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Guitar Pedal Order: How To Set Up Your Guitar Effects Chain

By Edited Oct 28, 2015 1 2

SKB PS45 (38293)

Why does your guitar pedal order matter?

After you've spent the time and money investing in high quality guitar effects pedals, you want to get the best sound possible out of them. If you're just starting out, something you may not know is that the order you set of your guitar effects, sometimes called a "pedal chain" actually has a big impact on the performance of your effects. You might change the order of one or two of your guitar pedals and think the difference in sound is to subtle to notice. But, when you combine those subtle changes over multiple stomp boxes the result can be a big difference.

There is no "right" order to put your pedals in. You are not going to break any of your effects by putting them wrong into the chain, but there are some guidelines to help you achieve the sounds your pedals were designed to produce. Creativity is always encouraged; change things around and try new sounds. If it doesn't sound good, just put it back.

Pedal Chain:

A proper pedal chain doesn't care about the brand of your pedals, or how expensive they were. Putting your effects in a "proper" guitar pedal order has more to do with the type of effect rather than the actual name or manufacturer.

Wah Wah
Filter Effects:
Put your filter effects first because they dynamically control the signal level put out by your guitar. You don't want have their effectiveness diminished by having the signal weakened or changed before it is sent through these pedals. Effects include: Wah wah, phaser, or other envelope filters.

Compressor effects are the most widely debated pedal in the signal chain. Many suggest placing them first in the chain because they give a consistent signal to all of your effects. Few argue they should be last to keep the signal sent to the amp a consistent level regardless of it diminishes the effects. However the most logical placement is directly after filter effects because filters are notorious for changing the guitar signal drastically. Putting the compression early in the chain, but after filters guarantees the cleanest signal to the rest of the pedal chain.

Distortion and overdrive effects pedals should be placed early in the signal as to not boost other modulation or delay effects more than they were intended.

Super Octave
Pitch Effects:
The placement of pitch effects vs. modulation effects is purely personal preference. However, they should never be placed before the overdrive as they will cause harmonics created by the overdrive to clash.

Modulation Effects:
Put your modulation effects like your flanger, and chorus near the end of the chain as they will change the signal most drastically.

Boss DD-20 Giga Delay (38298)
Delay and Echo:
Delay, reverb, and echo pedals go last as they are just repeating the sound you have created. Putting them early in the chain makes them diffcult to control.

Polytuner Pedal
Volume and Tuners:
Some argue tuners should go at the beginning of the chain to get the driest signal for accurate tuning. However if you make an error, or a pedal goes out and you need to quickly mute your signal, placing some sort of volume control after the delays and echos is the only way to completely cut off the sound immediately. Otherwise, your source signal will stop, but your delays will keep repeating the pop or bad note over and over again. If you have a volume pedal, and a tuner pedal, placing the tuner in the front of the chain is perfectly acceptable. Just be sure your natural reflex is to stomp on the volume pedal in the event of a mistake.


Jan 17, 2011 11:45pm
Very cool article Mike, thimbs up from me I learned a lot.
Jan 18, 2011 2:41pm
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it.
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