This article is a Work in Progress. Images and more will be added soon

Gear used in this article:

FM3

FC6 & FC12

Table of Contents:

Basics First

 


Note – This article was originally intended to just cover footswitches and ideas for setups. As it was being written, it became clear that definitions and explanations for certain concepts needed to be included so everyone could arrive at the footswitch sections with the same general knowledge and understanding. If you’re familiar with things like Channels and Scenes, you can skip ahead if desired. But those concepts are integral to understanding how to design footswitch setups as they are used to get the most out of each switch. Rather than create separate articles, these concepts are explained right here in context.

This is a very long article. Please don’t equate that to the gear being difficult to setup and operate. It’s actually quite simple. There are just so many options for different situations and preferences, and explaining things takes a certain amount of words. I’m only trying to clearly define the functions and their differences so you can decide what may work best for you.

Though I describe a number of different functions, you might only use a couple of them for your setup, keeping things simple to use and understand. Or if you’re a power user, perhaps you’ll integrate all of the different functions for your perfect control scheme. At any rate, please don’t look at all these words as an indication of things being difficult. It really isn’t!


The Fractal Audio FM3 gives us the great tones from the Axe-Fx III in a portable unit, easy to carry to the gig or rehearsal. But with portability comes smaller units, and smaller units usually mean less control options simply due to less space available to put stuff.

Compared to the AX8, the FM3 is just over half the width and has the full LCD Screen and control buttons and knobs as the Axe-Fx III (no more rotary controls to move around the grid!). But that smaller size means less on-board footswitches of course, for a total of 3. Initial reactions ranged from “yes! it’s smaller and I can do everything I need with 3 switches” to “omg AX8 had 11 switches, with only 3 I can’t even tune!”

Rest assured that having 3 switches was a purposeful design choice (it’s called the FM3 after all). But comparing those 3 switches to the switches on an AX8 for example isn’t a fair comparison. The FM3’s switches stem from the FC line of controllers, which mean each switch can do multiple functions, be accessed through up to 9 Layouts, have access to the library of “smarter” functions from the FC (like Scene toggle – 4 Scenes on 1 switch if you want! – or Smart Engage when choosing a channel in a block), as well as a new function created during FM3 development called Views.

This article will explore different ideas to get the most out of your FM3 and its footswitches. The goal of the FM3 and FC controllers was to provide modular options for different gig situations and different players. One player might be fine with the 3 on-board switches. Another might need to add an FC6 for 6 additional switches. Someone else may need to add 2 FC12s for 24 additional switches. And yet another might be fine with a single additional simple switch alternating between 2 Views or Layouts. That’s the awesome thing about this design concept and the Master/Slave relationship between Axe-Fx III/FM3 and FC controllers – add what you need as gigs change, or keep it small when necessary.


Basics First

The most obvious method for controlling the FM3 is to use the on-board switches. First realized on Fractal gear with their FX8, it’s great to have the “brain” and the controller in one unit for portability as well as ease of programming as everything is in one place. Though if you’ve ever used an Axe-Fx III with an FC controller, you know how quick and easy it is to setup the FC switches using the EZ setup tab, or using Axe-Edit. The same applies to the FM3 and FM3-Edit and its on-board switches.

Simply tap the E knob for Setup, highlight FC/Onboard switches, press Enter, and you should be on the EZ menu (or Page Left or Page Right as needed to get there). From here, you simply press the footswitch you want to program, then use the Nav Up/Down buttons and Value wheel to change the various menu items as needed.

EZ Menu screenshot from the FM3 top panel

When you’re done, press another footswitch to program that one, or hit Exit when you’re done to leave the menu and start playing. Remember, the functions don’t actually happen when pressing footswitches while on the EZ tab – this would make programming a pain! Just exit the EZ tab to test your functions. There are other ways to program the switches as well, like the Layout pages to the right of EZ mode, or FM3-Edit for a more visual method. I just wanted to give a quick overview for those not familiar with how simple it is to change things. Often when testing things at the gig, I’ll show up with a completely blank FC and program it in a minute or two right before we start – even with a larger FC12! It really is that easy.


Layouts

We know what a footswitch is. It’s that switch you hit with your foot! But on the FM3 and FCs, footswitches and their functions “live” within what’s called a “Layout.”

A Layout is a collection of programmed footswitches. This allows you to have different footswitch settings on different Layouts. Other gear has called this idea “pages” or similar. The main takeaway here is that on older gear, once you make a footswitch “Delay On/Off” that’s all it could be forever. If you didn’t have Delay in your preset, you’d have a wasted switch. Gear from different brands got smarter as technology improved, and now the same physical switch can have a different function in each Layout if desired.

Looking at the 3 switches on the FM3 and focusing on just 1 switch for now, Layout 1 could have Switch 1 be that Delay On/Off function. Then in Layout 2, that same physical switch could instead be Reverb On/Off. Layout 3 could make it Looper Record. And so on. Just this alone makes the FM3 (and FCs) switches more capable than previous products.

[Insert Image of FM3-Edit with Layout 1 as described]

[Insert Image of FM3-Edit with Layout 2 as described]

If you’re familiar with the AX8 or FX8, they had several “Modes” like Looper Control Mode, or Preset Select Mode, etc. These modes changed the 8 main switches from Delay On/Off and similar to completely different functions that control the Looper or select presets. Those could be considered “Layouts” in FM3/FC terms. However, those extra modes or Layouts were predetermined. Changing to Looper Control Mode changed all the switches and showed only the Looper controls. You couldn’t change Scenes from that mode. But what if you could? That’s where the FM3/FC logic comes into play, giving us much more flexibility in designing our groups of switches.

You can put any function on any switch, in any Layout. Some assignments make more sense than others (tap tempo on a Hold switch doesn’t really work, for example, but you could!), but you can put anything anywhere you want.

There are 9 total Layouts available on the FM3 and FCs: 8 are “general” and 1 is a special “Master Layout Menu” which really is a general Layout as well, but can be directly accessed if desired. More on this a bit later.

So back to our earlier example: Layout 1 has a Delay On/Off function on Switch 1. Let’s say Switch 2 is Reverb On/Off and Switch 3 is Drive On/Off. But now I want to Tune my guitar. There is no Tuner switch in the Layout we just described. Well I could change to Layout 2 and change what each switch does. Now I have Reverb On/Off on Switch 1, Tap Tempo on Switch 2, and Tuner on Switch 3. I can change between Layout 1 and 2 as needed during the gig, and access the switches I need. If I need more access, I program more Layouts.

The takeaway here is that each physical switch can do different things depending on what Layout we select. Again, older gear meant a switch did one thing only unless we completely reprogrammed it. Now, switches are “smarter” and can do more than one thing, providing more flexibility.


Tap and Hold Functions

In the previous examples discussing how Layouts work, I gave each switch a single function at a time. These functions happen when you Tap the switch. “Tap” just means you press the switch like you would any classic stompbox or pedal. Press it down and let go, the effect turns on. Press it down again, let go, the effect turns off. Pretty standard stuff. With older MIDI controllers like the MFC-101 or any other brand’s gear, this is exactly how they worked as well – Tap the switch and the thing happens. No other options.

