How To Set Up Your Guitar Effects Board

One of the most difficult decisions to make for an electric guitarist is how to set up your guitar effects board. Often, the sound of one effect will drastically change depending on where the effect lies on the chain. This article was created to help you make those decisions.

  1. The first section of the board, coming from the guitar, should be overdrive, distortion and compression pedals, for the reason that you don't want other effects changing the tone. You can put the compressor first, so that the basic tone of your guitar is compressed but not the effects; you will want them tweaked through their own controls. Next will be overdrive. Much of your other effects will be done with the overdrive already on. After the overdrive is the fuzz or distortion. It's better to have the fuzz modify the overdrive than the other way round, so that your change to distortion will be more dramatic.
  2. The second section should be the sound modifiers and filters, such as tremolo, chorus, flanger, phase shifter, ring modulator, and octave up or down. It doesn't much  matter which way these are placed, as many are used without the others for a specific sound. If, however, you plan to use (for example) chorus and phaser together a lot, try them both ways to see which sound pleases your ears the most. This can be done with as many modifiers as you choose, each combination will have its own sound.
  3. The third section is for volume, wah, and whammy pedals. The place for these is generally after the modifiers, so that you are able to do a fadeout or a wah effect cleanly and without trail off effects. The exception here is delay; if you place the delay before the volume, if you do a gentle fadeout with the volume, you will also cut the last atmospheric echoes off.
  4. The fourth and final section is the sound additives, delay and reverb, These should always be placed at the end of the chain. They cannot be corrupted by other effects, and need to be able to slowly fade out.
  5. Finally as you set up your chain, test the sound as you add pedals even though this can be time-consuming. As the Furman Pedal Board Manual tells us, "Lay out your pedals… giving thought to issues keeping signal levels high to minimize hum and noise, and ease of access to all foot switches." If you have a noise gate, place it at the very end, and this effect should go out to the amplifier. Make sure to use quality, heavy-duty guitar cables and patch cables. You can also make use of "pedal cranks," which are essentially double-ended male jacks with a short cowling connecting them. These are useful for putting effects pedals together on a crowded board or to save stage space. Have fun and rock on!
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