Assembling a Pedal Board for Effects

by Logon Amon

Tutorial Overview

In this tutorial I will give an example of how to assemble a board of effects pedals for use with guitar, keyboard, or any other instrument with a pickup or ¼” output. I will cover the basics for what is needed, and go over a common ideal placement for different types of effects.


Effects Pedals Overview

There are many different types of effects which have been put into pedal form for use with guitars and other instruments. They can be used to change the timbre, add space, alter pitch, modulate volume, add echoes, and more. For the purpose of this tutorial, I will break them down into four general categories: drive, pitch shift, modulation, and delay/reverb. Keep in mind that there are many other types of pedals as well, but this selection will give us enough to work with and get a functional board together.

Getting Started

In order to create a complete and fully functional board, there are a few things you will need:

– an actual board of some sort. These can be made by hand with a little bit of hard work and some wood, or, if you have the money, there are a few different options ready to use. In this example I will be using a Pedaltrain-2 by Pedaltrain.

– either velcro or zip ties in order to fasten your pedals to your board. I will be using velcro, as that is what comes with the Pedaltrain-2.

– ¼” patch cables to connect your pedals. These can be bought in a variety of lengths, or custom kits can be bought so you can make them the exact length you need, such as with the George L’s cables that I will be using.

– a sufficient power supply. There are many options for power supplies these days, and it has become quite common for people to “daisy chain” pedals together with a single 9V supply; however, I would suggest instead that you invest in a clean power supply with multiple isolated outputs for the best results (minimal noise). I will be using a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus.

– last, but not least, you will need the pedals of your choosing.

Setting Up

Once you have all of your materials, it is time to start assembling your pedal board.

Step 1: lay out your pedals on the board in the order that you want and make sure that everything fits the way you want it to before you begin to make any other connections. It is best to arrange them from right to left, as this is how most pedals are configured with the inputs on the right side and the outputs on the left side. Once they are where you want them, you can secure them down with velcro/zip ties.

Step 2: connect the pedals using the patch cables. Make sure that you connect from the output of one pedal to the input of the next. Use a longer cable to connect the output from the last pedal to the input of your amplifier.

Step 3: connect the power cables from your power supply to your pedals.

Step 4: with the output of the last pedal in the chain connected to the input of the amp, and with your guitar connected to the input of the first pedal in the chain, turn on your amplifier and start playing and experimenting with the sounds now at your disposal.

Conventional Placement of Effects

When it comes to deciding the placement and order of your pedals, it is important to remember that there is no one correct way to do it. Use your ears and experiment with the placement until you are able to achieve the sounds that you desire; these are tools to experiment and have fun with, so try out different things. With that being said, here are some tips for those seeking a conventional pedal order as a starting point. I will use part of my current setup as an example.

In this example, my signal chain is as follows:

Guitar > tuner > volume > pitch shift > tremolo > fuzz > overdrive > chorus > delay > reverb > amp.

Tuners are good to have at the beginning of the chain as they will receive the signal directly from your guitar without any interference in between, ensuring that it will be at its most accurate. The volume pedal comes next, acting the same way as the volume pot on a guitar would. Having it before the overdrive makes for more natural swelling sounds, however, you could also place it at the end for a more “choppy” effect. Pitch shifting pedals are also good to have near the beginning of the chain as the tracking will be more accurate than if it were at the end; I also found that, in my situation, it was better to have the overdrive pedal driving the shifted sound rather than have the pitch pedal shift the sound of an already driven signal. Experimentation is key, though. Next I have my tremolo pedal, which could really go just about anywhere, but I placed it here because the manual said it worked best right before overdrive/distortion/fuzz pedals. Naturally, then, the next pedals are fuzz and overdrive. After this come the modulation pedals; I only have a chorus, but you could also place something like a flanger or phaser here. Time based effects like delay usually come next, near the end of the chain. This is so that the delay will repeat the sound with any effects that are placed on it before, if that is what you want. Last in the chain is typically a reverb, putting all of the sounds in the same space that you have created.


Author: dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator

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