Setting Up Your Pedalboard
Electric guitarists are constantly seeking out “how he/she gets that sound”. I like to call it “the endless pursuit of tone”. Obviously, there are a ton of factors in how to achieve a desired guitar tone. In this article, we’ll be discussing the best order to line up your effect pedals. For all intents and purposes, I will be focusing on the most common pedals.
The first pedals in the chain would be a tuner pedal and a noise gate. Having a tuner pedal first in the chain will make your tuning more accurate. This way it’s giving you a direct reading of what your guitar is actually doing.
Next in the chain would be a noise gate pedal. These are very nice to have if you’re looking to clean up an unruly amplifier. Nothing is worse than blasting a crowd of screaming fans with feedback, hiss and hum. However, a noise gate can work against you if it is put in the wrong place on your pedal board. I’ve heard of people making the mistake of putting their noise gate at the end of their pedal board. When I asked why, they said “it’s cleaning up the noise from all my other pedals”. NOPE! If a noise gate were at the end of your chain, it would be squashing your reverb pedal, cutting off the ‘delays’ of a delay pedal and causing more problems than you’d ever want.
Once your guitar is in tune and gated, now it’s time to get funky! The ever-famous wah pedal would go next.
Next, decide if your signal needs a boost. This is where a clean boost, overdrive, fuzz or distortion pedal would go in the chain. Some guitar players have a few of these types of pedals. If you’re fortunate enough to have several of these, play around with the order to get your desired tone. You can feel free to change the order of any pedals within the same “family” or type of pedal.
After your signal is boosted or distorted, it is free to hit the “modulation” family of pedals. Modulation effects are any type of chorus, phaser, flanger, tremolo, etc. Again, any pedal within a “family” can be arranged in whatever order you would like. Chances are, if you’re using a lot of these effects, you’re into some pretty spacey music. I’m assuming that you would want to experiment to see what tones you can create by changing their order. If you have a few of these effects for variety purposes and they’re rarely switched on at the same time, then order doesn’t matter at all.
Coming from the modulation effects, now you can play around with time-based effects such as a delay pedal. Putting a delay pedal close to the end of the chain will sound much cleaner.
At the very end of your chain would be a reverb pedal. Reverb is technically a time-based effect but the order of this “family” is more important than others.
There are other pedals that can be placed after all of these listed above. They’re arguably not considered an “effect” pedal though. For instance, the ever-popular “loop” pedal should be thought of as more of a recorder than an effect. A loop pedal should be placed at the very end, that way any effect you have switched on will get recorded.
There are no wrong ways to set up a pedal board. If a pedal is put in the wrong order, you’re certainly not going to break anything. It just might not sound that great. A lot of it is player preference. For instance, rumor has it that Jimi Hendrix placed his wah pedal after his fuzz pedal to get his signature sound. As you’re lining up your arsenal, keep in mind which pedals will be used at the same time. For instance, if you’re never going to have your wah pedal on at the same time as any other effect, it doesn’t really matter where you place it. However, when you are layering effects, the order couldn’t be more important. Best of luck! If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me or your local George’s Music!