Building Or Buying A Pedal Board

Advice on building or buying your first pedal board.

Building Or Buying A Pedal Board
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We all know that effect pedals multiply when you're not looking, and we all know that a guitarist's collection of guitars, amps and pedals can never be 'complete'. We usually start with a simple overdrive pedal or a tuner just for the convenience of having a tuner right at your feet. But before you know it you're already looking for a power supply and spending free time making patch cables. Eventually they become too inconvenient to set up and connect every time you want to play, or when playing gigs and having to carry them in their individual boxes with the cables and all. The solution to this problem is simple - A pedal board. With a pedal board you can attach your pedals and connect them together and just leave it like that. It saves lots of time when setting up and tearing down at gigs or rehearsals when all you need to do it plug in your guitar and amp, and maybe a power supply. When looking at buying or building a pedal board there are a few things you need to look at:

Size

Probably the most important factor to consider. You have to be able to fit all of your pedals on the board. Also remember to leave room for more pedals, unless you've been using the same rig for years or never plan to get another pedal again. But remember, a large pedal board can take up lots of floor space.

Angled Surface

If you want your pedals to lie in rows on your board, then an angled surface would be a good idea. An angled surface makes it easier to activate pedals in the second or third rows, without being blocked or hidden by the pedals in the front. Think to yourself: "What pedals am I going to need to step on more often?" You then have an idea of how long your patch cables must be and how to put your pedals down. But remember the order of pedals:
  • Guitar
  • Tuner (Some people put them second)
  • Compressor
  • EQ
  • Wah
  • Other filter effects (Octaver, Whammy, Pitch Shifter, etc.)
  • Distortion/Overdrive/Fuzz
  • Light Modulation (Phaser, Chorus, Step Filter, etc.)
  • Heavy Modulation (Flanger, Tremolo, Vibratone, etc.)
  • Time-Based effects (Reverb, Delay, Loop, etc.)
  • Amp Angled surfaces have other advantages: They enable you to run your cables underneath the board or mount a power supply under the board. Slatted surfaces also allow you to run cables between the slats and mount a power supply inside. I like angled surfaced boards, but quite a few people (Including me) hate using wah pedals on an angled surface.

    Case

    A hard case for your pedal board might seem very unnecessary now, and it's usually fine when travelling to rehearsals. But when gigging and touring, a hard case is essential. Hard cases usually aren't cheap and can double the cost of your board, but consider the value of all of your pedals... Now imagine an amp rack falling on it.

    Power Supplies

    I'm not going to say much about power supplies because that might start a huge debate in the comments. All there is to say is some people prefer to run batteries, and some prefer power supplies. I personally prefer power supplies because even though some pedals can last a month or two without needing new batteries, some pedals eat those 9V batteries for lunch, and they aren't cheap either. I recommend a basic Voodoo Lab Power Supply for your pedals, avoid Daisy Chains, and also avoid pedal boards with built-in power supplies. They might seem fantastic now but as your board grows it eventually isn't enough, and they usually only support one voltage.

    Inputs and Outputs

    Most boards don't have them, I think they are very clever and useful and I recommend them. Because my board doesn't have an input and output, I have to put my board as far to the left of the stage as possible because if it's on the right, I can't move left without my cable dragging across the faces of my pedals, which causes lots of chaos. An input for your guitar in the front is the ideal thing to do, that way you can move around anywhere on the stage.

    Attaching Pedals

    Most people use Velcro Strips, and I think it's the easiest way to go. Some people tie their pedals down and I've even seen some people duct tape them down. This part is up to you. That's basically it when it comes to buying or building pedal boards. Here are a few typical types of pedal boards that you will always see in people's rigs to give you an idea of how people design their boards.

    The Crammed Board:

    The people who own these boards are the people who didn't think about the size of their boards before buying or making one. They usually have about 5 pedals on the board, the rest are either balancing on top of the others, or hanging on the edge of the board.

    The One-Brand Board:

    We all know those types of people, the kinds of people who would have a Boss Pedal board with only Boss pedals on it.

    The Home-Made Board:

    Not only is the board home-made, but all of the pedals are made by the owner themselves. Making pedals is fun but sometimes it's cheaper to actually just go and buy one of them.