For Fractal gear, the FX8 and AX8 were the first footswitch’d gear to have Hold functions, in addition to Tap functions. Other brand’s gear have ability as well, so you may be familiar already. If Tap means a simple press on the switch like any stompbox, “Hold” means exactly that: Hold the switch down for a certain amount of time (usually 0.5 seconds) and a separate “Hold Function” will happen, instead of the Tap function.

Every FM3/FC switch can have a Tap function and a Hold function if desired. This means a few things:

  • Any switch can perform 2 functions instead of just one like on older gear
  • Performing the Hold function does not also perform the Tap function and performing the Tap function does not also perform the Hold function – they are separate
  • Because the gear has to determine if you’re Tapping or Holding a switch, Tap functions will fire on the release or upstroke of the switch. This is simply necessary because there’s no way for the gear to know if you’re tapping or holding other than the “Hold Duration” time to either not pass (Tap function) or pass (Hold function). The Owner’s Manual for the FM3/FC has excellent explanations and diagrams for this concept. Keep this in mind for timing-sensitive functions like Looper Record and Play, or changes you absolutely need to have on the downstroke/tap of a Switch.

Tap vs Hold switches diagram from the FM3 Owner’s Manual

So now knowing that, in addition to changing Layouts to get more functions from the 3 FM3 switches, we can also add different Tap and Hold functions to each switch. That means Layout 1 with 3 switches potentially can perform 6 different functions without leaving Layout 1. Expanding on the previous example, we now could have

Switch 1 Tap – Delay On/Off
Switch 1 Hold – Chorus On/Off

Switch 2 Tap – Reverb On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Drive On/Off

Switch 3 Tap – Tap Tempo
Switch 3 Hold – Tuner

All within Layout 1 and no need to change. Just Hold a switch for additional functions. Layout 2 could now have an additional 6 functions if needed, and so on. All from the same 3 physical footswitches on the FM3.


Some Special Functions

The examples so far have used simple functions – either On/Off for blocks/effects, or Tap Tempo and Tuner. Almost every guitar gear ever has had those and are familiar. But Fractal gear has some special capabilities, as well as some special footswitch functions that are very powerful.

Channels

A Block is the type of effect we choose in our Preset. Things like Amp, Chorus, Delay, etc. Let’s say you choose the USA Clean model/type in the Amp block. With older gear, if you wanted a different type of Amp, you had to change Presets; there was no other way.

The Axe-Fx II gave us “X/Y Switching” which carried over to the FX8 and AX8. Many Blocks could now change between 2 completely different (if desired) sets of settings without having to leave the Preset. So Amp X could be the USA Clean model, and Amp Y could be Shiver Lead. By changing between X and Y, you could change between 2 different amp sounds without leaving the Preset or changing effect/block setups. This is similar to simply changing from Clean to Lead channel on a 2 channel real amp. Many other blocks had XY Switching as well, for example changing between a 1/4 note delay and a dotted 1/8 delay, or having 2 completely different types of Chorus sounds. Or maybe a subtle difference between X and Y in the Amp block where the only change is the amount of Drive for a grittier sound.

The Axe-Fx III expanded on the XY concept by giving us Channels. Most Blocks have 4 channels, and you could say that the Axe-Fx II generation had only 2 channels (X and Y). This gives us many more options for different sounds if desired. The FM3 also has up to 4 channels in many blocks similar to the Axe-Fx III. Now I could have

Amp Block
Channel A – USA Clean
Channel B – AC-30
Channel C – Splawn
Channel D – USA Lead

All without changing Presets.

[Insert 4 Amp Channel Images]

Why would we do this instead of just changing Presets though? In short, changing Presets has a necessary audio gap because all of the current memory (all blocks loaded, routing, etc.) has to change in an instant to load the next Preset. This memory has to be cleared and a short mute has to happen to avoid any pops, clicks or other noises. Almost all digital gear functions this way, and even some real amps have to insert a short audio mute for the same reason (I’m looking at you Mesa Roadster…).

The memory/data of all our blocks is contained within Presets, meaning all the Channel and Block data is actively loaded for the most part, and changing Channels for different sounds is much faster. In some instances there is still an audio gap, though it’s usually shorter. Fractal Audio has constantly worked to improve this, and at the time of this writing with Firmware 12.03 on the Axe-Fx III, Channel switching is seamless in most cases. (It has been recently stated that this faster changing may be implemented into the FM3 soon.) This also allows us to design Presets per song, if desired, and all the tone changes happen within that Preset per song. A bit easier to arrange sets this way, depending on your needs, and it uses less Preset slots.

Channels expand the capability of a single Preset. They are optional to use, though even if you don’t “use” channels, you are technically using Channel A of every block, as all Channels always exist and you don’t “add” or “enable” them. The currently selected Channel is what uses CPU, and other Channels – used or unused – don’t affect CPU usage at all. As I always say, you can still stick to changing Presets for changing tones/sounds, as that is the most simple function available. Don’t feel pressured into using Channels unless it makes sense to you and your setup.


Scenes

As mentioned, the Axe-Fx II launched with XY Switching. As users became familiar with the capabilities it gave, a bit more control was desired. What if all my X sides of blocks were my Clean tone, and all my Y sides were my Lead tone? To change all XY at the same time, I’d have to click every switch one by one. Then again to go back to Clean. Legend has it that “that Stevie Vai” requested a function to change multiple block’s XY and On/Off with a single button press – similar to a MIDI Rack Control style seen in huge rigs.

This is how Scenes were born on the Axe-Fx II, which carried on to all gear that followed. On the Axe-Fx II generation of gear, each Preset has 8 Scenes. A Scene controls all Blocks’ XY and On/Off status, along with a few other specific things. So now instead of pressing 4 or more XY switches on the MFC-101 controller to get from Clean to Lead, you could set Scene 1 as your Clean tone with everything set to X, then set Scene 2 as your Lead tone with everything set to Y. Or only 1 or some blocks could change XY. Or you could Engage/Bypass different blocks as needed. Up to 8 different combinations of XY and On/Off can be created, corresponding to the 8 Scenes available.

With the Axe-Fx III and FM3’s expanded Channels (from 2 XY to 4 channels for many blocks), Scenes became even more powerful. So with the previous example of the Amp block, not only can I change Amp Channels for the 4 different amp tones (Clean, Grit, Metal, Lead), I can also change Channels or On/Off for any other block in the Preset by setting up Scenes. Now it could look something like this:

Scene 1: Clean
Amp A On, Cab A On, Delay A Off, Drive A Off, Chorus A On

Scene 2: Grit
Amp B On, Cab A On, Delay A Off, Drive A Off, Chorus A Off

Scene 3: Metal
Amp C On, Cab B On, Delay A On, Drive A On, Chorus A Off

Scene 4: Lead
Amp D On, Cab C On, Delay B On, Drive B On, Chorus B On

Notice that Channels are changing, as well as On/Off status.

[Insert image with Scene examples above]

Without leaving the Preset (to avoid audio mutes), I can easily change tones in a substantial way by changing Scenes. I still have 4 other Scenes to use as variations of those if needed. Using Scenes also makes Spillover from Delays or Reverbs easier to manage as again, all the Memory is active and loaded, and Delays are mostly being Muted/Unmuted.

