How to Set Up Guitar Effects Pedals

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How to Set Up Guitar Effects Pedals

When guitarists are looking to customize their sound, the best way to do that is with effects pedals. In fact, if you have been playing for a while, we are sure you have quite a few pedals lying around.

This may bring about the conundrum of how to hook them up so that you get the most from them. Creative endeavors never have one way of being done, but there are things that you do that can cause problems. For instance, maybe you have everything set up and your turn the pedal chain on, and all you get is static or even silence.

This means that something is not set up correctly, so to keep you from experiencing this, we thought we would take a good look at how to set up guitar effects pedals.

Rules to Follow

Like with everything else, there are always tips and tricks you should know about before you start to work on your project. Though not chiseled in stone, these tips, tricks, or rules — whatever you want to call them — will help you start off on the right foot.

Before we get to the order of which you should set up your chain to get the most from them, let’s take a look at some of the best tips to keep in mind as you build out your custom chain.


There really are no set rules about anything. Just because there is an order that everyone says works the best doesn’t mean that your sound isn’t hidden in a place no one has one.

There are just some pedals that work better in certain parts of the chain. For instance, octave pedals tend to do better before distortion.

Some pedals naturally give off noise. High gain distortion is one of those, and so pedals that add volume can increase this noise. That means that to get the most out of these pedals, you will want to put them after volume pedals like EQ or compressors.

The trick to creating a pedal chain that works the most efficiently is to think about how the sound is created in space. That would mean that things like reverb and delay that are produced in three dimensions should come last in the chain.

Once again, though these are excellent guides, they are not set in stone. Play around and see if you can create a sound that is all your own. By using the structure and then tweaking it a bit, you will be able to create some unique sound creation.

How to Set Up Guitar Effects Pedals

Order of Pedals

If you are not looking to craft your own sound, but rather want to build an iconic sound within a field that has already been created, you should stick with the tradition pedal chain layout. There are tried-and-true pedal chain setups for every sound, and by taking a little tour around the internet, you are sure to find them.

If you are looking to use your role model’s sound, you can always search for their name and pedal setup and see what happens. But with that being said, there is a patent order that you should understand. Here is the order of which pedals should be laid out.


In this category comes pedals like overdrive, distortion, or fuzz. These pedals are typically placed at the beginning of the chain. This is done because you want to affect the tone from your guitar at the purest point with this pedal.

Otherwise, you will be distortion the sound of your guitar mixed with whatever pedal is before it. If you have multiple of these, you may want to add a boost pedal before the other, so you are getting a strong signal.


Next up in the chain, you want to place your EQ or wah wah. This type of pedal gets the most for its skill when directly working with a distorted sound like those produced by drive pedals.

If the compressor is one of the pedals, you can choose to play with its location, dependent on the style of music. For rock, place the compressor at the beginning of the chain after the distortion. If you work in country music, try at the end of the pedal chain.


In this category of pedal, you will find phasers, flanger, chorus, or vibrato effects. After the wah, these pedals gain a more vibrant tone with more complex sounds. Making sure that these pedals find just the right location in your pedal is crucial as if laced in the wrong place, you may find their effects to be limited. That’s why most guitarists place these in the middle of the chain.


Delay and reverb live in this wheelhouse, and they are best at the end of the chain. This gives all the effects of a natural echo. Other effects will not change this. This effect is best at the end of the chain if you want a loose reverb that helps make the sound fill a room like an auditorium.

So, as a recap, here is the order:

  • Drive
  • EQ/wah
  • Modulation
  • Time related

As we said, artists should always experiment. There are so many different types of effects to play with on the market that can be used in combination to create a unique sound. Having some simple ideas of the right order, it then gives you room to play. In other words, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the mechanics of sound creation and how each effect will affect the other allows you to make the most of each of your pedals. Whether you are dealing with two or six, this outline will get you the furthest.

Whether you are going rogue or sticking to the tried and true, understanding everything about the effects created and how they are created can help you use science to transform your sound effectively.

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