Ever since guitar effects pedals first became a thing, guitar as an instrument changed completely. No longer were you limited to just one type of sound. On the contrary, with effects pedals, the sky is pretty much the limit. However, there are things you need to consider when using these devices. Every pedalboard that contains more than two pedals needs to have a defined order.
Actually, it is recommended that you pay attention to the order of pedals even if you only have two on there. This whole issue is going to be the topic of our discussion today, so if you're planning on build a pedalboard, stay with us.
Why Does The Order Of Guitar Effects Pedals Matter?
Guitar effects pedals come in a wide range of flavors. Different pedals alter the signal in different ways, which means that they can come into conflict depending on their nature. A conflict between two or more effects pedals is bound to ruin your tone. With that said, there are numerous effect pedal layouts out there and you won't really find the 'best' one. The order we are going to show you today is a great starting point which you can use to build upon later. Let's dig in.
Before we get to 'real' effects pedals, we need to mention tuners. If you have a guitar tuner in form of a pedal, that is the very first thing you want to connect to your guitar. Tuners need raw instrument signal in order to give you proper readings.
Wah pedals are most commonly placed at the beginning of the signal chain. The reason for this is the fact that wah pedals boost specific portions of the frequency range, so it is best to feed them with a clean signal from the guitar. Keep in mind that this isn't a rule, but rather a recommendation. There are players who keep the wah-wah later on in the chain.
Up next we have distortion, overdrive or fuzz pedals. In general, any kind of pedal that distorts the signal such as the Boss DS-1X or Ibanez TS-9 just to name a few. You want to have them before modulation and especially before temporal pedals like reverb or delays.
The reasoning is fairly simple. If you put a distortion/overdrive near the beginning of the chain, the pedal will apply the gain boost to a pretty clean signal. However, if you pass the signal through a chorus, or delay - both of which copy the signal, the pedal will apply the same gain boost to the entire thing. The result will be a mess that is hard to control.
Naturally, how true this statement is will depend on the specific brand and model of pedals you are using. However, more often than not, the result will be exactly as we have described above.
After the gain pedals, we meet the modulation department. These are your choruses, flangers and similar. As we have already explained, you'd definitely want to have these after distortion or overdrive pedals. Let's take a chorus as an example. This pedal multiplies the signal that is being fed into it and creates an illusion that there is more than one guitar being played. If you feed it a clean signal, that's what it will multiply. Same goes for distorted, high gain signal.
Last but not the least, we have temporal pedals. This is where all of your delays, echoes and reverbs come in. The general rule of thumb is to have temporal pedals at the very end of the signal chain. If we look at delays, for example, these pedals copy the signal and release each copy with a certain amount of delay as well as volume correction. Imagine if you've put such a complex pedal at the beginning of the chain and then applied every other effect afterward? It would be pure chaos. Same goes for reverbs and echoes.
Other effects pedals such as compressors, level pedals and similar, can be placed in various locations in the signal chain. As a matter of fact, saying that a compressor must go here or there would be a huge mistake on our part. These effects will be pedalboard specific and their placement will depend on the type as well as the number of your pedals.
Best Advice You Will Get About Effects Pedals Order And Layout
If you search the web, you will find many guides on how to setup your guitar effects pedals. Most of these will claim that their system is the right one and that doing things differently is just wrong. This is as far away from the truth as it gets. Notice how we said that the layout you see above is just our recommendation? The truth is that there is no perfect order of guitar pedals and no single right way to do it.
Our layout is a basic one that offers a great foundation you can build upon. The only real way to find a good order of effects pedals for yourself is to experiment and experiment some more. That is literally the only way. Only know which pedals you have and how they work with each other. Sure, there are some suggestions you should stick to, but nothing is really set in stone.
As we reach the end of our guide, we’d like to thank you for sticking with us. We hope that you have learned something new today and that this guide gave you enough information to understand the basics of guitar effects signal chains. If you find it difficult to figure out something with the gear you already have, start simple and start slow. Add the pedals one by one until you find the layout that fits. On top of that, many popular guitar players constantly change the order of their guitar effects pedals. In other words, don’t take this as a definitive job, but rather something that evolves over time.