How I Wire My Pedalboard
I have a lot of conversations with guitarists who are getting into effects pedals and wondering what they should purchase and what order they should wire everything in. There are a couple different schools of thought out there concerning hooking up a pedalboard or chain of pedals, but here's how I do mine.
1. Compressor, Whammy, and/or Fuzz
Compressors can get really noisy when they're placed later in the chain. Also Whammy pedals and Fuzzes "prefer" to have the guitar signal straight from the guitar. So, I'd put these first if you have them in your rig.
If you happen to have all three, I'd order them: Guitar - Comp - Whammy - Fuzz, but that depends on how you use them. This is where it could be nice to get these three on a separated out bypass switcher if you don't use them all the time.
2. Boost, Overdrive, Distortion Pedals
With my style of playing, I prefer to order these (generally) from low to high gain. Sometimes it's great to have a high gain pedal on the front end, so sometimes I'll use a Mosfet Boost I built and crank it up early in the chain for some fun.
I also like to have a boost/overdrive pedal on at all times and generally put that at the end of this chain. Right now, I'm using a Timmy Overdrive for that running clean. I also prefer to use mainly Boost effects to push the preamp on my amp into overdrive instead of running an overdrive pedal that just emmulates the sound of a driven amp.
Some folks like to wire the volume at the start, I prefer to have mine after gain pedals. If I ever do swells (which is kind of a huge cliche' in worship music) I prefer to have the sound of my drive pedals unaffected. Here's what I mean:
When a volume pedal is dropped before a gain pedal and swelled up, it will affect the sound of the pedal because it will not only fade up in volume but fade up in gain. When the volume is placed after gain pedals, the gain stays the same and the volume acts as a master volume for that section. I prefer the second. Also, guitars have volume knobs, so by placing the volume pedal after gains, I actually have volume control in both places.
* I use a T1M (This1sMyne) modded EP Jr volume pedal that places buffers on the outputs, including the tuner out so there's no tone loss. My tuner goes out of the tuner output on the volume pedal.
** I also prefer to use an effects loop on an amp, so audio goes from the volume output into the preamp on the guitar amp - in my case, a Vox AC30 C2. I find this makes my drives punchier and cleans up my mod and delay pedals. From the "Send" on the effects loop a cable runs to the first mod pedal and then my last pedal runs into the "Return" on the loop.
4. Tremolo, Chorus, other Mod Pedals
Mod is the next major section, so if you have Trem, or Chorus, or Phaser, or other things like that, this is where I'd put them. The order again will depend on what you use and how you use them. The only thing I run for the majority is a tremolo, but if I were running more Mod effects, I'd run them from the cleanest sounding to most complex, so Tremolo would come before Chorus.
5. Delay Pedals/Computer
Lots of folks have gigantic delay computers/processors and I'm one of those folks. I use a Line 6 M9 that's been modded by JVH3 and it fixed every problem I could've possibly had with the pedal and tone loss. However, I used to run more individual effects (a Boss DD-5 and a Line 6 DL4) to get the whole dotted 8, 1/4 note delay combo thing that is another cliche' in worship music. So, if you're trying to do a similar thing, I ran whatever delay was on the rhythmic setting (in this case the dotted 8 - DD-5) and then whatever delay had a 1/4 note setting (DL4). If I had an analog delay pedal in addition, I would've put it first.
Reverb just sounds incredible at the end of a chain to me, so I love to have it there. I run some delay sounds from my M9 at the end of the internal chain of effects and then end with a Boss RV5 Reverb, usually running on the Modulate Reverb setting. I also in general like some reverb, so the RV5 is almost always on as well as the dwell reverb in my amp. I just prefer to have a bit of space on whatever I'm playing to cover up for still being a bit of a hack, but it's prett consistent with the styles I play.
A great amp is the key to all of this stuff sounding great. Since I run a lot of effects, I love an amp that can give me something great clean and dirty, again, using boost pedals to get overdrive from my amp. Also, since I run a lot of effects, I prefer to have an amp with an effects loop. If you have a loop on your amp and haven't tried it, give it a shot - it may just make you a believer. The amps I currently have are a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe and a Vox AC30 C2, both of which have effects loops and can run clean tones and both you can find for well under $1,000.
So that's how I like to run guitar effects. There are a lot of different ways you could run your pedals, this is just my method. And at the end of the day the main thing that will make your guitar playing sound great is your hands and musicallity. Knowing when not to play is far more important, in my opinion, than knowing when to play. Don't be afraid to change volume and tone from your guitar to simplify things - the Beatles weren't travelling with gigantic pedal rigs. Focus on your playing, take some lessons, get better and you'll have all the tools you'll need.
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