How to set up a pedalboard

Today I want to discuss pedal placement and how your pedalboard layout effects your signal chain and guitar tone. If you've been asking "what order should my effects pedals be in?" then you've come to the right place. I hope to clear up any confusion that you might have because, when you think about what each pedal does, a decent pedalboard layout is actually pretty intuitive.

1) TUNER - Your tuner will get the best, and most accurate, reading if you place it first in your signal chain. Buy a tuner that mutes your sound when it is engaged because a guitar being tuned is pretty annoying- especially coming from a loud amplifier. 

2) FILTERS - I don't run any filters on my own board but if I did I would place them second in my signal chain. I know that envelope filters and wah pedals are controlled by dynamics and signal attack- so placing these pedals in the second position will give them a clean, strong, signal to work with.

3) COMPRESSOR - A compressor pedal will help regulate the amplitude of the notes you play to keep everything sitting the right way in the mix. However, when compressors boost volume they also sometimes boost noise. You should place your compressor pedal as early as possible in your signal chain to get as little noise as possible. 

4)  OVERDRIVE / DISTORTION / FUZZ - This is where your overdrive or distortion pedals should come in. If you have multiple pedals of this type you should experiment with them in different orders because the tones will change depending on how you stack them.

5) MODULATION- Place modulation pedals here because you want to modulate your distorted tones and not distort your modulated tones. If you do these in reverse you will get some funky sounds. 

6) VOLUME - You should put your volume pedals after your distorted pedals. Placing a volume pedal before a distortion pedal will cheapen the signal strength going to the distortion pedal and your tone will suffer for it.  Placing your volume here will allow you to control the volume of your distorted signal and not the volume of the signal that gets distorted. Make sense?

7) DELAY / REVERB - These pedals are usually placed last on pedalboards and, at the very least, ensure that they are placed after your distortion pedals. Remember that you want to add delay and reverb to your distorted tones and not distort your delay and reverb tones... getting these pedals backwards can really muddy up your sound. If you are running both types of pedals you should place your delay before your reverb. 

That's all she wrote in terms of a basic pedalboard layout. These are just suggestions so feel free to experiment with your pedal position to get a tone that is right for you.

Some more thoughts:

If you are using a daisy chain to power your pedalboard then you are losing tone. Each pedal sucks some of the life out of the previous one and it just continues and continues until the end of your board. I recommend getting an external power source to power each pedal individually and save your signal integrity.

If you have pedals on your board that are very noisy, and are not true bypass, you should consider purchasing a true bypass looper to remove them from your signal chain when they're not engaged. Loopers are great because they come in so many sizes that you can hook all of your pedals into them, place them at the bottom of your board, and eliminate all of your tap dancing. You can also run strings of pedals together and engage them all with one click, it's pretty neat.

Noise suppressor pedals are great if you want to eliminate buzzing and feedback but make sure to use the effects loop send/receive to connect any pedals (like delay and reverb) that you don't want suppressed. If you just place the noise suppressor on your board you will cheapen every sound that comes after it and rob yourself of tone. 

If you are going to add a loop station then put it at the end of your chain. You looper will not record any pedals/effects that come after it in the chain.