How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)


So you’ve picked up some awesome effects pedals for your rig and want to get the most out of them. Understanding signal flow and placing pedals in the proper order will lead to optimal performance.

So how should we order our guitar (or bass) pedals for optimal signal flow?Though there are no hard rules in music and art, the typical order of guitar effects pedals for optimal signal flow is as follows:

  • Utility Pedals: tuners, buffers, and switcher pedals.
  • Dynamics pedals: compressors, filters, pitch shifters, and volume pedals.
  • Gain-based pedals: boost, overdrive, distortion and fuzz pedals.
  • Modulation effects pedals: chorus, flanger, phaser and other modulation pedals.
  • Time-based effects pedals: delay and reverb pedals

*Volume pedals can go anywhere in the effects chain.

In this article, we’ll have a look at signal flow in detail. We’ll also discuss the different pedal types and why certain effects should be stacked according to the “optimal” order listed above. Finally, we’ll have a look at a few real world examples of pedal boards and critque the signal flow.


Table Of Contents


What Is Signal Flow?

Signal flow, as the name suggests, refers to the path and direction an audio signal (or other signal type) flows within a system.

Analog audio signals, like those outputted from a guitar pickup, are measured as AC voltages. These signals, then, move electrons back and forth within a circuit (made of guitars, cables, pedals, amplifiers, etc.).

Although the electric current (the flow of electrons) is alternating, the audio signal is envisioned as having a single direction.

There are a few key points to understand about signal flow:

  • A signal will flow from an output to an input.
  • Signals can be split and sent through multiple paths.
  • Signals can be consolidated into a single path.

Other factors that come into play when dealing with signal flow are:

  • Unbalanced cables (guitar patch cables) have distributed capacitance. This means longer cable runs will degrade the high-end (treble) of the signal.
  • For optimal signal transfer, the load (input) impedance of a device should be much greater (ideally >10x) the source (output) impedance of the device before it.
  • A signal processing unit (like a guitar pedal) will affect the signal at its input and is, therefore, affected by everything before it in the signal chain.

So, when we’re dealing with a series of pedals, it’s important to understand signal flow.

A solid comprehension of signal flow will help tremendously in getting the most out of our effects pedals, guitars and amplifiers.


A Note On True Bypass

You may notice that some of your pedals are “true bypass”. This can be a good or bad thing when connecting several pedals in series!

What is true bypass? True bypass is a switching circuit that will route the guitar signal directly from the input to the output when the pedal is turned off. A pedal with true bypass, then, will effectively act as an extension of the guitar cable when turned off and have little to no effect on signal tone/degradation.

True bypass pedals are distinguishable from their buffered bypass counterparts in one major way:

When bypassed, the true bypass circuit sends the signal from input to output with little to no colouration of tone or change in impedance. The buffered bypass circuit still sends the signal through the pedal’s circuit, only without triggering the effect.

The signal passes relatively “untouched” through a true bypass pedal in off position. Conversely, the signal passing through a buffered bypass pedal in off position will still be processed, only without the intended effect.

This buffer processing includes a conversion of impedance; some amount of potential gain, and, as expected, some change in tone.

So the benefit of true bypass is that the tone will remain unchanged when the pedal is off. However, true bypass pedals will effectively lengthen the

The benefit of buffered bypass is that the signal will still be buffered even when the pedal is off.

To learn more about True Bypass pedals, check out my article What Does ‘True Bypass’ Mean In A Guitar Pedal?

When dealing with lots of pedals and/or long cable runs, a mixture of true bypass and buffered bypass pedals is likely the best bet.


The Optimal Order Of Effects Pedals

Generally speaking, the optimal order of effects pedals is as follows:

Let’s go over a few key principles we should understand about signal flow to help us understand this “optimal order” and to help us choose which pedals should go before or after others in real-world situations.

