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Putting Together The Perfect Pedalboard

Posted by on 9 September 2013

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Pedalboard July 14 2012


Putting together the perfect pedalboard

brought to you by nz rockshops resident guitar expert

There’s no denying that pedals are hot right now!  In these uncertain economic times, it’s a lot easier to blow a couple of hundred bucks on a great pedal than a couple of thousand dollars on a great guitar or amp.  As a consequence the pedalboards of NZ have been growing immensely and rapidly in the last little while. 

Putting together a pedalboard is a lot of fun, and we’ve got some tips and hints to help you have the PERFECT pedalboard.  So get yourself a board, get your pedals ready, then have a look at our ideas below. 

Signal Chain

The order in which you place your effects can often have a dramatic effect on how they sound or react.  As a simple experiment, take a wah pedal and a distortion pedal.  First try it with the wah as the first thing in the chain, running into the distortion. Now try it the other way.  BIG difference, huh? The rules are, there are no rules.  Some of the most inspiring tones in history have come from guitarists running non-standard signal chains…. However for 90% of us, there is an established chain of FX placement that delivers the familiar tones we all love… 

Guitar  Wah/Filter FX  Overdrive/Distortion FX  Modulation Effects (Chorus/Flanger/Phaser)   Delay/Reverb FX Volume Boost    Noise Gate

To Loop Or Not To Loop

If you get your distortion from within your guitar amp, then you should strongly consider running your Modulation FX, and Delay pedals in the amplifier’s EFFECTS LOOP. As per the signal chain above, modulation FX, Delay and Reverb all tend to be much more useable when placed AFTER your distortion – which is what your amp’s FX loop does….it gives you an “insert point” that is located after the amplifier’s in-built overdrive circuit. The downside is that it requires running two additional long cables to your pedalboard.

If you are wanting to use pedal to boost your volume for soloing, then you’ll NEED to use it in the loop for an amp with internal overdrive.  If however all your overdrive/distortions come from pedals and you run into a CLEAN amp, then you don’t need to use the FX loop and you can just observe the signal chain above.  

Velcro

Velcro with self-adhesive backing (to attach to the pedal) has been the industry standard method of securing pedals to boards for years now. Unfortunately most pedalboard builders have run into the problem though where after a couple of weeks, the Velcro starts coming off the pedals, making the pedals slide around the board, and leaving a sticky residue. The trick here is all in the application of the Velcro… 

1. Make sure the underside of the pedal is CLEAN and DRY.

2. Cut the Velcro to the required length/shape to fit your pedal’s base.

3. Remove the self adhesive backing strip from the Velcro.

4. Use a hairdryer to gently heat the self adhesive (glue) side of the velcro. You will see it turn slightly glossy as it heats.
 
5. Place Velcro on the underside of the pedal, applying as much pressure as you can for a while.  At least 30 seconds, but the longer the better.

6. RESIST THE URGE TO PUT THE PEDAL RIGHT ONTO YOUR BOARD. Let the glue cool and cure for AT LEAST one hour before you install the pedal onto the board.

Patch Cables

Don’t skimp on patch cables.  Cheap cables can potentially add noise into your setup and rob tone.  They also break easily.  (Those little coloured multi-pack patch cables are notorious problem makers). Make a one-off purchase of some high quality shielded patch cables, and you’ll never need to worry about them again. 

Power

One of the most important considerations is how to power your pedalboard. The usual entry into powering a pedalboard is buying a “wall-wart” style power adaptor (such as a 1-Spot) and attaching a DC daisy chain. This is certainly the cheapest way to go, but results in a slightly messy pedalboard that has the potential for adding some noise into your system, and may not be able to provide enough power for some modern high-current effects units.

We recommend a good “brick style” power adaptor (such as DB11 Hot Stone or Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2) as being the best solution.  Whilst it adds some bulk to your pedalboard, you get quiet, reliable power in varying voltages/currents, as well as usually more tidy DB cabling on your board.

Switching Systems

So if your bank account is looking healthy and you really want a pedalboard that makes people “ooh” and “aah”, you could look into a pedal switching system.  

Pedal switchers are like a central controller for all of your pedals – allowing you to make “presets” that can switch multiple pedals on and off with a single touch of a button. If you want the Ferrari of switching systems, check out the awesome GigRig G2 system at www.thegigrig.com. Decibel Eleven are hitting this market also with the smaller Pedal Palette that not only controls your effects switching, but allows you to change the order of your FX too! 

That’s all we’ve got for you for now. Good luck building your dream board, and most importantly... have fun!

Got questions?

Need some help configuring your pedalboard? Send us an email at guitar@rockshop.co.nz and we’d love to help you out.