A very significant portion of all the guitar players out there reaches a stage at one point where a pedal board becomes a must-have, an essential part of their sound and live performance. It is at that point where the big question arises: How to sort out my pedals and organize them the best.
As guitar virtuoso Steve Vai once noted, the order is not exactly of utmost importance and it all comes down to preference and personal taste. However, there is also a string of fairly objective guidelines to follow and realistic factors to take into consideration while assembling a pedal board. So we jotted down the way we think you should organize those stomp-boxes – it’s not the definite way, but it’s something that many players use and something we believe works nicely. Here goes!
1. Overdrive pedals first
By overdrive pedals we mean not just the overdrive effect, but anything related as well, including distortion, fuzz and boost as well. The reason why these guys deserve a place up in the front is because the majority of players prefers to place the distortion as close to the original clean signal as possible.
The goal is that you have the opportunity to distort the purest form of your sound, and that is achieved by placing the overdrives first. In case you are using overdrive and boost, we believe that it is a good idea to place the boost first so that the overdrive pedal receives the strongest possible signal.
2. Wah and EQ second
Up next – the wah-wah and equalizer pedals. These are the pedals that operate very well when connected directly to an audio signal that affected by overdrive or distortion only. The wah will sound top-notch when backed up by some distortion, while the EQ will really give the output a proper boost.
Also, if you want to use a compressor pedal, it fits somewhere around here – if you want a more natural and rock tone, place the pedal right after the distortion or EQ effects. However, if you are after the classic country vibe, compressor should be placed right at the very end of the chain so it gives the sound a nice little squash.
3. Modulation effects third
Up next, the modulation crowd. What we mean by modulation effects would be chorus, phaser, flanger, and vibrato stomp-boxes. The reason why these folks belong at No. 3 position is the fact that they gain a much more rich and complex sonic attack than they would have received on their own or somewhere near the beginning of the pedal chain.
Additionally, it is a common belief that these pedals should NOT be placed at the end of the chain, because they tend to overpower the effects placed before them, and if that happens to be the entire pedal chain, well, that is no good.
4. Time related effects fourth
These would be delay and reverb. Placing these pedals at the very end of the chain allows you to get a more natural echo. If you happen to use both of these pedals – which is not a rare case at all – you should probably locate the reverb at the very end. This will secure a natural echo to all the effects that come first, and leave that sonic boom to glow at the very end.
Another option is of course to use a built-in reverb from your amplifier. This is a viable option, but expect a more twang-driven vibe from it. If you are into scoring that roomy, spacious feel, a reverb pedal is the way to go.