My Nektar Pacer Review


    In my eagerness to play pads while playing other instruments, like guitar or bass, I bought a Nektar Pacer to interface with my Roland System-1.

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    I bought this after reading several reviews.  Also, for some reason the Keith McMillan Twelve Step I bought broke the minute I took it home after testing it at the seller's home.

    At first I was a bit concerned about the quality.  I noticed that the rubber pads may not be as strongly glued down as I might like.
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    But I know how to glue the pads back on if necessary, so for now I am not really concerned about it.
    Starting off, I plugged it in and configured my Roland System-1 to receive MIDI global.  I was expecting the Pacer only to be able to send single notes one at a time.  I was pleasantly surprised when it can run a bunch more.


    I was reading and trying to use the Pacer's built-in menu to program notes.  And I was already not looking forward to programming in 24 patches.  And on top of this, I could not figure out how to send more than one note at a time.

    But then I stumbled onto Francois Georgy's Pacer Editor.  This thing saved me days of work!

    So I discovered that I am able to program entire chords into the Pacer.  So I did this, trying to go through the circle of 5ths and place the most commonly used keys together.

    For the Roland System-1, at first I thought I should use octave 3 to begin, i.e. all notes starting at octave 3.  However, this caused me to be unable to use my System-8 and Roland ZenBeats VSTs.  So if anything, the easy path is to pick the octave that works with everything but the System-1, which I did.  Then the main point is to modify any System-1 patch that isn't in the right octave.  This should be relatively simple: just change the octaves up one and then put the System-1 keyboard down an octave so that notes on the System-1 remain the way they were but MIDI notes from the Nektar Pacer are in the correct octave.

    If you wanted to change octaves, you'd have to go with single notes so that you can step between the same notes in steps.  I noticed this on patch A5.  It's a good patch but it shows what it takes to run a patch like this.  To play pads, you need to select the option to run all notes at the same time, which means you cannot step through.

    So I programmed all the major key chords from C to Db.  Then I programmed the rest, save six, with minor keys.

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Using It

    So I hooked it up to my System-1 after all the testing, and it works great!  However, the chord modes, ironically, feel a bit stale in some ways.  I made sure that all notes are in octave 3, so this at least gives the artificial feeling of chord inversions, which breaks up some of the monotony.

    Then I figured out I can add my Boss FS-6 dual footswitch and add even more notes!  Note that when you add it, you should set the polarity switches to the right (if you are staring at the back side of the Boss FS-6).  Note that this is the opposite direction you would use for using it as a sustain pedal on the Roland System-8 and/or System-1.

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But ... What are Pads?

    But as I prepared my Nektar Pacer's load-out, I had the thought that I don't really know how pads are implemented in many of the top 100 CCLI songs.  So I thought to myself that I should do a statistical survey.  So since I need roughly 10% to reach statistical "saturation" in terms of being able to believe the results of a scientific survey, I chose ten random songs (using's random number generators).  So here they are, with notes from MultiTracks parts:

  1. #6 - Graves Into Gardens: Keys 8 starts with one note, opens up to two notes and is mostly two notes at a time.
  2. #8 - Way Maker (Leeland): Keys 1 starts two notes, then opens up to full 3 note chords with left hand bass, ending in two-note.  It is mostly full left and right hand pads in synth.
  3. #35 - The Blessing (Elevation): Keys 2 starts with two note pads, then opens up to 3 note chords and bass.  It is mostly full 3-note with left hand bass.
  4. #38 - We Praise You (Bethel):Keys 4 is the closest thing to pads.  It opens with two-note low pads but then opens up to 3-note chords with left hand bass.
  5. #63 - Run To The Father (Cody Carnes): Keys 1 opens up with 2-note pads, octaves that stay the whole song.
  6. #72 - What I See (Elevation):no pads.  Organ is present but it's mostly 2-3 notes.
  7. #80 - The Heart Of Worship (The Worship Initiative): no pads, but has organ.
  8. #86 - At The Cross (Love Ran Red)(Chris Tomlin): Keys 3 begins with 2 note pads in pre-chorus but stays 2 note throughout, thought the delay makes it sound at times like there is more than 2 notes.
  9. #93 - Rattle (Elevation):no pads.  There is strings and Synth FX but no pads.  And strings are con legno.  Pads are 3+ notes.
  10. #97 - Believe For It: Keys 3 starts, it seems, with bass and a high drone, but then has more than that, so it seems to mostly be 3+ notes with bass.

    So statistically, it appears most pads are at least 2, if not 3, notes.  At this point, I will substitute organ for pads on some songs because it functions in some similar ways, and I would be switching to the organ patch for these.

    So this means that I should program in both chord and note patches on my Nektar Pacer so that I am flexible enough to do what is needed.

First Use

    So Sunday I got to use the Nektar Pacer for the first time.  I was playing lead electric guitar at a church, so I had to use the Nektar Pacer sparingly because I was busy doing other things.  But I think it worked out rather well!

A Tale of Two Footswitches

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    I bought another Boss FS-6 and now I have two of them.  I played around with them today using standard 1/4" electric guitar cables.  I found that FS1 and FS3 are what gets activated if you have "plain" 1/4" guitar cables.  So keep in mind that if you need four foot switches (i.e. two Boss FS-6s, like I'm doing), you will need TRS cables.

    So the first thing to do is make sure that your TRS to dual 1/4" cables are (at least this brand) right on the right and white on the left.  Then make sure both polarity switches are flipped to the left side (if you are facing the top front of the FS-6s).  Then make sure they are switched to momentary rather than latch.

     What you get is that the left FS-6, connected to the Pacer's FS1/3 jack, gives you left as FS1 (A) and right as FS2 (B).  Then the right FS-6 in FS2/4 jack makes the right FS-6 FS2 (A) and FS4 (B).  Then you just program accordingly.

    I ran this configuration tonight using Roland ZenBeats with Concerto, System-1, and System-8 VSTs.  It worked very well!  And now that Roland Concerto is free, one could use the Orchestral Concerto plug-ins to run things like cello and viola voices also.

    The build works well in church for live music.  You can buy my sysex build file on my donate page.