This is a hot topic these days. I swear, I really can’t go a week without having a conversation with players (in the flesh or on the interwebs) talking about position and order of their pedals on the board. What I’ve noticed, when it comes to pedal order, musicians fall into three groups. Group one – the musician has literally no idea on theories and ideas of pedal order. Group two – the musician has gear knowledge, but is very concerned that they’re doing things ‘wrong’. And Group three – the musician that places the pedals in the order he/she feels works, and doesn’t care what the ‘rules’ are or what others think of them.
My advice to people in group one. If you don’t know about pedal order or understand the ‘rules’, that’s okay. What I would recommend is maintain consistency in the order (meaning don’t just hook up pedals in random and expect the same results). I always recommend to set up the pedals that works well on the ears and is easy to play during the songs. I also like to let them know that the position of certain pedals in relation to others can drastically effect the signal, and to experiment to find what works.
I’ve mentioned ‘rules’ a couple of times now. I hate that there are ‘rules’, so maybe we can refer to this as a starting point, maybe? Not sure, but traditionally, you’ll see pedals going from signal (compressor) to boosts to drives to filter/modulation to delays to reverbs. There are all sorts of reason to not follow this. For example, a clean boost at the end of the pedal line is great for overall effected signal boost. Wah is a filter, and maybe you love it first (could be related to routing). Drives are ‘suppose’ to go before reverbs, but reverb to drive can be amazing.
My advice to people in group two. This group always cracks me up. They usually have a good setup. They play live and have a working system in place. But they’re concerned that they’re not achieving the maximum amount of awesome, because their order is not the conventional order. I’m a big fan of “If it’s not broke don’t fix it”. I would advise to experiment during band practice, and flips some pedals around to see what you like/don’t like about it and make a decision if it’s worth the change. This is typical gear talk, which is fun, but don’t be too ‘concerned’ about the set up. Whatever you’re rolling with .. is your sound, so be comfortable in your own skin.
I love the third group. I guess that’s where I am, because I don’t believe there is a proper requirement of pedal order. Set it up so it make sense.. and sounds good for you. Also other factors to consider – the type of pedal (ie: delay) is important to experiment with order, but you also need to factor in the make/model. Obviously one delay doesn’t sound/react like the other. So just because you have a delay in one spot and decided to change the make/model, might impact how you like it in that spot.
I touched on this as well, but functional placement is a factor. What happens if you have a full board and need a new modulation to add to it? Can’t get it in the middle.. so it may end up on the floor first or last. This could be bad or amazing. Who knows, but what I do know.. it’s not wrong. Also, pedal placement and routing can dictate order. What I’m talking about are the most used pedals might need to be positioned for easy access. Because of this, we might have to do some clever routing with patches or break the rules again.
So in conclusion, I wanted to emphasize that rules shouldn’t be followed like law, but I like to start with the rules as a initial set up of pedals and modify according what my ear likes and what is required in the restraints of my set up. Just like art, there isn’t right or wrong, don’t let people tell you different. Establish your sound and enjoy it.
Let me know what you think by commenting below!