My live pedalboard may or may not be the size of the Starship Enterprise. <<<<< And I may or may not have somewhere in the vicinity of ten overdrives alone.
But just because I have a rampant pedal addiction doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome tools in our quest for ever-cooler sounds.
And honestly, how can you recreate some of those trippy effects you hear on recordings without a nice flanger? Or phaser. Or echo. Come to think of it, I could really use an octave pedal also…
Clearly it’s become a problem.
Having a nice supply of these little guys isn’t enough for sonic greatness, though. There are some basic tonal concepts and gear understandings that we must have to get the best out of our pedals.
One of these critical understandings is pedal order.
Although I have my own take on the subject, I thought I’d instead pass along information from two of the acknowledged masters of tone, namely pedal guru, Robert Keeley, and guitar virtuoso, Steve Vai.
So follow along as Bob and Steve-o take you through the art and science of pedal order!
The Keeley Compressor
Although I was into pedals – mostly Boss and Ibanez models, and still own most of ’em – since the late 80’s, the one that pushed me over the edge into full-blown addiction was the Keeley Compressor.
Along with Analogman, Robert Keeley is arguably the founder of the “pedal mod” revolution. He has his own extensive line of pedals now, but he originally made his name by modifying the pedals (mainly Boss models) of famous players who wanted better tone and functionality.
His first – and still most famous – Keeley model is the signature compressor. Here is mine, the original two-knob “Ross clone” model from the early 2000’s:
To educate his pedal customers, Keeley also wrote a sweet little paper that outlines his ideas on optimal pedal order. The gear sequence is kind of a big deal, because it can either subtly or drastically change the resulting sound. I’ve used this piece as my go-to reference for years; I highly recommend that you download it (below) and do the same.
I was inspired to do this post mainly because I came across an AWESOME video yesterday featuring the great Steve Vai talking about pedals.
This video is basically a free master class with one of the greatest guitarists in history, so to me, it is required viewing if you’re serious about your guitar playing. Steve talks about pedal order, sound manipulation, demonstrates his own pedal board, and more. And it’s pretty comprehensive at an hour long. Enjoy!
QUESTIONS: Do you have specific pedals that inspire you? Do you experiment with pedal order or stick to a particular sequence? Leave me a comment below!