As with Channels, Scenes expand the capability of a single Preset. They are optional to use, though even if you don’t “use” Scenes, you are technically using Scene 1 of every Preset, as all Scenes always exist and you don’t “add” or “enable” them. The currently selected Scene is what uses CPU based on the active Blocks/Channels, and other Scenes – used or unused – don’t affect CPU usage at all. Again, you can always stick to changing Presets for changing tones/sounds, as that is the most simple function available. Don’t feel pressured into using Scenes unless it makes sense to you and your setup.


Special Footswitch Functions – Toggle

Now that we understand Channels and Scenes, I can talk about some of the special footswitch functions that exist on the FM3/FC.

First is the Toggle function. As I alluded to in the previous examples, we can have switches set to specific Channels or Scenes. Sticking to the FM3 physicality, we can put Amp Channel A on Switch 1, Channel B on Switch 2, and Channel C on Switch 3. These switches go directly to these Channels. Similarly I could instead put Scene 1 on Switch 1, Scene 2 on Switch 2, and Scene 4 on Switch 3. These switches go directly to these Scenes. (Yup, I put Scene 4 on Switch 3 for this example – the Scene or Channel numbers of course don’t have to correspond to the “physical numbering” of the switches. Anything can go anywhere!)

Going with the Scenes setup, during a gig I can go from Clean, to Grit, to Lead just by pressing any of the switches as described. Straightforward and easy to understand. But just those 3 Scenes use up all the switches on that Layout. What if I need access to that 4th Scene we made earlier?

This is where Toggle functions can help. Banks, Presets, Scenes, and Channels can be “toggled.” Focusing on Scenes for now, a toggle function lets us change between (toggle) 2 Scenes back and forth with the same switch. (Toggle technically means “2 things”, so you wouldn’t Toggle among 3 Scenes, for example.)

I could put a Scene Toggle as the Tap function of Switch 1 and change between Scene 1 and 2. We start on Scene 1 when we load the preset. If I Tap the switch, I load Scene 2. Tap again, I load Scene 1. It “toggles” or alternates between those Scenes only.

[Insert FM3-Edit image of switch toggle setup]

This can be useful if I often change between those 2 sounds. I can leave my foot near the same switch, and just tap it as needed. I don’t need to move my leg/foot over to Switch 2 or 3. Just leave it there, tap the same switch to get 2 different sounds from 1 switch.

I also don’t have to Toggle between Scene numbers near each other (this was a limitation on the AX8 and FX8). I could Toggle between Scene 1 and Scene 4, or 3 and 8, or any combination.

Remember, this example put the Toggle on Switch 1’s TAP function. I still have 2 more switches to use, or I could use Switch 1’s HOLD function for another 2 Scenes. I actually use this on both the FM3 and FC with an Axe-Fx III.

Switch 1 Tap = Scene Toggle between 1 and 2
Clean and Clean Lead

Switch 1 Hold = Scene Toggle between 3 and 6
Grit and High Gain Lead

[Insert image of this setup]

With 1 switch, I have access to 4 Scenes, leaving all the other switches available for other things. This specific setup does come with some notes:

  • When on Scene 1, Tapping the switch takes me to Scene 2. When on Scene 2, Tapping the switch takes me to Scene 1.
  • If on any other scene (3 – 8), Tapping the switch always takes me to Scene 1. It’s the “Primary” scene as far as the Toggle function is concerned, so that’s what will be selected when performing the Tap function.
  • When on Scene 1 or 2, or Scenes 4-8, Holding the switch always takes me to Scene 3. It’s the “Primary” scene as far as the Toggle function is concerned, so that’s what will be selected when performing the Hold function
  • The only way to get to Scene 4 with this switch setup is to first be on Scene 3. Holding the switch while on Scene 3 performs the actual “toggle” part and gets me to Scene 4. This may not work in all setups, but for me, I typically progress through gain stages and would be on Scene 3 before going to Scene 4.
  • A popular alteration to this setup is to only use 3 Scenes on a single switch. Use a Scene Toggle on the Tap function as described, and set the Hold function just to Select a specific Scene. Then there’s no “Hold again from the first Hold Scene” situation.

Again, having to hold twice to get to the 4th Scene may not work for all setups, but I just wanted to show the capability. 4 Scenes get me through most of my gigs, and this frees up the remaining 2 switches on the FM3 for other things. All tone changes from 1 switch is handy.

As mentioned, Channels, Banks, and Presets also have the Toggle capability which would work similarly.


Special Footswitch Functions – Smart Bypass

Going back to Channels, we can of course set a switch to select a specific channel of any block. Let’s say for Delay, Channel A is a Analog Stereo delay for Leads, and Channel B is a dotted 1/8 note for that “U2 thing.”

Let’s setup a switch so

Tap = Delay On/Off
Hold = Channel B select

Let’s say normally the Delay block is off. When I want to add a lead delay, I simply Tap the switch. This turns on the delay with Channel A and I have a nice lead delay sound. When I’m done, I turn it off with a Tap.

Now let’s say the delay is off, I’m playing, and I need the dotted 1/8 delay on Channel B. If I Hold the switch we defined, the Delay block will switch to Channel B… but I don’t hear anything. Well that’s because the Block is still off! So this means I would have to Hold to change to Channel B, and then also Tap to turn on the Delay block. That’s too many presses!

With Smart Bypass enabled, if I press a switch to change Channels on a Block when it’s off/bypassed, it will change Channels and turn on at the same time. Once on that Channel with the Block on/engaged, pressing the switch again will simply turn off the Block while it stays on the same Channel. So this now becomes a dual purpose switch.

[Insert Image of FM3-Edit with Smart Bypass]

In my example, with the delay off, I Hold the switch, it changes to Channel B and turns on. I play the dotted 1/8 delay as needed. To turn it off, I just Hold the switch again and it turns off while staying on Channel B. Hold again and my dotted 1/8 delay is back again.

From here, to get back to Channel A, I either need another switch programmed to select Channel A specifically, or I can just reload the Scene (with Scene Revert set to ON) to get back to how the Scene was originally saved (with Channel A selected).

Smart Bypass is an option with the Effect > Channel Select function. It’s a great option for situations like I described and can be useful during the gig.


Special Footswitch Functions – Views

As we learned earlier, a Layout is a collection of programmed footswitches. The FM3 has only 3 physical footswitches, but a Layout actually contains 12 total footswitches. This is because the largest FC – the FC12 – uses 12 footswitches. So a Layout has to contain the maximum amount of switches on an FC12.

With only 3 switches on the FM3, we’re potentially “wasting” 9 other switch locations per Layout. To solve this, Views were created.

The FM3/FC owner’s manuals explains Views very well, so give a read. But in short, a “View” is a subset of all 12 switches available in a Layout. By default, on the FM3 you’ll see View 1 of Layout 1, View 1 of Layout 2, and so on. But we can change to View 2, 3, and 4 to “see” the other 9 switches in any Layout.

Diagram explaining Views from the Owner’s Manual

This means we can program all 12 switches in all Layouts and actually use them by changing Views. You could sorta think of a View as a “Mini-Layout” conceptually, though the Layout isn’t changing – you’re just seeing a different set of switches in that same Layout.

We can change views by programming a Switch or by turning the D knob on the FM3 itself. The Default Layouts (described below) make use of Views to get the most out of each Layout.

