How to Arrange Your Pedalboard


By Jonathan Thomas

If its in your budget, arranging your own pedal board can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. It can also be frustrating and a hassle trying to get everything to sound right. I used to think arranging your pedal board meant just making sure everything fit and was plugged in. I was definitely wrong. Here are some tips on how to get the most of your pedal board.

First, you need to figure out which pedals will serve you best. There are TONS of pedals out there that drastically effect the way your guitar sounds varying in a wide range of prices. Go to guitar shops, read reviews online and figure out which kind of pedals you need for your sound. Do you want your guitar to really echo like its in a large cathedral? Do you want your guitar to sound really clean, crunchy? Are into metal, jazz, folk? Figure out your goal sound. For me, I was shooting for a dreamy sound with crunchy overdrive and lots of echo. Go to your local guitar shop and tell them what kind of sound you’re looking for and they should be able to guide you in the right direction. 

Order Matters
You have to remember that from the moment you strum your guitar, it sends out a electrical signal that has to travel through all your pedals before it comes out of your amp, greatly affecting the sound. The goal therefore is to make the electrical signal travel through each pedal in a way that it won’t be limited by other pedals. Here is the most logical order to place your pedals: 

1. Tuners
The tuner pedal must be the first pedal that you directly plug your guitar into. It is important that the signal going into the tuner is unaffected by any previous effects so that it will give you the most accurate reading.

2. Filters
This includes wah pedals and envelope filters. These go as early as possible or else they can be greatly affected by previous pedals since they are triggered by the electrical signal.

3. Compressors
Compressors can be very noisy the farther along in the chain they are, so place them early in the chain.

4. Overdrive/Distortion
Overdrives are placed before modulation pedals because a modulated signal greatly affects the overdrive and the over-arching sound you are trying to create.

5. Modulation
Modulation pedals include flange, phaser, chorus and tremolo pedals.

6. Volume
The volume pedal goes here so that it will actually work! Most of the previously mentioned pedals have volume level controls on them, so if the volume pedal is before them, you will still hear some sound even with the pedal in the up position.

7. Reverbs and Delays 
These are last so that even when the volume is in the up position, it allow the effect to finish the echo smoothly without ending it abruptly. They can also negatively effect your overdrive pedals if placed in front of them.

Map It Out
Once you know what you want or have all the pedals you need. To save yourself some frustration, try drawing it out first to see how your pedals will fit, if they will fit, and how to arrange all the cables.

Spend Time
Once everything is connected, spend some time just sitting down with your guitar and everything plugged into your amp. Mess with all the settings and get to know what they do and how they affect the sound and start creating the sound you want. This can be a long and tedious process but is exciting at the same time. Have fun with it! It is a lot of work but is truly rewarding in the end.

Jonathan Thomas is a worship leader and Young Adult Ministry Director at MVBC in Phoenix, AZ. He is a graduate of Arizona Christian University with a degree in Christian Ministries/Music and is currently pursuing a MA in Philosophy at Arizona State. He is married to his lovely wife, Olivia. Read his blog here:

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    9 comments on “How to Arrange Your Pedalboard

      • It depends on the type of pedals you have. You can place the volume right after the filters and wah, however, if you have compressors, overdrives, or modulations in the chain, you want them earlier in the chain to reduce noise and so that the levels don’t affect the volume pedal from cutting the sound out too early, or not cutting it out enough.

    1. I always run my volume pedal before overdrives so that the drives clean up properly when I roll back the volume. I’ve never had any issues with noise. I wonder why that is happening to yours.

      • The reason I have volume after overdrive is that I find on my board that if the overdrive is after, because of the overdrive’s level controls, I still hear sound from my guitar even when the volume pedal is in the up position. However it does partially depend on the type and brand of pedals people have. As a general rule, I’d place overdrive’s before volume.

    2. Thanks Jonathan, this has been helpful. With regards to reverb and delays, would you have reverb at the end of the chain? Where would Boost pedals go, with Distortion/Overdrive or after modulation?

      • I personally prefer reverb at the very end. Also, I would place boost after overdrives and modulations because they have level control, so you don’t want the boost to throw off your levels, rather, you want the most control. But I’d place it before the volume pedal so that the sound of your guitar doesn’t keep playing when the volume pedal is in the up position.

    3. Pingback: Worship Tech Roundup | Worship Links

    4. This is a very helpful article, Jonathan. I’ve been using a Vox Tonelab multi-effects pedal for about 4 years and am now in the process of wanting to expand my tone palette with various pedals. This is helpful. Thanks!

    5. Very helpful sir!
      I have a question, what should I use to attach my pedals on the pedalboard? Some people are using velcros, but I think they’re not really good. Thanks, and be blessed.

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