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084 | Strymon BigSky: A Closer Look at this Multidimensional Reverb Pedal | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Hello, and welcome to episode 84 of the Sonic Renegades podcast. We're exploring renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. For today's discussion, we have another pedal from Strymon, specifically. Today, we're going to be talking about Strymon's Big Sky reverb pedal. This thing is an absolute gem, and we're looking forward to unpacking it on the other side.

Hey, guys, Scott Schwertly and Andrew King with you today. Hope you are having an amazing one. I know it's been a few weeks since we've last connected. We've missed a couple of weeks there in the lineup, but glad to be back and excited today to be talking to about the Big Sky from Strymon. Andrew, I know this thing is a staple on your board. I know you've used it quite extensively over the years, and I know you've got your own two cents on this one. So I'll let you kick things off. I know you're a big fan of this pedal.

Andrew King:
Yeah, I really am, Scott. As much as anything, pedal just provides the ability to get in and out of different reverb scenes fast and to recall presets very fast. And then obviously there are just so many different reverb machines within the Big Sky, whether it's the cloud or the plate setting or the hall setting, or it has a great spring reverb. Really, the versatility is the key point with the Big Sky.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, this thing is so much fun. I've had mine, not as long as you've had yours, but I think I've had mine now for about a year and a half. And there's just so much you can do with it. And it's so versatile and it definitely is the king of reverb pedal options out there today. And we'll definitely get more into the bells and whistles of it here in just a minute. But if you're not familiar with the Big Sky or maybe you're researching right now, and you're considering maybe buying one, a lot of great history behind it. It's been around for a while. It is, again, the king of reverb options out there today. Pretty good from a big box perspective, but this thing's actually been around since 2010. Yeah, again, been around for ... it's hard to believe it's been around for over a decade.

There are other counterparts of it. Strymon did release the Blue Sky, which is, again, a smaller counterpart of it in 2014. So if you don't want to shell out the hundreds of dollars required to get a Big Sky, you could get the cheaper alternative, but limited alternative, that being the Blue Sky. Yeah, for $479, so it is expensive. It is going to set you back a little bit. You are going to get an amazing pedal though at the end of the day from it. So definitely worth it. You can get a lot of them used obviously out there on reverb and other places. I think I actually got mine used. Actually, I take that back. I think I got another Strymon pedal used, but I got this one brand new and it's been worth every single penny. So [crosstalk 00:03:05]

Andrew King:
Same, I got my new. I got it new from Carter Vintage, here in Nashville, maybe in 2015, or it might've been early 2016. And Scott, you hit on the Blue Sky, which is the little brother to the Big Sky. I think if you're considering one versus the other, really, the difference maker for me, why I ultimately decided to use pedal board real estate on the larger Big Sky, was just the ability to recall different presets on demand and really fast, whether that's at a live gig and your verse to reverb needs to be different than your chorus river. Just being able to stomp on that really quick and get a lot out of it. Whereas with the Blue Sky, there's just not as much versatility and you just can't bank presets like you can on the Big Sky. And there's also just not as many reverb machines on the Blue Sky.

Scott Schwertly:
Agreed. I mean, that's definitely one of the best selling points with it. And again, with just all the 12 different, unique reverb machines that are included, and then the ability just to call them when you need them or pull them up when you need them is really just a ... it's such a wonderful thing. And then obviously tone. We can talk about that in a little bit. I mean, but the pedal obviously sounds beautiful. It's great. I know we met going to the same church, so obviously you use it obviously from a worship and praise perspective, but also outside of that.

Andrew King:
Yes.

Scott Schwertly:
And I mean, obviously for worship and praise, I mean, that's classic reverb, wet sounds. I mean, it just fits beautifully into that [crosstalk 00:04:47] environment.

Andrew King:
It's the verb that's on a lot of the tracks that ... a lot of the electric tracks that you're hearing on those records. When you look at the guys that have played on those, and then you dive deep on the gear they're using, more times than not, it is the Big Sky.

Scott Schwertly:
Absolutely. I mean, obviously it's big in the worship and pray space, but even outside of that. I mean, as we're prepping for this episode, looking up just regular artists that use this thing, I mean, there are big names like Matt Bellamy from Muse or Johnny Buckland from Coldplay or Tom Misch or Mateus Asato, Westmoreland, Corey Wong. I mean, the list goes on and on. I mean, this pedal is so popular.

