Switcher pedals can unlock a whole new world of signal flow and controllability in our pedalboards. These utility pedals can become invaluable to complex pedalboard systems when used to their full advantage.
What are switcher pedals and how do they work? Switcher pedals are utility stompbox units built for guitar, bass and other instruments that essentially direct the signal to a user-defined signal path. A switcher will have one or more inputs and one or more outputs. It works to send the right input(s) to the right output(s) at the right time.
In this article, we’ll discuss switcher pedals and the effect they have on signal flow. We’ll also describe the benefits and drawbacks of using such a system in our pedalboards. I’ll mention a few switcher pedals to help in my explanations and share some tips to help you get the most out of your switcher pedal(s) and, ultimately, your guitar rig!
Table Of Contents
- How Does Signal Flow Work?
- What Do Switchers Do?
- What Is A Switcher Pedal?
- Tips On Using A Switcher Pedal
- Where Should Switcher Pedals Go In The Signal Chain?
- Related Questions
How Does Signal Flow Work?
Audio signal flow is defined as the path the audio signal (whether it’s analog or digital) takes from the source to the output of the system. This path includes any gain stages (preamplifiers and amplifiers) and other units (mixing boards, processors, effects units, etc.).
Even the simple example of plugging a guitar into an amplifier has a numbered list of components in its signal flow. In this example the signal flow would be as follows:
- Guitar pickup (electromagnetic or piezoelectric transducer produces analog audio signals that mimic the vibrations of the string).
- Guitar patch cable (carries the audio from the guitar to the guitar amplifier)
- Guitar amp preamplifier (a preamp gain stage that may offer clean and dirty/distortion channels, reverb and other effects).
- Guitar amp power amplifier (a power amp gain stage that boosts the signal to drive the attached cabinet speakers).
- Cabinet speakers (loudspeaker transducer that converts the electrical energy of the audio signal into sound waves).
Note that there is a cable that connects the preamp to the power amp and the power amp to the cabinet speaker(s).
Signal flow generally follows a certain set of rules. Knowing the basics can help us to understand how signal flow works in more complex systems.
- Audio signals flow out of device outputs and into device inputs. Connecting a device A’s output to another device B’s input will send signal from device A to device B.
- Signals flow into subsequent gain stages. In a proper setup, any preamps will come before any power amps.
- Signal flow can be explained with devices (amps, processors, etc.) drawn as blocks or as in-depth circuits in their own right.
- Each device (amp, processor, etc.) has its own signal flow as well as its place in a larger system.
- We can add acoustics into signal flow diagrams if it helps to convey the system as a whole (for example, including a “vocalist” block in front of a “microphone” block).
- Certain audio cables and devices can send audio in two directions at once (think of a headset = headphones + microphone, as an example). Fortunately, we won’t have to worry about this with guitar pedals.
- Signals can be routed in many different ways within a single system. Switches, splitters, and clever routing can make this happen.
Signal flow can get rather complicated in live music setups with multiple musicians; large public address systems with many different loudspeakers; various monitor mixes, etc.
Signal flows also gets pretty complicated in broadcasting when we factor in all the communication that must go on during the show along with the natural sound, commentators, commercials, sound effects, and other signals that must be sent to the program feed.
In this article, we’re discussing switcher pedals for guitar and bass so things will be much simpler. That being said, a solid knowledge of signal flow will be of great benefit when learning about switcher pedals.
What Do Switchers Do?
Audio signal switching units act to alter the signal flow path. In other words, they are routers.
Switchers come in different shapes and forms. They will have multiple inputs and/or outputs and work to route user-selected inputs to user-selected outputs. Let’s give some non-pedal-related examples to help establish our understanding before applying the concept of a switcher to effects pedals.
As an example, let’s say we have an audio interface connected to our computer. We can go to our system preferences and switch our audio input between the computer’s built-in audio input and the input(s) of the audio interface. Similarly, we can switch our audio output between the computer’s built-in audio output and the output(s) of the audio interface.
Note that audio interfaces will have their own routing scheme we should be aware of. This is simply a common example with multiple input and output options.
The popular Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a simple interface.
Focusrite is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Interface Brands In The World 2020.
