What order should I put my pedals in?

No other pedal board question is asked more than this. 

The most important thing to remember is that there’s no wrong way to set up your pedals, and there’s not just one right way. Experiment with your signal chain and see how pedals interact with each other. You might come up with some really interesting sounds-- and who knows, one of those might become your signature tone!

“They’re more guidelines than actual rules.”

This is meant to be a guide, but none of these “rules” are set in stone. Depending on the pedals you have, you might want to change things up. Go through each one, try different orders, and play around until you find that sound you love. It will take some time, but it will pay off in the end. 

That being said, here’s a general order we suggest for setting up your pedals:

Fuzz > Wah (more on this later) > Octave/Pitch > Compression > Boost > Overdrive > Distortion > Modulation > Delay > Reverb 

Some other things to consider while setting up your board: 

  • Place compression after your gain section (gain = drives and boosts). Yes, some people like the way that your overdrives feel when placed before compression. Yes, it can smooth things out, but it creates more noise.

  • Moving your modulation/delay/reverb effects around can create different sounds. If you want tremolo’d reverb (for example, I’d call a Fender Princeton a reverb-into-tremolo effect), place your reverb before your tremolo. If you want chorus’d delay, try placing your chorus after your delay. Etc.

  • Try different placements with your boosts, overdrive, and distortion pedals to hear the many different sounds you get when stacking (using multiple gain pedals together at once). In general, when you place a boost pedal in front of a gain pedal (overdrive or distortion), the boost will make the gain pedal more saturated. If you place a boost after your gain pedals, it will make the same sound, only louder.

  • Many people prefer to place UniVibes before overdrives on their boards even though they’re part of the “modulation” family. They do this for a few reasons, the biggest being that UniVibes often just sound better before overdrives. This makes sense, because UniVibes are an early circuit from 1967, so they work better in front of modern overdrives and modulation pedals. While you’re at it, you might as well try putting your other modulation pedals before your overdrives just in case you like the way it sounds!

  • Buffers – I’ve covered this in more detail in our “Understanding Buffers” article, but here’s a quick guide to figure out if you need one and where to put it if you do. First, play directly into your amp and pay attention to the tone and volume. Next, try your clean tone (all pedals off) through your pedal board into your amp. If you notice loss of tone playing through your pedal board, you probably need a buffer. We generally suggest trying buffers at the beginning of your chain (just after the fuzz section), or at the very end of your pedal chain. Either spot generally works for buffer placement.

  • Placement of wah is hotly contested! Many people like wah before fuzz because of how it affects the fuzz, and that there’s more sweep from the wah. But, fuzz also generally needs to receive signal straight from your guitar to work best. This is something you’ll need to experiment with and choose what sounds best for you and your rig. Companies like Foxrox and Area 51 make buffers specifically to fix the signal coming out of a wah and into fuzz.

There are lots of other options and opinions when it comes to pedal order and stacking pedals, and there are many detailed articles meant to help with this. My goal here is to give you a basic idea of a great standard set up. 

The important thing is to have fun while experimenting with your signature pedal board setup! No one gets it right the first (or usually the second or third) time. Be a kid again. Actually play with your pedals and your guitar. You won’t get in trouble. I promise.

Just try stuff!