Remembering our discussion on signal flow, we know that the guitar signal will flow from the guitar’s pick up to the first pedal, followed by the second pedal, third pedal, fourth and so on before reaching the guitar amplifier.

Any given pedal on the board will affect the signal at its input and, therefore, the signal that is affected by each pedal before it. It is for this reason that utility pedals, gain-based pedals, dynamics pedals and synth pedals work best at the beginning of the chain.

For instance, we wouldn’t want a chorus pedal (which modulates the signal by duplicating it and detuning it) before our tuner pedal.

Similarly, we wouldn’t necessarily want a reverb pedal before a synth pedal, which optimally acts to convert a dry guitar signal into a synth patch.

Another example of “improper” ordering would be to put a delay pedal before a fuzz pedal. Of course, the results could be cool, but in principle, the fuzz pedal, which really distorts its input signal, would really muddy up the delay tails with the dry signal and cause a cacophony of fuzz noise.

Now, I’m not saying we should never experiment outside of the “optimal” order. Music is about getting creative and experimenting with different sounds and pedal orders is one way of getting creative. What I am saying, however, is that in general, the above order will yield the most natural, clean and controllable sounds from a pedalboard.

When it comes to real world pedals, it’s important to have strong and full-spectrum signal flow throughout the system.

This means that cable lengths should be kept to a minimum and perhaps a mixture of true bypass and buffered bypass pedals should be used.

In addition to this, the pedals should be compatible load (input) and source (output) impedances to properly drive the following pedal or amplifier and to properly be driven by the preceding pedal or guitar.

If the signal becomes weak at any point in the signal chain, a buffer pedal can be used to strengthen the signal.

Related article: How Many Guitar Effect Pedals Is Too Many?

With that, let’s have a closer look at each pedal effect type (and each sub-type) and how they should be ordered in a pedalboard chain.


Utility Pedals

Utility pedals are essentially effects pedals that are designed not to affect the signal with a particular effect. Rather, they are designed to tell us information about the signal; to route the signal, or to aid in strengthening the signal without altering the tone.

Since utility pedals do not alter the tone (ideally) of the signal, they are typically positioned best at the front of the signal chain. This way, they receive the raw signal from the guitar pickup (or the signal after only a pedal or two) and can effectively do their job on a relatively clean signal.

Utility pedals include:

Tuner Pedals

Tuner pedals, as the name suggests, help us to tune our instruments by reading the frequencies of the inputted signal as musical notes.

Tuner pedals work best at the start of a pedalboard, reading and reacting to an unprocessed signal from the guitar.

Tuner pedal example: TC Electronic PolyTune 3 (link to check the price on Amazon)

TC Electronic PolyTune 3

TC Electronic is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The TC Electronic PolyTune 3 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 5 Best Tuner Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Line-Switching Pedals

Line-switching pedals, often referred to as AB or ABY pedals, act as routing points in a signal chain.

A line-switching pedal can be set to send its input signal through multiple signal chains, either one at a time or several at once.

With a line-switcher, we can effectively turn multiple pedals on or with a single stomp (rather than a fast tap dancing maneuver) by altering the signal path to a new line of pedals.

Note that line-switchers do not necessarily have to be at the front of the pedalboard but often have more of an effect when they control longer chains of pedals from their outputs.

Line-switcher pedal example: Boss LS-2 Line Selector (link to check the price on Amazon)

Boss LS-2 Line Selector

Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

To learn more about switcher pedals, check out my article What Is A Guitar Pedal Switcher & How Do Switchers Work?

Buffer Pedals

A buffer pedal acts as an impedance converter (and sometimes as a boost). These pedals work to combat the low-pass filter effects due to the capcitance of long cable runs and low-input impedance and high-output impedance pedals.

Buffer pedals often work best at the beginning of the pedal chain, helping to rid of the capacitive effects of the guitar patch cable between the guitar and the first pedal.

They also tend to work well at the end of a pedalboard, helping to drive the amplifier.