So at the computer level, we can switch between the computer’s built-in microphone input or the Scarlett’s inputs (2 combo mic/line inputs with gain control). We can also switch between the built-in speaker output or the Scarlett’s outputs (left and right channel stereo outputs and a stereo headphone output with volume control).
Another common example is the speaker selector. These designs can be incorporated into power amps and receivers or produced as their own standalone units.
A speaker selector will take the input signal and split it in order to drive multiple outputs. These outputs can then be turned on/off and have their output volume controlled by the unit.
The Niles Audio SSVC-6 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a great example with 6 independent outputs, each with a 100 watts RMS power amplifier.
This unit is marketed as a way to send audio to different rooms of a house and different locations outside the house. It can control the level of each location and whether or not the audio will play at any location.
Niles is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Power Amplifier Brands In The World 2020.
So now that we know what an audio switcher does, we have a strong foundation to build upon when learning how switcher pedals work.
What Is A Switcher Pedal?
A switcher pedal is a stompbox-style unit designed to route input signal(s) to specified outputs. These pedals are typically marketed toward guitarists and bassists for use in their pedalboards but can be used by any musicians looking to switch their available signal flow paths.
Switching, in the context of effects pedals, is the act of changing/switching the path of the guitar signal. With a tap of a button, we can change the signal path to go through a different set of pedals, a different amp, or any other device(s).
Switcher pedals are very useful utility pedals. There’s a lot that can be done with them.
Using a switcher pedal in a rig requires some foresight into what we want to accomplish. Some common examples of switcher pedal functions include:
- Redirecting the guitar signal to a completely new line of pedals. This can effectively turn several pedals on/off with a single button.
- Altering the order of pedals (available in some loop switchers).
- Switching between amplifiers. A switcher can have each output sent to a different amp if need be to change the tone.
- Switching the channel of a multi-channel amplifier (this is perhaps the most common type of switcher pedal).
Let’s have a look at a few examples of switch pedals. Switcher pedals “types” can be split into two main categories:
Amp Channel Switcher Pedal
The most common switcher pedal plugs into the channel switch input of guitar amplifiers that offer “clean” and “dirty” channels (these channel could also be labelled “rhythm” and “lead” or some other names).
The Orange FS1 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a perfect example of this type of switcher pedal. It connects to the footswitch channel input of Orange amps (the 1/4″ to the right of the FX loop input/output, pictured below). This footswitch, like others, may also work with amps from other manufacturers.
By pressing/stomping the button(s) of a channel-switching pedal, we will switch the signal flow within the guitar amplifier to send the signal through one of the preamp channels.
Here is an illustration of a foot switch pedal’s effect on the signal flow from a guitar to an amp cabinet:
By using this type of switcher, we can alter the signal path through a different preamp channel.
Some amps will only have a single channel and this section won’t apply. Many amps, like the Crush 35RT mentioned in this article, have 2 channels. Other amps have more than 2 channels to switch between.
Oftentimes the amp manufacturer will have a footswitch pedal designed specifically for their multi-channel amp.
AB-Y Splitter/Switcher Pedal
Next up in our list of switcher pedals is the “AB-Y” or “splitter” pedal.
These pedals will have one input (or more) and two (or more) outputs. They work by routing the input to a user-selected output.
The term “AB-Y” helps describe these pedals in a one-input/two-output configuration. The letter “Y” symbolizes a single input (at the bottom/vertical line) and two outputs (at the top/diagonal lines). “AB” refers to the two paths the signal can take (A or B).
This concept is pretty simple and can be an invaluable tool in your pedalboard. Splitting-style switching or I/O routing is largely what we discussed in the earlier sections of this article.
In terms of pedals, the AB-Y-type switcher pedals aren’t all that common. Let’s have a look at a few examples.
The Donner Path Seeker (link to check the price on Amazon) is a simple splitter pedal. It has one input and two outputs (A and B).
We can control the volume of output A and B; the phase difference between A and B (0º or 180º), and whether the input is routed to output A, B or both simultaneously.
The EarthQuaker Devices Swiss Things (link to check the price on Amazon) is a bit more involved that the aforementioned Path Seeker. It also has one input and two outputs (A and B). We can choose path A, B or both and we have continuous control over the phase of B relative to A.
