bass effects board for Roger Waters plus an acoustic and an electric board for Snowy White. But it was "The Wall" which saw Cornish working at full stretch to build another five boards, the basis of which, for guitars, featured a Deluxe Electric Mistress flanger and Big Muff, and retained the sturdy Cry Baby pedals for volume, tone, and wah.
Phil Taylor says: "I was with the band whilst they were recording in America, and I had to work out how many pedalboards I needed for the show. I ended up with 11, and because there were no faxes back then, I had to send drawings to Pete by express mail and discuss them with him on the phone.
"We were not only adding a second guitarist, but we also now had a second bass player who needed his own board, plus we had a complete second stage to equip and I needed another four mini pedalboards for this. I already had some spare send and return units to cover unseen eventualities. I put it all together by working out with David and Roger exactly which effects would be needed for the songs performed on each stage, and then making the boards as compact as possible by including only the necessary effects for each situation. Getting all those made thousands of miles away from Pete was a bit of a headache, but he is someone who can always be relied on to deliver the goods."
Gilmour's rig is pretty intimidating...
"The design concept was to achieve a user-friendly system with the cleanest
possible audio signal, using the highest quality components between guitar and
amp to eliminate hums, buzzes, RF interference, etc. So the electric guitars go
into a Pete Cornish routing system, which is basically 24 sends and returns,
controlled via a Custom Auido footboard, modified by Pete, with individual
on/off switches for all send and return loops plus a microprocessor which calls
up preset combinations of effects with MIDI channel change information being
sent at the same time. Then a song title display is built in, which works via
MIDI, with a duplicate display in the rack."
Phew! So, judging from some of the pedals on top of the rig, one could say
that it's a strange marriage of hi and lo tech?
I guess we've taken advantage of technology in asmuch as Dave has enough to
think about up on stage, being the focus of attention and so his switching
system and equipment have to be as simple as possible. At the end of the send
and return routing, it then goes into a master unit which, because I have his
amp racks backstage with me, his master volume controls on it for Dave to
control his 4x12s, Doppolas and voice box from on stage.
From a gig to gig point of view, it's pretty easy to put in situ and fire up
night after night with maybe just a few slight tinkerings.
"It is, yeah. There are a few minor tweaks; I always set his gear up so that
it sounds good to me and the levels seem right, however the reason why he likes
to have his rack on stage with him every night and the reason why his pedals are
mounted on the top is so that he can wander over and give them a tweak as he
feels necessary. Pete Cornish has modified most of the 'off the shelf' effects
units for both correct matching ‚ level, impedance and so on ‚ and has incluede
several 'artistic' mods for improved usability."
Keeping his boss briefed on the latest equipment isn't the foreboding task it
might at first seem...
"Between projects there are often quite long periods where Dave doesn't play
pretty much guitar, but when there is something ‚ a tour or album ‚ about to
happend then I keep my eyes open as to what's around and take him stuff to try."
Next in line is the preamp stage.
"We use an Alembic F2B, mid 70s bass guitar preamp based, I believe, around a
Fender Showman circuit, which is very clean and with minimal controls:
brightness, volume, middle, treble and bass. It has been modified to reduce the
bottom end and fitted with an extra valve. The way in which Dave uses his system
is that he always gets a good, nice powerful clean sound ‚ a lot of his sounds
are basically clean with a bit of delay ‚ and when he does his overdriven stuff,
he introduces various pedals. I guess a lot of people these days would look on
that as an old fashioned way of doing things, but he is from the 'old school'
where you would have a couple of effects pedals on the floor going into your amp
or combo. We continue to try the modern multi-effects units but, although they
appear to be improving, there are sounds which Dave has got on record over the
years by using pedals which cannot be duplicated by those units. A lot of them
tend to be good or reasonably good, but they're never brilliant."
So much for the multi-effects, but whither the Gilmour generated electrons
"The signals then comes from the preamp and goes into his volume pedal and
from there it goes off, splits and goes into his delays. Then it comes out
through the master routing unit and goes into his HIWATT power amps. I've got
three normal HIWATT heads, AP100s, which have a preamp in, but Pete Cornish has
modified them so that we're just using the power amp stage, just going in using
the master volume and the presence control. Then there's another rack with the
other three which are slave amps. They're all run with Mullard EL34s. One HIWATT
powers a WEM 4x12 with the Fane Crescendos in it and a Marshall with Celestions;
the second does the same thing but it has a chorused version of the first signal
‚ in effect, this means that one pair has a wet signal and the other remains
dry. Then we have a spare HIWATT in the rack. In the second rack, the top HIWATT
powers his voice box [a Jim Dunlop Heil ], but what I did there was to get Pete
Cornish to make me a dummy load, because what a lot of people have found with
heavy voice box usage is, because of the nature of the driver in them, which is
a mid range horn driver, generally they don't work below 800 cycles and
therefore, if you're using it fairly loud then there's a lot of power coming out
of the amp with nowhere satisfactory for the bottom end to go and so we've got a
dummy load there to deal with it."
One unique aspect of Gilmour's backline are the Doppolas ‚ custom built,
actual layout of effects in Gilmour's rack had to be thought out primarily
for ease of use, but also so that they don't interfere with each other
electronically and cause unwanted hums and buzzes. Even the AC and DC supplies
had to be specially designed to ensure that the digital equipment is not
corrupted by clicks, main spikes, etc. Each pedal has its own separate DC supply
to guard against errant DC flow down audio signal cables # Although many
effects seem to be duplicated ‚ three different compressors, several overdrive
units, etc ‚ one will work better in a particular combination than another #
The Pete Cornish Big Muff is a custom version of the Electro Harmonix version,
but with a better signal to noice ratio # All the BOSS GE-7s have been modified
to give a flatter response at '0' position and a better overall signal-to-noice
ratio # Due to lack of space on top of the unit, four effects have been built
into rack units: the Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress, a Tremulator, two BOSS
CE-2 chorus units and an Univibe have all been modified and racked up, the
Univibe featuring a selectable speed switch with two presets # Gilmour's Earnie
Ball volume pedal has been modified with a 10k pot,to reduce high end signal
Cornish Soft Sustain.
This is obviously a Pete Cornish custom effect. Notice the combination of the GE-7 graphic EQ sliders & the knobs for sustain & volume.
Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer.
This GE-7 has been set to boost the top & bottom ranges. Labelled T&B
Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer.
This GE-7 has been set to boost the bass ranges. Labelled BASS
Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer.
This GE-7 has been set to boost the mid ranges. Labelled MID
McCartney uses no effects. When he picks up a guitar, Paul uses a Pete Cornish switching system to reroute his signal--and Hamish Stuart takes over the bass duties, usually on a Jazz Bass or a Music Man StingRay 5. McCartney's amplifier is a MESA/ Boogie system with a Bass 400 head, a Strategy 400 running as a slave, and two cabinets: a 2x15 and a 1516 (one 15, one 10, two 6s, and a bullet tweeter).
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