Buffer pedals can also be positioned near pedals with weaker electronics and low input impedance or high output impedance.

Buffer pedal example: JHS Little Black Buffer (link to check the price on Amazon)

JHS Little Black Buffer

JHS Pedals is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The JHS Little Black Buffer is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 5 Best Buffer Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

For more information on buffer pedals, check out my article Are Buffer Pedals Necessary & Where Do They Go In A Chain?

Volume Pedals

Volume pedals can be put at the front of a pedalboard but are often put at the end of the pedal. Actually, volume pedals can be put anywhere, really. We’ll discuss volume pedals in more detail in a later section.


Synth Pedals

Synth pedals fundamentally alter the shape of the guitar input signal.

Guitar synth pedals are designed to convert guitar pickup signals into synth wavewforms. Bass synth pedals are designed to convert bass guitar pickup signals into synth waveforms.

It stands to reason, then, that these synth pedals would work best at the beginning of the pedal chain since the guitar signal will be less processed.

That is not to say that cool results are not possible when chaining a synth pedal after another pedal. However, these pedals are designed to act on a clean guitar signal and, therefore, work best near the front of the signal chain.

Synth pedal example: Source Audio C4 (link to check the price on Amazon)

Source Audio C4

Source Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Source Audio C4 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Synth Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about synth pedals, check out my article What Are Synth Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?


Dynamics, EQ, & Pitch-Shifting Pedals

So utility and synth pedals are typically best when positioned at the front of the pedal chain. As mentioned, these pedals either measure the signal; strengthen the signal, of fundamental alter the signal.

Once the guitar (or bass) signal passes through the pedals mentioned above, the basic dynamic and equalizing processing pedals should follow along with any pitch-shifting effects.

I’ve listed these three main effects groups together since there’s really no absolute right or wrong answer here. These pedals lead us to the same fundamental mixing question of whether to compress before or after EQ.

Personally, I’m of the school of EQ into compression into pitch-shifting but that’s my own preference. Play around to find what sounds best to you and what is most easy to control.

The dynamic pedals we’ll discuss here are compressors, limiters, expanders, and noise gates.

EQ pedals include envelope filters, EQs, and wah pedals.

We’ll also discuss pitch-shifters and harmonizers.

Compressor & Limiter Pedals

Compressors act to reduce the dynamic range of an input signal by attenuating the amplitude peaks within the signal.

If the signal surpasses a set threshold, the compressor kicks in to reduce the amplitude above the set threshold by a defined ratio. As an example, a 4:1 ratio would mean that for every 4 dB the input signal goes above the threshold, the output signal would only go 1 dB above the threshold.

To learn more about dB (decibels), check out my article What Are Decibels? The Ultimate dB Guide For Audio & Sound.

Make up gain is typically used to bring the level of the signal back up to pre-compression peak levels.

The sonic results of compression range wildly. Compression is often used to thicken up a sound and is particularly effective on bass guitar. When a signal is over-compression, saturation and distortion can alter the sonic character of the sound.

Limiters are essentially hard compressors. Whereas a compressor will attentuate above a given threshold, a limiter will cut the signal off complete at a certain threshold ceiling.

If we draw a comparison between compression/limiting and distortion, we can say that compression is analog to soft-clipping (overdrive-style distortion) while limiting is more similar to hard-clipping distortion (of which many distortion and all fuzz pedals are based on).

Compressor pedal example: Boss CS-3 (link to check the price on Amazon)

Boss CS-3

Limiter pedal example: Boss LMB-3 (link to check the price on Amazon)

Boss LMB-3

For more information on compressor pedals, check out my article What Are Compressor Pedals (Guitar/Bass) & How Do They Work?

Expander Pedals

Expansion, in audio, is the opposite of compression by expanding the dynamic range of a signal.

