TOURING musicians regularly struggle to establish the ‘right’ way to order their pedalboard and if you are anything like me, you can be borderline obsessive with making sure your board is set up exactly right.
The truth is there is no ‘right’ way, but there is a definitely a best way.
The order of your pedalboard plays a key part in shaping your tone and the behaviours of your guitar and amplifier.
Some pedals react best to a very clean signal from the guitar and other pedals want to soak up the signal that is left, allowing your tone to gradually fade into the distance in anticipation of the next wave of signal emanating from the DMaj7 (add9) you just played.
The first thing to consider when ordering your board is the purpose of the pedal itself.
For instance, a tuner’s purpose is to tune your guitar.
The tuner requires the cleanest signal possible so that you can tune quickly and accurately when the show’s happening and the lights are on.
Therefore, placing the tuner after any modular pedals or delays and reverbs is probably a bad idea.
Another group of pedals that require a strong signal at the front of the pedal chain are filter pedals such as a Jim Dunlop Crybaby.
No matter if the pedal is Dunlop, Morley or VOX, these pedals need to either begin the pedal chain or follow a tuner for you to get the best out these legendary pedals.
After that, it’s time for your overdrive, distortion and fuzz boxes to slide into the mix.
In my experience, placing these pedals, especially high gain models such as the Boss MT-2 can force them to lose a lot of body and output if placed late in the chain.
Placing distortion pedals early in the chain, with an overdrive ahead of it, will guarantee the clearest signal that will react naturally with your instrument.
Strange as that sounds, distortion pedals need a clear signal before they bring the crunch.
Placing an overdrive before the distortion also gives those pedals a chance to build on the colourful high ends that overdrives provide, ahead of the distortion or fuzz box.
Chorus, phaser, Leslie and tremolo effects should fill that centre region of your board, on a Pedal Train, these pedals should sit on the top tier of the board; these pedals are not the prime choices constantly being stomped on through the night but they are key for colouring your tone and giving you a chance to be creative at any moment in a show.
At the end of your chain should be your reverb and delays.
These pedals are designed to take in all the effects that came before them in the chain and allow them to gracefully dissipate.
Spring reverbs and analog delays are the classic combination for any mainstay pedalboard.
Placing them at the end of your board will be the perfect end to a chain without buzzes or signal loss.
The final key element to any great pedalboard is to make sure you have the best quality cables and power brick you can afford.
It may be tempting to make your money stretch as far as you can, but in reality, the best pedalboards are built up of the best quality gear.
There once again is no right way of building a pedalboard, but there is certainly the best way you can put it together.