Pedal order- is there really a right way?

January 21, 2011 12:57 PM

Pedal order- objective or subjective?

I've been running my pedal chain in the same order for years, and that order just sort of grew organically. A curiosity-induced goggle tells me that A) the internet is full of people who have very firm opinions about there being an objectively right order to run your pedals, and B) my way is dead wrong.

So, MeFites: in your experience, how much do you think it matters? Or is it better just to stick with what works for you? What order is your effects chain?

(FWIW, I go guitar -> tuner -> overdrive -> delay -> wah -> amp
posted by COBRA! (13 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

I use the effects loop, so my setup is

Preamp out -> tuner -> clean boost -> phaser -> delay -> Power amp in

I use the channels on my amp for clean/overdrive. Been thinking about adding an octave or a fuzz, and I would probably put that after the boost.

What's supposed to be wrong about your pedal order? I'd always heard you should go volume/gain effects first and envelope effects last, with other pedals in between-- you seem to be in line with that. But overall, just going with whatever gives you sounds you like seems the best way.
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:01 PM on January 21, 2011

Generally, people put the wah before delay/reverb or modulation effects. Sometimes they put it before the distortion (try it out, it's actually my preferred location)

Here's the general layout of my full* setup:

Guitar -> Overdrive (possibly Boss Blues Breaker pedal or OD1)* -> Crybaby classic -> Digitech Synth/Filter -> Big Muff Fuzz -> ZVex Fuzz factory -> Rocktron Piranha (midi controllable distortion/preamp) -> Electro Harmonix POG* -> Boss Graphic EQ -> Volume pedal -> Rocktron Replifex (midi controllable multi-effects with modulations/delays/verbs).

*I intend to add a nice mellow overdrive and POG to my setup. Still a work in progress.

That being said, there is no objectively right way to order your pedals, it's all about the sounds you want to make. Where you put your wah is up to you, but try it before the distortion. I recommend that because that location prevents some of the crazier volume changes you can get with a wah when the wah is "all the way open." Actually if you have the space, putting one before AND one after your distortion isn't really a bad idea -- more flexibility.
posted by chimaera at 11:49 PM on January 21, 2011

""Right" is a subjective word. Personally, I think there is absolutely NO right was to line up FX. Reverb/delay/chorus INTO distortion can sound great (esp if you want a Killing Joke type sound - wall of noise).

posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 4:07 AM on January 22, 2011

Where you put your wah is up to you, but try it before the distortion. I recommend that because that location prevents some of the crazier volume changes you can get with a wah when the wah is "all the way open."

That's really interesting and useful; I do have trouble with volume changes when I crack open the wah, and it never occurred to me that the order might be causing it.

I don't know, really I think I just got kind of spooked by how forceful people are that their chosen order is THE way to go. On top of that, sites like this classify pedals in a way that I totally don't even think of (although maybe I should).... I don't tend to mentally group my pedals into "these are all types of filters, these are all types of modulation." I definitely think more in a "this one sounds like this, this one sounds like this" mode.
posted by COBRA! at 9:35 AM on January 22, 2011

I go Guitar --> Volume pedal --> Distortion --> WahWah --> Delay --> Comp --> Sometimes Tremelo -->. Sometimes I swap the wah and the delay if I get spacey so I can sweep the long delay feedback with the wah and get a crazy spacemen 3 kind of vibe. I have a compressor at the end to even out any rough volume changes when I switch effects on or off. Sometimes it sounds cools at the beginning of the chain.

When I record, I really like to experiment with different combinations. When I play live I can't really do that. Plus. I hate having all these damn pedals and cables at my feet during the show and it is especially a pain in the ass when the stage is really small. I've been considering getting a multi-effect foot controller. I have played around with ones from zoom and digitech but I wasn't really impressed with the sound or the quality. The new ones from Vox and Line6 look like they might be worth checking out though.
posted by chillmost at 9:39 AM on January 22, 2011

Yeah, I think like everyone else has said, order is subjective. The only thing I'd say is put the distortion at the end of the chain. For some reason this has always produced the best sound for me.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:01 AM on January 22, 2011

One pretty firm rule that you should follow unless you really intend to do something odd is to put time based effects such as delay and reverb after most everything else, especially distortion. Distortion after delay or reverb will cause your main signal to get all mushed together with the echos in a way that most people probably wouldn't like.

Of course, like all this stuff, at the end of the day, do what you like, but its probably best to start with the suggested order and only move things around if you're sure you like it better.
posted by jpdoane at 4:40 PM on January 22, 2011

Yeah, but sometimes it sounds really cool to put a super long delay or reverb through a wah wah or distortion pedal. It all depends on what you are going for.
posted by chillmost at 4:48 PM on January 22, 2011

i would put the wah before the delay, i think most people do - but there's no real set rule about these things - i have a boss gt-8 multifx and a few other things like that, so i can switch stuff around without having to mess with a bunch of wires - it's helpful

although i don't think i've actually used a pedal wah recently
posted by pyramid termite at 10:10 PM on January 22, 2011

I had my pedals for several years before a guitar was ever connected to them; I first bought them to flesh out the sound on my theremin. As such, I found there was definitely an order of operations which worked best for me. I think having distortion first and foremost and delay last is kind of the universally accepted method, especially if you do stereo delay, since most other pedals only have a monophonic input.

Beyond that, it really comes down to however you want it. My current setup is as follows: amPlug VOX Mini Guitar Amp> Cheap-ass Behringer Wah> Digitech Whammy (Harmonizer/Pitch shifter)> Moog MF-102 Ring Modulator> Boss Chorus> Digitech Digital Delay> soundboard/Fireface.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 12:21 AM on January 23, 2011

After many years of playing, using different amps and pedal arrays I'm ready to unveil The Dundee AsceticTM : Guitar -> Amp. I kid you not. Stop trying to put lipstick on that Gorilla and let rip as nature intended (if I could do a Tarzan yodel, I guess this would be about the right time to do it....)
posted by MajorDundee at 9:36 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I go:
Guitar --> Boss Tuner --> Boss Delay 1--> Boss Delay 2 --> Electro Harmonix Worm --> (moderate gain analog envelope modulator) --> Boss Distortion (no gain) --> Boss Turbo Distortion (high gain) --> Amp

Now that I think about it, I might like trying to put the Worm between the two distortions as perhaps the gain should come at the end of the chain, not sure if this is a general rule.
I agree that distortion needs to come near the end, but I actually like to put the wah on the very end of the chain if I'm going to use it to make everything a little bit more messy.

Have fun experimenting.
posted by dobie at 5:07 PM on January 26, 2011

Guitar: -> Tuner -> Chorus -> Distortion -> Fuzz - > Reverb -> Delay-Echo - > Amp

but I never use all three of Chorus, Distortion and Fuzz at once.

I think your setup is a bit weird having the Wah-Wah after the Echo. As I'd want the wah sweeps to be 'echoed'.
posted by mary8nne at 9:17 AM on January 27, 2011

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