If you are new to guitar you probably have already figured out that there are hundreds if not thousands of effects pedals out there. This is why I made this Beginners Guide to Guitar Pedals & Board Setup. An all inclusive guide. So that you won’t need to look any further for the answers to guitar pedals.
What will be covered in this Beginners guide to guitar pedals & boards setup? In this Beginners guide to guitar pedals & boards setup this is what is covered.
- The most common effects pedals & there effects
- Different Groups of Effects
- Why should you use an effects pedal?
- Pro’s & Cons–multi effects pedals & effects pedal
- Signal Chain & Pedal Position
- Guitar Pedal & Board Setup
Whats the Purpose of a Guitar Pedal?
It’s really simple a guitar effects pedal changes the way that your guitar sounds. It can be a subtle change or a extreme change depending on the pedal that you choose. Each brand has slightly different adjustments and tones. You can categorize the pedals into the same effects types. Based off of there similar sound and effects.
There are a variety of Stomp boxes that one could purchase. And this may be a consideration when deciding on multi Effects vs the single guitar pedals. Here are the pro’s and con’s.
Single Guitar Pedals
With single effect pedals you can buy, and setup what ever sounds you like. Such as Distortion, delay, reverb, and the list goes on and on. So depending on what sound you want to capture you have the ability to pick and choose.
One big pro when it comes to a single pedal. Is that the pedal is specialized in the effect. There are fewer controls than with a Multi effects unit, and they are easier to use. The individual pedals work off battery’s or you can get a power supply.
Another positive to a stomp box is they come in all sizes. You can get a mini pedal if you don’t want to carry around a cumbersome set of pedals.
The negative to having your own individual pedals is that they can become expensive quickly. But this might be a side effect that can be endured. Once you start playing the pedals you will find yourself shopping for more.
Does a Multi Effects Unit Work Better than a Stomp Box?
Why would you want to choose a Multi Effects Unit over a Stomp Box? If you are really new to guitar, this is probably the way to go. For a couple of good reasons; 1. a Multi Effects unit is easier. In the sense that all the widely used effects are in one package. And reason number 2. The cost can be easier on your pocket. Depending on the Effects Unit’s you choose.
The downside, if there is one. Would be that the Multi Effects unit has the effects all in one. But they are not specialized in any particular sound. But there is nothing wrong with going with the Multi Effects. It’s just an observation.
When considering how many effects you are going to be playing. The Multi Effects unit is going to be cheaper in the long run if you are using lots of effects and channels. They are also easier to connect and start playing.
Another positive to consider is that the Multi Effects allows you to set the tone in memory. And at the touch of a button when your ready for that tone you can recall it.
So if you go down the road of buying individual pedals then I would recommend a pedal board. Which I will cover guitar pedal boards in a minute.
Link to the boss Gt1 is a budget friendly Multi Effects unit that provides ample Tones that sound great. Picture shown below.
Different Effects Pedal Categories
|Dynamic Effects Pedals||Booster||Compressor||Volume||EQ|
|Pitch Effects Pedals||Harmonizers||Octavers||Pitch Shifters|
|Drive Effects Pedals||Distortion||Fuzz||Overdrive|
|Modulation Pedals||Flange||Tremelo||Phase & Chorus||Vibrato|
|Delay & Echo Pedals||Digital Delay||Analogue|
The Best Tuner Pedal
You are going to want the best tuner pedal when creating the ultimate pedal board setup. And there are several out there. But what you want is one that simply does the job. At a reasonable price. After all it’s not rocket science, your just tuning your guitar. The best reliable tuner for the money is the Boss TU3 Chromatic Tuner. Click for Current price on Reverb.
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Wah Pedal- What is a Wah Wah Effect?
With the wah pedal instead of adjusting controls with a knob. You are actually using your foot to control the effect. The Wah pedal has a foot plate that tilts forward and back up. This allows you to control the effect by pressing the plate with your foot.
One of the most popular Wah Pedals is the Dunlap Cry Baby CBM95 Wah Pedal By cliking the link you can see the latest price on Reverb.
