In today’s Gear Rundown, we’re going to be looking at something a little bit different. Instead of examining one piece of gear and running through the ins and outs of it, we will be having a full rundown of how to correctly patch your guitar/bass effects pedals together, and how to run them into your amp. This is a topic that gets criminally overlooked by many guitarists and bassists alike, and it’s not their fault!
Most people buy pedals on a budget and only as they need them. This means you likely to bought your first pedal completely on its own. Henceforth you would have (or will, if you’re starting out) added to your pedal collection one by one until suddenly your amp is screaming out a wall of solid noise from the second you turn it on and ALL of your pedals sound dreadful. This is where most will seek out information or advice but sadly information on the topic is relatively sparse on the internet and many people you might ask may only have partial information. So, without further ado, we will compile all of the information into the one place here! Whether you are looking to rearrange your 23 guitar pedals or just about to buy your first one, this should be well worth the read!
In Front Of The Amp Vs. The FX Loop:
First and foremost, we must distinguish between effects pedals that are designed to run In Front of the amp, and pedals that are designed to be run through the FX Loop. Let’s clarify what the difference between the two is:
In Front means you run a lead from the pedal’s OUTPUT jack into the INPUT jack of your amplifier. You will then plug your guitar into the INPUT of that pedal (using a separate lead).
The FX Loop is found on the back panel of an amplifier and should come labelled as a SEND jack and a RETURN jack. To put a pedal through the loop would be to run a lead from the SEND jack to the pedal’s INPUT and then another lead from the pedal’s OUTPUT into the RETURN jack.
What Goes Where?
By this point you’re probably wondering which pedals go into the FX Loop and which pedals go In Front. Well here’s a table summing it up for your viewing convenience
|In Front||FX Loop|
|Compressor||Vibrato and Tremolo|
|Fuzz||Phaser and Flanger|
Patching The Pedals Together And Powering Them:
If you look at the above table and think to yourself “But surely I can mix and match?” you would be correct. Whilst building your pedalboard feel free to experiment and swap these around, however be warned not all the results will be pleasant. The reason they are placed as such in the box is because these are the tested and proven ways to get the best sounds out of these diverse types of pedals, as well as minimizing undesirable noise and feedback.
Just before we get onto the matter of ordering each set of pedals correctly, it is crucial that we touch base on patching them together and powering them. Once you have a few pedals in your collection your most likely going to want to use them at the same time. To accomplish this, you need Patch Cables. These cables work exactly the same as guitar leads but are much smaller. To conjoin to pedals, simply run a patch cable from the OUTPUT of one pedal, to the INPUT of the pedal that’s next to it. Be sure to get very good quality patch cables. Low quality cables can be another contributing factor to undesirable noise and hum. You wouldn’t buy low quality guitar leads, so don’t buy dodgy patch cables!
If you don’t have much space on your pedalboard you have the option to buy flat patch cables, which most people refer to as ‘Pancake patch cables.’ These take up a lot less room and may even provide you enough space for one more pedal.
Next up is how to correctly power your pedals. This is the part where, if done wrong, will be the aspect of your setup responsible for creating THE most noise and feedback every time you turn your pedals on. Most people when first constructing a pedalboard will use a single AC power supply which plugs into a wall power-point. They will then use a multi-ended cable to ‘daisy-chain’ all of the pedals together. Meaning they are all running from exactly the same power supply. This can be acceptable for most if you are only running two or three pedals, but if you’re serious about running a plethora of pedals and having them sound great and not cause bad sounds, then this set-up will have a few issues:
- Firstly, if one pedal is especially noisy, the daisy-chain will ensure that the noise from that pedal which transfer to all the other pedals and they will do the same thing. If you have 10 pedals on your board, the horrible hum coming from 1 pedal will essentially be 10 times louder.
- Secondly, that single power supply was most likely designed to power only a single pedal. So, it stands to reason that if you use it to power 10 pedals, chances are it won’t be able to pump enough power to ANY of them. This means that all of them are going to sound feeble and weak instead of rich and huge.
The proper way to power multitudes of pedals is to buy a fully isolated power unit. These also plug into any power-point. The difference is you can run multiple wires out to each pedal individually and they are all individually isolated from each other, powering each pedal exactly what it needs and eliminating the issues mentioned above. These units are all generally fully earthed as well, cleaning up the signal even further.
Ordering The Pedals:
Finally, we have arrived at the correct way to order the pedals once you’ve come to terms with the information provided above without further ado:
In Front: Guitar > Tuner > Wah > Pitch Shifters > Compressor > Fuzz > Distortion > Distortion > Amp
FX Loop: (Send) > Boost > EQ > Chorus > Vibrato > Tremolo > Phaser > Flanger > Delay > Reverb > (Return)
And there you have it! Of course, as mentioned before, this can be altered but this ‘signal path’ as we call it, will be the cleanest and likely the most reliable. The one group of pedals that can be shifted around without much consequence are the group known as ‘modulation pedals’ which are the pedals from Chorus to Flanger. This is because they do very similar things. An example of a switch that would NOT be good, would be to put Reverb at the start of the signal path. This would cause the reverb to receive all the ensuing effects, rather than add reverb over notes that already have those effects applied. That could spell disaster when running as many pedals as in this example.
Until next time, get out there and start building the pedalboard of your dreams!