So you’ve got your EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny, or perhaps you are considering acquiring one.
Congrats! Good choice of reverb pedal effects.
Perhaps you’ve even watched a few of the many videos featuring folk such as our buddy Andy over at Reverb.com or were suitably amazed by some of our other guitar-wielding artists such as Nels Cline, Arianna Powell and her lovely fingerpicking, harpist Emily Hopkins’ ethereal melodic sound beds or our PedalZone buddy Stefan who makes every delay and reverb sound like an ambient GodMachine. As they ran the Astral Destiny through its paces maybe you watched and thought, “That’s all really cool! But I can’t do or play any of that kind of shit.”
That’s OK. We’re here for you. Sure, it’s nice to see and hear what uber-talented working musicians can do with the Astral Destiny, but what can an Octal Octave Reverberation Odyssey in a box do for the rest of us?
You know us: the 5–30 year bedroom/basement/garage noodler. Us, the folks who play at least two of the first five songs we ever learned on our instrument every … single … time we play. Us folks who enjoy soloing over YouTube backing tracks, but only in the keys and scales we can remember and then call it “practice.”
“Wait,” you say, “I’m just some (favored instrument) noodlin’ cat occasionally spending some of my kid’s braces/first car/Quinceañera/college fund money on some kick-ass gear to fill my music space. Besides,” you continue, “I already have a reverb pedal. It’s the one I use to play ‘Sleepwalk’ and my favorite ‘generic, slapback-echo-rockabilly lick.’”
Hell, maybe you actually get out of your music space and take your talents to the local live music rooms to unleash your inner Blues Jam Warrior on the weeknight crowds. Well, trust us when we say there’s nothing that brings joy and cheer to the face of a club’s sound engineer like the sight of a Blues Jammer walking in the building with their full pedal board to take ‘Stormy Monday’ to uncharted sonic territory.
[Ed. note: Actually, the soundboard wrangler may want to give you a swift kick in the shin. But, hey, it’s your moment, so rock on! Also, we know there’s a pandemic and most clubs are closed. But, we’re operating on the supposition that we will all be back jamming on 20 minute versions of ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ in the not-too-distant future].
The point being, you don’t have to be a super creative, professional-grade trained music maker with awesome gear to use, enjoy and be inspired by the Astral Destiny.
But with five knobs, two rotary dials and two foot switches it can all be a bit daunting, especially if this is your first EQD pedal.
If you are new to EQD, welcome to your new obsession. In that spirit, this veteran noodler and bedroom jammer wants to help you stretch and widen your noodles and jams with a quick not-too-technical trip through the eight presets that come with the Astral Destiny. They were all programmed by our President and Lead Designer, Mr. Jamie Stillman himself. They represent all of the pedal’s modes and were his favorite sounds at the time of programming. The real beauty here is that though you may start with a preset, as soon as you start fiddling with the modulation/mix and length knobs, stomp the stretch switch or add your own expression pedal you’ve immediately created a sound that is uniquely all your own. Then you can store your brand new preset into one of the eight slots and impress your friends, neighbors and pets with your spaced-out creativity. Isn’t that satisfying?
So here we go:
This is the safest place to start your Astral journey. A basic mild slapback verb with a dash of slow modulation in the tail. Add a bit of odd to that classic blues, rockabilly riff and it's perfect for that awesomely melodic sus chord progression you came up with a decade ago and are still refining. Being a fairly standard reverb with a twist, you can pair this with pretty much any other modulation, delay or overdrive and thicken and weirden up your tone right quick.
Aw, here we go. Shimmer is all the rage in reverb pedals these days and it’s probably because that octave up reverb tail sounds real sexy on those fancy jazz chords and spaced-out arpeggios (see our boy Stefan). But it also pairs well with a nice thick overdrive or fizzy fuzz for your searing solo work. Separate your sound from all the other Jam Warriors with this extra bit of sonic sumthin’-sumthin’.
