Guitar pedal board setup tweaks you should be aware of.
In this third and final blog post in the series on setting up and organizing your guitar pedal board, lets add a few more pedals to the board and try some rearranging of pedals in different and sometimes unconventional ways. To review, your pedal board should have the basics: tuner, frequency shaping (e.g.: Wah-Wah), distortion (Overdrive) and echo (delay or reverb). You might have also added some modulation effects like a Phaser or Chorus guitar pedal. What more could you possibly need? Well, the fun part of setting up a guitar pedal board is the amazing choice of pedals that will add to your stockpile of sounds.
Like its recording studio big brother, a compressor pedal tries to keep the amplitude of your guitar signal constant. It does this by continuously changing its gain to keep its output constant even though the amplitude of the input note is dying away. The result is that notes seem to last much longer. There are lots of uses for a compressor.
- Country guitar players use it to even out those short staccato notes when they are chicken pickin’.
- Heavy metal players put a compressor in front of an overdrive to keep the note alive and distorting longer.
- Folk rock players use a compressor on 12 string guitars to get that chimney sound of the Byrds.
Compressors are also good for leveling out the volume of a Wah-Wah. As a Wah-Wah sweeps through its frequency range, the output level can change a lot depending on the frequency make up of the signal coming into it.
Two Guitar Pedal Overdrives
If one Overdrive is good, wouldn’t two be better for your guitar pedal board setup? Of course it depends on the music you are playing, but if you want to get the longest sustain possible, use two. For more diversity, get one of each: a Fuzz Tone, like the Bone Bender and an Overdrive like the Mad Man. They don’t distort in the same way – so they sound different. Having one of each gives you more sonic choices. In terms of order, fuzz pedals are more responsive to your guitar in terms of dynamics, pick attack and interaction with the guitar’s volume control. Put it in front of the overdrive.
Effects Loop Guitar Pedal
You only have two feet. You need one to stand on and one to push footswitches on your guitar pedal board. It can be quite a challenge to quickly change several pedals at once to change your sound. The effects loop lets you put multiple guitar pedals in a chain that is turned on with a single push of the footswitch of the effects loop. There are two Effects Loop pedals from Golden Path, a single loop and a dual loop.
Boost or Treble Booster Guitar Pedal
In the early days of British amplifiers, they had a dark sound. The treble booster was the solution – it boosted the high frequencies so the guitar lead could clearly be heard above the rest of the band. It also had some output gain which is good for driving (overdriving!) distortion pedals or the input of a tube amplifier. The Golden Path Teletone, is a good example of a boost guitar pedal. First, it has very high input impedance – It doesn’t load down your pick-ups and lets them really sparkle. Next there is some gain, up to 10 times. Gain is good to help you stand out during a solo without having to play around with the volume control on your guitar. Finally there is the Brite switch. It adds a little treble bump to the mid to upper mid register to give your sound a little extra punch. As its name implies, the Teletone was designed for country players who play Telecasters and want that bone-dry sound for chicken pickin. Works great for other guitars too.
A buffer is a low noise amplifier with a strong output. Some have no controls and have a gain of one. Some have a volume knob with a little gain. Buffers are for players who need a long cord from the pedal board to the amplifier. Long cables can attenuate the whole signal, or roll-off the high frequencies. If the last pedal in the chain has a weak output, unwanted noise can get into the cable and effect your sound. Putting a buffer at the end of your effects loop chain adds muscle to your guitar pedal board setup, for driving long lines.
Now, lets move stuff around on your pedal board setup.
Switch the Wah-Wah with the distortion. Now you are frequency sweeping the distorted sound. Since a distortion pedal generates lots of high frequency harmonics, the Wah-Wah can really make the sound piercing and shrill. Having said that, Jimmy Hendrix put his Wah-Wah after the overdrive. It worked for him! Some players even have two Wah-Wah’s on their guitar pedal board setup, one before and one after the overdrive. Put the compressor after overdrive. The idea here is to keep the sustain going, but the distortion component of the sustain will die away. Besides distorting the sound, most overdrives do some serious modification to the frequency response. Tone Benders are shrill and Fuzz Faces are bass heavy. A compressor will make your volume more constant no matter where you are playing on the neck of your guitar.
What I’m running in this department.
On my guitar pedal board setup, I have a vintage MXR Dyna Comp compressor. It’s easy to use and has a very organic sound. It’s so old it doesn’t have a 9V power jack, so I am always worried about the battery running out. In the distortion department, I have both a Bone Bender and Mad Man pedal. My guitar of choice is a 1960 Telecaster Customer. I put a Teletone at the head of my signal chain to take advantage of its high input impedance. I keep it at a gain of 2 for a little extra drive. Depending on what type of music I am playing, I might wire my board with an effects loop to make it easier to switch sounds.
What pedals beyond the basics do you have one your pedal board setup?
What pedal ordering “rules” have you broken when setting up your pedal board, and what results did you get? What does your guitar pedal board setup look like? Comment below or end me a picture and a description. Its OK if it doesn’t have Golden Path Pedals on it. – This is all about discovering new sounds and ways to get them. In the next blog, I’ll look at how to physically put a pedal board together. What board to select, how to interconnect each pedal, what to consider when deciding how to power your pedals.