The Wah Wah pedal filters through frequency when sweeping through the different positions that your foot can place the plate. Cutting the Bass when your foot is up and heal is down. It is a very unique sound when playing made popular by Jimi Hendrix.
You can also keep the pedal in a cocked position to get a continuous sound. The frequency is continous instead of Wah Wah Wah Wah.
Related Article: Top 5 Budget Electric Guitars.
The first set of pedals are grouped into Dynamic Effects. Which are Volume Pedals, EQ, Compressor and Boost pedals.
When you are putting the pedals together such as on a pedal board. There is an order that the pedals need to be in.
The signal chain is the order the pedals are connected together. And how the guitar pedals effect the sound of your amp and guitar.
Here are some of the pedals that are in the Dynamic effects group. What they do and where they need to be in the signal chain for good sounding effects.
What Does a Compressor Pedal Do?
The compressor pedal takes the signal of the guitar output and compresses the signal. Doing this makes a more consistent volume. This means that the louder notes are brought down, and the softer notes are brought up. This creates a more even volume.
You can hear the punchy sustained sound of a compressor pedal in Country music and Blues music. The compressor allows the sound of the note to sustain as it fades away.
There are different brands of compressor pedals, but they all have similar control buttons. These control the level of sound. The tone, Attack, and the amount of sustain. These controls control how soon after hitting the note the signal is compressed. And then also this effect controls how long the note is sustained.
Some name brand great sounding compressors is the MXR M132. It is the ultimate pedal for that country sound. Which will fit nicely on your pedal board. With plenty of room left over. Check the price on Reverb.
What’s a Boost Pedal?
Next in this group of Dynamic pedals is the Booster pedal. The booster pedal increases the guitars output. Which increases the volume without increasing any distortion.
A booster works great if you have a guitar with single coil pickups. Like those of a Stratocaster guitar or Telecaster. Keeley Kantana Clean Boost Click the link to see current price on Reverb.
If your amp is on a clean channel you can use the booster pedal to give you an overdrive sound.
Then there is the EQ pedal that allows you to boost or cut the ranges pf sound. Thus equalizing the tone. Get the MXR EQ yourself by clicking this link MXR EQ. or the Boss GE7. You can lower the bass, Mid range and Treble or raise each of the ranges.
The Volume Pedal is another Pedal that is considered a Dynamic Effect. It allows you to adjust the volume just as you would do with the control on your guitar. But in this case you are using your foot. Which allows you to cut the signal going to your amp.
Since you are using your foot to control the volume you can great volume swells. To create a mood that sounds really cool.
Related Article: The Top 5 Best Guitar Amps Review
Where Does a Boost Pedal Go in the Chain?
A Boost pedal is best suited at the beginning of the chain. It is located after the Tune pedal. If you are using a Wah pedal then it would go after the Wah pedal. Take a look at the Info Graphic of the Signal chain. (Shown below in this article).
Octavers and Harmonizers two pedals that fall into this group of Pitch Effects. The pitch shifter is a pedal that will allow the note that you play on your guitar to move an octave. To two octaves below the note. This type of pedal works great for picking melody’s.
The Harmonizer works by taking the notes and instead of them just being set to an octave. It allows you to choose the interval of the Harmony note. Some of these pedals adjustments are knobs that are moved up or down to change the level.
Then there are other pedals that are controlled with your foot. Like a Whammy Pedal. An example of this type of pedal can be seen when you click this link for Digitech Whammy at Guitar Center.
The downside to Pitch Shifters is that they work best with individual notes. Which if that’s what your grasping for no problem. But when it comes to chords they don’t sound good. So if you want this effect for playing chords. You could go with a pedal called the POG. Which is short for Polyphonic Octave Generator.
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The POG makes your guitar sound very bassie or a high pitch. You adjust the POG to have an almost distorted sound. That is similar to what you would hear when listening to Muse. With this pedal you can use chords or individual notes. Click for the POG price on Guitar Center.
Let the Fun Begin with Drive Effects Pedals
When your ready to buy your pedals for effects this pedal is most widely used in all Genre of music. Yes, you guessed it; A drive pedal. Why is the Drive pedal the go to pedal? Because it takes the plain sound of your guitar and amps it up. To make it sound like a Rock N Roll Ax that will cut through anything you have in front of you.