    Less Is More:

    Zakk Wylde says that when it comes to pedal boards, less is more. He says that he could have used the same rig when he was 15. These boards are usually the biggest boards you'll ever see... But with 2 or 3 pedals on it.

    The No-Board Board:

    The owners of these boards are the people who don't bother to make or buy a board. These people are the people who will set up about 11 pedals on the floor.

    The Multi-Effect Board:

    These boards are either just one massive multi-effect pedal, or a few multi-effects.

    The Messy Board:

    These boards are the ones that have patch cables 4 times the length that they need to be, the pedals on these boards are usually half on the board-half off the board, or balancing on the edge of another pedal.

    The Vandalised Board:

    These boards disgust me. These are the boards where the wah pedal is actually crying, and the talkbox is swearing.(Sorry for the lame jokes) when you look at these boards you can clearly see that the owner has sat down with a pedal in one hand and a pen or a can of paint in the other, and 'coloured in' the pedals: Drawing small pictures on the pedals, ripping off the knobs and the owner has taken Behringer pedals and stuck pictures of the Boss logo on the pedals. Hope this helps!
  • 18 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      dumbface12
      This article is good for someone that needs a pedal board and needs to consider their options for one, but the order of pedals is always what sounds best. For example, some people put wah after distortion and overdrive and also a lot of times people put EQ after distortion or even into the effects loop. Not gonna lie though a homemade pedal board sometimes is the best way to go especially if you have only a few pedals. I took a zipper binder and took out the metal rings and created a pedal board out of it. Now people think like I'm crazy for having a binder in front of me on stage.
      Clarkinator
      I think you should have covered the difference between putting effects in front of the amp or in the loop, since that often trips up people who are starting to get into pedals (I know I struggled and had to do a lot of reading online). For example, I run Tuner-Wah-Compressor-OD-Phaser in front of my amp, and then EQ (I use it as a boost for solos)-Delay-Tremolo-Reverb through my effects loop. It is also handy to leave some extra space on your board for your footswitch (if like me, you use your amp for a lot of your crunch). I used to have my pedal board AND the footswitch next to it and that was a hassle... it looked like I was doing footwork drills at soccer practice. The easiest way for me to do this is have my top row be pedals before the amp, and my bottom row be the ones in the loop. Less chords everywhere, etc. Also +1 on the case... makes transportation so much easier. I got a pedaltrain 2 for my pedalboard and it came with a nice case (soft one, but its sturdy).
      Clarkinator
      I should also add that the loop is important for delay, because if you use your amp's overdrive channel for your crunch, it will sound like crap with the delay in front of the amp. I thought my pedal was broken... turns out I just had to throw it in the loop when I use my amp's gain.
      Kueller917
      I just found a plank of wood in my backyard about a good size, covered it with black tape and some velcro, and had a decent enough board I still use. I've got extra cable taped all over the bottom and pedals all over the place, but it gets the job done.
      GuitarQ33r0
      Im a no-board board because I usually only use a distortion and wah, but its better than those vandalized (wannabe) punks.
      Eagerest
      If anyone's looking for a good pedal board make, PedalTrain do great pedal boards in all sizes. If you get a Voodoo Power Supply, it fits perfectly on the underside, all you need is a little DIY and it powers and holds pedals brilliantly!
      Jazz Funeral
      I made my own board out of raw lumber and some steel closet shelving that I hack-sawed to length. I made recesses for the steel tubing to slide into when assembled and added two cross-member boards to add support to the shelving. I've stained it and cleared it and may add to the finish with a wood burner someday when I'm feeling "artsy". It's a little heavy and awkward through doors and halls, but I love it.
      TheMetalMan94
      The board itself is simple enough to make yourself. A trip to your local hardware store for tools and some wood then you are set, custom shapes and design too
      Jazz Funeral
      I should add that all of my cables are being run through and under the shelving and wire-tied to different spots to keep down on clutter. I even routed out some holes in the support boards to run cables through. I am keeping all of my pedals in place with wire-ties too. it al looks rather clean.
      bigMaor
      I have one more Idea you can use, I took an old laptop bag and turned it into a pedal board. just put the pedals where the laptop suppose to be and connect them. then put the power-brick or just a plain power cable where you suppose to put the laptop cables. now make a little hole in between the two pockets and your good to go.
      Metalloy
      now I feel dumb not thinking about that earlier . genius Idea fro small setups.