What is a "pedalboard" and what are "effect pedals"?


In case you don’t know about them already, a pedalboard is an organized enclosure for the effect pedals of your instrument that makes it easier to carry them around. The board can be made of machined metal/ABS plastic or hand-crafted artisan wood (as seen in my YouTube video about DIY pedalboards).

Pedalboards are typically associated with guitarists, but any bassist, harpist, or other musician can have one to create music.

Effect Pedals.

Now this (below) is an effects pedal (or just "pedal" for short). The majority of pedals have knobs for adjusting the amount of volume or effect (i.e. the "Drive" knob in this Animals Pedal Push & Pull Distortion affects the amount of distortion), or it might have a boost/cut knob (the "Tone" knob can boost or cut the amount of treble introduced in the signal).

Animals Pedal Custom Illustrated Push & Pull Distortion, a limited edition pedal with a design by @coal_owl

Each pedal can be categorized by its sound and/or effect:

  • Utility Pedals: these include buffers, splitters, tuners, equalization (EQ), and compression. Each of these has a specific function that could improve the quality of the electric signal within the signal chain, change the sound from your instrument/amplifier, or serve as a simple tool for a musician.
  • Drive Pedals: these include boost, overdrive, distortion, and fuzz. If you’ve listened to some classic rock, punk rock, or metal, you're familiar with the gritty sounds of the guitars—those are characteristics of a drive pedal.
  • Time-based Pedals: these include chorus, delay, reverb, and tremolo. These pedals affect the timing of the sound.

Inevitably after enough of these little things are collected, a pedalboard can be put together. Check out my gear page to see the specific pedals I have on my pedalboard!

The essential items for a pedalboard.

You will need:

  1. Pedals
  2. A board
  3. Velcro
  4. Patch Cables
  5. Power supply

Since we covered the pedal and board aspect of the pedalboard earlier in this article, let's move on to the next items.


Velcro is necessary for your board so your pedals don't shift around during transportation or when you engage the switch in the pedal unit, especially if you try to step on the switch during a live performance. Most pedals are easy to move around since they are lightweight, so using velcro is vital to keeping them in place.

All we need to do is stick velcro pads on the back of the pedals and the top of the board (if your board doesn't already have built-in velcro fabric). I use the Pedaltrain Official Hook-and-Loop Pack on my pedalboard with no issues, but there are mixed reviews of the product from customers on Sweetwater. Take it with a grain of salt. If that is a concern, consider using regular craft store velcro, which should work fine.

Patch Cables

Pedals have 1/4-inch input and output jacks for patch cables to connect throughout the signal chain. I've seen three options for patch cables:

  1. standard 1/4in patch cable
  2. flat 1/4in patch cable
  3. guitar pedal couplers

I highly recommend using flat 1/4-inch patch cables because they allow your pedals to sit closer to each other, which gives you more room to include more pedals on your board. You can still get make-do with regular 1/4-inch patch cables if you aren't trying to cram too many pedals into a small enclosure.

There are two kinds of guitar couplers: offset and straight-direct versions. Guitar couplers are an option, but it is hard to recommend them. While they keep your pedalboard looking clean, they do not move or flex like patch cables—the guitar coupler's stiffness will bend the pedal's interior. The straight-direct version also doesn't account for the height change between different pedals, so they don't seamlessly connect the pedals.

Power Supply

Since we're dealing with electronics, we'll need to power the effect pedals with a power supply. This can be achieved through daisy chaining or direct power supply.

"Daisy Chaining" connects a 9V cable from the power outlet to all your pedals through a single series cable. This is much more cost-effective than getting a hefty power supply, but Daisy Chaining pedals can affect instrument tone and sound quality by introducing an audible hum.

With that in mind, getting a power supply that sends individual power directly to each pedal is much better. Right now, I'm using the Effects Bakery Power Supply Hoden Sentai Donuts to power all my pedals.

Tips for putting it together

Once you have all the items, we can finally put together a pedalboard. Here are some general quick tips to follow when you assemble everything:

  1. Start the signal chain with a tuner pedal (for utility reasons) before putting down any of the actual effect pedals. It cuts the sound while you are tuning your instrument—this is useful in a live session.
  2. When getting into the actual effect pedals, compressors are generally first in the chain. The compressor will create a balanced dynamic range and feed a clean signal through the rest of the chain.
  3. Organize drive pedals with increasing gain stages. Start with overdrive, then distortion, and finish that section with fuzz. This way, you can properly “gain stack” without having to worry about the oversaturated gain feeding into the next gain pedal. This provides a more distinct and less muddy sound.
  4. Time-based effects should be last in the pedal chain. Organize it by chorus, delay, and reverb. This prevents a muddy sound as well.

Other arrangements for the signal chain

  1. Some people opt to put fuzz as close to the tuner pedal as possible before the compressor to get the least muddy and least compressed sound for fuzz.
  2. I've never tried this before, but there is a pedal whose effect is "tremolo after reverb". It was one of the more interesting sounds I've listened to, so it would be worth a shot to try!
  3. You can send time-based effects to the FX loop section of your amplifier. This increases the clarity of the sound by tenfold! However, those pedals are probably going to have to live outside your board to get closer to the amp.

Thanks for reading!

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