So even with “just” 3 physical switches, per Layout we have 12 switches to program. Each switch can potentially do 2 functions, so that’s 24 functions per Layout. 9 Layouts total mean (math… ugh) 216 functions can be accessed just by these 3 switches alone if desired.


Putting It All Together – FM3 Footswitch Setup Ideas

FINALLY!

The previous sections described some basics so that we’re all on the same page for actually programming the FM3. There are some other cool functions in the FM3/FC, but I’ll leave it at that for now. It’s hard to teach how to setup a unit if the building blocks for setup aren’t known. But now we can move on!

Default Layouts

Your FM3 could ship with everything completely blank, but that wouldn’t be too much fun. So along with the Factory Presets to help you get started with tones, Default Layouts are also provided for the footswitches.

The Owner’s Manual describes these defaults, and I’m not going to spend too much time on them here. But I just wanted to describe how we arrived at the design for them.

In the same way that Factory Presets are mostly a starting point and example for what you could do with the FM3, Default Layouts are also a starting point and example of some ways you could arrange your footswitches. No single Preset sounds/works the same for every player, and similarly no footswitch setup works the same for everyone either. But we have to start somewhere.

Conceptually, the Default Layouts were mostly designed to separate the different types of functions I described earlier. Most players are used to this “separation” from older gear of any brand. For Fractal gear, the MFC-101 for example had a Looper mode which changed all switches from their programmed functions (like Delay On/Off, Scene select, Preset select, etc.) to new Looper functions. The FX8 and AX8 had Looper mode, Scene Select mode, and Preset Select mode. Again, these modes changed the function of the switches from the programmable “layout” to the pre-defined “layouts” as described.

Because people were already familiar with this style of “every switch changes to dedicated modes”, the FM3/FC Default Layouts were designed this way as well. We also wanted to try to keep things as simple as possible for the defaults. With zero knowledge of Fractal gear, trying to do everything at once at the beginning can be daunting. But I always recommend to just use what you know, and add pieces as you go. (That rhymed…)

So following that concept, Layout 1 has Preset switches, Layout 2 has Scenes, Layout 3 has Effect On/Off, Layout 4 has Channels, and Layout 5 has Looper controls. These Layouts work similarly to the “modes” of the older gear, where all switches change to just that “category” of switches (Scenes, Channels, etc.). Remember, as a starting point, we’re just going with what people may be familiar with.

Layouts 6 – 8 stray a bit from that concept as additional examples of mixing switch types, as well as showing Per-Preset switches and a Utilities Layout with Tap Tempo and Tuner.

For many, this concept is a great way to start out, helping them learn and separate the different types of switches and controls available. Presets are on the Preset Layout. Scenes are on the Scenes Layout, and so on. Remember that some have to learn what these things are at the same time they are learning how to control them, so separating them is a good way to reinforce the differences among those functions.

However, once you’re used to those functions, you definitely do not have to stick with keeping them all separated. As you can probably tell from reading the Owner’s Manual (you read it, right?) to move from Preset switches, to Scene switches, to Effect On/Off switches, you’ll have to navigate somehow to those different Layouts. This means “extra” switch presses to get from Presets to Scenes, or anywhere else. For some, these extra presses are time during the gig that you just don’t have.

The main focus of this article (believe it or not if you’ve read everything so far!) is to propose different ways to minimize button presses on the FM3, or to just make it work for you the best way possible.

In short, rather than separating all the functions like the Default Layouts 1-5 do, we can mix the types of switches on each layout to maximize control without having to change Layouts (or Views).


On-Board Switches Only

The most simple way to use the FM3 is to just use the FM3 by itself, not adding any additional controllers, switches, or pedals. Compared to previous Fractal gear, the FM3 has fewer switches – just 3. To many, this initially seems impossible to use compared to say 11 switches on the AX8. But as you’ve read above, the switches on the FM3/FC are more powerful due to 2 functions per switch (Tap and Hold), multiple Layouts where any switch can be any function, and some special functions like Toggle and Smart Bypass.

But I’ll say this now: If you truly need more than 3 switches, then 3 switches may not be enough.

Seems like a silly statement, and it’s truly not intended to be negative. But right off the bat, if you are a “power user” and absolutely need 12 switches, then you may just have to add those 12 switches. I don’t want this article to appear to say “3 switches will always be enough for any situation” and imply that you may be doing something wrong if you can’t get enough functionality out of the 3 on-board switches.

However, at the same time don’t immediately jump to the thought that you can’t get through a gig with only 3. If you’re coming from an Axe-Fx III, remember that the FM3 has different CPU power and won’t load the same number of blocks as the Axe-Fx III if you fill that to capacity. Less blocks means less things needing to be controlled. Also think about what you actually control and change during the course of a typical gig. Some people like to have a 48 switch controller in front of them with a switch for every possible block they might have in 20 different presets… yet really stay on 1 or 2 presets all night and just kick on a volume boost. Majority of the switches sit there unused… but the possibility is there!

No judgment here: if you want that type of setup, by all means go for it. But paring down a rig to a smaller setup usually requires realistic planning of what you actually need and use. Many people I’ve helped over the years realize how much they setup – footswitches, amps, gear, cables, etc. – compared to how much they actually use. Next gig they setup far less, initially feel scared about not having that extra gear, but then realize that they don’t even use it and appreciate the faster setup and tear down, as well as less cabling and potential points of gear failure.

All that said, let’s be realistic. It is possible to run full-featured rigs from only 3 switches using the features I described earlier. But sometimes it’s not possible, and that’s ok too. We’ll explore several options here.

Ok, moving on.


One Preset, One Layout/View

Footswitch setup. It’s completely dependent on how you gig and what you need. The things I do aren’t the same as the things you do. So it’s impossible for me to suggest specific setups that will work for many people. All I can do is explain the concepts and hopefully guide you to discover your needs. With only 3 switches, deciding what to put where is more crucial than a 48 switch controller where everything is everywhere. For the following examples, I clear the Default Layouts.

I’ll start by describing one of my setups. For this one, it’s a gig where I’m simply playing guitar with a range of tones with some effects and utility functions. I don’t need to loop, I don’t need search for different presets – in fact I just stay on one big preset the entire gig.

Switch 1 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 1 Hold – Scene 3/6 Toggle

Switch 2 Tap – Multidelay On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Delay Channel B Select with Smart Bypass

Switch 3 Tap – Tap Tempo
Switch 3 Hold – Tuner

Scene 1 is clean with chorus, Scene 2 is a Clean Lead, Scene 3 is a light crunch, and Scene 6 is a High Gain Lead. For my gigs, these are all I need, and having the 4 Scenes on 1 switch is great, as I described above.

My Multidelay is a “diffusor” setting which acts similar to a long reverb. It adds a “spacey” sound and extends the chords/notes to fill up the sound. I turn this on and off as needed. Scene 1 has an “always on” delay with a low mix to help fill up some space (Channel A), and Scene 2 has a lead delay, stereo and a louder mix (Channel C). These delays are always on when I switch to these Scenes. Channel B of the Delay Block is my dotted 1/8 note delay. As I described earlier. I can just Hold Switch 2 to change to Channel B instantly, and use the same Hold on Switch 2 to turn it off. Or I just change Scenes (with Scene Revert ON) to get back to the default delays.