The Swiss Things has a tuner output to silently integrate a tuner outside of the signal path. It also has an input for expression pedal control.
Where things get really interesting (this is going to foreshadow our next section) is in the loops. The EQD Swiss Things has two effects loops that we can utilize to add other effects into the signal path.
Like any effects loop, the loops of the Swiss Things can host an many pedals as we need. Each loop can be turned on or off independently of the other and Loop 1 flows into Loop 2 in terms of ordering.
On top of that, the Swiss Things also acts as a boost pedal! It really is a “swiss army knife” of a pedal.
EarthQuaker Devices is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
To learn more about boost pedals, check out my article Guitar Pedals: Boost Vs. Overdrive Vs. Distortion Vs. Fuzz.
AB-Y pedals can be used to switch between different amplifiers. This can be visualized in the illustration below:
As mentioned, these pedals can also be used to send a signal down a completely different row of pedals.
When using a single amplifier, an issue may arrise if the amp doesn’t have multiple inputs. That’s where summing pedals come into play.
A Note On Summing Pedals
A summing pedal can easily become the best friend of an AB-Y splitter.
Where the splitter/switcher will split a signal into two or more paths, a summing pedal will combine two or more paths into a single output signal.
Summing pedals are based on the summing mixers, which are historically designed to sum stereo audio (left and right channels) into mono audio. That being said, they can also sum two mono signals together (in the case of “A+B”). They can also be used to bring signal path A and signal path B back to the same point within the system (preferably before the amp input (or the amp’s effects loop return).
So then, we can have a summing pedal down the line from a splitter pedal to bring either path back to a common signal path before plugging into the guitar amplifier or mixing input.
Here is just one example of a string of common pedals running into an AB-Y pedal with more pedals one either path. The summing pedal brings everythin back together before the guitar amp input. As mentioned, this is simply one example:
The JHS Summing Amp (link to check the price on Amazon) is a beautifully simple summing pedal. Two inputs and one output. That’s it!
JHS is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
A Note On Direct & Effect Outputs As Well As Stereo Outputs
Other pedals that have multiple outputs are those pedals with stereo outputs (left and right channels) and those that have dedicated direct outputs and effected signal outputs.
These pedals technically split the signal into stereo or dry/wet signals, respectively but aren’t really switcher pedals by any means.
The Boss DD-3T Digital Delay (link to check the price on Amazon) has a mono input with direct and effected outputs.
The Boss DD-8 Digital Delay (link to check the price on Amazon) has a stereo input and stereo output. Note that a mono input and mono output can be achieved by only plugging into input A and output A.
Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Boss DD-8 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 13 Best Delay Pedals For Guitar & Bass.
To learn more about delay pedals like the DD-3T and DD-8, check out my article What Are Delay Pedals (Guitar Effects) & How Do They Work?
A Note On Effects Loops
You may have noticed the effects loop (FX Loop) in the picture of the Orange Crush 35RT posted above. Here’s another picture to show the input and the output of the amplifier’s effects loop:
The effects loop send is to the left and the return is to the right.
Note that the terminology for effects loops is “sends” and “returns” rather than “inputs” and “output”. That’s because these effects loops can be thought of as happening within a device.
An effects loop in an amplifier effectively inserts a signal path between the amplifier’s preamp and power amp. The send and return can be though of as “normalled” by the fact that if nothing is connected, the signal will pass directly from the preamp to the power amp.
When working with effects pedals, it’s common to put pedals before the regular input of the amp (into the preamp). However, we can also put pedals between the preamp and power amp by using the effects loop.
Here’s an illustration to represents pedals before the preamp and in the effects loop of an amplifier:
Remember our discussion on amp channel-switching foot switches? An amplifier may have multiple channels (mainly “clean” and “dirty”). These channels are part of the preamp circuitry. In fact, they are their own tone-shaping preamp circuits.
In addition to the overdrive and distortion available in the preamp channels, many amps offer a reverb effect; others may offer tremolo, and some offer rather involved effects modeling.
These effects are often designed before the effects loop, which has its pros and cons. Other amps, that are perhaps more concerned with the stacking of effects, may be designed with the reverb, tremolo or other effects after the effects loop.
