Basic Pedal Board Effects Chain

How to construct a great guitar pedal board setup the right way the first time

The foundations of creating a great guitar pedal board setup

This is the first of three posts on creating the ideal pedal board.

Want to build a pedal board that your band mates will envy, without buying pedals you can’t afford, and redoing the board’s order over and over? Then bookmark this basic pedal board guide.

      1. Today I’ll be focused on explaining the essentials of how to create a great pedal board.You’re going to want to swap out pedals for a variety of reasons…type of gig…tones that seem popular right now…just jonesing for a fresh sound, and naturally trying out that new pedal you bought, which will help you play that elusive tone.
      2. The next blog post in this series talks about what to add after you have the basics in place.
      3. Finally, you’ll get tips to make you a pedal board ninja, rearranging your pedals in some unconventional ways.

The essentials of a great pedal board:

Four pedal types are all you need to bump your sound up in a major way.

These are so basic that in most cases, your pedal board will continue to have these pedals on it no matter what your final configuration is, like a text messaging app that never leaves your phone’s home screen.

The first pedal in the signal chain: Tuner Pedal:  

Tuner Mute Pedal, necessary for a good basic guitar pedal board setup.

Nothing will ever sound smooth if your guitar isn’t in tune to begin with, no matter how many effects pedals you have.

Hence the need to keep this one on the board no matter what.

Next: Pedals that change the frequency response of the signal coming out of your guitar.  

Think of them as a super version of the tone control on your guitar.

These are pedals like Wah Wah, frequency equalizers, treble boosters, tone stacks, etc.  

They set up a frequency response for the rest of the pedals in your chain to work on.

The Wah Wah is the most versatile because you can change it on the fly (think Jimi Hendrix and Purple Haze) or leave it in a set position.  So, the best first choice here is the Wah Wah pedal.

Next is the foundational element of your pedal chain — a distortion pedal.  

Madman Extreme Overdrive Pedal for an ideal guitar pedal board setup

Distortion pedals gives your sound body and sustain.

It will give you crunch when you need it and a little more soul when you play the blues.  Distortion pedals also generate a lot of rich harmonics for the pedals further down the chain to work with.

Distortion comes in two main forms Overdrive and Fuzz Tone. Within each category there are a wide variety of variations. I would choose an Overdrive Pedal over Fuzz Tone because it has a wider range of sounds and is applicable to more types of music.  Of course, my pedal board has the Golden Path Mad Man Overdrive pedal.

The last pedal in the basic pedal board signal chain is an echo pedal.

It’s for adding some life and bounce to your sound, particularly if you are playing in a sonically dead room.

It can be either a delay pedal (repeats your signal after a predetermined delay) or a reverb pedal (also a delay but shorter and less distinct repeats). Many amplifiers have a reverb built in, so for the sake of simplicity lets add a delay pedal.  In the real world, the type of music you play will determine which one you should choose.  For surf music, it’s definitely the reverb (Dick Dale and Miserlou).  For Rock-a-billy, its definitely the delay (Stray Cats).

To recap: The basic pedal compliment:  Tuner, frequency shaping, distortion and echo.

In case you’re wondering, my own personal preferences, my pedal board has a VOX Wah Wah (from the early ‘70’s), a Roland TU-3 Tuner, A Golden Path Madman Extreme Overdrive and a Roland DD-3  Digital Delay.

What are your basic pedals?  What does your pedal board 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.

To read Click to read Part 2 of this series on how to create an ideal guitar pedal board setup, by visiting: How to choose pitch and modulation effects for your pedal board.

To read Click to read Part 3 of this series on  how to create an ideal guitar pedal board setup, by visiting: Advanced guitar pedal board setup tricks and effects.