Guitar pedal effects are devices that alter the signal produced by an electric guitar, changing the sound. The pedals can be used to produce a variety of sounds, effects and echoes, from heavy distortion to psychedelic reverb. It is important to learn how to connect the pedals in the right way to keep them in their optimal working state. Whether you need to connect a single pedal or an effects chain, you can learn how to do it correctly by reading this article.
Method 1 of 2: Connect a Single Pedal
Step 1. Disconnect the power supply
Whenever you connect or disconnect a pedal effect, it is necessary to interrupt the power supply to each element of the chain. While the power cables can (and should) remain connected to each individual unit, the units themselves must be turned off. Make sure that the amplifier and the individual effects pedals are turned off when you connect them.
- Trying to connect active circuits can result in short circuits, loud noises or annoying whistles (due to feedback) coming from the amplifier, which have the consequence of compromising the life of the components of the chain. Do not do it.
- The biggest mistake to avoid is to turn on a pedal, connect it and then turn on the amplifier. This is the best way to get a short circuit.
Step 2. Connect the amplifier and the pedal to the power supply
To be sure that the pedal and the amplifier are both off, connect them to the power supply, turn them on and then turn them off.
Some guitar pedals have a 9V A / C adapter, others are battery powered; most of them offer both options. Many guitarists appreciate the battery advantage of having one less cable to plug in, but the downside is that batteries wear out, and they cost money
Step 3. Connect the guitar to the input jack
Most pedals have only two jack inputs, labeled “Input” and “Output”. The two inputs are usually placed on opposite sides of the pedal (depending on the type of unit) and are made to accept standard 6mm audio cables. Find the two jack inputs, input and output, on the pedal, then connect the guitar to the input called "input".
The different inputs and outputs can initially confuse beginners. Remember: the audio signal is generated by the pick-ups on the guitar, after which it travels from the guitar to the amplifier through the cable. Consequently, the guitar must always be connected to the "input" on the pedal, reflecting the direction in which the signal travels. The sound produced by the guitar travels towards the pedal, exits the pedal and goes towards the amplifier
Step 4. Connect the pedal's output jack to the amplifier's input jack
Use another standard 6mm cable to do this. The cable that connects the pedal to the amplifier must be inserted into the same jack input on the amplifier to which you would connect the guitar directly.
To connect an effect pedal you will need at least two standard 6mm cables. If you have to connect several pedals together, you will also need several short cables (called "patch cables") to connect everything in the simplest way, but for a pedal only two standard cables are sufficient
Step 5. Turn on the amplifier first, and make adjustments as desired
After connecting all the cables, turn on the amplifier and adjust the levels according to your tastes. In general, it's best to keep all settings halfway the first time you try a new pedal, so that you can better appreciate the tone variations generated by the pedal itself, but feel free to experiment. If you always use the same levels on the amplifier, do not change them.
Step 6. Turn all knobs on the pedal to minimum before turning it on
Especially if you're connecting a super-fuzz distortion or a space-echo, you don't want to risk breaking your eardrums the moment you turn on the pedal! Start with the knobs at their minimum - you will then adjust them once the pedal is turned on, while you play.
Step 7. Experiment with the pedal
To activate most of the pedals you can step with your foot on a switch or lever located under the setting knobs. In most cases, a red or green light will light up to inform you about the current operating status of the pedal (on / off). Explore the functionality of the pedal (without using extreme adjustments), moving the various knobs as you play to notice the sonic variations. Play a little with the volumes of the different effects and with the knobs in different positions. Have fun.
To turn off most of the pedals, just press the switch or lever again to exclude the pedal from the signal path and send the latter directly to the amplifier. Try a few times to activate and deactivate the pedal to obtain the desired type of sound
Step 8. Always unplug the cables when you are finished playing
If you leave the cables connected to the pedal, it will continue to use power, draining the battery if you don't use the cable to power it. The moment there are cables connected to the input and output jacks, the pedal uses power. If you're not playing, make sure all your pedals are turned off with the cables disconnected - you'll significantly increase their life.