This is important stuff to know. In general, we’d want pedals to be ordered as follows:
- Dynamics processors and pitch-shifters
- Gain-based effects (overdrive, distortion, fuzz, etc.) and synth pedals
- Modulation pedals
- Time-based effects (delay and reverb) pedals
So then, if the preamp is offering distortion, it may be best to put dynamics and pitch-shifting pedals before the preamp and modulation and time-bades effects in the effects loop.
Similarly, maybe we don’t want a distortion pedal, for example, in the effects loop if we’re using the amp’s built-in reverb (if it’s before the effects loop).
But that all has more to do with the order of pedals than with switcher pedals. To learn more about optimal signal flow of pedals and effects, check out my article How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide).
The main takeaway from this section should be that effects loops are used to insert effects between two devices that would normally be connected one-after-the-other in a signal chain. Effects loops are analogous to inserts in audio mixing consoles.
Pedal Loop Switcher/Controller
Now that we understand signal flow and effects loops, we can have a look at the most in-depth switcher pedals (and perhaps the main reason you’ve landed on this page). These switcher pedals are often referred to as loop-switching pedals.
These are the pedals that house multiple effects loops that can be turned on and off by stepping on single buttons.
Note that loop switcher pedals are different than looper pedals.
To learn about looper pedals, check out my article What Are Looper Pedals (Guitar/Bass FX) & How Do They Work?
These pedals range wildly in functionality. Let’s begin with the fundamentals.
First things first, these pedals have inputs and outputs. We can easily plug our guitar directly into the input and plug the output of the loop switcher into the amp without missing out on any of our pedals.
Each loop can host any number of pedals. The number of loops depends on the pedal itself.
Let’s have a look at an illustration of a simple 6-loop switcher pedal:
We see the main input and output to the left and right of the pedal, respectively. We also see 6 colour-coded effects loops, each with 3 pedals connects and an on/off button.
Naturally, the loops cascade into each other in order (Loop 1 flows into Loop 2 flows into Loop 3, and so on).
That pretty well convers the basics.
So then, with a stomp of a button we can turn numerous pedals on or off.
Some pedals also offer presets, in which each button offers its own preset of engaged and disengaged loops. Let’s have a look at a simple example with one pedal per loop:
In the above example, we have one pedal per loop. To make things easy, let’s list pedals A through F in an order that would make sense:
I’ve added links above to articles with more information on each of the pedal types.
With a loop switcher that allows for preset recall, I could use any combination of these pedals in any of the 6 presets. For example, I could have the following:
- Preset 1: no loops engaged (dry signal)
- Preset 2: C (overdrive)
- Preset 3: A + C + E (pitch-shifter into overdrive into delay)
- Preset 4: D + E (chorus into delay)
- Preset 5: B +E (synth into delay)
- Preset 6: C + E + F (overdrive into delay into reverb)
Note that, in the “basic example” above, the loops remain in order (1 into 2 into 3, etc.) regardless of the preset.
Here is a diagram to show a typical loop switcher pedal in the overall system we’ve been referencing thus far:
Extra functionality of loop switchers includes the following:
- Inclusion of buffers at the input and/or output
- Additional banks of presets
- Expression pedal control inputs
- MIDI functionality
- The ability to re-arranging the order of the signal flow through the loops
- The ability to stack loops in parallel (similar to AB-Y)
- Dedicated tuner outputs
- Stereo sends/returns
- Multiple inputs
…and much more.
Let’s have a look at a few examples of loop switcher pedals to help further our understanding.
Boss LS-2 Line Selector
The Boss LS-2 Line Selector (link to check the price on Amazon) is a fantastic loop switcher pedal in a compact format.
This LS-2 starts simple with a mono input and mono output.
On top of that, it has two effects loops labeled as A and B, each with its own 1/4″ send and return jack. Each loop has its own volume control and an LED indicator to show if it’s engaged or not.
So what can the LS-2 output? The output of the LS-2 can output:
- A bypassed direct signal
- Effects loop A
- Effects loop B
- Effects loops A+B in parallel
The mode selector cause the stomp pad to route the signal in various patterns. For example:
- A<->B: each stomp alternates the output between loop A and B.
