Tag Archives: guitar effects

The Dark Art of Pedal Chaining:

So, you’ve accumulated a bunch of pedals and now’s the time to set them all up and unleash Sonic mayhem… but in what order do they go?

Well, the truth is that there are no hard and fast rules, and for everyone that tells you to run things a certain way, there’ll be another person taking a perverse pleasure in doing it exactly opposite, and getting some creative results.

However, there is some common wisdom available, and we can take a look at this, until such time as you feel you want to ignore it.

What comes first?

As a general rule, anything that can be described as ‘Dynamic’ or in some way affecting the clean signal, should be 1st in the line. So for example a Volume/Wah Wah pedal or a Pitch Shifter has a very dramatic effect on the sound of the guitar, and while a compressor or a filter has a more subtle effect on the sound, they still alter the original signal dynamically.

2nd in line come the Gain monsters, Overdrive, Fuzz, Distortion. These are all representative of the sound coming from the amp, and therefore come before any traditional effects. (You may want to think

3rd up is Modulation.  Chorus, Phasers, Flangers and then finally in

4Th Place, Finally come the time based units. Everything from Analogue and Digital delays through to Reverb pedals. Anything that creates a ‘wash’ is best living at the end of your chain.

Tuners can usually be connected to a dedicated tuner output on a volume pedal, as you really want it out of the way, yet always available.

Now I said earlier there are no hard and fast rules, and this is true. Depending on how you play , or what sound you want to achieve, it’s perfectly acceptable to shift things around.

Let’s look at some options.

Volume pedals at the start of your chain, work very well as a larger version of your guitars volume pot, i.e. when the pedal is back the volume is dropped to nothing, so as you bring the pedal forward the volume increases. This is great for Violin type swell effects, but if it precedes an overdrive type pedal, then it reduces the amount of Gain going to the pedal, hence altering the sound.    If, for example you wanted to keep the sound at the required level of dirt and just use the volume pedal to mix your overall volume to the rest of the band, you need to run the Volume pedal after the Overdrive/Distortion section of your board. This means you won’t affect the input to your gain pedals, but you will be able to volume swell into delays or reverbs.

Finally you could have it as the very last pedal in the chain, and this would work as an overall Master volume control, taking control back from the sound man !

A similar set of controversies can be had with other pedals that follow certain ‘rules’.

Delay before distortion?  For example, no one in their right mind would put a delay, BEFORE the distortion surely?

However, with a little bit of judicious tweaking, you can emulate the sound of those early Eddie Van Halen records, where the ambient guitars were all created using this combination.

Reverb before Delay? Not for me, but if you’re looking for some 60’s guitar vibes, try this out.

Reverb before Distortion? Aaaggh! But actually a decent room reverb added to a smattering of overdrive and you’ll be taken back in time to the ‘50’s and those early rock recordings.

Wah after Fuzz/Distortion? Keeps the travel of your Wah sound intact and makes it a much more distinct ‘Wah’ sound.

Compressor as a Limiter at the end of your chain?  This sounds suicidal, and indeed it is possible to really mess up your sound this way, but, if you keep the compression down, it can act as a limiter/noise gate, and keep any of your wilder pedals in check. Just don’t add too much compression or, you’ll suck the life out of signal path.

Finally a note about buffers:

The signal to your amp can have its impedance changed by all the pedal circuits and cords the signal has to pass through or indeed how long your guitar lead is. As the impedance changes, you lose high end clarity, the bass gets flappy and the mids become foggy and undefined, as well as your overall level getting lower. The more pedals you add, the more this can happen. This is where you require a buffer.

Without going ultra technical, a buffer is an active circuit that preserves the strength and therefore the tone of your guitar signal. Some pedals have a buffer built-in, but you can buy dedicated standalone buffer pedals.

Some pedals feature ‘true bypass’, which means that your signal ‘bypasses’ the pedal circuit entirely when the pedal is switched off, effectively sending the signal from Input straight to Output. However, it has to be said that even if you use true bypass pedals, if you also use low quality, long length cables, you’re just as likely to suffer some form of loss of tone, and a buffer is what you will need.

As a general rule, if you, like me have a large pedal board, you might want to look at putting a buffer at the front AND the back end of your chain.

After all, no-one wants their tone sucked away….


Introducing The Dark Blood Distortion Guitar Pedal by KHDK

The Dark Blood is the new pedal from KHDK. The partnership between a certain Kirk Hammett and his business partner David Karon.

Combining solid state and mosfet technology this pedal delivers an amp like sound with plenty of gain and a powerful mid heavy tone.

I tried this pedal through a speaker simulator straight to the desk and through the clean channel of my old 6L6 loaded 120 watt valve amps clean channel and it performed exceptionally well in both circumstances.

You can trust me when I tell you there is plenty of gain on tap. Keep the gain low and the Doom counter clockwise and its tight. Perfect for those heavy riffs. Increase the gain (use the gate to keep the background noise in check) and the clarity remains which is not something that can be said of all pedals of this type. Turning the Doom clockwise increases the bass and gives you a spongy amp like feel under your fingers, perfect for those blazing fast lead runs and long sustaining notes.

The treble control is a passive low pass filter and is wide ranging enough to let you tailor the top end from bright and cutting to a more mellow smooth tone.

The HI/LO toggle switch offers two types of gain. LO is geared more towards rhythm while the HI mode adds compression giving sustain to your lead tone.

The aforementioned gate is an excellent addition and careful use keeps the background noise to a minimum without impacting on your tone.

Yes this pedal can do metal standing on its head but its crunch and lead tones really are wide ranging enough to cover many tones outside of this genre. There are plenty of tonal options from the wide range of controls on this pedal. If you are looking for a distortion pedal this is definitely worth adding to your list of must tries.

The one thing I have to say about the KHDK range of pedals is that they are well designed and perfectly executed. You don’t have to be a Kirk Hammett fan to want one of these pedals you just have to be into good tone……

KHDK Products @ Scan