The three pedals that are grouped into the Drive effects Category are the Fuzz, Distortion and Overdrive. All three pedals have different tones, but all work the same way. All of these pedals have a knob for Gain. The Gain knob increases the Effects. Which depending on the pedal, Distortion, overdrive or Fuzz.
The controls are similar also with a level and Tone knob. For volume and How the effects will sound. The overdrive pedal is the most versatile pedal that can be used in many different Genre’s from blues to Country, even Rock N Roll. Just enough bite to get the Job done. The Boss BD2 is one of my Favorite Pedals. Get the latest price on Reverb.
Compared to an Overdrive pedal the Distortion pedal is very aggressive. There is more of a distorted Grungy Tone for Heavy Metal. If you like the in your face sound then the MXR Distortion pedal is for you. Get the Latest Price on Reverb.
The Fuzziest pedal of the three pedals is the Fuzz pedal. It takes the Distortion pedal and cranks it over the line. To give a sound of what you might hear when listening to Hendrix. The Little Big Muff is the perfect pedal for Fuzz.
What Order Should My Effects Pedals Go In?
If you are going to use a Wah Pedal then it should be at the front of the Signal Chain. When you are assembling a Pedal Board. There is a connection and order that the pedals should be placed. So that you end up with good tone and no feed back. This order of connection is called a signal chain.
The best place for the Dynamic effects is at the beginning of the signal Chain. The Pitch Shifter effects pedal should be placed near the front of the signal chain on the Board. You want to place it before the Drive pedal or Modulation pedal.
Then in the Chain signal is the Drive Pedal, and after the Drive pedal is the Modulation pedals. The modulation pedals should come before the Delay pedals and Reverb pedals. The last pedal in the signal chain should be the Reverb pedal.
Related Article: Best Electric guitar amp for Beginners.
What are Modulation Effects Pedals?
To group the modulation pedals together. You can think of pedals such as Phase, Flange, Chorus, Vibrato, and Tremolo Pedals. Which are the most common in this category. They are different in the way they sound, but they all share two controls that are the same. That is to control the Depth and speed of the Effect.
The Chorus pedal takes the tone from your guitar and makes it even thicker. Which is a really cool tone. It almost sounds like two synchronized guitar players.
Phase and Flange pedals have a swooshing sound. And the Tremolo and Vibrato pedals sound more like a pulse. MXR 95 is my go to Phase pedal. Click to See the latest price on Reverb.
What is a Effects Loop on an Amplifier
Some amps have an Effects loop built in. You can use the loop to place the Modulation, Reverb and Delay pedals between the Pre amp by connecting it to the effects loop instead of the input of the amp. This Bypasses the pre amp stage.
Digital Delay & Analogue Delay Pedals
Delay and Echo pedals are essentially the same pedal. The echo simulates a more vintage sound. Like that of the early Rock N Roll sounds with slap back. Like what you would hear in surf music.
By adjusting the controls you can change the amount of Echo that you hear. And the amount of delay between the repeats.
There is Digital Delay and Analogue delay. The main difference is the digital delay is wired for digital and more of a clean sound. And this extends the delay times. The Delay is crisp through the complete signal, until it fades out completely. Where as the Analogue delay pedal creates a warmer sound. The Delay repeats slowly fading away. See the Boss DD 7 Digital Delay latest price on Reverb.
MXR Carbon Copy Deluxe Analoque Delay
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What is a Reverb Pedal?
When your talking about a reverb effect pedal the sound is not a defined note. Like that of a Delay or an Echo pedal. It is more of a washy sound. Most amplifiers have a delay built in. But to get to the nit-tie gritty of reverberation. Then you will want a dedicated pedal just for reverb. A great pedal for this ambient affect is found in the MXR M300 Reverb pedal. Click for the latest price on Reverb.
What’s the Best Looper Pedal?
Yeah there are looper pedals but I recommend the Ditto Looper By TC Electronics. Why plain and simple it is easy to use and at a great price. I love my Ditto! Here is a list of What pedals should every guitarist have.
