Unlocking the Secrets of the DigiTech Trio+

I hate bands. I hate dealing with a perpetually drunk drummer, I hate dealing with a bassist who seemed to learn every technique in his repertoire from listening to Seinfeld interludes. I hate dealing with a keyboard player who’s chaotically brilliant yet constantly stoned, and I hate dealing with a rhythm guitarist that is too lazy to learn his parts. I hate practicing in closet-size makeshift rehearsal spaces and being constantly told by nearby people to turn it down. But most of all, at the very top of my list: people who show up to practice and don’t learn their parts. I’m sure most readers were nodding your head in approval to at least one of these grievances, rekindling buried hatred for whatever slack-off musicians they have worked with over the years. Thanks to modern technology, the general notion of the band is not becoming obsolete, but is being deferred to disgruntled guitarists and solo musicians in the form of the “band-in-a-box” style pedal. Drum-machine style pedals and loopers have been around for a little while, but DigiTech really went the extra mile when releasing the original Trio, by giving players a unique way to be accompanied by their progressions instead of simple looping or playing along to a drum machine. The Trio analyzes the chord progression and generates a backing band complete with drums and bass to accompany one’s playing. The Trio+ is the evolution of that concept, and provides additional genres, expanded features, and a built-in looper function to help streamline the process.

When the Trio+ dropped into my studio, it took me a solid three days to really master, for a few reasons. The first being, (as mentioned above) I generally don’t read the manual, and the second being, this thing is really complex, and chock full of features. Right off the get-go, it’s not easy to get a workable sound, since this black box has a bit of a learning curve. So, dear readers, I’m going to provide a step-by-step guide on mastering the Trio+, and hopefully give the owners of this really cool unit (as well as prospective buyers) an insight into how this thing works. As an added bonus as well, I will be following readers through the process by creating my own band from scratch.

DigiTech Trio+

However, before we hop into the guide on how to get a good band out of this, let’s run quickly through the I/O capabilities and controls on this thing. This unit comes with 12 genres, ranging from Electric Pop to Country. Each genre has 12 styles, with the first six being in 4/4, and the latter six being in 3/4. There are level controls for the Bass, Drums, and a custom Loop, as well as a master tempo for the whole pedal. On the top, there is a series of clear buttons. The first, labeled “Guitar FX” gives genre-specific guitar effects and are admittedly kind of cheesy. The “Part” section, lets players store up to five parts and play them in a sequence. The “Alt Time” button, (as expected), gives alternate timings. We’ve got standard ins and outs on the pedal, with an FX send and return for any effects one may want to put in the loop. On the input side, there is also a control input, to be used with the FS3X footswitch, which can cycle through styles and alternate timing mid-song without having to bend over. On the outside, we have the standard Amp output along with a Mixer output, with a USB connection port and a MicroSD slot, which stores the songs. DigiTech has also kindly included an 8GB SD card, which is helpful, because the unit doesn’t function without one.

I’m bored with myself already, let’s get to the good stuff. Without further ado, let’s jump right into how to create a first song on the DigiTech Trio+:

1. Write A Progression

This step isn’t really a must, but it helps to know what you’re doing before you actually do it. To try and trip up the unit, I created a funk-rock style progression with a bit of rhythmic scratching, to see if the Trio+ could keep up.

2. Arm the Band

Once the unit is on, a few lights will flash around here and there to show that the unit is getting ready. Once the lights become steady, press the “Band” button once to arm the backing band to learn the progression. When pressed, it will flash red steadily to show it’s ready. Press it again, and the red light will flash faster; this is the cue. When notes are played, the red light will go solid, indicating that the Trio+ is learning. Play the progression for several bars, and then hit the Band button again when done. This is the generated band I got for my progression:

3. Choose the Genre

Once the band is generated, play around with the Genre and Style settings to find one that fits the progression and set the desired levels of the Bass and Drum tracks. If the bassline is too complicated, press the “Simple Bass” button to simplify it, or just do a root note bassline. I chose the “Rock” genre.

4. Record Your Loop

Now that the band is built, a rhythm part is needed! In my opinion, the best part to record the loop is to play through the progression with the band, and arm the looper right before the turnaround. Hit the Looper button and the light will flash red quickly, indicating it’s ready. Wait for the turnaround, then begin playing. The looper will stop automatically after the turnaround.

5. Write a Second Part (Optional)

To jar myself a bit, and to get a little practice changing moods mid-song, I decided to add a second part to my song. To do this, hit the translucent “2” button in the part section, and repeat steps 1-4. This is my second progression:

6. Set a Sequence

Once the second part is finished, players can set a sequence to play the parts in whatever order they like, as many times as they like. To do this, press and hold the Sequence button to the left of the Parts section. It will begin to flash, which indicates it is ready for the sequence. I opted for 1-1-2-1-2, so I pressed the part buttons in that order, and then pressed Sequence again. The part buttons will flash in the order pressed, indicating they’re ready to rock.

I decided to channel a bit of Hendrix, so I went direct into Amplitube 4 and set up a trippy Uni-Vibe and stereo delay tone as the lead while the Trio+ did its thing:

Clearly, the Trio+ is quite a powerful and fun tool for the studio and the stage. It takes a little while to master, but I hope this guide will give those who own one or are looking to purchase one a little more insight into what this unit can really do. Until next time dear readers, happy hunting!

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