This effect will drop a signal below a set threshold by a given ratio. For example, a ratio of 2:1 would mean that for every 1 dB an input signal drops below the threshold, the output signal will be 2 dB below said threshold.

Expansion is much less common in audio than compression and this is seen in the lack of expander pedals on the market (and the abundance of compressor pedals). That being said, they are worth mentioning here.

Expander pedal examples: Electro-Harmonix Steel Leather (link to check the price on Amazon)

Electro-Harmonix Steel Leather

Electro-Harmonix is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

Noise Gate Pedals

Noise Gate pedals are kind of the like the limiters of expander pedals in that they have infinite ratios.

With a noise gate, we set a threshold and any time a signal drops below that threshold, the output goes to zero.

Noise gate pedal examples: ISP Technologies Decimator II (link to check the price on Amazon)

ISP Technologies Decimator II

Envelope Filter Pedals

Envelope filters act on the transients of an input signal and their dynamic filters follow the amplitude envelope of the signal.

This effect is common on funk bass guitar and is often described, sonically, as “duck quacks” or “choppy vowel sounds”.

Envelope filter pedal example: Fender Pour Over Envelope Filter (link to check the price on Amazon)

Fender Pour Over

Fender is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

To learn more about envelope filter pedals, check out my article What Are Envelope Filter Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?

EQ Pedals

EQ works by altering the representation of frequencies along the audio signal’s frequency spectrum.

We may find EQ circuitry on other pedals in the form of bass, mid and treble knobs.

We also have dedicated EQ pedals that allow us to fine-tune the relative output of specific frequencies to further shape the tone of our guitar or bass.

EQ pedal example: MXR M108S (link to check the price on Amazon)

MXR M108S

MXR is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The MXR M108S Ten Band EQ is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 12 Best EQ Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

For more information on EQ pedals, check out my article What Are EQ Pedals (Guitar/Bass) & How Do They Work?

Wah Pedals

Wah pedals act upon the EQ of a signal to emulate vocal vowel formants.

This clever frequency manipulation gives wah pedal their famed vowel sound.

Wah pedal example: Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95 (link to check the price on Amazon)

Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95

Dunlop is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Cry Baby GCB95 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 14 Best Wah Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about wah pedals, check out my article What Are Wah-Wah Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?

Pitch-Shifter & Harmonizer Pedals

Pitch-shifting pedals and harmonizing pedals do as their names suggest: shift the pitch of an input signal or harmonize the note(s) of the input signal.

These pedals are often preferred at the beginning of the pedal board since they affect only the pitch or musical notes of the signal.

One could argue that pitch shifting and harmonization are perfectly possible without a pedal (within reason). Therefore, having these pedals near the front of the board retains the natural processing of the guitar or bass signal.

Pitch-shifter/harmonizer pedal example: DigiTech Whammy 5 (link to check the price on Amazon)

DigiTech Whammy 5

DigiTech is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The DigiTech Whammy 5 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 9 Pitch-Shifting & Harmonizer Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

For more information on pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals, check out my article What Are Pitch-Shifting Guitar Pedals & How Do They Work?


Gain-Based Pedals

Next up are gain-based pedals. These pedals either boost the amplitude of the signal or aim to distort the signal.

At this point, we’re still before the territory of moudlation and time-based effects. However, when we’re dealing with gain and distortion, it’s nice to have an established signal before overdriving and distorting the signal.

The gain-based pedals we’ll discuss here are:

Boost Pedals

A boost pedal is essentially an instrument preamplifier for your guitar in the form of a stompbox.

The goal of the boost pedal is to apply gain to the guitar signal, amplifying it without causing any distortion to the signal.

Boost pedal example: TC Electronic Spark Booster (link to check the price on Amazon)

TC Electronic Spark Booster

The TC Electronic Spark Booster is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 9 Best Boost/Preamp Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Overdrive Pedals

An overdrive pedal is designed to recreate or, at the very least, simulated the effect of overdriving an amplifier (and particularly a tube amplifier).