Andrew King:
It's great. And honestly, while we're speaking to application, I've even used it to create ... if I've been on a gig and a sound that was fundamental to the track was maybe a pad or a keys patch or something along those lines, and there were two guitar players, I've even used it to replicate those sounds. I think I've gone to maybe the orchestra patch or one of the coral patches and just dial that to replicate a synth. And then basically I use the infinite setting where you stomp down on the reverb. And if you stomp down on the foot pedal and hold that down, it will give you an infinite tale of reverb. And so I've basically dialed this patch and then in combination with the foot pedal, have been able to simulate a keys player.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. And that just, again, speaks testament to the versatility of this thing, and it can do so much. Yeah, there's so much that that's offered. I even love the middy option. I actually run a Boss ES-5 switcher on my board. And so, again, it works well with everything. It does so much. And maybe we can just use this as a jumping off point. I mean, I feel like I'm familiar with it, but I know you're way more familiar with it, just because you've had it for so much longer. But yeah, let's just go ahead and walk everybody through. Again, there's probably too much here to cover in one podcast episode, but maybe we'll just go ahead and touch on some of the major headlines as far as what this thing can actually do. Yeah. So Andrew, if you would just want to maybe walk everybody through what they can expect with something like this.

Andrew King:
Yeah. So with the Big Sky, you're looking at off the top, I think it's 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I think it's 12 different reverb machines. And the Big Sky, like I hinted on earlier, it gives you the option to basically have limitless reverb. You could have your reverb go to the end of time if you want to set it that way versus, with a lot of other reverb pedals I see, there's only a certain amount of decay time. Your decay might be limited to five seconds or 10 seconds. Whereas with the Big Sky, you really can dime it and really give you as much verb as you need. I'm not going to hit on all the machines, but the machines that I commonly find myself going to are the plate reverb, the spring reverb, the haul reverb, also the cloud reverb and the coral reverb.

Basically, on the Big Sky at any time you can recall three different presets. There's three different pedal switches on the Big Sky. And so you can have three presets at your disposal at any time. You can have many more presets than that. And by stomping on, I think, the middle foot switch and the right foot switch, you can go up in your preset banks. And then in stepping on your left foot switch in the middle foot switch, you can go down on your preset banks. I don't want to misquote here, but I think you can have up to 300 presets. I think it can be 100 different banks. And then I think each foot switch can have its own setting. I mean, that's more than you'd ever really need on certainly on any gig or a session or anything. And the beauty of the Big Sky is you're not just tied to the predetermined settings of these reverbs. You can go in and create your own sound patch, tweak with mixed, tweak with the decay modulation. It's a really versatile pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, versatility is definitely the key word here. I mean, it just does so much, and it really doesn't disappoint. I mean, like you mentioned, Andrew, I mean, it's really limitless as far as what you can do. And as far as setting up all of this, I mean, it's super easy. I mean, if you're just using the pedal itself, programming, everything in, it's pretty simple. I mean, it may take you a couple minutes to get familiar with ... if this is your first time buying a Strymon product, it may take you a few minutes to get adjusted to the different layers of controls and all that. But once you get familiar with it, it's really easy to go in and customize everything and start setting all your various different parameters.

Also, if you like to connect your pedal to your computer, obviously Strymon's Nixie software application is super user-friendly. In fact, when I first started getting my Strymon pedals, I was using Nixie quite a bit, because it just seemed a little bit more straightforward. It worked for my computer and set everything that way. Eventually, I just stopped using Nixie. Now I just do everything by just working with the pedal itself. But either route, again, once you spend a few minutes with it, super straightforward, not overly complex and you should be up and running in not time.

Andrew King:
Yeah. The presets that come with the Big Sky are really good. I mean, a lot of pedals presets that come are standard and not always the most musical, but many of the Big Sky's standard presets are great. That being said, I think most people that use the Big Sky want to still develop their own sounds. Obviously, one way to do that as, Scott, you mentioned, is going through Nixie and tweaking it on the computer. And that can be functional and practical for some. I'm old school. I like to have the pedal in my hand and tweak on the pedal. And so just hitting on some of the parameters, the common parameters, anyway, that with the Big Sky, you can dive on.

