That Pedal Show Masterclass on Building Your First Pedalboard

Pedalboards have become as essential of a piece of gear as the amp and guitar on either ends of the patch cables. Yet it can be difficult to know how, where, and when to start your first pedalboard build. This week on TPS, Dan & Mick demystified the process and went back to square one. If you’re starting your first pedalboard venture, here’s their top tips and tricks for crafting your best board.

Plot Out Pedal Placement before You Buy a Pedalboard

Rule number one: buy your pedalboard after you’ve determined the physical real estate requirements for your pedals. This means spending some time planning the signal chain, experimenting with the orientation of the actual pedals, and taking some generous measurements of the pedals laid out together. As Dan reminded, it is essential to include room in between all of your effect pedals when measuring to allow for the necessary breathing space for patch cables, power supply leads, and to ensure your pedals aren’t too close for easy foot access.

Finalize Signal Chain and Order of Pedals

A big part of the planning and placing pedals on your board relates to the signal chain. As Mick described, the order of pedals always goes from right to left. While there are no hard and fast rules about which type of effects go where, generally you’ll want to adhere to the following pattern: overdrive, delays, modulation, and reverb. Of course, part of what makes your board yours is experimentation with what order of pedals results in your signature sound. So before you commit to an order, spend some time tinkering with various pedal positions.

Think About Current Needs and Projected Growth

I’d bet that if you have between three and five pedals today, that collection will only grow. The challenge at this point is balancing your needs today with the prospect of a growing collection. As Mick noted, “it’s important to think about longevity” in your pedalboard builds. Having a bit of empty real estate available will ensure that your first pedalboard can also suit the needs of the next stage of its evolution.

Consider Mobility Needs as a Guide for Case Choices

If the task is building your first pedalboard, you probably aren’t jet setting for a world tour requiring a nuclear-blast proof flight case. At the same time, if you’re tossing your pedals in the trunk for a gig or need to shuffle them away for tidying up, you’ll want some sort of case for protection. As Dan & Mick noted, one of the advantages of many of the Pedaltrain products is they include options for either hard or soft cases to keep your board in top shape.

Be Strategic about Velcro Placement on Your Board and Pedals

There are many options for how to attach your pedals to a pedalboard, with the most common one being Velcro. Typically, your pedalboard purchase will include rolls of this to accommodate your build. Generally, you’ll want to attach the loop side to the pedalboard with the hook side on the underside of pedals. As Mick noted, the best practice is to stick full-widths of loop Velcro to the board to ensure maximum stability and to keep options open for rearranging pedals in the future.

Prioritize Power Supply Considerations in Your Planning  

Dan’s big recommendation here was to include your power supply as the top budget item in your pedalboard build. The reason being is that your pedals will only perform best if they are appropriately powered. This means doing your homework on both the specific needs of your pedals as well as the power, voltage, current, and isolation of the power supply. At this point, it is also key to consider where you’ll place the power supply unit. Ideally, tuck it under the board to keep things clean and clutter free. If the power supply is down under, ensure that all of its necessary ins and outs are easily accessible before securing it with either Velcro or cable ties.

Quality Patch Cables Make for Quality Sounds

As was the case with power supplies, it’s easy to miss to importance of patch cables for the quality of sound. For a custom approach, Dan recommends tailoring your patch cables to the pedalboard by using a solderless cable kit, such as the Boss BCK-6 kit. If these aren’t an option, choosing some by a reputable name brand (such as Hosa, Hog, Strukture or Fender) will keep your pedals communicating properly.

Whether you’re building your very first pedalboard are upping your game for the next major phase of your gear journey, stop in to Riff City instore or online for all the gear and accessories for your best build.

TPS Rig Rundown:

Guitars: Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster.

Dan’s Pedals: JAM Pedals Rattler, Mooer Trelicopter, Snouse Electronic Company Black Box OD2, Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man 1100-TT.

Mick’s Pedals: Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer, Mythos Runestone, Fox Gear Echosex Baby, TC Electronic Ditto.

Amps: VOX AC15C1, Fender Blues Junior III.

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