How to Set Up Your Pedalboard - Guitar Pedal Order Explained

How to Set Up Your Pedalboard - Guitar Pedal Order Explained


A proper pedalboard is an essential addition to any guitarist's setup. Having all your guitar pedals organized is extremely convenient and saves a lot of time when setting up your equipment for a concert or rehearsal session. However, the process of arranging your effect units can be challenging due to the vast array of effects and their impact on tone.

Understanding the optimal pedal order and the best practices when building your pedalboard is crucial for any player. Factors such as what cables to use and how to properly power your units can make a world of difference in your tone.

In this article, we will guide you on how to set up your pedalboard in the most optimal way and discuss what you need to keep in mind to achieve your dream tone. Let's get started!

What is a Pedalboard? - Understanding the Basics

A pedalboard is a portable frame that helps guitar players organize and transport their pedal collection with ease. While there are many variants on the market, it most often resembles a suitcase with a flat surface inside for the effect units.

Pedals aren't the only element of a pedalboard though: you will also need a power supply and the right types of cables. These details might seem small but can make a world of difference in the tone you get from your setup.

The Importance of Signal Chain - Why is Guitar Pedal Order So Important?

​​The order in which you connect your pedals can significantly impact your overall tone. This is known as the signal chain and is something widely discussed in the guitar community.

Incorrect pedal order can muddy your sound or make certain effects less effective. For example, placing a time-based pedal before an overdrive can cause the echoes to become distorted, resulting in a less clear sound.

This is the most optimal pedal order:

  1. Tuner
  2. EQ
  3. Wah/Envelope Filter
  4. Volume Pedal
  5. Compressor
  6. Octave/Pitch-Based Pedals
  7. Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz
  8. Noise Gate
  9. Modulation Pedals
  10. Delay
  11. Reverb
  12. Looper

Of course, as with anything in music, there are no strict rules: many of the most sought-after tones of legendary guitarists were achieved by breaking conventions, but following these guidelines will put you on the right track.

    Guitar Pedal Order Explained - Optimal Signal Chain


    Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner Pedal

    By putting your tuner pedal early on your signal chain, you will have a more precise and accurate experience when tuning your guitar. 

    EQ Pedals

    Ground Control Audio Noodles Pedal

    An EQ pedal is an excellent way to further shape the signal of your guitar before it goes into other pedals. It's not uncommon to find it in other positions, though, such as at the end of the signal chain, to tailor the overall tone of a pedalboard.

    Wah/Envelope Filter

    Mojo Hand FX Little Wonder Envelope Filter Pedal

    Wah and filter pedals alter the sound at the source. Placing them in an early position, and receiving a clear tone, really helps you get the most out of the pedal.

    This effect is well known for its use in genres such as disco, funk, and soul. In the case of Wah, you can control the sweep frequency with your feet, whereas envelope filter pedals are automatically controlled by an LFO.

    Volume Pedals

    Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal

    As this pedal is used to control your guitar signal's volume, it goes right at the beginning of the signal chain. However, it can employed in other places, such as before a reverb or a delay for volume swells.

    Compressor Pedals

    Ground Control Audio Serpens Compressor Pedal

    A compressor pedal can even out your signal dynamics, giving you more control over your tone and sometimes a studio-like characteristic to the sound. It's considered great practice to put it before your distortion unit to achieve a cleaner result.

    Octave/Pitch-Based Pedals

    EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine Pedal

    It's a great idea to put octave/pitch-based pedals early in your signal chain, the reason being that any type of pedal that alters the pitch of your guitar will often require a clean tone to function properly.


    Bad Cat Double Drive Pedal

    Perhaps the most popular type of pedals, overdrive/distortion/fuzz units are best positioned right before modulation effects.

    What if my pedalboard has more than one type of distortion unit? If that's the case, it's up to you to decide which order works best in our setup. Some people like to put an overdrive after fuzz to give the latter pedal an extra push, for example. The possibilities are vast.

    Noise Gate

    Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal

    As this type of pedal is designed to suppress noise, the best practice is to put them right after your dirt unit. That way, it will tame any excess interference that might be caused by noisier pedals, such as overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

    Modulation Pedals (Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Vibrato, Tremolo)

    OBNE Visitor Parallel Multi-Modulator Pedal

    Modulation pedals are usually put right after any type of distortion. This goes for any type of modulation effect: chorus, flanger, phaser, etc.

    If you have more than one type of modulation pedal in your board, then it's up to you to decide their particular order. There's no strict guideline, and we recommend, as always, to test and see which sequence sounds/works best for you.


    Cusack Music Tap-a-Delay Deluxe Pedal

    Time-based effects tend to work best at the end of a signal chain. If you want a cleaner tone, you can use it with the loop FX feature on your amplifier.