In a way, then, an overdrive pedal can be thought of as a boost pedal with a lower ceiling that allows for significan soft clipping as the input signal amplitude increases.

Overdrive pedal example: Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer (link to check the price on Amazon)

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer Overdrive Pedal

The Ibanez TS9 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Overdrive Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Distortion Pedals

Distortion pedals really distort/alter the sound of the input signal via hard clipping.

A distortion pedal with produce and more aggressive, edgy and consistent distortion across the wide dynamic range of the input guitar signal. In other words, the harder distortion will be present in quiet notes and loud notes alike.

Distortion pedal example: Boss DS-1 (link to check the price on Amazon)

Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal

The Boss DS-1 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Distortion Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

Fuzz Pedals

Fuzz pedals take distortion to extreme levels but really hard clipping a signal to the point that input dynamics have little to do with the amount of distortion and the resulting waveform is very dissimilar to the input waveform.

Fuzz pedal example: Old Blood Noise Endeavors Haunt (link to check the price on Amazon)

Old Blood Noise Endeavors Haunt Fuzz Pedal

The OBNE Haunt is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 12 Best Fuzz Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about gain-based pedals, check out my article Guitar Pedals: Boost Vs. Overdrive Vs. Distortion Vs. Fuzz.


Modulation Pedals

In audio, modulation technically refers to the alteration of sound over time.

There are plenty of modulation effects and, when dealing with guitar effects pedals, we have to include the following:

Note that there are other modulation effects that link LFOs (low-frequency oscillators) to other parameters. This has more to do with the synth world but can be applied to guitars as well (I mean, we do have synth pedals, after all). For this article, we’ll discuss the above modulation pedal types.

Modulation effects tend to work best after the more basic “stationary” pedal types. Perhaps this has more to do with the more stationary types working better before the modulation types.

This is because modulation will affect the signal over time and can, therefore, be a bit wonky when driving utility, gain, and other pedal types that “prefer” more steady/consistent signals.

When it comes to chaining together mutliple modualtion effects, mess around with the order to find your liking. My personal preference, if I had to use each of the types discussed here, would be as follows:

  • Ring modulator
  • Tremolo
  • Vibrato
  • Chorus
  • Phaser
  • Flanger

…but that’s just me. I can’t say I’ve ever stacked all these effects on top of one another. That would be a cool test!

Chorus Pedals

Chorus is an effect that essentially copies an input signal and slightly detunes each copy to simulate multiple voices in a “chorus”.

Over time, each voice will vary slightly in pitch (similar to the vibrato effect). The multiple voices can make the output sound much larger than the input or it can detune to the point when the sound in no longer so “harmonious”.

Chorus pedal example: Boss Waza Craft CE-2W (link to check the price on Amazon)

Boss Waza Craft CE-2W

The Boss Waza Craft CE-2W is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Chorus Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about chorus pedals, check out my article What Are Chorus Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?

Flanger Pedals

Flanger is a modulation audio effect whereby a signal is duplicated and the phase of one copy is continuouly being shifted. This changing phase causes a sweeping comb filter effect where peaks and notches are produced in the frequency spectrum or the signal’s EQ.

Flanger pedal example: TC Electronic Vortex (link to check the price on Amazon)

TC Electronic Vortex

The TC Electronic Vortex is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Flanger Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about Flanger pedals, check out my article What Are Flanger Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?

Phaser Pedals

Phaser is a modulation audio effect whereby a series of peaks and troughs are produced across the frequency spectrum of the signal’s EQ. These peaks and troughs vary over time, typically controlled by an LFO (low frequency oscillator), to create a sweeping effect known as phaser.

Phaser pedal example: MXR M101 Phase 90 (link to check the price on Amazon)

MXR M101 Phase 90

The MXR Phase 90 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Phaser Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

For more info on phaser pedals, check out my article What Are Phaser Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?

