Guitar effects pedals are devices that distort an electric guitar's electronic signal, changing its tone. These pedals can be used to produce a variety of different sounds, effects, and echoes; from a heavy distortion to a psychedelic reverberation. It is important to learn how to properly connect pedals to avoid short circuits in your setup and to keep your pedals in good condition. Whether you're hooking up a single pedal or a whole series at once, you can learn to do it the right way.
Method 1 of 2: Connecting one pedal
Step 1. Turn everything off
Every time you connect or disconnect an effects pedal you will have to unplug all devices in the chain. While the power cables can and should be connected to each individual unit, the units themselves should be turned off. Make sure the amp and each pedal are turned off when you plug them in. However, there is one exception to this rule – if you have a tube or valve amp. In this case you will want to keep the amplifier on, but in standby mode using the standby switch.
- Attempting to connect live circuits can result in a short circuit, in addition to loud pops and overdrive that can be heard through the amplifier. It will shorten the life of all components in your setup. Do not do it.
- The most important thing to avoid is to turn on a pedal, plug it in and then turn on the amp. This is the shortest route to short circuit.
Step 2. Connect your amp and pedal to power
To make sure the pedals and amp are turned off before you start connecting them, they will need to be plugged in. Connect both to the mains and turn them on and off again just to be sure.
Some guitar pedals come with a 9-volt AC adapter, while others run on batteries, but most have both options. For most guitarists, batteries are nice because you have fewer power cables running, but a lot of hassle because batteries drain and are expensive
Step 3. Plug your guitar into the input
Most pedals have no more than two contacts, one being the "input," and the other the "output." These contacts are usually found on either side of the pedal's case, depending on the type, and are built to handle standard 6mm audio cables. Locate the inputs and outputs on your pedal, then plug your guitar into the jack labeled "input."
All those entrances and exits can get a bit confusing for the beginner. Remember: the audio signal is generated by the pickups of the guitar, from where it travels to the amplifier via the cable. So, the guitar should always be connected to the input of the pedal, as this indicates the direction in which the signal travels. When you play a sound on the guitar, it travels “in” the pedal, after which it comes “out” again and continues “in” the amp
Step 4. Connect the output of the pedal to the input of the amplifier
Run another 6mm guitar cable from the pedal to the amp. The cable connecting the pedal to the amp should go into the same input you would use to connect a guitar directly.
To connect a pedal you need at least two 6 mm cables. If you connect several pedals together, you will need more cables to get everything to fit without too much hassle. However, if you don't connect more than one pedal, then two regular cables will suffice
Step 5. Turn on your amp first, then the levels
After plugging in all the cables, turn on the amplifier and set everything up to your liking. In general, it's best to make relatively minor adjustments to your amp when you first try a pedal to get an idea of how it sounds, but feel free to experiment. If you've always set up the amp the same way, leave it be.
Step 6. Turn the effect knobs to 0 before turning on the amp
Especially if you're going to plug in a super fuzz distortion pedal or some space echo, you want to make sure your eardrums don't get blown out the first time you step on the pedal. Set all settings to 0 before turning on the pedal. You can adjust this as you play.
Step 7. Experiment with the pedal
Most pedals are activated with a button that you can pedal or a lever below the adjustment knobs that you can engage. Usually a red or green light will come on, letting you know that the pedal has been activated. Carefully explore all the possibilities of the pedal, turning up the various effect knobs as you play to get an idea of the tone. Play around with the volume and direction of the different effects. Have fun.
Most pedals are turned off by pressing the button again or turning off the switch, so that the signal goes directly to the amplifier via the pedal without distortion. Play around with turning the pedal on and off to get the kind of sound you're looking for
Step 8. Always disconnect the cables when you stop playing
Leaving the pedals plugged in will keep current flowing, which is especially important if you use batteries to power your pedals. Whenever you have cables connected to the inputs and outputs of your pedals, power will be drawn from the pedal. When you are no longer playing, make sure all your pedals are disconnected and turned off. Then they last a lot longer.