    The common practice is to have delay before reverb, but there are many cases where the opposite is done, resulting in a very creative sound. The band Tame Impala is known for breaking this "rule" very often.


    Death by Audio Reverberation Machine Pedal

    Reverb pedals can add depth and space to an already-processed tone, so they usually go last in the signal chain. As is the case with delay, reverb can also be used with an FX loop.


    Boss RC-1 Looper Pedal

    If your pedalboard has a looper, position it at the very end of your signal chain, as it will capture and repeat the entire signal path and allow you to layer multiple effects on top of each other.

    Choosing the Best Power Supply for your Pedalboard

    Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 3 Plus Power Supply

    Every pedalboard requires a high-quality power supply to go with it. Failing to power your pedals properly will result in problems such as excess noise, and humming, and will potentially damage your effect units.

    A well-chosen power supply can keep those issues at bay and supply constant power to each pedal in your signal chain. With so many options in the market, it's important to understand the main factors that will help you make the right choice for your setup.

    Power Requirements

    The first and most important thing to consider is the power requirement of each pedal. Each effect unit has its specifications regarding voltage and current, so you will need a power supply that can meet these demands without exceeding them.

    Most guitar pedals operate at 9V or 12V. A high-quality power supply, like the aforementioned Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 3 Plus, will offer booth options. There are rare instances where a pedal might need 18V of power or higher to function properly: this particular supply can do that by using a voltage doubler cable.

    Keep in mind the current draw of each pedal on your chain as well. Understanding this factor is crucial to avoid issues such as overload and noise. You can check the specifications of each pedal to find out how many milliamps (mA) they draw. If your pedalboard collectively draws 900mA, for example, then a power supply of at least 1000mA would be the optimal choice.

    Isolated vs Daisy Chain Power Supplies

    When shopping for a power supply, you might come across isolated and daisy chain options. Daisy chain supplies often come in the form of an adapter with several outputs, the most popular one being the 1 SPOT 

    While daisy chain supplies are more affordable, we recommend investing in an isolated supply as these are much less prone to problems such as interference, ground loops, and hum.

    Number of Outputs

    Keep in mind that different power supplies offer a different number of outputs. Make sure that your supply has enough outputs to match the number of pedals in your setup. It's also a great idea to exceed this number by a small amount to make sure you have expansion capabilities for the future.

    Experimenting With Pedal Order for Unique Sounds

    The order of the pedals in your signal chain can be changed to achieve unique sounds and tones. There are no strict rules in music after all. Here are some examples where ignoring conventional pedal order recommendations can yield interesting results:

    • Distortion after modulation.
    • Delay before distortion.
    • Compression after modulation.
    • Fuzz before Wah.

    Here is a great video showcasing some unconventional yet interesting pedal pairings and orders:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can I Use a Single Power Supply for All My Pedals?

    It's fine to use a single power supply for all your pedals if it meets their power requirement. The most important thing to keep in mind is the voltage of each pedal and how much current each unit is drawing.

    How Do I Avoid Noise and Interference in My Signal Chain?

    The best way to avoid noise and interference in your signal chain is to use a high-quality power supply and shielded cables, as well as to do proper maintenance of your pedalboard.

    What’s the Difference Between True Bypass and Buffered Pedals?

    True bypass pedals won't alter your signal in any shape or form when they're turned off/bypassed, hence the name. Buffered pedals incorporate a buffer that remains active even when the effects unit is turned off.

    Both pedal types have their pros and cons. True bypass pedals can give you a purer tone, yet part of your signal (especially high frequencies) might be lost when running longer cables. Buffered pedals can preserve the signal strength but can slightly alter your sound.

    What is the Effects Loop on an Amplifier?

    An effects loop allows you use your amplifier's settings, such as EQ, before it hits your pedalboard. It will also position any pedal you feed into it after the amp's distortion, sending it a cleaner signal. This feature is usually used with modulation and time-based effects (reverb, delay).


    These are the best practices when setting up your pedalboard. By following these tips, you can build a signal chain that will give you the optimal tone. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

    • Noise gates, tuners, envelopes, compressors, and any pedal that benefits from a clear tone work best when placed at the beginning of your signal chain.
    • Overdrive, distortion, and fuzz come after.
    • Modulation pedals often sound best after "dirt" pedals.
    • Put time-based effects (delay and reverb) at the end of your signal chain.

    Remember, these are just guidelines. You can always experiment with your pedal order and see what sounds best. Many legendary tones were created by breaking these rules.

    Last but not least, make sure to invest in a high-quality power supply and shielded cables. This will have an extremely positive impact on your pedalboard and overall tone.

    Most guitar pedals shown in this article are available in our shop. Visit our website to discover our complete selection!

    Bonus: Use the code IASN10 at checkout for an extra 10% discount!

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