As satisfying as it is to watch your stompbox collection grow, the more crowded your board, the more you need to start thinking about the order of the effect chain, otherwise, there’s a big chance that your sound quality will start to suffer. In this blog, I’ll offer five tips to help you set up your effects pedals in the best possible order and make sure you’re getting nothing but the best possible sound.
Practise Makes Perfect
Below, I’ve included what you might call a fool-proof effects chain. Follow the route, starting from the guitar, and you really can’t go wrong.
Just start by following the order of the effects chain above and see if it works out for you. Then, read the tips included below so that you know exactly why it works.
#1. There are no rules
Ok, so after stating the above, and while I have put together some golden rules for ensuring that your sound goes unhindered by unwanted signal loss or distortion, in reality, everything hangs on the kind of sound that you want. So, from time to time, it’s fine to bend the rules a bit, or even just ignore them completely.
#2. Can I put this pedal after the distortion?
Octaver pedals or tuners, for example, just don’t function as well when you stick an overdriven or distorted signal through them. So, it usually just makes sense to put these pedals before your overdrives, distortions, or fuzz boxes etc.
#3. Don’t amplify noise
Noise (noise you don’t want) can be a problem, especially when you’re working with high-gain distortion. Pedals that can add volume, like compressors, EQs, and overdrives or distortions, actually amplify the noise produced by pedals that come earlier in the chain.
#4. Think about space
If you’re playing through an amplifier in any room, you’ll hear both the sound of the amp and then the echo of that sound bouncing off the walls and ceiling – i.e. the natural reverb of the room you’re in. You can approach the order of your effect in the same way. So, using the way sound moves around in a room as a guide, any reverb, echo, or delay should usually be placed at the very end of the effects chain.
#5. Generate or modify
Effect pedals that generate the initial sound should be placed earlier in the effect chain than pedals that modify the sound. This means that overdrive, for example, should come earlier in the chain than chorus or other modulation effects. However: it’s likely that a phaser pedal will sound better when placed before the distortion. It’s all a matter of trying it out and finding out for yourself!
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