- A<->Bypass: each stomp alternates the output between loop A or bypass.
- B<->Bypass: each stomp alternates the output between loop B or bypass.
- A->B->Bypass: each stomp cycles through loop A to loop B to bypass.
- A+B Mix <-> Bypass: each stomp alternates the output between loops A+B in parallel or bypass.
- Output select: output select routes the input to the Output and both Sends, produce a sort of 3-way splitter.
As we can see, there’s tons of functionality in this relatively tiny box.
One Control Xenagama Tail Loop MKII
The One Control Xenagama Tail Loop MKII (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is easy to understand and a great example of a loop switcher pedal.
This pedal has three loops (Loop 1, 2 and 3). Each loop has its own 9VDC power supply built into the unit.
The Xenagama Tail Loop 2 also has a tuner output and a mute control for tuning between songs.
Other than that, this pedal performs how we’d expect it to. We can engage and disengage loops by pressing their respective switches. Loop 1 flows into Loop 2 flows into Loop 3.
There’s really nothing fancy on this pedal (no presets or extra controls). It just a solid, simple loop switcher pedal!
Boss ES-8 Effects Switching System
When it comes to functionality, the Boss ES-8 (link to check the price on Amazon) is one of the best loop switching pedals on the market.
This pedal has a manual mode, which allows us to turn loops on and off manually (like the aforementioned OneContol switcher). It also has a memory mode, which will load up 100 banks of 8 presets for 800 presets in total.
In terms of I/O, controls and effects loops, the ES-8 packs the following:
- 8 independent loops
- 6 mono loops
- 1 loop with mono send and stereo return
- 1 loop with stereo send and stereo return
- Volume pedal loop
- 2 inputs
- 2 outputs (L/R)
- Tuner output
- MIDI input
- MIDI output/thru
- 3 control output jacks
- 2 expression output jacks
- 2 control/expression input jacks
Its digital signal processing also allows for plenty more functionality, including the capabilities for:
- LCD and 7-segment LED display
- Delay time
- Altering the routing order of the loops
- Putting loops in parallel with one another
- Completely customizable pedal function assignments
The pedal also keeps the signal analog for purer tone and offers adjustable buffers at the input and output.
To learn more about buffers and their role in pedals, check out my article Are Buffer Pedals Necessary & Where Do They Go In A Chain?
There’s much more to the pedal than this. Even though this is a deeply complex unit, I felt the need to feature it.
The key takeaway for this pedal, in the context of this article, is the routing flexibility. I just wanted to show you that, in some units, the order of the loops can be altered from preset to preset to offer even more functionality in the pedal chain.
Tips On Using A Switcher Pedal
We’ve discussed a lot having to do with signal flow and switcher pedals.
Now that we know what the different type of switcher pedals are and how they function, let’s get into the tips to make us more effective at using them.
A few tips to using switcher pedals are:
- Understand signal flow and plan everything out
- Read the manual
- Experiment with different combinations of pedals
- Test for levels
- Engage pedals before switching
- Experiment with switcher location
Understand Signal Flow And Plan Everything Out
To get the most out of a switcher pedal, it’s a great idea to develop a strong sense of signal flow. Study and practice until it becomes second nature. If you can find work in broadcast or live music mixing, take it!
With signal flow in mind, it’s good to know what the optimal order of pedal is, generally speaking. Putting pedals in the following order will typically sound the best (I’ve added links to other My New Microphones for more information on select types):
- Utility Pedals
- Synth Pedals
- Dynamics, EQ & Pitch-Shifting Pedals
- Gain-Based Pedals
- Modulation Pedals
- Time-Based Effects Pedals
- Volume Pedals
- Looper Pedals
Of course, I’m a big fan of breaking this “rule” in search of interesting results!
Once you understand that, take some time to really plan out how you want the pedalboard system to be laid out physically and electrically.
For help setting up your pedalboard, check out my article Ultimate Guide To Setting Up A Guitar Effects Pedalboard.
Read The Manual
If you’re working with a larger unit like the aforementioned Boss ES-8. reading the manual is a must in order to get the most of the jam-packed pedal.
Even if you’re using a simple switcher pedal, reading the manual can lead to those “eureka!” moments that will improve your understand and usage of the pedal.
