Where Should My Overdrive Go?

The boutique pedal world is such a fantastic place to get lost in. Clones of famous pedals, new circuitry, and limited edition/custom artwork pieces really make hand-selecting pedals a pleasure to the ear. However, now that we have this new shiny, pedal we have to figure out a small yet crucial detail: where is this thing supposed to go in my signal chain?

This week on TPS Dan & Mick decide to sit down and shed some light on the logistics of where guitar pedals go on the pedalboard, and how even the smallest switch of two pedals can change your tonal nuances drastically.

Where Do I Put My Chorus?

Before the guys dive into the optimal layout of the pedals they’ve gathered for testing, they describe what is often considered the “standard” order for pedals. “Generally speaking,” Mick explains, “the guitar would go into the gain/overdrive, then any modulation pedals, then delay/reverb, and then into the amp.” This way, when the overdrive is pushing the signal it can be fed evenly into the modulating pedals without changing the sound too severely.

 Of the biggest questions for effect chains in relation to overdrive is where chorus pedals should go. They run three different gain pedals, at various overdrive stages, both before and after the JAM Pedals Waterfall in order to see how varying strength signals change and are altered by where it’s located. The result?

“There isn’t a radical difference,” Mick determines. The biggest notable thing is that with the chorus before the gain stage the entire signal is being distorted, adding even more character and texture to the tone instead of just adding a shine to a driven signal. “Putting the chorus before the gain rounds the edges of the shimmer… it’s a really good trick to warm up the chorus a bit,” Dan concludes.

Okay, So How about My Delay?

When it comes to delay effects, the general consensus is right in line with chorus: gain first, then delay. The thought behind that is so the distorted signal in its entirety is delayed as one sound. However, while the placement of the chorus pedal didn’t alter the sound too noticeably, the delay resulted in a radical difference.

With the delay first, the gain limits the dynamic range in which the delay is allowed to fluctuate, so the tone sounds fuller and tighter. “With a really high gain level after the delay it makes the tone eat itself which is really cool in itself,” Mick adds. As the signal is delayed time-wise, it is being distorted after the effect so it folds back in on itself.

I Just Got A New Reverb Pedal. Suggestions?

Similar to chorus and delay pedals, reverb is traditionally treated as a supplement to overdrive pedals. The goal would be to allow the gain to push the signal and allow the sonic space of the sound to grow from the reverberation. However, when reverb is placed before the gain stage it changes the tonal quality just a bit.

“The reverb seems to lessen the high frequencies the overdrive is creating,” Dan identifies. “It sounds more integrated with the actual guitar sound.” The reverb is giving the overdrive more to push because the signal is being amplified size-wise before it hits the gain stage. So essentially there are multiple reverberated signals hitting the overdrive all at once, rather than one overdriven signal hitting the reverb channel only once. This creates a fuller, more powerful drive sound while maintaining the complexity of a reverberation.

Have You Seen The Cool New Mini Vent II? What About That One, Huh?

With an effect like the Mini Vent II, it isn’t obvious how distortion would change the signal, but as the guys explain it is similar to the chorus. “There isn’t a radical difference having the gain before or after the Leslie simulator,” Dan says, “however the overdrive gets rid of the pristineness of the tone.” Since the chorus and a Leslie simulator are more atmospheric pedals rather than time based, where the gain is placed in the signal chain does not make much of a difference.

While Dan and Mick make some valid points to debunk if the overdrive should come before or after in certain situations, they end the video with a few valid points. For one, all pedals are different, and depending on the amp used, the guitar, all of the other pedals in the chain; there are endless variables that could change the tone.

“The point of this video,” Dan concludes, “isn’t to find an answer but to rather suggest to look at the parts individually instead of lumping it all together.” While it’s easy to hope and have someone tell you the best way to craft your tone, the best and most enjoyable way is to get to experimenting and decide what you like the sound of!

That’s it for this episode of That Pedal Show! Keep testing your pedals, take the guys’ advice, and craft your dream tone and never stop discovering new and improved ways to fall in love with guitar all over again.

TPS Rig Rundown:

Guitars: ’63 Fender Custom Shop Telecaster, ’58 Gibson Memphis ES-335, Fender Classic Series Jazzmaster Lacquer

Pedals: TheGigRig Three2One, Kingsley Page Boost, Keeley D&M Drive, Free The Tone Fire Mist, JAM Pedals Waterfall, Neo Instruments Mini Vent II, Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe, Empress Reverb, Peterson Strobo Stomp HD Tuner, TheGigRig G2

Amps: Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III w/Celestion G12P-80, Vox AC151 w/Celestion G12M Greenback

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