Method 2 of 2: Organizing a series of pedals
Step 1. Use patch cables
Patch cables have a short length and are used specifically for connecting a series of pedals. It would quickly become unwieldy connecting more than two pedals together with 3m cables, so use your patch cords to keep your setup tidy and easy to manage.
Patch cables are also recommended to maintain signal quality. The longer an audio signal has to travel, the worse it will eventually sound, so short patch cords help keep the quality of your audio signal as high as possible
Step 2. Always start with the tuning pedal
When you link a series of pedals together, the order of the pedals is very important. The first pedal is the one that connects directly to your guitar and the last pedal connects to your amp. Different rules apply to different pedals, but if one pedal comes first in a sequence, it's the tuning pedal, if you have one.
Tuning pedals need a clear, clean, undistorted signal to work properly. If you put a distortion pedal in front of the tuner in the range, the tuner will have to make do with a less clean, distorted signal. This may sound cool, but it will make the tuner completely unstable and the readings you are reading incorrect. Place the tuner first so your guitar can stay in tune
Step 3. Place compressors and filter pedals early in the sequence
A rule of thumb for the order of guitar effects: pedals that create tone belong before pedals that manipulate tone. Wah-wahs, envelope filters and other pedals that compress the natural sound of your guitar should be placed early in the signal path, after tuners you use.
Step 4. Place the overdrive and distortion pedals second in line
Some of the most common pedals in a guitar setup are the fuzz boxes. Distortion, overdrive and other types of pedals that produce great sounding gain and distortion for controlled bursts of chaos in your sound come after the tuners and wah-wahs.
The specific order of your distortion and overdrive pedals is up to you. When it comes to playing guitar, the rules are there to be broken. Experiment with different pedal positions to see which sound you like best
Step 5. Place modulation pedals after the distortion
Flangers, phasers and chorus pedals work by modulating the signal and creating a spatial effect in that sound. These work best in the sequence after any distortion pedals you may have included in them.
Volume and reverb pedals are always placed last in the series. These work best when you're adjusting a rounded signal, and won't work properly if you place them in the middle of the sequence. Reverb pedals can react unpredictably if you place them in front of the distortion
Step 6. Play with the order of the pedals to get the sound you're looking for
There is no "wrong way" to connect pedals together. For some guitarists looking for control, reliability and good sound quality, these rules of thumb are absolutely essential to get a "correct" signal. For others, it's important that you can create sound symphonies just by turning a few knobs, without ever touching the guitar. Spend an afternoon connecting the pedals in different order. Investigate what's happening.
If something starts to sing around, find the fault with the modulators and the reverb first. Anything that creates an echo and sound repetition, or loops a signal, is an obvious candidate to cause feedback, rather than the distortions you might expect. You can also quickly soften the effect knobs to regain control of the signal, should the need arise
Step 7. Power the pedals in the sequence
Once you've connected the pedals together, it's always a good idea to invest in a power patch cable, which allows you to power all the pedals from a single 9-volt adapter. This is better than connecting each separate pedal to the mains through its own adapter. This is often the most efficient way to power your pedals, as opposed to batteries or separate adapters. It's just a long cord of AC plugs on a single cable that you can plug straight into your pedals.
Step 8. Consider investing in a pedal board
A pedal board allows you to keep all your pedals organized on stage, and in the order you want. If you've found a setup that works for you and produces the sound you've been looking for, it's a lot easier to organize this on a hard board and keep it plugged in in the same default order, rather than re-creating it. have to reorganize every time you want to play.
- Most effect pedals will continue to drain the batteries as long as a cable is connected to the input. To extend the life of the batteries, disconnect all plugs from the pedals when not in use.
- Always make sure your amp is turned off when connecting or disconnecting pedals. Leaving the amplifier on can damage the internal components.
- Make sure you use guitar cables and not speaker cables. Instrument cables are shielded to prevent radio frequency interference. This interference will usually cause a high pitched screeching sound and a lot of static through the amplifier.