Guitar Pedal Boards
Just like the pedals themselves there are loads of different guitar pedal boards. To fit your needs. They come flat to the ground or at a slight angle. I recommend getting a pedal board that is angled. This for me is easier to use.
Pedal boards come in different sizes Small Medium and large. And some come with carrying cases to make it easier for you to get to the gig. some have a nice mount where the power supply fits nice and neatly tucked away. Like that of the Soyan Pedal board. Listed below are my top 3 recommendations for Guitar pedal boards. Click to See images on Amazon.
- Small-Gator Case Aluminum pedal board with case
- Medium -Soyan Metal Board (Carrying case included)
- Large – Gator 23.75 X 10.66 with Case
What Do You Need for a Pedal Board?
Now that we have run through what pedals you need. What else do you need to setup your pedal board?
- Pedal Board
- Power Supply
- Velcro Strip
The effects pedal boards come in all sizes and shapes. I recommend starting out a mid size guitar effects board. And one that is higher at the back and shorter in the front for ease of use. The one that I highly recommend, and own Soyan Effects pedal board.
It is 13.8″ X 10.6″. A Metal Board and it comes with a sturdy carrying bag. With a Zip pocket on the side for any extras you need to take with you. Included is the hook and self adhesive tape. One reason I recommend this Guitar Pedal board is because it stands 2 inches high at the back and slants down to one inch at the front of the board. This makes it easier to use.
This pedal board also has a built in mount underneath for the power supply. And rubber feet for anti slip.
Next thing you will need are cables to connect all the pedals together. The best cables are ones that are in a L shape at both ends. This gives you more room on the board when connecting them all together. A good choice are the Donner 6 inch Patch cables. They are very cost effective and come 6 to a pack.
One of the most important items is the power supply. If you don’t get a power supply that is isolated. Then you will get a lot of feed back and cutting out. And this will defiantly cause issues with your sound.
A good choice for plenty of power, and 10 isolated DC output jacks. That will work with 9v/12v/18v Effects power. A lot of pedals work with 9v. But what if you have a pedal at a higher voltage. This power supply will do the job. And again is at a low cost. Click to see the current price on Amazon.
How do You Set Up a Pedal Board?
Step 1. First you want to place your pedals on the board where you want them to be. How close or far apart from each other. Then also you want them in order of the signal chain. See the Info Picture for proper placement Below.
Tuner Compressor Wah Pitch Pedal Overdrive and then Distortion. Then Modulation, reverb, and last would be a Looper pedal.
Step 2. Patch the Guitar Pedals together with the Donner Patch Cables.
Step 3. Once you have the pedals where you want them to be adhered to the guitar effects board. Then you want to take the Velcro that comes with the board, and cut it perfectly to fit on the bottom of each pedal.
Take the opposite part of the Velcro strip and place it on the board. Cut it nice and neat so that the Velcro is not seen when the guitar pedal is mounted.
Step 4. Next take the Donner Power Supply and connect the power to the pedals. If you are using the Soyan Effects pedal board there is a dedicated mount under the board for the power supply. Take wire tires and neatly fasten the cables.
I Have tried to cover all the bases in this helpful beginners guide. But if you still need more assistance then take a look at this Guitar Effects pedals the practical guide.
Whats a Booster Pedal?
One of the Dynamic Effects Pedals is the Booster Pedal. It Boosts or thickens the Tone of your guitar. Such as when you use a single coil pickup. The Booster increases the output without increasing distortion.
Boost Pedal Placement?
A Boost pedal is best suited at the beginning of the chain. It is located after the Tune pedal. If you are using a Wah pedal then it would go after the Wah pedal. Take a look at the Info-Grafic Picture of the Signal chain for an detailed look. (Shown above in this article)
Where Does a Compressor Pedal Go in the Chain?
The pedals will sound better when they are in a specific order in the Signal Chain. The Compressor pedal should be located at the front of the chain before the Pitch pedals. After the Tuner and Wah pedals. Take a look at the info-graphic picture for details. (Shown above in this article).