The first being the persist function. No matter which machine you're on, you have the ability to turn persist on and off. And what persists does is basically you can have ... say you have a plate reverb going with maybe a three or four second decay time, and say you're playing a song and the song has a point. We'll say, just for discussion sake, bar two of chorus three, there's a hard stop. The band hits on beat one and it's a hard stop. Well, with the persist function, you could press the foot switch and turn your reverb off. So when the band stops, you don't get a reverb decay. You would need to put the persist function on off there. If you'd want it to persist that is, when you hit the foot switch, you still get the reverb, you would leave the persist on.

So maybe you want to turn the haul reverb or the plate reverb off when you step on the foot switch so that when the band comes back in, you're no longer on that reverb setting. But you still want, before you come back in to get the decay from the pedal itself, you can have that persist switched on. So even though you turn, even though you were bypassing the pedal, the reverb that you've already generated will continue. If persist is off, when you step on that switch, the reverb goes away. It would just immediately go away, which isn't very natural. But if you want it to feel like a complete hard stop, then maybe that's what you're going for.

Some other settings are the hold function, which I had alluded to earlier. Basically, on the infinite switch, if the reverb is engaged and you press your foot switch and hold it while the river is engaged, that reverb tail will go to infinity. Until you take your foot off the pedal, the reverb will continue or until the venue loses power, whichever comes first.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, there's just so much. I mean, again, we're just scratching the surface here again between the presets and all these other custom things that you can do. And then all the other presets that you can purchase and upload to it. Again, we're just scratching the surface. I mean, there's just so much you can do. And again, the big question now is, is it worth that $479 price tag? You could probably tell from our stance on this, it's yes, we both think it's worth it. Particularly if reverb is a big part of your sound and a big part of your tone, and obviously what you're wanting to accomplish, might as well just spend the few extra bucks and invest in something like this. It's a beautiful pedal. And I think we both agree that you'll be very pleased with what the end result.

Andrew King:
Totally. Yeah, and we've talked a lot about the versatility, but the sounds themselves in addition to the versatility, because there are other versatile reverb pedals out there. And full disclosure, many pedals are not. Many pedals are just ... the pedal comes with one or two reverbs on it, doesn't have presets, but there are also other digital reverb pedals that are versatile. But I've yet to find one that is as versatile, and the sounds are at the quality that the Strymon's Big Sky's at. The reverb sounds themselves are ... there's mixed engineers that do not even play guitar, that have both the Big Sky and its brother, sister pedal, the timeline, the delay pedal in their racks. When they're mixing in posts, they're actually patching out into the Big Sky to grab some reverbs to put on a mix. And so it has applications just outside of the guitar world. And I've seen keys players that are patching into the Big Sky. So it's an elite pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
For sure. Definitely a good one to have. And I feel like we say that with every pedal that's covered here, but I don't know. I really do. I really do love this pedal, and I don't see mine leaving my board any time soon here. So with all that said, guys, if you're curious to actually hear what this thing sounds like, we're going to go ahead and get this one connected. And again, just give you a small sampling of the tone that we're talking about. I mean, again, it's such a great reverb pedal, so we're going to get things connected here. Andrew, what guitar? Yeah. What are you going to go with today to showcase this one?

Andrew King:
Yeah, it'll be my 64 Gibson ES-335 through 64, a fender Princeton reverb.

Scott Schwertly:
Perfect. Well, we're going to get this set up guys and we will see you on the other side.

Andrew King:
Yeah, so that's the Big Sky. It's my favorite reverb pedal for all the reasons we've said. And I think the audio speaks for itself, to the really musical and great sounding reverbs in the pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, it's a fantastic one. And yeah, I absolutely love it and for good reason. So, well, hopefully you guys love it as well, but there you have it, guys. That's what we wanted to cover. That is, again, the Strymon Big Sky. So join us next time. We're going to go back into the world of electro harmonics, and we're going to be talking specifically about the electric mistress. In fact, it's going to be the deluxe electric mistress. So if you love the world of flanger, which I do ... I know David Gilmore, Pink Floyd, a big user, obviously, of the electric mistress. So it should be a fun conversation as we unpack that pedal in our next episode.

Andrew King:
Yeah, Scott, I'm looking forward to it. I've heard a lot of great things about the pedal and [crosstalk 00:17:43] discuss it.

Scott Schwertly:
So until then, guys, have a great day, have a great week, and we will catch you in the next one.

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