THE ORDER OF GUITAR EFFECT PEDALS WITH A SENSE!
Chains are handy in winter on snow. But strings are great too when you start having a few guitar effect pedals, and start looking for the best way to get the ultimate sound.
Having guitar effect pedals is one thing, but knowing how to arrange them in a very specific order is quite another: it’s called chaining .
Indeed, depending on their nature, guitar effects are not simply placed one after the other. Some people don’t even make good neighbors with each other.
I therefore propose this article, in order to see a little more clearly.
There are, roughly speaking, two ways to position and connect your guitar effects:
- The first is to put them live : between the guitar and the amp,
- The second is to put a part of it (modulation effects in particular) in the effects loop of his amp (when equipped).
Similarly, there are three main families of effects:
- Gain effects + filters: overdrive, distortion, fuzz, equalizers, wah-wah…
- Modulation effects: phaser, chorus, volume, flanger …
- Time effects + dynamics: delay, reverb, compressor, noise gate…
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BUT I BRANCHES IN WHAT ORDES, ALL MY PEDALS?
- The Tuner pedal : this effect, in pedal format, is super practical, because it allows the guitarist to constantly know if it is well tuned or not. Like many guitar effects, the tuner is usually True Bypass . This means that when the effect is deactivated, the signal (sound) passes “through” the effect, as if it did not exist.
It is therefore advisable to place this pedal at the very beginning of the chain, before the signal is modified by an indelicate effect, which would disturb the analysis of the tuner, and would risk making the guitarist play wrong, and there, is the drama…
- The Compression pedal : for this effect to make the effect to the best of its possibilities, it is preferable to place it just after the tuner, so that it receives a signal as little modified as possible.
- The Saturation pedals : there, we take out the big arms, and we place the overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals. It is better to put these pedals at the start of the chaining, because they do not appreciate being the last to enter the scene. Indeed, at the end of the chain, they will generate parasitic noises, such as breath, for example.
For those who want “big staining sound:
Saturation effects are the basis of your sound, which is why you should put them at the start of the chaining .
- The wah-wah pedal : the barking pedal … Its place is reserved, just after saturation. It is at least the one that is acclaimed by almost all guitarists who use it, with one or two exceptions (Jimy Hendrix, not to name).
- The equalizer pedal : or Eq, will allow you, at this location, to refine a signal (sound) already somewhat modified, and sometimes slightly altered.
- The octave pedal : it is preferable to place this effect after the equalizer.
- The delay pedal : watch out for the debate! Many guitarists place the delay guitar effect at the very end of the chain. She finds herself thus stuck by the modulation effects, so that she finds it difficult to do her job on all the notes, while remaining effective and audible!
On the other hand, placed before the modulation effects, she will be delighted to carry out her task in a good mood and with mastery.
example of “live” chaining
- Modulation pedals : given the sometimes enormous modifications they can make to the original signal, it is far better to place them after the saturated sounds (and even after the delay).
- The tremolo pedal : here is a pedal that it is better to put at the end of the chain, once all the other effects have already done their job.
- The volume pedal : the location of this effect varies from guitarist to guitarist. Indeed, placed at the very beginning of the chain, it will have the effect of reducing the volume, but also the original gain of your guitar. This is the same as turning the volume control on the guitar itself. Placed at the end of the chain, it will act as a general volume knob, just before entering the amplifier. Interesting to take full advantage of its effects, at low volume, or to cut the signal of your guitar, between two songs (or two beers) for example.
- The reverb pedal : not essential, because often present on guitar amps, this effect plays on the final signal, giving it the desired amplitude, whether you are at the bottom of your bathroom, or in the middle of Notre Dame Cathedral, to type beef with Quasimodo and Esmeralda.
- The sampler / looper pedal : this effect, which is used to record sound loops, is placed at the end of the stroke, so that it can take all the desired effects, when it is used.
- The boost pedal : this pedal, which increases the signal level, is mainly used during the solo, to get out of the general mix, and to be heard, as it should be, from its furious groupies.
WHAT IS AN EFFECTS LOOP?
Ahhh okay! But in all of this, what is the effects loop?
Some amplifiers have what is called an effects loop (visible on amplifiers thanks to its jack inputs called “send” and “return”).
This principle of effect loop was created, following the request of some very picky, but oh so inventive guitarists, who wanted to use the effects mentioned above, while preferably using the saturation effect of their own amp. This was only valid at the time for certain high gain amps (Marshall, for example).
Since then, this principle has been generalized, and many brands now offer the use of an effects loop.
Suddenly, so that the chaining order is respected, when using the saturations of his amp, we use the effects loop to place the modulation effects : phaser, chorus, reverb, delay, volume and flanger.
We will leave, outside of the effects loop (between the guitar, therefore, and the amp), the other effects (tuner, distortions on the amp, wah, compressor, equalizer, octave…).
example of chaining with effect loop
But it’s a mess, my adjutant!
When you start buying guitar effect pedals, you quickly find yourself with a rather colossal occupation of the soil! And balls of power wires, extension cords, and therefore, often little extraneous noises, in the end, on the guitar amplifier …
In order to reduce this kind of worry, there are solutions!
It’s beautiful when it’s pedalboarded!
- The pedalboard : bought, or made in-house, allows the guitarist to centralize his effects pedals on a single support. Practical, because everything is in the same place. The pedalboard can also be transported easily, if it is not as supplied as that of Steve Vaï…
Made of wood, light steel, or composite material, its pedals are attached to it, most often by means of adhesive tape and scratch (called Velcro), allowing the location of its pedals to be changed at will.
- The power supply : the power supply is a box, powered on the 220, and which will allow, like an electric extension cord, to power several effects pedals simultaneously. Not only does it avoid wires dangling from everywhere, it is cleaner and prettier, but it also avoids the noises of electrical buzzing which pollute your quest for the ultimate sound.
- Mini cables : as their name suggests, these are very short jack cables, sometimes even just jack-jack connectors, when the pedals are very close to each other, and which allow you to connect all this little world to make a chain worthy of the greatest!
- If you have several effects, the Switch Looper pedal (or switcher) can be a good solution to save time, when you want to activate / deactivate several pedals, at the same time. The switcher therefore allows you to create recordable and / or playable loops from several of your pedals, which can be activated and “deactivated” at once! It’s a really practical accessory, when you start to accumulate the effects at the end of your foot, and I’m not talking about its usefulness on stage…
- A good jack is a good sound. The quality of the cords is too often neglected, however, it has its importance, in the search for the ultimate sound. A signal level altered by a poor quality jack, and you can align all the pedals in the world, your sound will never have the expected quality…
example of a switcher by BOSS
EFFECT PEDALS: in conclusion
The effect pedals for guitar have the distinction of being movable, within your chaining.
So don’t hesitate to give them a little tour from time to time to see what it can do.
Note that some multi-effects pedalboards have recently also had this capacity, exactly as on a real pedalboard, and the same goes for sound recording software for guitarists.
Anyway, no rule is made to comply without saying a word! So do not hesitate to upset the order of your pedals, to learn your own lessons (even take a photo with your smartphone before any change to your configuration).
Get off the beaten track, test, experiment, make your neighbors scream, create your own sound signature!