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A Beginner's Guide to Setting Up Guitar Effects Pedals by Jonathan Richard Meager

Electric guitar players are increasingly making use of pedals to expand and alter their sound.

There are lots of different options on the market, such as signal conditioners which offer effects such as a wah wah, distortion and compression.

Alternatively, guitarists may wish to play with modulation and time-based effects, such as a chorus sound, pitch shifter, phaser and delay, or possibly ambient processors.

However, it is important to make sure that guitar effects pedals are correctly set up in order to get the full range of benefits. Technically, there is no right or wrong way to devise a pedal board, as it depends on the sound that the musician is trying to achieve.

But the order in which effects pedals are placed must be carefully considered. For example, putting a reverb pedal after a distortion unit can make a very pleasant effect, but setting it up the other way round may not be quite so attractive.

Indeed, distorting a large reverbed sound can end up sounding rather nasty.

So guitarists need to bear issues such as this is mind when connecting their effects pedals. Some orderings will give nice sounds and others will not. This means that musicians, particularly those who enjoy experimenting with guitar effects and making the most of unusual noises, could benefit from trying out lots of different variations.

The most common set-up is putting a signal conditioner first, then modulation and time-based effects, followed by ambient processers. So a guitarist who wants an extensive pedal board could confidently use an order such as Preamp - Compressor - Distortion - Wah-wah - Chorus/Flange - Delay - EQ - Noise Gate - Volume Pedal - Digital Reverb. However, it is worth noting that some pedals are a bit more flexible in terms of where they can be placed, such as EQ.

Guitarists may be wondering how they can use their pedals in conjunction with their guitar amplifier, particularly if it has a footswitch that contains its own effects. Some amps allow players to quickly flick between a clean channel and an overdrive channel, with effects such as chorus thrown into the mix. So incorporating a distortion pedal into the set-up could allow musicians to achieve a grittier and dirtier tone beyond what the amp is already offering. Alternatively, an EQ pedal such as a Boss GE-7 could also give their sound an extra push.

It is important to try your effects pedal rig with your amplifier on different settings in order to see what can be achieved.

Players can plug their pedals into the effects loop of their guitar amp, which will typically place effects in between the pre amp, which produces the device's tone, and the power amp, which creates the volume.

However, which set-up to go for is again a matter of personal taste and what kind of sound the guitarist is trying to achieve. Using the effects loop adds effects to an already distorted sound, while going into the front of an amp will mean that it is the effects that will be distorted.

Guitarists have a number of options for powering their effects pedals, such as an external supply or a battery. But those with extensive set-ups could benefit from investing in a powered pedal board such as a Behringer PM600. With one of these, electric guitar players can power lots of different pedals at once.

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