Nothing too fancy here. A low volume sub octave that tracks your single note playing quite well, but maybe back off those Yngvie-esque 32nd note flurries and extended 12-fingered fretboard Tosin Abasi fondling techniques, as the result may get a bit muddy below the fifth fret if you’re not careful. But, if you use a loop pedal to accompany your bedroom/basement noodle sessions, this simple sub setting can really give those few looped chords some nice extra body, particularly on a single coil guitar while you wail away, surely impressing your pet ferret.
4) SUB SHIMMER
Here we take presets two and three and add a dash of wobble and a pulsing reverb tail. This preset also favors arpeggios and slower playing where the two octaves can be heard, and lend the notes an almost cathedral organ or even a faux theremin sound (have you met the Organizer?). That being said, if you crank it, throw some heavy fuzz on it and a layer of chorus, use the modulation knobs and start tearing up the fretboard above the octave, I can guarantee you'll be making some Grade A Guitar Face and wishing you had a wedge monitor to prop your foot on while you lean back and wield your instrument like the HAMMER OF THE GODS!!!
The namesake preset is where it starts to get weird. The regenerating reverb tail reacts heavily to your pick attack, giving you some control over the swell of the tail. But be careful: you can easily turn your delicate bed of chords into an intense wall of near-shrieking regenerative noise, which may be exactly what you want while the neighbors or your housemates are blasting The Bachelor. This setting is also where your choice of full bypass or tails is pretty important because if you're actually playing with other people, the difference when you stomp the box off without tails will be abrupt, which again, may just be perfect for dramatic dynamic shifts or start-stop/loud/quiet passages in your tune.
6) ASCEND (PITCH BENDING)
An EQD favorite: take a familiar, beloved, boilerplate effect and then make it do a bunch of weird crap that most people didn’t know they needed it to do. For us noodlers, it can be a bit tricky. You don’t really need this effect for that Green Day, Lynyrd Skynyrd or Metallica song or whatever may be in your personal library of go-to riffs and tunes.
So stretch out, my noodle-jamming brothers and sisters, because here's your ascending pitch bender. It's not a third or perfect fifth or anything so don't expect it to easily harmonize with yourself. Surprise usage: If you're one of those cats who like to use your guitar body as a beatbox, this effect gives very interesting texture and also does really fun stuff to pinched and natural harmonics.
If you use this setting in conjunction with a Rainbow Machine with the Magic switch engaged, you may be able to briefly suspend gravity in your studio.
Sort of the opposite preset of six but with an interesting little modulated wiggle-woggle added to the descending notes. This one is pretty specialized and works great for freaky psych rock freakouts. It’s good for playing tense, ominous Trent Reznor-like descending single note lines. Use the Astral Destiny in your music hole and you too can achieve EGOGG status! (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe!)
[Ed. note: EarthQuaker Devices LLC in no way ensures or guarantees that using the Astral Destiny, its presets or any of our high quality pedals and products will facilitate your bedroom music being featured in popular and award-winning films and/or popular cable and/or streaming network shows. But, if it happens...hey! Let us know!
A big sonic concept (Duuuuude, it’s like ... KAAHZMICK!) You may have to break out your Mel Bay book to help properly use this one musically as it adds a regenerating fifth in the reverb tail. That's not too fancy a music theory concept because fifths are among the most common and recognizable harmonies in popular music. But, it definitely can affect the direction of your (perhaps otherwise) directionless noodling. You'll want to be careful with your chord and note choices here as some of the fancier and funky chords with 13th and ninths and flat 5ths and such tend to not go down real smooth with that echoing fifth in the tail. Nevertheless it’s still fun to play around with and discover what new sounds and ideas you can add to some of that same old, same old stuff we noodlers often rely on to get going.
So there you go, my Noodle Jammers. Remember, once you get familiar with some of the possibilities, these presets are starting points. Twiddle one of the modulation knobs, mess with the tail length knob, hit the stretch switch or use your footswitch, and you’re now making up your own sounds! So, if you don’t have an Astral Destiny…get one! Put it in your pedal chain (usually at the end but hey, it’s your damn garage, so go crazy!), pump other effects through it and add some celestial gravy to your noodles and jams.