Method 2 of 2: Organize a Pedal Sequence
Step 1. Use the cables for connecting effects (called “patch cables”)
Patch cables are standard 6 mm cables specially created to connect a sequence of pedals together. Using stage cables 3 meters long and more to connect the individual pedals to each other would soon prove inconvenient and cumbersome: patch cables serve to make connections more practical, easier to manage and less bulky.
Patch cables are also recommended to ensure a good quality signal. The longer the path that an audio signal has to cover, the lower the quality of the signal at its destination will be: for this reason it is advisable to use patch cables
Step 2. Always start with the tuner pedal
When connecting a series of pedals in sequence, the order in which you connect them is very important. The first pedal in the sequence is the one the guitar is connected to, and the last pedal in the sequence is the one connected to your amplifier. Depending on the type of pedal, different rules are followed, the only constant is to always connect the tuner pedal first, if you use it.
Tuners need a clear, direct and clean signal to perform at their best. If you have connected a distortion pedal in the chain before the tuner, the tuner will read the distorted and filtered signal. Even if you like the sound by ear, it is an unstable and difficult signal for a tuner to read. Connect the tuner first to keep the guitar in tune
Step 3. Connect compressors and effects related to filters at the beginning of the chain
The main rule of thumb when it comes to chaining effects is to connect the pedals that create the tone before the pedals that manipulate it. Wah-wah, envelope filters and other pedals that compress the natural sound of the guitar should be placed at the beginning of the signal path, immediately after any tuner.
Step 4. Connect overdrives and distortions later
Some of the most common pedals included in effects chains are fuzz boxes. Distortions, overdrives and pedals that create those fabulous saturated and distorted tones, bringing a controlled level of "chaos" to your sound, must be connected after the tuner and the wah-wah.
The specific order in which to connect the various distortion and overdrive pedals is up to you. When it comes to the guitar, the rules are meant to be broken. Experiment with the different positions to figure out what sounds best for you
Step 5. Connect the modulation effects after the distortion
Flanger, phaser and chorus pedals work by modulating the signal and creating sonic atmospheres that enrich the tone. To make them look their best, connect them after any distortion pedals in the effects chain.
Volume pedals and reverbs should always be connected last in the effects chain. They perform better, in fact, when they are used to "fix" the previously created sound, and do not work as well if placed in the middle of the chain. It is easy to lose control of the effect created by a reverb pedal if it is connected before distortion
Step 6. Experiment with the order of the pedals to get the sound you are looking for
There is no "wrong" way to connect the pedals. For some guitarists for whom control, reliability and sound quality are more important, the above rules are essential for routing the signal "correctly". For others they are not so fundamental: You can always create a noisy symphony by moving the knobs on the pedals and without even touching the guitar! Spend an afternoon experimenting by connecting the pedals in different sequences to see what happens.
If you're starting to generate feedback, check out the modulation effects and reverbs first. Any effect that generates echoes and repeats, or loops the signal, is a good candidate to be responsible for feedback (rather than distortion, as you might think). You can also quickly lower the knobs to regain control of the signal if necessary
Step 7. Connect the power cables in sequence
When you chain multiple pedals together, you can also decide to invest in purchasing a type of cable made specifically for pedal effects (they are called "daisy chain" or "multi plug" cables), equipped with several connectors connected to a single adapter. from 9v: it is much more practical than always having to carry an adapter for each pedal. It is usually the most efficient way to power the pedals, compared to using single batteries or adapters. It is basically a single long cable to which a series of A / C connectors are connected to power the individual pedals.
Step 8. Consider the option of investing in a pedal case or pedal board
A pedal board helps keep everything organized on stage, as well as helping you connect the pedals always in the same order according to the chosen sequence. If you've come up with a setup that works well for you and produces a sound you're happy with, it's a lot easier to keep everything neatly organized on a pedal board, connected in the same order all the time, rather than having to rearrange everything every time you play.
- Most pedals consume electricity from the battery as long as the cable is connected to the input. To save battery, unplug the cables when you are not using the pedal.
- Always turn off the amplifier while connecting and disconnecting the pedals. Leaving it on could cause damage to internal components.