4 Pedal Rules: Build A Better Guitar Pedalboard

pedalboard building tips

The most confusing thing in guitar playing is the order in which you place effect pedals. Which should go first? And which last? Stick with this and it will all become clear.


Firstly, is there a correct order to place the pedals in? Sorry to say, it’s a yes, but also a no! I’ll explain, there is a standard order, which most follow, but some choose to ignore this and get fantastic tone. So there are some rules, but it’s really is a matter of messing with what you have and playing around and seeing what works for your music and what helps you translate what you hear in your head into reality.



First rule: Keep it short – if you can’t, group and loop it!

The best advice you can receive on pedals is: keep it short – maximum 10 pedals. This gives you enough to get all the tone you want, plus more. If you want more and let’s face it who doesn’t!. Then you should group pedals by function or sound, then arrange them in separate true bypass loops.


I’m suggesting this for three reasons. The first is you’ll be running through less cable and therefore the overall tone suck (loss of volume and high/low frequencies) will be less. Second, you will be able to troubleshoot much more easily. And thirdly, grouping pedals in loops makes it easier to turn them on/off.


Plus, If you turn a loop on and it doesn’t work, that’s OK, as it doesn’t affect the whole show. Also you have now made your guitar rig modular and so you can pick how much you want to add or take away with ease.



Second rule: Less is more

Having just a few choice pedals that cover all the tones you want is the best option you have. The guy leaning at the bar won’t know or care if you’re not using the exact sound from the record, but he will care if you look bored or spend too much time looking at your pedals and not enough time looking into the crowd (remember them?) and trying to connect with them and play your heart out.


If you have loads of pedals in front of you, it’s time to take some out and learn how to use what you have better. Could you use your volume pedal or control to give you the same sound you’re getting from a pedal right now? Could you strip out say a few modulation type pedals and buy one of those all-in-one modulation pedals? It will save space, time and might cost less than what you’re using right now.



Third: Make it easy to add in pedals

You might have a few different pedals you’d like to add in now and again. Maybe a chorus pedal or a volume pedal, which you would like to insert half way down the chain of pedals. One way to achieve this is to have an extra-long lead after the last distortion pedal. Then all you need to do is unplug this cable from the input of the next pedal, and into the input on the new pedal, then wire in a new cable between the two. Or you could insert a true bypass loop pedal half way through the chain of pedals and have a break-out box at the top of your board which this loop feeds. That way you will always be able to try a new pedal.



Fourth: Experiment

Keep trying different things, settings, layouts etc. Just keep trying.


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