Beginner’s Guide to Guitar Pedals Pt. 2

By Mark
Updated on

In the last article, we talked about various guitar pedals and how they sound.  Today we’re going to discuss the following:

How to Connect a Single Guitar Pedal

How to Connect Multiple Guitar Pedals

Individual Effect Pedals Vs. Multi-Effects Pedals

How to Connect a Single Guitar Pedal

In the previous article, we went over different guitar pedals. We talked about what they sound like and how they make those sounds.  Today we’ll talk about how we can connect them to the rig.  

If it’s a single guitar pedal, you’ll need two guitar cables: one to plug into the input and another to plug into the output.  Most guitar pedals will come with their own power supply or you can use a 9-volt battery inside the pedal.  Plug the guitar into the input of the pedal and then plug the output side of the pedal into the amp.  Turn everything on and you should be ready to rock.

Connect one guitar pedal

How to Connect Multiple Guitar Pedals

The cleanest way to connect multiple guitar pedals together is to build a pedalboard.  

Plan Your Pedalboard

Before going out to buy any kind of pedals or equipment, the best thing to do is create a plan.  With this plan, you’ll want to determine the purpose of the pedalboard.  Are you a gigging guitarist that needs to be able to cover the sounds of 3-4 different genres? Or are you going to be playing in your living room and experimenting with all kinds of sounds?  

The purpose of your pedalboard will dictate how large the pedalboard will be.  If you’re going to be playing from your living room and you won’t need to move the pedalboard around, you can afford to have a bigger pedalboard.  If, on the other hand, you are going to be travelling around from gig to gig then a smaller pedalboard with the essential stompboxes would make it easier to transport.  

Powering Your Guitar Pedals

One of the most important pieces of the pedalboard is the power supply.  Using an isolated direct current (DC) power supply will benefit your rig in a few ways:

  • An isolated power supply will filter out noise from your sound
  • It protects your pedals from any power surges
  • Provides clean power to all your pedals on the board

In addition to these benefits, you’ll want to keep the following in mind when you are looking for your power supply for your pedalboard.

Truetone CS7 Power Supply to power your guitar pedals

3 Important Things When Powering Your Pedalboard

Voltage
  • Most stompboxes will require 9v DC power to run
  • You’ll need to choose a power supply that has enough 9v outlets to power your chosen pedals
  • There are a few power supplies available that have outputs for 12v or 18v
  • If you try to use a pedal with 9v power and it needs more voltage, it will not work
Polarity
  • Most modern-day pedals will run on center-negative polarity 
  • If you chain pedals together with the wrong polarity you can damage your pedals
  • You can find the pedal’s polarity in many different places:
    • On the pedal itself
    • In the owner’s manual that comes with the pedal
    • Or on the internet
  • Older vintage pedals run on center-positive polarity
    • If you are using one of these pedals you’ll have to find an adapter to convert the polarity to center negative
Amperage
  • Most pedals will run on 100mA
  • If you underpower your pedals you might get artifacts in the sound or the pedal might not work at all.

How to Arrange the Pedals on Your Pedalboard

It’s time to talk about how to arrange the guitar pedals on the board.  Although there aren’t any hard and fast rules to put your pedals in, here is one typical way to set up your pedals:  

  • Tuners
  • Dynamic effects
    • EQ, Compressors
  • Tone pedals
    • Overdrive, distortions, fuzz
  • Modulations
    • Flangers, phasers, chorus
  • Delays, echo
  • Reverbs
  • Wah

You are free to experiment with the order however you want.  

When you have your order for your pedals set, you can use velcro to stick your pedals to the board.  You’ll want the loop sides on the pedalboard and the hook side on the bottom of the pedals. 

Finally, you’ll want to run your signal cables perpendicular to the power cables.  Running the two cables parallel to each other creates a bit of an antenna which will feed interference into the guitar signal.  Running the cables perpendicular to each other will cancel the signals so that you can only hear the guitar’s signal.

Individual Effect Pedals Vs. Multi-Effects Pedals

Multi-FX Units vs Pedalboards

If you’re looking into guitar pedals on the internet you might have seen a few different multi-effect pedals.  Products like the Boss GT-1000, or the Line 6 Helix process a digital algorithm on the fly rather than passing the signal through a series of resistors.  These multi-effects units come with many modelled effects and a ton of preset patches.  Users can also program their own patches into the unit.  

Advantages of Individual Effects

  • Single pedals provide a more specialized sound
  • Each individual stompbox will sound unique
  • Simple enough to plug and play

Advantages of Multi-Effects Unit

  • More cost-effective 
  • Wide variety of modelled amps and effects from overdrives, reverbs, delays
  • Variety of sounds to create from just one unit

Disadvantages of Individual Effects

  • Buying effect pedals individually may be very expensive depending on how many effect pedals you need for your rig.

Disadvantages of Multi-Effects Unit

  • Although it may be less expensive than buying pedals and an amp, the digital effects and amps usually do not sound as great as their analog counterparts.  
  • Even though the units come with many different effects, the patches can be complicated to program

Your Turn

We’ve covered some basics about guitar pedals.  We’ve talked about how to connect them to your guitar rig and a bit about building a pedalboard.  Now it’s your turn to go out and discover your own personal sound.  

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