Switch 3 is the common Tap/Tuner combo. Though if I do need an additional effect or Scene depending on the gig, I’ll quickly change out one or both of these functions to add what I need.

This example shows 1 Preset, using just 1 Layout and 1 View. For many situations, this basic design can work for an entire gig – I do it all the time! If your gig requires say 2 – 4 different tones all night with minimal effect switching, something like this could work out very well. Not changing Layouts and Views keeps the switches to a minimum functionality making it easier to perform during the gig without needing to remember what function is on what Layout/View.

And that’s something to remember as well in all of this setup talk: you have to perform too! We’ve all seen the guy staring at his pedal board all night remembering what is where and focusing more on changing sounds than playing. Again, no judgment here. If that’s what needs to happen, that’s all good. But sometimes freeing ourselves from complex rigs can be very rewarding as you can focus on playing, performing, and crowd interaction.


One Preset, One Layout, Multiple Views

Using the previous setup as a starting point, now I’m at a Solo gig that requires basic Looping. Looking at my setup again, it’s obvious there’s no Looper controls:

Switch 1 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 1 Hold – Scene 3/6 Toggle

Switch 2 Tap – Multidelay On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Delay Channel B Select with Smart Bypass

Switch 3 Tap – Tap Tempo
Switch 3 Hold – Tuner

There’s also no switches for changing Views or Layouts. So we need to make some changes.

For this Solo gig, I still need access to most of the things on that existing Layout. So for now, let’s make one change

Switch 3 Tap – Tuner
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 2

Remember, that first setup is on Layout 1, View 1. And instead of changing Layouts (potentially wasting 9 other switch assignments), I’m choosing to change Views. You could also change Layouts if that makes more sense to you, but we’re going with Views for now.

Also keep in mind that we’ve cleared the Default Layouts for these examples. There aren’t any “modes”, we aren’t “stuck” with all switches being only Scenes, only Looper controls, etc. It’s common for those new to the FM3/FC to think Layout 2 must be Scene switches only. But free yourself from those thoughts. We can do whatever the heck we want!

So now that I can change to View 2 – which is just the next group of 3 switches in the same Layout 1 – we need to design View 2.

Switch 1 Tap – Looper Rec
Switch 1 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 2 Tap – Looper Play
Switch 2 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 3 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 1

Ok, a few things going on here.

You can see that the Hold functions for Switches 1 and 2 are Unassigned. This is important for time-sensitive functions as I explained before. When a switch has a Hold function, the Tap function doesn’t execute on the downstroke of the switch press, but on the upstroke/release instead. This can cause timing issues for the Looper, as even a few milliseconds difference between downstroke and upstroke can make a loop inaccurate. No way around this unless I get really good at “slapping” the switches quickly so the upstroke happens as fast as possible, but I don’t want to do that. So they remain unassigned. No big deal. (Maybe one day we’ll see a “one button looper” mode where a single tap is Record/Play and a double tap is Stop, like on some other one-switch loopers.)

I really do like the Once and Undo features of the Looper, but for this gig, I just need simple Record and Play functions. So instead of putting Once and Undo on Switch 3 like I do on the Axe-Fx III setup, I’ll use this switch for other things.

We need a way to get back to View 1, so I put that on Switch 3 Hold. And this shows an important concept: consistency. I could easily put View 2 on Switch 3 in Layout 1, then View 1 on Switch 2 (aside from the Looper timing I mentioned), but then I’d have to remember that changing Views uses 2 different physical switches.

When planning your switch designs, the more consistent you can be, the better. With just 3 switches, you may have to bend this a bit, but it makes things much easier. With both View changes on Switch 3 Hold, conceptually I can think of that Hold Switch as a “view change” button, rather than thinking “View 1 I Hold Switch 3, then View 2 I Hold Switch 2 – what View am I on now… 2… ok, that means… ummm… Switch 2!”

Also with just 2 Views changing, I’m not remembering that different switches go to different views, but instead it’s more like I’ve created a “views switch.” Subtle difference in thinking, but can help make decisions quicker during the gig. Going an a brief tangent, if I used 3 Views, I would set

View 1 – Switch = View 2
View 2 – Switch = View 3
View 3 – Switch = View 1

This creates a “cycle” of Views which remains consistent so that conceptually “pressing this switch goes to the next View no matter where I am.” Because the Views are changing, the Switch functions also change, so you’d have to program each switch on each View as I just mentioned. But once it’s done, it becomes a “view switch” and that consistency can help a ton.

So the full setup now is

View 1
Switch 1 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 1 Hold – Scene 3/6 Toggle

Switch 2 Tap – Multidelay On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Delay Channel B Select with Smart Bypass

Switch 3 Tap – Tuner
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 2

View 2
Switch 1 Tap – Looper Rec
Switch 1 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 2 Tap – Looper Play
Switch 2 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 3 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 1

You might notice that I’ve lost Tap Tempo with these changes, and for this particular gig, I really don’t need it. Worst case I can reach down and use the Tap Tempo button on the top panel of the FM3, but this type of gig just cranks out the songs with few solos or time-based effects anyway, so I truly don’t need it.

However, I’ve gained something more important. In View 2, I have my Record and Play switches for the Looper. On Switch 3 Tap, I’ve assigned another instance of Scene 1/2 Toggle. If I didn’t have this, I’d have to

change to View 2
record the loop
change to View 1
change tones to Scene 2
do some lead work
change back to Scene 1
change to View 2
stop the loop

That’s a lot of steps, and this is how it’s worked for previous Fractal Gear. The MFC-101 had a Looper mode, though you could put looper controls directly on the switches (I think this was done with MIDI CCs and “general” switches). The AX8 and FX8 also had a Looper mode and that was the only way to access those controls unless you added an external MIDI controller like the Morningstar MC6. Go to looper, loop, change to tone controls, change tones, go back to looper, stop the loop, etc.

Instead, because I can mix any switch functions that I want, from the same View 2, I can Record, Play, change between Clean and Lead tones, then stop the loop all without leaving that View. It’d look like this:

change to View 2
record the loop
change tones to Scene 2
do some lead work
change back to Scene 1
stop the loop

Sure it’s only a couple less switch presses, but believe me, during the gig it saves a lot of thinking, moving, and pressing. During a typical solo gig, I might loop and solo like this for every song. Let’s say 30 songs during the night that’s 60 less button presses, maybe more. Setups like this really help.

As I “tangented” earlier, you could add more Views to this style of setup – up to 4 – without leaving the current Layout. Layout 7 of the Default Layouts and its tutorial in the owner’s manual use Views heavily to teach using the on-board switches. Most of the the Default Layouts use all Views actually.

So my example could be filled out with all 4 Views if desired. View 1 could be your most needed controls, saving 1 spot somewhere to change views. You could use the “cycle” method I described to change views, or you could instead directly program View Selects to jump to various ones as needed. Maybe

View 1
Switch 3 Tap – View 2
Switch 3 Tap – View 3

View 2
Switch 3 Tap – View 1
Switch 3 Tap – View 3

View 3
Switch 3 Tap – View 1
Switch 3 Tap – View 2

or something like that. Again, it completely depends on what you need, and what you put where. Just remember to program each “view switch” to go to the right places, as they don’t automatically populate just because you put a View Select somewhere.