Tremolo Pedals

Tremolo is a fast variation in amplitude. Tremolo is similar to vibrato, except that it acts on amplitude/level rather than pitch.

Tremolo pedal example: Keeley DynaTrem (link to check the price on Amazon)

Keeley DynaTrem

Keeley Electronics is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Keeley Electronics DynaTrem is featured in Top 11 Best Tremolo Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about tremolo pedals, check out my article What Are Tremolo Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?

Vibrato Pedals

Vibrato is a fast but slight up-and-down, variation in pitch. Vibrato is used in signing and in instruments to add character and improve tone.

Vibrato pedal example: Boss Waza Craft VB-2W (link to check the price on Amazon)

Boss Waza Craft VB-2W

The Boss Waza Craft VB-2W is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 8 Best Vibrato Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

For more information on vibrato pedals, check out my article What Are Vibrato Guitar Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?

Ring Modulation Pedals

Ring modulation is an amplitude modulation effect where two signals (an input signal and a carrier signal) are summed together to create two brand new frequencies which are the sum and difference of the input and carrier signals. The carrier wave is typically a sine wave selected by the effects unit while the input signal is from the guitar.

Ring modulation pedal example: Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing (link to check the price at Reverb)

Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing

The Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 8 Best Ring Modulation Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about ring modulation pedals, check out my article What Are Ring Modulation Effects Pedals & How Do They Work?


Time-Based Effects Pedals

Time-based effects take the signal, sample it, and play it back at set time intervals with varying amounts of effect. They are unlike modulation effects, which act to alter the signal itself over time. Rather, they are the effects that add a more natural sence of space and depth to a sound.

Time-based effects include delay and reverb.

The effects work best at the very end of the effects chain.

If we think about it from a natural standpoint, sound, in the real world, is produced by a source and interacts with an environment before reaching our ears.

Every effect up to this point can be though of as affecting the sound source. Time-based delay and reverb can be thought of as the source interacting with a physical environemnt before it hits our ears (even through it’s really just a simulation of an “environement” through a circuit).

Sound will naturally bounce of surfaces and each reflection will hit our ears at a delayed rate. Make the space large enough and a noticeably long revererant tail will become apparent. These time-based effects pedals aim to recreate these natural occurences in electronics and should be placed at the end of the effects chain.

I personally prefer delay before reverberation. I think of delay as being closer to me, the listener, in the real world and so I believe it should come first in the signal chain before reverb.

Delay Pedals

Delay, in terms of guitar audio signal processing, is a time-based effect where an input signal is recorded, for a relatively short amount of time, and is played back after a set period of time after the initial recording.

Delay can be used to add depth to the guitar signal. It can also be used to give a doubling effect at shorter delay times. It can even sound it’s own musical notes at exteremely short delay sample times.

Delay pedal example: Strymon TimeLine (link to check the price on Amazon)

Strymon TimeLine

Strymon is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Strymon TimeLine is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Delay Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

For more information on delay pedals, check out my article What Are Delay Pedals (Guitar Effects) & How Do They Work?

Reverb Pedals

Reverberation happens when a sound wave hits a surface (or multiple surfaces) and reflects back to the listener at varying times and amplitudes. This creates a complex echo that holds information about the physical space.

Reverb pedals recreate this sense of physical space.

Reverb pedal example: EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V2 (link to check the price on Amazon)

EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V2

EarthQuaker Devices is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

To learn more about reverb pedals, check out my article What Are Reverb Pedals (Guitar Effects) & How Do They Work?


Volume Pedals

Volume pedals are pretty self explanitory. They are expression pedals that control the volume/amplitude of the signal.

Though volume pedals can be put anywhere in a pedal chain, they should certainly be put in after the tuner.

I advise putting the volume pedal at the very end of the pedal chain to eliminate any noise from any potentially noisy pedals that come before the volume pedal in the signal chain.

