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How to choose the correct effects for your pedalboard? (Updated 24.1.2024)

The first step is to decide what effects should go on your pedalboard. Go through your existing pedals one by one. Ponder the role each effect plays in creating your sound, and whether each pedal really fits your playing style. Now is the best time to add, subtract or swap any effects in your signal path.

Are you looking for new sounds or for replacements?

What is the tone you’re after? Are you satisfied with your current sound? You might also have wanted to add a certain effect to your arsenal for some time. If you’d like to add new effects to you pedalboard, but you’re not sure what to choose, start by finding out what types of effects your heroes use.

Our article “How do I connect guitar effects pedals for best results?” contains many audio clips that help you to learn more about different effect types. Listening to recorded guitar sounds is a good idea if you’re not familiar with all the effect types on offer. Here is an example playlist for famous compressor sounds.

Are all your pedals appropriate?

Do you feel that all your current effects earn their keep? Or are you about to add unnecessary effects to your pedalboard that will make your board too heavy and confusing? You also shouldn’t select such pedals that are already very beat up and about to fail. The same goes for very cheap effects. You’re about to build the pedalboard of your dreams, so don’t settle for a pedal that performs below par. All these decisions should be taken at an early stage in your pedalboard project. Some effect may not have a power supply socket. In many cases a battery can still be replaced using a special DC-power cable, but if the effect in question is running on AC-power, integrating it on a pedalboard might prove problematic.

Which effects are the most important for your style?

Certain types of effects may be especially important for your playing style or your musical genre. If you’re playing country and western, choose an appropriate compressor. If you’re a funk guitarist, make sure your wah-wah is just right for you. If you’re on a tight budget you could update only the most important pedal to a newer or better version.

Expensive vintage pedals

If you own an old and rare effect pedal it would of course be nice to include it on your board, as long as its bypassed signal is up to modern standards. But remember, the rarest effects are unique items that are hard to replace should the need arise. Many are also large and heavy, as pedalboards were unheard of back in the Sixties.

Back then pedals were designed heavy enough, so they wouldn’t move when stepped on. A little nugget of trivia: To my knowledge the first pedalboard was designed and constructed in 1972. It was custom-made by an Englishman engineer Pete Cornish for Peter Banks of Yes. Nine years later, pedalboard for Brian May looked like this:

Today things are different and pedalboards are an equal part of a guitarist’s range of equipment, along with his guitars and amps. Here is an 2018 underneath example of Pete Cornish wired Pedaltrain-board, which has very similar design compared to the ones that be be found from our pedalboard gallery.

Here is a one more late example from Vertex. These examples show that today, same kind of a pedalboards, effects, power supplies, parts and accessories are used all around the world and are available to anybody, who want's to build a board for themselves.

Air travel

These days many bands use air travel to get around, and freight rates are constantly on the rise. It’s important that all equipment is easy to transport from A to B. If your vintage effect (or a boutique pedal, for that matter) is very large and heavy, you should probably consider swapping it for a similar, but more compact device. Very often a modern effect will also improve your pedalboard’s reliability and overall sound and most importantly – makes it lighter to travel with.

Vintage effects reimagined

Modern guitar effects are generally of a higher quality and offer more scope for adjustment. Many companies now offer re-engineered and reimagined new versions of classic effect pedals, which offer the best of the old sounds coupled with improved technical specifications and modern reliability.

The more consistent components of modern pedals ensure that there are no individual differences between effects, unlike before. Modern reissues are also much more reliable, which makes them a better choice for a professional grade pedalboard, made using the best parts and techniques.

One of the huge advantages of a professionally assembled pedalboard is that all pedals are secured firmly and thoroughly to the pedalboard frame. This means they will stay put during transport, preventing them from being dented and damaged. If the vintage pedal is important for you, we wouldn’t want to deprive you of your lucky charm, of course. Any effect pedal, just like a guitar, is meant to be used, not to be put in a safe or behind glass.

Are multi-effects an option?

There are many multi-effects on the market, offering the user a wide array of different effect types, all integrated into a single unit. Multi-effects also let you save and recall your own patches and settings, making it easier to control everything. But there is also a considerable downside to such units.

The difference between digital multi-effects and separate analogue pedals is like the difference between a lunch buffet and an dinner in à la carte restaurant. The former suggests you can have anything you want, but might also leave you wanting, while the latter might be more expensive, but is guaranteed to satisfy your taste.

Analogue effects often stand head and shoulders above digital multi-effects in terms of their sound, especially when it comes to overdrives and distortions. Beginners are often advised to buy a multi-effect, so they can get a clear idea of which effect type will give you what kind of sounds. It’s a bit like trying some dish at the buffet for the first time; you will get an idea of what that dish is about, even if it is a bit mediocre. The same can be said about the effects in most multi-effect units, especially the vintage ones.

As some kind of rule you could say that, when comparing analogue pedals to digital multi-effects, many digital modulations, delay effects and reverbs can prove to be rather good. In the best case scenario the multi-effect unit includes an external effects loop, allowing you to include some high-quality analogue effects in the signal chain. In our experience gain, filter and octaver sounds are best left in the analogue domain, unless you’re using a modern digital effect with especially high processing power.

Overdrive sounds from amp, pedals, or a mix of both?

Does your amplifier offer enough preamp gain, or were you planning on producing all your overdrive and distortion using pedals? Take a close look at your main setup and try to design your pedalboard to fit your amp. If you’re using more than one amp you can’t tailor your gain-structure towards only one of these amps; instead you might want to try produce different levels of drive using the pedals on your pedalboard.

What is your most important drive tone, the one you use for the largest part of your gig? Is is more of a Blues breakup or do you need a chunky bit of distortion? Take this sound, the one that is central to your playing, and then build the rest of your signal path to complement this sound. But remember that a drive sound which sounds great in your bedroom isn’t necessarily going to work on stage with your band, where you need your guitar to cut through the mix.


If you have purchased all the parts and components but get a feeling that you might not be up to the task after all, we can make your pedalboard for you, using the components you have bought from us. Don’t worry, we won’t let anything go to waste.


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