What order do I put my guitar effect pedals in?
It’s a good question, the order you would put your pedals in for your guitar are traditionally grouped together and put into the following order :
>> Dynamics – including Compressors, Volume, Wah & Pitch
>> Drive – Including Overdrive, Distortion & Fuzz
>> Modulation – includes Tremolo, chorus, flanger, phaser etc.
>> Delay – Delay and reverb, the spatial effects.
It’s important to remember pedals do not really go wrong, or will they stop working if you put them in the wrong order, they just might not sound the same, they will sound different.
I personally like to experiment putting pedals in different orders, trying to make some unique sounds and not sticking to the rules. Theory here provides the basics.
A small starter or practice pedal board with 3 guitar effects in the chain could consist of :
Guitar >> Vintage Overdrive >> Tremolo >> Analog Delay >> Amp
Guitar >> Drive >> Modulation >> Delay >> Amp
The pedals are ‘chained’ together with ‘patch’ cables and guitar leads. A patch cable is just a very short guitar cable, the guitar signal is sent through the pedals and onto the amp.
A drive pedal is something that will give your sound a bit of OOMPH ! It is the gain, as if your amp is getting turned up loader and louder, the audio starts to distort.. A drive pedal does this but without the increase in total volume. If you have a number of drive pedals I would suggest putting them in the order of the smoothest to the dirtiest.
So connect your guitar into an overdrive pedal, then the overdrive chained into the distortion. Drive pedals stack pretty well to create some sustain and dirt (distortion), one pedal can drive the other and really push it. It’s a great way to create a warm distortion sound from an overdrive, rather than jumping between the 2.
An effect pedal chain example stacking the drive pedals
Guitar >> Baatsin Overdrive >> Uzi Distortion >> Chorus >> Dseed Delay >> SpaceVerb >> Amp
Guitar >> Vintage Overdrive >> Ultimate Overdrive >> Flanger >> Digital Delay >> Amp
In simple terms Modulation is the manipulation of the guitar tone, controlling and adjusting the guitar usually by duplicating, phasing, shifting volume and pitch.
When you use modulation pedals after your drive pedals, you retain a stronger modulation effect, this means the modulation is not getting distorted and the effect really will retains more clarity.
Guitar >> Vintage Overdrive >> Tremolo >> Chorus >> Delay >> Amp
>>MODULATION & THE FX LOOP
If you are using a guitar amp with an FX loop and you rely on your guitar amplifiers drive setting for your overdrive or distortion, then you could put all of your modulation pedals in your FX loop. The FX loop connects your modulation pedals so you get full use of the modulation effect pedals post drive generated from the guitar amp, the modulation effect is therefore applied to the distortion.
Guitar >> Vintage Overdrive >> AMP IN >> FX LOOP SEND >> Tremolo >> Chorus >> Delay >> AMP FX LOOP RETURN >> Amp
The order of the pedals at your feet stays the same, first you take your overdrive pedals into the front of the amp, then take a guitar cable back from the FX loop and join up your modulation pedals, then back to the FX loop on the amp.
>Have a read of our FX Loop blog for more details on an fx loop.
If you are starting out stick with the basic order here first, then move onto using the fx loop.
>>DELAY AND REVERB
In the same way as modulation, delay and reverb are often placed in the fx loop as this is after the event of the amp distorting the signal. They do tend to work best at the end.
Of course they work wherever, let your own ears decide.
The order of guitar pedals on your board should reflect the kind of music you like and what you enjoy doing. Use the basic theory and work around them.
No pedalboard is supposed to be the same, so get creative with your tone and enjoy. Pedals are modular, you can try one, try another, put them together, mix it up.