Volume pedal example: Ernie Ball VP Jr (link to check the price on Amazon)

Ernie Ball VP Jr

The Ernie VP Jr is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 7 Best Volume Pedals For Guitar & Bass.


Looper Pedals

Looper pedals will loop whatever audio they record at thie input.

These pedals are kind of odd-balls when it comes to placing them in a signal chain. It really depends on your goals.

The important thing to note is that a looper pedal will record and playback the signal at its “input” with any effects that are engaged before it.

Any effects after the loop pedal will not be recorded or played back.

So, then, once a loop is established and is playing back, engaging or disengaging any pedals before the looper will not alter the looping sound. However, engaging or disengaging any pedals after the looper will certainly alter the sound of the loop since the looper’s output signal is now being processed by these pedals.

Looper pedal example: TC Electronics Ditto (link to check the price on Amazon)

TC Electronic Ditto

The TC Electronic Ditto is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Looper Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

To learn more about looper pedals, check out my article What Are Looper Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?


Real-World Pedal Board Examples

Now that we understand the general idea of signal flow and what pedal types tend to work best through the signal chain, let’s look at some real-world pedalboard examples.

We’ll begin with my own pedalboard and then have a look at a few of my favourite guitarists/pedal wizards, notably Thomas Erak and Nick Reinhart.

My Pedalboard

My pedalboard is made of a small collection of pedals I like to use for live Blunt Cousin gigs. The order of pedals/signal flow is as follows:

Future additions:

  • TC Electronics PolyTune 3 (at the front of the board)
  • Dunlop Crybaby (2nd in-line)
  • Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Reverb (after the Line 6 DL4 & before the TC Electronic Ditto)

*A buffer may be required in the new set up

Thomas Erak (The Fall Of Troy)

Circa 2017

Check out the following video from Premier Guitar to hear more about Thom’s board.

Nick Reinhart (Tera Melos)

Circa 2019

Board 1

Board 2

Check out the following video from Premier Guitar to hear more about this edition of Nick’s board.

Circa 2013

Board 1

Board 2

Nick talks about his board extensively in the following series of Pedals And Effects YouTube videos:


Organizing Your Own Pedalboard

Once you get into the game of guitar effects pedals, it can be difficult to stop the acquisttion of new toys. If you’re running any more than two pedals, I’d high recommend getting a pedalboard.

A pedalboard, when set up correctly, will hold all of your pedals in their proper place and the pedals can even remain connected between jam sessions, recording sessions and live sets.

I personally have a Ruach Foxy Lady Pedalboard (link to check the price on Amazon).

However, you don’t necessarily need a pedalboard, especially if you’ve only got a few pedals or if you’re experimenting with different pedals at home.

A dependable power supply is also a practical must-have for pedalboards. The power supply will connect to a single outlet and be capable of powering multiple pedal (ideally all pedals on your pedalboard).

I personally use the Voodoo Lab PPM Pedal Power MONDO Isolated Power Supply (link to check the price on Amazon).

Once you’ve got what you need, try different variations in signal flow to find what works best for you. Of course, I advise following the sugestions for signal flow listed in this article but it’s not absolutely necessary that you do so.

Once again, the “optimal” order of effects pedals, typically speaking, is as follows:


What pedals should every guitarist have? Without getting into specific pedals, the most common and useful types of pedals for guitarists are as follow:

  1. Tuner pedal
  2. Volume pedal
  3. Wah pedal
  4. Boost, ocerdrive, disortion and/or fuzz pedal
  5. Chorus pedal
  6. Delay pedal
  7. Reverb Pedal
  8. Overdrive Pedal

How do you stick pedals to pedalboard? Guitar effects pedals (along with their power supplies) are typically connected to a pedal via velcro (velcro is glued to the underneath of the pedal and stuck to a velcro board) or via mounting tape. There methods are farily heavy duty but offer the ability to easily remove and move pedals as need be.

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