Learning how to build guitar effects can be daunting. You plug in the distortion pedal, press a button, and eureka, the amp’s screaming. It’s like a little box of magic. With a little ingenuity, some supplies, and a basic knowledge of electrical engineering, you can building your effects in no time.
To build your own guitar effects pedals, you will need:
- Foot switch
- Circuit Board
- Soldering Iron
- 9V Battery
- The first thing you’ll wanna do when learning how to build guitar effects pedals is decide upon a project. If you like the filthy overdrive of Mudhoney, you’ll want something like a Big Muff. A fan of early 90’s Shoegazers Ride? You’re looking for a chorus pedal. Can’t get enough of the moment in Radiohead’s “Just” when that guitar note doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to end? You need a sustain pedal. Deciding upon the pedal you want is important because the different types of effects all come with different electrical schematics, which brings us to step two…
- Step two in learning how to build guitar pedals is getting a hold of the schematics for the pedal you’re looking to build. The wiring and components for most common effects, from flangers to phase shifters, can be found online. Simply head to your favorite search engine, type something like “Compression Sustain Effects Schematics,” and peruse the offerings. If you want the exact sound of a specific pedal–Hendrix's custom Roger Mayer Octavia, for instance–you're gonna have to dig a little deeper, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.
- Step three in learning how to build guitar effects is assembling the materials you’ll need to build the pedal. For the wary beginner, some sites and electronics shops sell schematics boards that will guide you along in your construction. For the more adventurous, you’ll simply need to assemble all the electronic components and casing requirements. Casing is of course a matter of personal taste, as an effects pedal can be housed in an empty yogurt container if you don't have anywhere else to put it, though companies like Hammond sell diecast metal boxes made specifically for effects.
- Step four is the one where it all comes together. Build the pedal. Assemble your circuitry as per your schematics. Once you’ve finished the working parts, but the pedal in its container, whatever that may be, and run it through some tests. Be prepared to have make frustrating tweaks or component replacements. Even if the pedal works when you’ve finished it, once you put the back on the box of the top on the container, you’re grounding the circuits, which may cause them to short.
You’ve come to the end of our little tutorial teaching you how to build guitar effects pedals. Step five is where we tell you to have fun. Come up with a name for your pedal. Making the most über bit crusher this side of Atari Teenage Riot? Why not call it The Crushinator? Are you the proud parent of the most other worldly echo pedal not used by Acid Mothers Temple? Paint it black with a fried egg surrounding the “on” switch and dub it This is Your Brain on Drugs. Have fun, think outside the box, and do us proud. You might just meet your own Jimi Hendrix and make a career out of your curious tinkering.