Views give you the ability to use all 12 switch assignments in a single Layout. You can use switch assignments to change Views. Although sometimes I’ll just reach down and manually change views with the D knob if I’m not changing Views often during a gig.

For example, let’s say I have my first 3-switch example going during a gig in a Trio. But then by chance, just one song during the set I suddenly need to Loop. I’ll just turn the D knob to get to View 2 where my looper is, loop, and stay there for that whole song. When it’s done, I’ll turn the D knob again to get back to View 1 with everything I need for the gig. Remember that people often change the knobs on real pedals throughout a gig, so it’s not that crazy of an idea!

Sometimes I’ll even setup “alternate” setups in the different Views with slight modifications. Maybe View 3 for me is the Looper setup with Once and Undo on Switch 3 and no way to change views via switches. Maybe View 4 has additional Scenes, or maybe I want to get to Scene 6 with a Tap on Switch 2 so I can get to it quicker. I’ll just show up to the gig, turn the D knob to the View I need for that gig, and play. Maybe change the view with the D knob during the gig as well.

Using the D knob is just another way to get the most out of your 3 switches. It works best for situations where you aren’t changing Views too often, but you still have it setup and ready to if needed.


One Preset, Multiple Layouts, Multiple Views

Everything I just described for using and changing different Views can be applied almost identically to different Layouts. Views could be described as “mini-Layouts” because they function pretty much the same. Changing a View changes what functions the switches have. Changing a Layout changes what functions the switches have as well.

So not much more needs to be explained for using Layouts vs. Views. Simply use a Layout instead. But from there, changing to another Layout gives you access to more sets of Views. So the setup could look something like this:

Layout 1
View 1
Switch 1 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 1 Hold – Scene 3/6 Toggle

Switch 2 Tap – Multidelay On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Delay Channel B Select with Smart Bypass

Switch 3 Tap – Tuner
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 2

View 2
Switch 1 Tap – Looper Rec
Switch 1 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 2 Tap – Looper Play
Switch 2 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 3 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 1

Layout 2
View 1
Switch 1 Tap – Delay On/Off
Switch 1 Hold – Delay Channel B Select with Smart Bypass

Switch 2 Tap – Drive On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Drive Channel A/B Toggle

Switch 3 Tap – Tap Tempo
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 2

View 2
Switch 1 Tap – Multidelay On/Off
Switch 1 Hold – Filter 2 On/Off (for Wah style effect)

Switch 2 Tap – Tremolo On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Rotary On/Off

Switch 3 Tap – Scene Increment Range 1 – 4
Switch 3 Hold – Select View 1

As you can see, more Layouts mean more Views, meaning more functions available. I stuck to just 2 Views per Layout in this example, but you could fill them all up if desired.

But you might also see that the more switches you program, the more complex the setup becomes and there’s more to remember. Fortunately we have the Mini-LCDs above each switch to help remind us of what is where. But even so, you don’t want to be changing Layouts and Views searching for the switch you need.

For some players, this is already too much to think about. Remembering a sort of “hierarchy” of where things are. To others, it makes perfect sense and they’ve compartmentalized their setups in their minds and the different Layouts and Views contain exactly what they need, where they need it.

It’s usually logical to set your most important switches at the start of the design – Layout 1, View 1 – and progress to less needed things as you increase Views and Layouts.

But as mentioned before, it all depends on how you view the gear and how you play and what’s needed. No one can design a footswitch setup for someone else without knowing exactly what they need. So you’ll have to do some mapping at least mentally to figure things out.

I read about someone using all 8 Layouts with all 12 switches in each on an FC12 and Axe-Fx III rig. That’s great! But for me personally that’s just too many things to remember and press during a gig where I’m singing. If I was just an auxiliary player, perhaps I could see using close that many things. But personally I try to stick to a few core tones and effects, with maybe a special effect or song tone here or there. But that’s the beauty of the FM3/FC system and really the Axe-Fx series in general – you can use as much or as little of the capabilities as needed, always adding more if necessary. This difference in Preset setups is the reason no single footswitch setup works for everyone. Even with analog pedals, you could give the same 10 pedals to different players, and placement, routing and more would be completely different among them all.


One Preset, Master Layout Menu with Multiple Layouts

A feature I haven’t really mentioned yet is the Master Layout Menu. The FM3/FC gear has 9 total Layouts. 8 of these are “general” which we’ve used in the previous examples. The 9th Layout is special and known as the Master Layout Menu or MLM.

When the FCs were originally designed, it was known that there would be multiple Layouts to allow switches to have different functions assigned, as we’ve discussed above. In order to change to different Layouts, we’d have to program switches to change to these Layouts. But that could potentially “waste” a switch as 1 or more switches in each Layout would be dedicated to changing to the different Layouts. To get around this, a Master Layout Menu was implemented.

As the name implies, the Master Layout Menu by default is a Layout that changes the switches to show every Layout, and allows you to select the Layout from there. Using an FC12 as an example for a bit, imagine it in front of you with 12 switches available. Let’s say we’re on Layout 1 which shows 10 Presets and a Bank Up and Down switch.

From here, we can change to the Master Layout Menu, and all the switches would change from showing the Presets to now showing Layout 1, Layout 2, etc. It may actually say “Layout 1” or it may say the name of the Layout if you’ve defined that. From here, we press the Layout we want to jump to, and the switches immediately change to whatever switch functions are in that Layout (in other words the list of Layouts go away). So

Currently Viewing Layout 1 – Presets with preset switches
Change to Master Layout Menu
Press the Scenes Layout switch
Now we’re Viewing Layout 2 – Scenes with Scene switches

All of my previous examples of switch setups did not really “separate” the types of functions like Presets, Scenes, Channels, etc. The Default Layouts do “separate” these as previously discussed, and they utilize the Master Layout Menu to easily change between the Layouts. Even if our own switch designs don’t “separate” functions, we could still use the Master Layout Menu to change to different Layouts as needed during a gig.

Something to explain first though: The FC12 and FC6 have a special, optional built-in switch combination to access the MLM. This is all described in their owner’s manual, but in short, you press and hold the bottom right switch, then while holding, you tap the top right switch, then let go. This pulls up the MLM no matter where you are if you have this option turned on (default is on). Because of the vertical nature of the rows of switches, this is an easy combination to perform – heel on the bottom switch, toe on the top switch.

On the FM3, there is only a single row of switches, so this switch combination can’t be performed. Using the middle and right switch for MLM access was considered, but in practice, it was difficult to do without using both feet, or turning your foot awkwardly. So this special switch combination was not implemented on the FM3.

Therefore, in order to access the MLM, we instead need to use a normal Tap or Hold function set to MLM. On the Default Layouts, most Layouts use Switch 2 Hold to access the MLM. Though the assignment could be put anywhere.

Check the FM3 owner’s manual for more detail on how the MLM was designed to be used with the Default Layouts. But since we’ve cleared all Default Layouts in these examples, we’re free to put it wherever we want.

