The Secret Power of Helix Snapshots

4th February 2021

Confession: After getting hooked on Helix, it took me the longest time to appreciate the device’s snapshot functions. “Sounds like a nice feature,” I thought. “Maybe I’ll look into it someday.”

Man, what a dope I was! Cleverly deployed snapshots offer endless sound design possibilities while simplifying live performance.

This article/lesson demonstrates just how powerful, creative, and cool Helix snapshots can be. Start by downloading the Snapshot Presets Pack, which includes four Helix presets: Snap Me 01, Snap Me 02, Snap Me 03, and Snap Me 04.

Snapshot Presets Pack

Snap Me 01 is an unusual preset with no snapshot programming. If you want an intense, hands-on lesson, start with this preset and follow the instructions as we add snapshot functions. Or you can just skim the instructions, and then load the increasingly complex presets as instructed.

Why Bother with Snapshots?

Selecting sounds by choosing snapshots within a single preset, as opposed to switching between separate presets, has several sonic advantages. You can encounter audio gaps when switching presets, but snapshot switching is instantaneous. Also, when you switch snapshots, your delay and reverb tails can continue to sound after switching.

But the greatest advantage, I feel, is how snapshots let you change amp and effect settings throughout a song. We’ll look at two ways to do this. First, we’ll create dramatic block bypass assignments that simply aren’t accessible in Stomp Footswitch Mode. Then we’ll go deeper, creating high-contrast tones by controlling multiple amp and effect parameters simultaneously.

Snapshot Disadvantages?

Every new preset is a blank slate where you can employ any permissible combination of amp and effect blocks, whereas with a set of snapshots you’re restricted to the specific blocks contained in the master preset. However, you have enormous control over each block. You can adjust as many as 64 amp/effect parameters between the eight snapshots within a preset. I often find that creating snapshot sets using a single collection of blocks provides a unifying feel. A set of eight high-contrast sounds can be a great springboard to a new song.

Note that I created these sounds and made screenshots using Line 6’s HX Edit program on a laptop—but you could also do everything from the Helix hardware if you prefer.

Part 1: Snapshot Bypass Programming

Load our working preset, Snap Me 01, into your Helix. My layout probably looks odd, with two back-to-back distortion pedals, two amps, two cabs, and so on [Image 1]. You’ll see the reason in a moment.

The preset opens to snapshot 1. I’ve bypassed most of the blocks—you hear a nearly dry direct sound when you plug in. Let’s change that. Switch on the first of the two distortion blocks, the first of the two amp blocks, and the first of the two cab blocks [Image 2].

If you would like to know more including audio samples of the ongoing process check out the full article here

Written by Joe Gore

Joe Gore is a musician, writer, and tech geek from San Francisco. He’s recorded and performed with numerous renowned artists and written thousands of articles about music, musicians, and music tech for major publications. He also designs analog stompboxes and sound collections for Helix.