So you’ve been playing your electric guitar for a good while now and you have explored every sound feasibly possible between your guitar and amplifier... What’s next? PEDALS
To a lot of players this is without doubt the most exciting part of playing the guitar! Building up a selection of effects, wiring them all up in their preferred sequences, discussing resistors and transformers with their other pedal loving friends.. I’ve even got myself wrapped up in this crazy world of ‘soundscaping’ and I’ve got to admit it’s encapsulating!
Reverb, distortion, fuzz, wah, echo the list goes on and on... So where do you start?
This blog would never end if I told you about every single pedal type and their virtues, so instead, I’m just going to tell you the basics of getting started - what you’re going to need and a little bit of advice, enjoy!
Nearly every guitar pedal requires power, the majority in-fact require 9 volts of the stuff.
Some will have a cavity or opening for a 9 Volt battery (Yano, the big bulky one) and most will offer an optional mains power plug input too. To save yourself burning through batteries every week, I’d recommend getting your hands on a mains power supply, and there are a few different types of these too;
The first is a mains plug, this goes straight into the mains power outlet on the wall and then into the back or side of the pedal.
The second is a ‘Power Brick’ - these also plug straight into the mains, but they offer power to multiple pedals at the same time! Of course they are more expensive than the first option but in the long run this can actually save you some money. In fact not only may it save you some dosh, but these ‘Power Bricks’ can also improve the sound of your pedals too! Crazy right?!
You see, good quality ‘Power Bricks’ offer isolated power, and what we mean by this is each individual pedal is getting all the power it needs
without being stifled by the other power hungry pedals around it.
Also, and arguably more importantly, it will lower the unwanted ‘noise’ that may bleed into your pedal chain. Because the power is isolated it will put a stop to ‘noise’ from one pedal entering the signal path of another, an example of this could be; a clock noise from a delay pedal entering the signal path of your fuzz... and nobody wants that, do they?
A lot of guitar effects pedals DO NOT come with a power supply included, so always check you have the means to power it when you get it home!
2. Cables / Leads
You may have bought yourself a couple of pedals, or if you were lucky, you got 1 or 2 off Santa Claus..
Now you’ve ripped them out of the boxes and popped them in-front of your amplifier, something has dawned on you... You need more Cables...
Yes, between every pedal you are going to need another Cable. Just like when you plug your guitar into the amplifier, you will need to plug into your pedals and create a ‘chain’.
The chain may look like this example below:
As you can see there is a guitar cable between every component of the chain.
Cables come in all lengths, from 6 inches (ideal for linking up your pedals close together, these are commonly referred to as Patch Cables) to many metres in length.
So have a think about your set up, how close together you would like everything to be and get ordering some extra cables!
3. Order Matters
In the section above we got a quick first look at the ‘chain’.
The chain is everything between the amplifier and the electric guitar.
Here is that same example again but this time with some added details:
Now, let’s just say for arguments sake that our 2 guitar pedals in this ‘chain’ are being powered by a ‘power brick’. We can forget about this now and focus on the ‘chain’ in front of us!
So we have 2 pedals, an Echo pedal and a Distortion pedal.
- An Echo pedal repeats the signal inputted, like an echo that might be
found in nature.
- A Distortion pedal crams lots of grit and aggression into your sound..
Moving swiftly back to the order, there are no hard rules to hold you
back, experimentation is key to your growth as a guitar player.
However, there are general rules of thumb that you can begin with...
Start by setting your distortion first in the chain (next to your
Followed by your modulation pedals such a Echo, Chorus,
Flanger, Tremelo etc.
Most players will do this, so that the distortion pedals receive the cleanest signal from your guitar, before they become addled with effects such as a ‘delay’ further down the line.
(Imagine your guitar echoing and delaying before it goes into the distortion pedal, it would be a right mess!)
Of course there are TONNES of pedals and effects to choose from, but lucky you, there are TONNES of guitar forums online discussing the orders you should try... So get experimenting!
Your family and loved ones have all gathered in the living room to hear you shred Happy Birthday to your nan with your new addition, the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Fuzz Pedal.
You stand with guitar in hand ready to engage the filthy fuzz pedal on the high notes of the last rousing chorus.. But just as you prepare to send nan into birthday euphoria you miss the pedal with your foot, bringing shame upon yourself as you are booed out of the living room... By a very angry and disappointed Grandma...
Practice using your pedals!
It’s tough using your feet whilst you’re focusing on playing the guitar, so practice.
Not only do you have to hit that pedal with your foot in just the right spot, you have to hit the right pedal AND you’ve got to carry on playing your song too!.. There’s nothing else I can say here, just practice.
You’ve got a whole year to prepare for nan’s next birthday.
5. Pedal Board
A pedal geeks best friend, the pedal board.
Literally a small metallic or wooden board that will house your pedals on top, making it super easy to transform them, as well as stopping your pedals sliding around as you stomp on them with those Dr. Martens!
A lot of these pedal boards will come with a roll of velcro tape, allowing you to fix and secure your pedal collection to the board. Some even come with carry cases!
In fact on the Pedaltrain website you can even create a virtual board, letting you fully realise your beautiful creation before forking out all that hard earned musician cash...
You made it to the end! Thanks for reading. If this list helped you along
the way, job done! If not, then I am (again) surprised you’re still reading this.
Start your pedal journey today, don’t look back, but don’t get lost along the way too... it’s a big world out there!
Raff Evans January 2021