Guitar students often revel in the size of my pedal board.
I love my stompboxes.
They bring out the kid in me. 🙂
While there is not substitute for experimentation, and no right or wrong, there is a certain order of placement in the signal chain of guitar effects that is generally preferred.
The Signal Flow
You typically place the frequency altering effects first in the chain, followed by the dynamics processing effects, followed by the time processing effects.
- Frequency Based Effects / Filters.
These effects affect the frequency range of your guitar signal.
Whatever comes out sounds brighter or darker than the original guitar signal that went in the box.
- Wah Pedals:
- Cry Baby
- Vox Why
- Clyde Wah
- My fav: The John Landgraff Wah
- Envelope Filter (automatic wah). This is a filter that automatically opens up more or less (like a wah) dependent upon how hard or soft you attack your strings (envelope).
When you hit harder, you get more wah, when you hit softer you get less wah sound.
- My fav: Robotalk (X otic)
- Wah Pedals:
- Dynamics Processing
Dynamics altering effects affect the dynamic range of your guitar signal. Whatever comes out the box has a different voltage than what went into the box.
These effects change the input to output signal in loudness and power.
a. Boost pedal. This is like a little pre-amp so to speak, which you active when pressing the foot switch. My fav: the John Landgraff boost
b. Overdrive (My fav: John Landraff Dynamic Overdrive, Ibanez Tube Screamer)
c. Distortion (My fav: Atomic Overdrive by XTS, Boss DS1)
d. Fuzz Pedals (My fav: Landgraff Mo’D)
e. Octavia Pedals (My fav: Chicago Iron). Octavia pedal overdrive the signal while also emphasizing a harmonic overtone up an octave. Jimi used this in the Purple Haze solo.
f. Compressor (My fav: McSqueeze). This “squashes” the full dynamic range of your signal, so you get a more even volume.
(Good in for example metal chunky parts on the bass strings or funk rhythm playing)
- Time Based Effects
Time based effects, are the most complex effects of the 3 groups.
What it comes down to in a nutshell: is that a copy of your original guitar signal is created inside the box, and then delayed.
At the output of the box, you hear your original guitar sounds, mixed in with the delayed copy of that guitar sounds.
Depending on the delay time between your original guitar signal and the delayed copy of that signal, you get different sounds: chorus, flanger, phaser, reverb, echo.
a. Pitch Shifter. (My fav: Boss PS5 Super Shifter)
(This is one of the most complex processing sounds, which is why this as an exception is typically placed at the very beginning of the signal chain.
b. Chorus ((My fav: Arion Stereo Chorus. )
c. Phaser ((My fav: Maxon Rotary Phaser
d. Flanger ((My fav: Paradox TZF by FoxRox)
e. Volume pedal: (My fav: Goodrich)
f. Reverb. (My fav: Van Amps)
g. Delay: this is echo ((My fav: Pete Cornish TES, Boss DDS6)
- Mojo Vibe.
This effect falls in a classification of its own. The effect is created through a series of staggered phasing filters, which creates a sound that seem to fall somewhere between a chorus and a phaser.
What makes this effect unique: is that with an extra foot pedal you can alter the delay time/intensity of the effect.
This effects is heavily featured in Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun, Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs, and Pink Floyd’s Breathe.
This was one of Jimi Hendrix’s favorite effects. It was called the “Univibe” at that time.
He used it heavily with Band of Gypsys and on “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)”
Volume Pedal Placement.
You may have noticed that I put my volume pedal (which is a dynamics based effect) at the end, before reverb and echo, and after everything else.
The reason why this is the preferred placement in the signal chain for a volume pedal, is that you don’t want to cut out the tail of your reverb and echos in your signal.
It would defeat the whole purpose of having reverb and echo, if you would place your volume pedal after the echo and shut down the volume on the echo repeats and reverb tail.
By the same token: you want your volume pedal after all other effects so you are sure to cut out all the noise build up from the dynamics processors and filters when you press the volume pedal down.
Flanger and Phaser.
Also: a quick word about the main difference between a flanger and a phaser.
A flanger is what for example Brian May used in the intro to “Keep Yourself Alive” or Nancy Wilson in the song Barracuda. (Sounds like an air plane “swoosh”)
A phaser is what Jimi used in the intro to the song House Burning Down. (Sounds more “otherworldly”)
The main difference between the 2 effects:
A flanger has a constant even delay time over all the frequencies that make up the input signal, and in a phaser the delay time is variable per frequency.
If this doesn’t entirely make sense, and you are interested in learning more about this, here’s a really good resource:
Another good resource is the book “Guitar Gadgets” by Craig Anderton.
And The Stompbox by Dave Thompson.
Be on the look out for more blogs about everything guitar, music, songwriting and music education.
Meanwhile: give this blog a rating and give me your feedback in the comments section below. I believe everything can always be improved, and I gladly would implement your suggestions and ideas in this blog or the next.