Let’s say we’ve designed 3 Layouts for use on the FM3. Instead of assigning functions to directly choose Layouts (like a Layout 2 switch), we’re going to use the MLM. Here’s Layout 1:

Layout 1 – Main
Switch 1 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 1 Hold – Scene 3/6 Toggle

Switch 2 Tap – Multidelay On/Off
Switch 2 Hold – Delay Channel B Select with Smart Bypass

Switch 3 Tap – Tuner
Switch 3 Hold – MLM

When we Hold switch 3, the MLM appears and shows us Layouts 1 – 3. From here, we just tap the Layout we want to go to. Note that you can also select Layout 1 even though we just left it. So let’s jump to Layout 2:

Layout 2
Switch 1 Tap – Looper Rec
Switch 1 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 2 Tap – Looper Play
Switch 2 Hold – Unassigned

Switch 3 Tap – Scene 1/2 Toggle
Switch 3 Hold – MLM

Now we can call up the MLM again and change to Layout 1 or 3.

If we use Layouts 4 – 8, we would just Hold the right switch while in the MLM to change Views to Layouts 4 – 6. Hold the right switch again to access Layouts 7 – 8, or Hold the left switch to go back to lower Layout groups. Eventually you’d need to select a Layout to get back to actual function switches.

Note that this is only for changing Layouts. Once you’re in the Layout you’ve changed to, you are in View 1 and can change Views within that Layout as needed. Be sure to put your most important functions in View 1 of each Layout, as that’s what’s called up when changing Layouts – either via MLM or direct Layout select.

So this is just another way to navigate among the different groups of switches you’ve set up. For some players, this type of navigation makes more sense than changing Layouts directly, and the MLM gives you a wider range of options when you want to change Layouts compared to setting specific Layout Select switches. Maybe you need access to all 8 Layouts so instead of somehow programming all 8 Layout Select switches, the MLM allows you to program just one switch for accessing everything.

The drawback of this method is potentially more switch presses to get to where you need to go. It’s a bit of a give and take. To get from Layout 1 to Layout 8 for example

Currently in Layout 1
Press MLM Switch
Arrive at MLM View 1
Hold the right switch for View 2 (Layouts 4-6)
Let go and Hold the right switch again for View 3 (Layouts 7-8)
Press Layout 8’s switch

That’s a good amount of presses. But comparing this to not having a Layout 8 switch programmed at all, it works. Keep in mind you can also turn the E knob to change Layouts as well. So as with views, the E knob could be a better option in certain situations.

Again, the MLM is just another option to use to change the functions of the switches. For some it makes sense, for others it may not.

What I just described is the Default setup for the MLM. The MLM is actually completely customizable the same way Layouts 1 – 8 are, but with the added benefit of “quick access” via the MLM function, as well as the same 4 views available as well.

So a popular edit to the MLM is to put the Tuner function say on Switch 3 Tap. From Layout 1, we could press our MLM switch, arrive at the MLM, then Tap switch 3 to Tune. This removes Layout 3 access from that MLM view, but perhaps we only use Layout 1 and 2 and that’s not an issue.

We might also not have to use the other Views within the MLM to access Layouts 4 – 8, so the MLM becomes a quick access single page. Maybe we remove all Layout changes from MLM View 1 and instead have our most needed Preset or Scene select switches there, and put Tap/Tuner on Switch 3 Tap and Hold functions. A sort of “emergency access” page that has a dedicated switch.

There are many ways to use the MLM. Just keep in mind that if you do change it from the defaults, you can only access different Layouts with the E knob or programming direct Layout Select switches.

With all the examples we’ve gone through so far, you can see there are many, many ways to perform the same functions. And as I’ve said few times already, what works for one person may not work for another, even if the end result is the same. All of these options might seem daunting, but you definitely don’t have to use everything at once. Remember my very first example? If my gig requires just 1 Preset with Scenes and 1 Layout/View, none of the last 3700 words even matter haha!

As you may notice, I’ve been going from small setup examples and progressing to larger setups. If you know what you want from the FM3 from the start, you may have to begin with a larger setup to do all the things you want. But it’s still beneficial to understand the options starting from small setups and working your way up to larger ones. It can be difficult to start immediately with a large setup and knowing all of the options, especially if Fractal gear is new to you.


Multiple Presets, Multiple Layouts & Views, MLM

All of the previous examples were explained just using a single Preset, utilizing Scenes to change tones as needed. This is how many Axe-Fx/FM3 players will use the gear. However, sometimes we need to access multiple Presets if the CPU won’t hold all of the blocks we need in one Preset, or if we design Presets per song, or some other situation like that.

For the most part, everything I’ve described so far isn’t affected by changing Presets. There’s not much more to explain for designing footswitch setups when it comes to Presets.

If you’re used to the FX8 or AX8, you may know that the Footswitch assignments change per preset by default. Many forum members asked why they spent an hour setting up their first custom Preset and its footswitches, only to go to the next custom preset and have the switches be blank. Again, it’s because that gear had what you could call “per-preset switches.” This increased the flexibility of those units, because if you had Delay in Preset 1, but not in Preset 2, that’d be a wasted switch. And with “only” 8 switches available, we’d want to make the most use of everything we can. (You could also choose to make any of the 8 switches a Global switch on this gear.)

The FM3 and FCs do not work this way. By default, it’s more like the MFC-101 or other MIDI Controllers where the Layouts remain the same when you change Presets. If you’re on Layout 1 in Preset 300, then change to Preset 245, as far as the switches are concerned, you’re still in Layout 1 with the same switch functions. There are only 9 Layouts total – there aren’t 9 Layouts per preset.

When comparing to the AX8, this could seem like a major limitation. But on the other hand, this can free up the programming and “thinking time” on stage because things are not changing and it’s one less thing to think about. If you design your Presets so that you are primarily changing Scenes for different tones or song sections, you’ll probably be totally fine with your Layout 1 just showing the same Scene switches as any other Preset. If you have Scene 1 & 2 on Switch 1, a Boost on Switch 2, and Tap/Tuner on switch 3, these will do the same thing in all your Presets if you design them that way.

But there are times when it would be nice to have a “wildcard” switch, or maybe even change the function of all the switches per Preset. That’s where Per-Preset Switches come into play.


Per-Preset Switches (PP#)

As the name implies, you can set switches up so that the function changes per Preset. I won’t get into too much detail in this article. Note that the common abbreviation of Per-Preset Switches is PP#. PP = Per Preset and the # signifies the “slot” you’ll eventually select to use these. So PP# means Per-Preset Switches.

If you’re familiar with the AX8 or FX8, PP#s aren’t assigned the same way on the FM3/FC. Remember that the AX8/FX8 had per-preset switches integral to the Preset memory. It’s just how it was designed. The FM3/FC is not designed that way as originally the FC was just a controller or extension/Client of the Axe-Fx III which was the “Server” or “Brain” of the relationship. From the Axe-Fx III’s point of view, it doesn’t make too much sense to have footswitch definitions saved per preset, as there were no footswitches built in.

For a quick overview, first on the FM3/FC switch itself, you’ll choose the Category Per-Preset, then you’ll choose a “slot” number from 1 – 24. This is known as a “placeholder” and corresponds to what I’ll explain next.

Per Preset on the “brain” of the FM3, there are 24 available slots to populate with various functions we all know like Delay On/Off, Channel select, Scene select, etc. Hit the HOME button on the top panel of the FM3, then press the D knob to go to the FC Per-Preset setup menu. Here you’ll set the exact function that you want in the specific Preset you’re currently on.

Let’s say that throughout a typical gig, we only need to turn a Chorus Block on and off. But in one song that uses a specific Preset, instead of Chorus we need to control a Phaser Block.

