How to Order Your Guitar’s Effects Pedals
It is important to follow a few basic guidelines when you begin running multiple effects pedals for you guitar in a series. Improperly ordering your effects chain or pedal board can result in poor tones and unwanted noise. Remember, these effects pedals are actually altering the signal of your guitar, so when placed in a chain, an effects pedal could be processing a signal that has already been altered many times. This is what makes the order of them so vital to your sound.
1st Position – Chromatic Tuner / EQ
I always recommend placing a chromatic tuner (if you have one) , first in your chain. This ensures that the pedal is getting the strongest signal possible, which will make accurate tuning much easier. Now is a good time to also add your EQ pedal to your chain. This allows you to shape your sound before it starts to have effects applied.
2nd Position – Distortion/Overdrive/Fuzz
It is important to have your distortion pedals as the leaders of your chain because they are what your guitar tone is based on. Placing these pedals first in your chain ensures that you are only distorting your true guitar sound.
When you start playing with multiple effects, this keeps the integrity of the more complex effects pedals like chorus and flange in tact. These pedals carefully alter your guitar’s signal, and distorting them could taken away from their tone.
3rd Position – Wah Pedal
There are some guitar players who prefer having their Wah Pedal in front of their distortion pedals (Jimi Hendrix), but I have found that I get the best results by placing it after them in the chain. A Wah Pedal is basically an EQ that sweeps the high ends, and low ends of your sound, which will cause the signal going to the distortion pedal to be altered if it is placed before it. Placing your Wah pedal after your distortion pedals will provide a nice linear sweep because you’ll have one steady signal coming into it.
4th Position – Delay
At this point in your effects pedal chain we have shaped the tone of your guitar, and added the foundations of distortion. Placing a Delay pedal in this position will result in only the signal coming into it to be repeated, thus preserving the sound of the modulation effects that will come after it. You do not want to add delay to effects like flange, and chorus. If you were to place these before your Delay pedal, the effects they create would also be delayed. You want these to be consistent while the core sound of your guitar is being delayed.
Position 4 – Modulation
Modulation effects consist of flange, chorus, phase, envelope filters, etc. All of these add color, and depth to your sound. As we noted earlier, it is important to keep these signals as true as possible on their way to your amplifier. Running a flanger effect before a distortion, or overdrive pedal would distort the flanger’s sound, and would harm the subtlety of the effect.
Position 5 – Volume Pedal
This position should be reserved for any pedal that is going to take away from the sound of your guitar, primarily a volume pedal. You want to place your volume pedal in this position so that you can accurately decrease the effect volume for ALL your pedals. If you were to place it in the middle of your chain, you would only lower the effect volume for all of the pedals that come before it. This is also an acceptable position for a Tremolo pedal.
Position 6 – Reverb
Reverb is an effect that usually occurs naturally. For this reason, you want to place this effect after all of your modulations, distortions and EQs have been applied so that the Reverb can shape your sound as realistically as possible.