September 02, 2019 6 Comments

Whether you are starting from scratch or re-working the order and layout, building pedalboards is a regular part of life for the gigging guitarist. Sometimes these building sessions can be filled with a lot of frustration. In this article, we’ll offer up our favorite tips to ensure that your next pedalboard building session goes off without a hitch. Most of these tips assume that you already have a pedalboard and several pedals…if you want some more tips on starting from scratch, let us know in the comments section. Here we go…

  1. BLANK SLATE: If you’re starting from scratch then you have a leg up on this one. But if you’re reworking your pedalboard it’s a good idea to take EVERYTHING off your board and start with an empty pedalboard. Don’t leave any pedals, cables or power supplies on the board…START OVER.
  1. DRAW IT OUT: A simple but useful idea: draw a diagram to plot where pedals, cables, and power supplies will be placed on your pedalboard. You can take it a step further and cut out pieces of paper measured to be the same size as your pedals. This will give you a rough visual of how much space each pedal will take up and how you can maximize the space on your board. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble you can try the next tip…
  1. COVER THE VELCRO: Whether you use Velcro or dual lock it’s a pain having to constantly remove pedals from the board. So take a cue from Daniel Steinhardt of “That Pedal Show” fame and cover your Velcro with sheets of paper or thin cardboard. The smooth surface makes for easy placement and movement…no excessive force required! 
  1. TRACK YOUR PROGRESS: We are big advocates of tracking progress in some way as you build rigs (guitar, bass, AND pro audio). Everyone with a smart phone has a great quality camera on-board and using it to take photos of how your build progresses can come in handy should you need to troubleshoot. If you’ve already drawn a diagram of your rig, that’s great too! It’s never a bad idea to know have a reminder of where you started.
  1. POWER IS IMPORTANT: Up until now we’ve tried to give you practical tips. But this is one of the BIG mistakes many guitarists make when it comes to their pedalboards. PROPER POWER makes all the difference in getting your pedals to work properly and sound great! Take the time to look up how much power your pedals need to operate, or “draw”. This is usually noted in milliamps, abbreviated mA, and can usually be found in the User’s Manual or on the pedal company’s website. You might be surprised to find that you’ve been using a woefully underpowered power supply! It is possible that you’ll need to spend a good amount of money at this stage but it will be a worthwhile investment that should keep you happy for years to come!
  1. CABLES OF ALL SIZES: Thanks to the plethora of solder-less kits available, it’s easier than ever to make your own patch cables. But if you prefer soldered cables, or don’t know how to solder your own cables, take the time to plot your pedals, measure the length from the Output to Input and then go shop for cables. It’s also a good idea to account for some slack in your cables too. Once you have all the lengths figured out, choose from any number of options available!

 Hopefully these tips will help you anytime you find yourself backed into a corner while building your next pedalboard. And remember, all of this should be fun! So if it ever stops being fun, take a break and come back to it later. You pedalboard will still be there in the morning.



6 Responses

gearld
gearld

March 24, 2020

just starting play bass and guitar not surewhat I want to start with , play in small church band

Jeff St. Clair
Jeff St. Clair

March 24, 2020

Not sure about number 3. Can someone explain what “cover your Velcro with sheets of paper or thin cardboard” means? I’m not getting a visual on that one.

Dan N
Dan N

March 24, 2020

Using a tool like http://pedalboardplanner.com/ is the best way to plan your board layout. That one in particular is intended for PedalTrain boards, but you can just pick one that’s about the same dimensions as what you have and you’re good to go. It has a huge selection of manufactures pedals you can add. Doesn’t seem to work on FireFox, but does on Chrome (didn’t test anything else).

Mikhael
Mikhael

March 24, 2020

One thing I have to take issue with is Velcro – I hate that stuff. Oh, it works, but the pedals will move somewhat when you step on them. It doesn’t matter which kind I use, it still happens. So I unscrew the bottom of the pedal, get longer screws, then pass those screws through the board into the pedal (with the bottom still on). Steady as a rock. I do make sure my signal path is exactly how I want it beforehand, and measure and draw it out, before assembly.

I have three pedalboards now; a huge one for DI work, that includes an acoustic path as well; one for my rock amp rig; and one for rehearsals that’s pretty small and cheap, but has a preamp mounted on it. The practice one can go into an amp or DI.
Also, consider power supplies with isolated outputs. It makes a big difference in noise levels.

Brian Scalise
Brian Scalise

December 11, 2019

I guess I’m the opposite. I’ve never been particularly impressed with stacks of amps, but love the way tube amplifiers play & respond. I’ve used all sorts of amplifiers, tube, transister, hybrid & modelling, and I think an all tube head with a separate cabinet is the way to go, but the amplifier needs an effects loop for the pedals, and my legacy Carvin amplifier does. I’ve never liked lugging gear and that’s why I steer clear of combo amps, & go with the separate head & cabinet, so I can lug in stages. I generally use as few pedals as possible, but some pedal effects have to come after the pre-amp. The pre-amp provides the diestortion that is then modulated. Some distortion emulators are better than others, but none can match the responsiveness, dynamics, or rich tones of an all-organic, analog, overdriven tube. So I put the tuner at the front of the chain & then other pedals as necessary after. Generally my setup is tuner, wah, compressor, noise-gate-input then preamp with echo, reverb, flanger, and a noise gate wired in the effects loop. I provide power through an AC adapter, but you might be surprised at how little current most effects pedals draw, so that 9 volts DC at 1 A is more than enough for all my pedals plus wah. My pedal that takes the most current is the gate at 21 mA, the least is the wah at 3 mA, with most being right around 10 mA.

Larry Denney
Larry Denney

September 18, 2019

Many years ago I was convinced as well that tube amps were the only way to go. Those huge stacks looked awesome, even though the oppressive stage volume was in constant conflict with the other band mates and nightmare for the sound engineer.
At that point in my life I didn’t even mind moving them around, that was then.
Fast forward 30+ years now I’m no longer interested in all the inherent issues that come with real tube amps.
My current rig consists of one acoustic and one electric guitar, a floor type modeling and effects processor. Running straight into the mixer (Carvin),with an additional output going to a powered speaker cabinet 1-12”for monitoring on stage.
The whole rig takes 5-7 min to set up, fits in the backseat of a small sedan,and sounds incredible, no lie. For an older musician it works great for me.

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