Proper Order of Pedals In A Pedal Chain: The Basics

Best Pedal Board

I have been writing and reviewing guitar pedals for a while now and there is a question I get asked by beginner guitar players quite often. That question is, "what order do I put my pedals in"? 

While there is not an exact formula for placement of guitar pedals, as you can get some crazy sounds by breaking the rules, there are a couple basic rules of thumb that can be applied. In this article, I will go over how I structure my pedal board and give some reasons on why I do the things I do. 

The Pedals I Use:

Let's first get an understanding of the pedals I am using. Now, my pedal board has changed over the years and will probably continue to do so, but I think I have found a set up I like. I should mention I have other pedals that I use and some I have bought and sold that are not in my chain, these are just the ones I am using right now: 

First, My Tuner​: Poly Tune II

Best Guitar Tuner Page Image

I use the Poly Tune II tuner pedal as I really like how it can supply power to my other pedals through the use of a daisy chain. It has a full strumming tuning mode, which I personally never really use, and also a really accurate single string tuner. It is a decent pedal at a decent price point. 

A tuner should always go first in the chain. This is because you want to tune off of the most natural guitar signal you can get, the one coming straight from the guitar. You can also use a tuner pedal as a switch to cut your signal to the PA by turning on the tuner. Can be quite useful in live situations. 

Next Up: Compression

MXR M102 Dyna Comp Compression Pedal

This is one of the most recent pedals I bought, and boy am I glad I bought it! I am talking about the MXR Dyna-Comp compression pedal. It is a classic compression that basically can be considered one of the first compression pedals out there. I put the compression after my tuner, because like the tuner, we want to focus on the natural signal from the guitar and compress that. We don't want to apply compression to all of our other effects! 

After Compression, Comes Dirt! = FUZZ Pedal

The next section of my pedal board, composed of two pedals, is the dirty section of my pedal board. Or alternatively, the section where I put my "gain" pedals. These are the fuzz, distortion, and overdrive pedals... The ones that give your tone some balls. 

In the signal chain, you want to have these affecting your dry signal so you can get the most out of the type of gain pedal you have. Personally, I like putting my fuzz first as I like the tone it generates by itself. You can put an overdrive ahead of a fuzz pedal, but it tames the fuzz a bit too much for my liking. I don't have a wah pedal, but if you did, then you can either put it before or after the fuzz/distortion. You will get a different tone depending on the placement so pick the one you like the best. 

On my pedal board, I use a germanium fuzz face to get that vintage fuzz tone with a warm sound. Next in line to the fuzz face is my Boss OD-3 overdrive pedal. This combined with my fender amp gives a nice tubey sound. 

After the Dirt, It Is Time For Some Color: Tremelo & Chorus


The next and final section on my pedal board is for colouring my tone. The pedals in this section of your pedal board are reserved for adding texturizing effects and colouring effects to your signal. Some pedals you can experiment with in this section are chorus, tremelo, vibe pedals, octive pedals, phase shifters and many other types of pedals. For me personally and my style of playing, I like to use a tremelo pedal, a chorus pedal and a delay pedal. 

I typically have a tremelo pedal into a chorus pedal (sometimes I switch these two around) and then I go into my delay pedal at the end. This is because I want to colour my tone with the tremelo and chorus pedal, and then have all of the sounds fed into the delay pedal so the delayed sounds actually have effects as well. If I were to put a delay pedal first, then it would delay the clean tone only, which isn't what I want to go for. 

Well, there you have it, my pedal board! If you have any questions or comments let me know below and I will address them with pleasure. ​

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