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Understanding Effect Pedal Types

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

Effects pedals can be separated into groups based on their functions. Understanding the different pedal types is the key to getting the best tone when chaining them together. The largest pedal group is probably overdrives and distortions.

At HGWFx we want to help educate newer guitarist. Below is an Effects Pedal Chart showing each "Type" of effect.

Effects Chain 'Signal Path"

Here are some tips or general "rules" to keep in mind before you start plugging pedals together:

Rule 1 – There are no rules. The sound you’re after might not be made by what we could call the appropriate or logical signal path, but that’s not always the issue. The issue is this: what does it sound like? If it makes the sound you’re after, then it’s right…although, you may have to do something about the noise. Traditional pedal board arrangements were designed for certain reasons, and keeping the noise down is one biggie.

Rule 2 – Some pedal types work better in certain parts of the signal path than in others. Octave pedals or tuners, for example, don’t work as well with a distorted signal as with an undistorted signal, so they should be placed before the distortion.

Rule 3 – Noise can be a problem, particularly with high-gain distortion sounds. Pedals that can add volume—such as compressors, wahs, EQs, and overdrive/distortions—will also amplify any noise created by the effects placed before them.

Rule 4 – Taking devices like stompbox pedals out of the equation, there’s an order to the way sounds naturally occur in physical space. For example, guitar amp distortion is made in physical space by turning an amp up enough to cause its circuits to overload, and any echo you might hear happens after the distorted sound hits walls or ceilings and bounces back to your ears. Therefore, logic says that your reverb and/or delay pedals should be last in the signal path, since that is how the sounds they produce actually occur in three-dimensional space.


Try out as many combinations as possible. You will generally notice what sounds better for your ears!

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