Tom Pecks Pedalboard Primer

February 14, 2006

Plan Your Signal Path

Plugging into an army of effects won’t automatically turn you into David Gilmour. First, take the time to learn what each pedal is capable of, and then experiment with how they are ordered in your signal chain. Typically, the guitar goes into compression first, then wah, then distortion, then modulation effects (chorus, flanger, phaser), and, finally, time-based effects (delays, reverbs). Delaying a distorted signal usually sounds cleaner than distorting a delayed signal, but that’s just a general rule. If you use a tuner, put it at the head of your signal chain, or use an A/B footswitch to route your signal directly to it for silent tuning.

Power Your Pedals

Attaching a power strip to your board is good for powering individual pedals, but several manufacturers offer universal supplies that juice up about eight pedals at once. If you want to avoid the clutter of adapters and wires by using batteries, avoid rechargeable ones, as they don’t last very long, and they fade rapidly once they lose their initial charge.

Build Your Board

Select a piece of wood that’s durable and light. Map out where everything will go beforehand to make sure it’s ergonomically comfortable to stomp on. I use Velcro to attach pedals, though most stompboxes have a rubber backing that you’ll want to remove, because Velcro sticks better to bare metal. If defacing your pedals makes you squeamish, attach small eyehooks to the board on either side of each pedal and secure them with rubber bands.

Tone, Not Noise

Running your signal through too many pedals can “suck” tone. True-bypass circuitry eliminates this by routing your signal around pedals that aren’t in use. I build true-bypass circuits with separate switches into all my boards—especially for vintage pedals—but many new-er stompboxes come already equipped with this feature. Keeping your patch cables as short as possible will also cut down on signal loss. If you’re plagued by a buzz, lifting the ground on your power cord using a two-pronged adapter will often do the trick.

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