We could simply change Views or Layouts to do this, but instead we’ll use a PP# for flexibility.

First we’ll assign our switch to use the PP# slots. We’ll only use the Tap function in this example, and we’ll use Switch 2. So in EZ mode or in FM3-Edit, assign the Category Per-Preset, and let’s just use Slot #1. That’s it! Now you may notice that the switch is blank on the display and doesn’t do anything. That’s because we’ve only told the switch “hey, when a Preset loads, look at PP#1 and load whatever is there.” Well nothing is there yet!

Press Home, then press the D knob for the FC Per-Preset menu. Now use the Nav and Value controls to highlight Slot#1 and make sure you’re on the TAP tab/menu, not the HOLD tab. Just like the EZ page when directly setting up a switch, we’ll assign Chorus Engage/Bypass to Slot#1 Tap function. As soon as you do this, the switch itself will populate with this function. You can also setup PP#s with FM3-Edit’s Per-Preset design area.

Repeat this for all the Presets you’re going to use at the gig with the Chorus block. Remember, since it’s Per Preset, we have to define this… per preset.

Now go to the Preset with the one-off Phaser block. We don’t need to adjust anything on the switch assignment itself – it’s ready to load whatever Slot#1 is. We just need to define what Slot#1 is for this Preset, and it will be Phaser Engage/Bypass. Set that up as we did for the Chorus and you’ll see the switch instead show Phaser.

And that’s it! Change presets throughout the gig and most of the time Switch 2 will control Chorus On/Off. But in that one preset, it will change to Phaser On/Off instead.

You can use PP#s like this for all of your Layouts if desired. You’ll just have to make sure to setup the actual definitions in the FC Per-Preset area, or you’ll have blank switches. It’s an extra step, but some people prefer to program things this way just in case a different switch is needed in a one-off Preset. That said, majority of users will not need this and can directly define switches as described before.

Keep in mind you could also assign the actual definitions first, and later assign the Placeholders on the actual switches. This workflow could be better for those designing the Preset side first, and the Footswitch side later.

There is also another method of using PP#s called Overrides. I won’t go into detail here; the Footswitch Functions Guide explains this in detail, and this method may have actually been better for the example I wrote above. But I feel the Placeholder method is most similar to those coming from the AX8 or FX8.


Layout Links

Now we’re using different Presets during the gig, and as I said before, changing Presets doesn’t change Layouts. If you have 3 Preset select switches in your current Layout and change Presets, you’ll see the same Preset switches when changing to that new Preset. But what if you know when changing to a Preset that you want immediate access to Drive, Delay, and Boost (Filter Block) switches instead?

You can do this by using Layout Links. A Layout Link is a sort of “additional function” that can be added to any switch function. You define it in its own separate menu. An important thing to realize is that Layout links are tied to the switch function and not the switch data. I’ll explain this more in a bit.

Layout 1 has 3 Preset in Bank switches. Let’s say we are on Preset 300, and that corresponds to Switch 1. This would make Switch 2 Preset 301, and Switch 3 Preset 302. Layout 2 has already been setup to show Drive, Delay and Filter.

If we press Switch 2, we aren’t directly choosing “Preset 301” but instead choosing “Preset Slot 2” of the current Bank, which happens to be Preset 301. Check the owner’s manual for more on Banks if this isn’t familiar to you.

Without a Layout Link, pressing Switch 2 changes to Preset 301 and that’s it. We still see the 3 same Presets on the footswitches. But we want to change to Drive, Delay, and Boost at the same time we change Presets.

So we add a Layout Link to Switch 2 in the current Layout. Press Setup (Knob E), then FC Controllers (hit Enter), then Page Right to Layouts, or you could use the Layout Links section in FM3-Edit. Now we just add Layout 2 on FC#1 to Switch 2.

The FM3 is unique compared to the Axe-Fx III because it has an FC “built-in” – the 3 on-board switches. So the FM3 will always be considered FC#1 in menus like this. Consider that the Axe-Fx III has no built-in switches, so FC#1 would be the first FC unit you connect. But on the FM3, it is always FC#1 itself with its on-board switches.

Now when we press Switch 2 to get to Preset 301, it changes to Preset 301 and changes to Layout 2. Layout 2 happens to have Drive, Delay, and Filter/Boost in this example, but a popular option is to change to Scene views after selecting a Preset. But you can change to any Layout for any functions that you want. You can additionally add Layout Links to Switch 1 and 3 as well, and you can define different Layout Links for Tap vs Hold functions on the switches.

Earlier I said Layout links are tied to the switch function and not the switch data. Here’s what I mean:

In the previous example, we were in a particular Bank, and happened to select Preset #301 by pressing Switch 2’s “Select Preset in Bank” function. With the Layout Link setup, we changed to Layout 2 at the same time.

If I change Banks up by one, now we’re selecting Presets 303, 304, and 305. (Again, check the owner’s manual if you’re not understanding how Banks work.)

If I press Switch 2 which now corresponds to Preset 304, we will change Presets and also change to Layout 2 due to the Layout Link we previously set.

The Layout Link wasn’t happening “because we changed to Preset #301.” The Layout Link was happening “because we pressed “Select Preset in Bank, 2nd slot.” This is a subtle difference, but the Layout wasn’t “linked” to Preset 301 specifically (the data). The Layout was “linked” to the command of Select X Preset in Bank (the function).

This said, you currently can’t change Layouts per preset. For example, changing Presets using the Value knob or Nav buttons won’t ever change the Layout (the data of different Presets loading). But you can change Layouts when a Layout Link is tied to a switch’s function (the function of Select Preset X in Bank).

Layout Links can be used on any function, not just Preset select, though its use doesn’t benefit every type of function.

Layout Links are yet another option for optimizing how the Footswitches behave, trying to the most work with the fewest switch presses.


On-Board Switches Only Summary

Can you believe that after all of that, we’ve still only used the 3 on-board switches? As I mentioned before, all that explaining could make it seem very complicated – it isn’t! But at the same time, all that explaining shows how powerful “just” 3 switches can be.

Remember that it’s usually a good idea to approach your switch setups in the most simple way possible. Adding complexity can be cool and lead to a lot of specific control, but at the same time, it can possibly cause confusion or “losing switches” if you’re setting things up without a clear reason or workflow.

We discussed setups ranging from “3 switches only” with only Tap functions, then moved on to adding Hold functions to those same switches to expand the capabilities. Then we added Views, Layouts, the Master Layout Menu, and finally multiple Presets using Per-Preset Switches and Layout Links. Whew!

Those are a lot of options that you can choose to use where necessary. Do not feel pressured to use all or any of those options unless it makes sense to you and your workflow.

Even after writing all of this and explaining it, I still personally stick to 1 Preset and use 1 or 2 views on the FM3 itself. I don’t want things to be too complex for my current playing situations. But if I need something more complex, I know it’s there and can use them.

So where do we go from here? Well most of the details have been discussed above as far as functions go. If you want to expand your control beyond 3 switches, you can add more switches in several ways. We can use simple External Switches and Stand-In Switch functions, or add additional FCs like the FC6 or FC12 (up to 2 additional!), or we can use other MIDI Controllers or MIDI from computers or other gear as well.


Work In Progress
Other sections to be added soon