Maybe you’re stuggling to make the pedal do what you need it to do. Reading the manual can tell you whether the thing is possible or not. On the flip side, the manual could offer a strategy you didn’t know about that will make your life that much easier!
Experiment With Different Combinations Of Pedals
Plans are meant to be broken.
Though it’s important to think logically about setting up your switcher pedal to match your playing and gigging style, it’s also fun to experiment with different routings.
This can often be done with or without unplugging the pedals from the switcher.
Test For Levels
When switching from one signal path to another, there can be significant tone and level changes. Try to keep these level changes conscious. If you need a boost, then have a boost. If you don’t, try dialing in the pedal so that they keep a consistent level across signal path changes.
Engage Pedals Before Switching
If you’re working with a stripped down set up, you may find yourself having to switch individual pedals on or off to make up for a lack of presets, loops, or overall functionality.
If you find yourself in this situation, it may actually be time to ditch the switcher or to invest in a more functional one. However, if you’re sticking with it, try to tap dance the pedals on or off while they’re not in the main signal path.
Experiment With Switcher Location
For larger loop switching pedals, the best location is nearly always closest to your feet at the “bottom” edge of the pedalboard.
Amp channel switchers can be positioned anywhere that’s ergonomic for you.
AB-Y-type splitters are a bit more versatile in their location within the pedal chain. Experiment with their location to get the perfect split point in the pedal chain for your music.
Where Should Switcher Pedals Go In The Signal Chain?
The best position for switcher pedal within a guitar rig is largely dependent on the pedal itself and the other effects units as a whole.
Let’s talk about our three main “switcher” types and discuss each of their roles and optimal positions in an overall system.
Guitar Amp Channel Foot Switch Pedals
A foot switch that controls the preamplifier channel of the guitar amplifier will typically plug directly to the amplifier rather than in the main pedal chain or effects loop.
Of course, we can still put the channel-switching pedal on the pedal. It will just be separate from the other pedals on the pedalboard, electrically speaking.
However, we can still put the switcher in the signal flow chart. It will fit right after the input of the guitar amplifier and will control whether the input signal goes to the “clean” channel or “dirty” channel (or any other channel the amp may have).
Loop Switcher Pedals
Loop switcher pedals are designed to become larger signal flow systems rather than single effect within a pedal chain.
That’s not to say that a loop switcher cannot be put in-line between other effects pedals. It’s more so to say the loop switcher pedals house multiple effects loops and, therefore, are often a centerpiece in the pedalboard.
Oftentimes, we’ll plug the guitar directly into the loop switcher’s input and plug the loop switcher’s output directly into the amplifier input.
The effects loops of the loop switcher will effectively be “held within” the loop switcher. That being said, we should still practice optimal signal flow and pedal ordering when using a loop switcher.
AB-Y Splitter Pedals
AB-Y split/switcher pedals can be put anywhere we see fit.
When using an AB-Y splitter, it’s often best to put it just before a chain of effects we’d want to be able to trigger at once.
Remember that the AB-Y pedal will act as a split in the signal path, creating two or more options for the signal to continue on after the pedal. Any effects before the splitter/switcher will be carries on whatever path is chosen. Effects after the pedal will only affect the signal if the signal actually passed through.
Use this knowledge wisely if you decide to use an AB-Y splitter/switcher-type pedal!
To learn more about ordering pedals in the signal chain, check out my article How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide).
Can I turn my guitar into a MIDI guitar? A “normal” guitar can be used to produce MIDI information with the help of a MIDI pickup. These MIDI pickups are divided (each string gets its own pickup) and are mounted between the bridge and bridge pickup of an electric guitar or bass. They convert vibrations into MIDI data to be outputted to the next-in-line MIDI device.
Can you use two guitar pedals at once? Multiple guitar pedals can be used to affect the signal at once. The number is virtually unlimited though too many pedals will yield poor results. Guitar pedals are connected in cascade (the output of one pedal connects to the input of the next, and so on). Therefore, the second pedal will affect a signal that’s already been affected by the first pedal (and not the other way around). This makes ordering pedals important.
Related article: How Many Guitar Effect Pedals Is Too Many?