Today I am thinking about a odd situation at least odd for me. My pedalboard.
I have always been of the mind that when building a pedal board for any situation live or studio work . It should be in a typical order like this.
First Pedals are your Wha or expression then all Boost Distortion, Fuzz and their variants.
If you watch any of the you tube folks that really know their stuff, from JHS and Wampler to any pro commentators they all say this is best.
Then the second section of a pedal board should be. You added to
Compression, EQ. Second boost or Treble boosts or just old overdrive.
Then the last section of the board should be all your time based effects.
Reverbs, Chorus, Phaser, Delay and so forth.
Everyone at the same time saying this is a "good" or correct order" Are fast to say Ah but in the end it is up to you?
This I think is because a well thought out pedal board is much more than just a string of effects connected together and then powered independently with as much isolation for ground as is possible.
There is also one last standard that some use and that is the four cable method where in all your time based pedals are run into [if your amp has one] The effects loop in the back of most newer amps. From there as you would expect the 4 Cable Method lets us place effects either before or after the amplifier’s EQ section, and its internal overdrive/distortion effect (a.k.a. the gain stage). Which leaves our boost, distortion and overdrive pedals going into the front of the amp hence to drive into the gain stage/s that are in the signal flow of your amp.
For some of us I assume. Especially those on tours with guitar and stage techs the four cable method seems a no brainer. But this is where all the debating and hemming and hawing starts. Usually from one opinion concerning any number of factors from what kind or make and model the amp is, to the cables and power used to connect the pedals. To this or that way to balance the signal strength correctly so they 4 cable method effects have a balanced output with those going into the front of the amp.
I am not going to offer an opinion as to works best for whom basically because as others will say that all depends on you. Your sound desires and control needs.
What I have come to and in part because of others is as follows.....
I went to a show recently and the artist was what I would call digital musician. Using two laptops and good Apogee interface, a Launch pad and various Akai and other midi sample triggers. And likely the biggest pedalboard table I have ever seen used live to any good effect. The artist used all manner of signal flow, from laptop direct into his mixing board to some effects in the effect loop and then some that were patched in between samplers all in a chain connecting to the amps. I don't want to make a long chart but think of it as starting from laptop one, into a mixing board where a lot of effects are in the effects loop of the mixing board. Then there are the effects that are all in line then going directly into the interface then to his second laptop with effects between samplers and his amp then out again to his amps which he use in stereo. Sounds confusing? All it amounts to is that he put pedals into his signal at different times and in different ways so that he could tweek each of them as he liked to create his sound.
It was madness the amount of connections, streams of signal, variations of effect and ultimily his effected sound. As you might imagine he more played his effect pedals than just "stomped" Them. To great effect making a mosaic sound design all warboling crunchy and writhing. OR at times pristine and verby using mixing with faders and knob movement to make his sound change grow or diminish on the fly.
This is all his sound as it were. This was the reason he used the pedals he used and the way he used them. To create a live effected sound stage that communicated his music as he wanted.
I on the other hand am almost as opposite of that ideology as a person can be while using effect pedals. It is because of my more barebones set it and leave it method that I have had to play with my board over and over and at least every time I add or change . a pedal. I am first and foremost a guitar player, though I do play other instruments and things. I apply the synthesis of sounds together with predetermined settings that I know when stomped will give me this or that sound, Those being exactly what I want with no need to make sudden swells or sweeps, gated responses or feedback loops. Therein lies what I think matters most. The artist I mention makes adjusts adds and subtracts to his pedals in the most detailed way using the most knobs and faders possible to find his tone. I on the other hand want to hit a pedal and have a sound happen. One that I know, want and predict in the set up, not create as I go along. There is no better or worse to either of our "sounds" There is no correct or incorrect order. Having had this experience seeing him perform it made me scratch a itch that has been with me since I started to use a board at all. Since for most my of my playing I was just a guitar into the board or amp player.
I have over the past year built a pedal board consisting of most pedal styles we all know and understand. Compression Wha, reverb, delay, mid-boot and chorus. There at times have been Phasers or other odd ball delay pedals. I use some Earthquaker and JHS pedals just because they are different tonally than their mainstay counterparts.
If I am honest I have never been really happy about my board. Never really satisfied and confident that I had sonically what I really wanted and then I did something I never expected to be good and moved my compression and boost pedals to the middle of my signal chain. For clarity I think it best to talk about what pedals I use.
First I go into a Vox Wha, from there into a Visual Sound H2o delay chorus pedal, from there into a Pigtronics Philosopher's Tone then into a JHS Haunted Mids, the a Deadbeat reverberations station, then a first generation JHS Honeycomb tremolo then last a Earthquaker Organizer. then into my amp.
Here I know I open the door to all manner of comments criticism and trolling tom foolery. But does my signal chain of effects work? The short answer is yes. Yes in fact it does what I want it to with minimal noise and connection headache, I have great control over the sounds I like to use as a one pedal or combination of them. I can set it and feel confident about what is going to happen and that was the greatest relief of all.
Why does this matter at all? Well it matters to me an to some I hope because it shows that to my way of thinking if you're going to use pedals there should be some reason to it. There should be sound outcome that you like and want. OR if you're the artist I saw that you play them like instruments and are constantly on the fly of adjustment and output. Either can be a beautiful thing to listen to. In the end I found putting my boosts and compression in the middle of all my effects gave me a tight expansive tone that I can control with the tone and volume knobs of my guitar to great effect and it does so super cleanly which in the end is my real goal with pedals, that being you hear the effect in the music as part of the sonics with intention and clarity.
So for today I am happy with my board, I like the ergonomics if it, I like the cable organization of it and all those parts working I like the pedals I have chosen for now.
This will be wonderful till that next moment I hear a sound or dream a sound I want to make, not knowing how I rip the board apart and start all over again in that constant search for a sound I feel I need to share with you.