Building Your First Pedalboard

October 13, 2018

PEDALS. Love 'em or Hate 'em..... If you're a musician, you can't escape 'em!


Sadly, many players' pedalboards are more of a statement, rather than a tool to craft their sound to how they want it. 


It was only through the slow, painful process of building my board throughout the years, saving, and researching, that I realised how important it was to TAKE YOUR TIME




Learn how to craft your sound pedal by pedal. This is invaluable when you build a board this way, as when a band leader, producer or musical director calls on you to deliver a specific sound, you know your gear well enough to dial it in. Train your ear in how your gear responds in different situations. 


Sure, the paint job may be nice, but that's not going to make you sound better. You need to listen. Listen to how the pedal reacts to your playing. How well does it go with your amp? How well does it go with your guitar? 


As much as you may want it (because all the 'big boards' have it), you don't necessarily need that £300 boutique overdrive pedal straight away.




When you are first getting started with putting together your first pedalboard, I found (from MY experience) the essentials are:

- Compressor

- Overdrive

- Delay

- Reverb

- Boost


You could buy a tuner pedal, BUT, if you're on a tight budget you could buy a clip on tuner instead. I have a clip on tuner (£10) for my Acoustic, because I haven't built an Acoustic Pedalboard yet. 




So, in a nutshell, what compressors do, is they create

a sort of ceiling, where your dynamics are evened out. So if you are playing hard, the volume of your playing can't go through the ceiling. Whereas if you're playing soft, the volume is increased TO the ceiling. Therefore, your hard playing and soft playing are at a consistent level. 


The first compressor pedal I had was the Marshall ED-1 Edward Compressor. It was great for what I needed it for. It had a really nice squeeze and it stayed on my board for a long time. Good price too, for £40.00.


Other options are the MXR Dyna Comp or the Xotic SP Compressor. 




Overdrives. The market is literally saturated

(no pun intended!) with overdrives. For the beginning player starting out in the world of guitar effects, this can be quite overwhelming. Don't worry. I've been there. 


Tube Screamers, Plexi's, Bluesbreakers, Klon Style. The list goes on.


Most people suggest that the go to for your first overdrive is the Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer, or the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver.


I personally went down the route of the Fulltone Fulldrive 2 MOSFET Overdrive, but the Blues Driver is a great place to start for around £70.00.






Delay, or 'Echo', as some like to refer to it as, is simply a repeat of the note you fed into the pedal. You can set how far apart the repeats are (TIME or SPEED), how many repeats (FEEDBACK) and how loud the first and subsequent repeats are going to be (MIX). If you can (and if your budget allows), get a delay with a Modulation setting, as a slight bit of modulation can be a useful tool to thicken up your delays and your sound. 




My first delay pedal was a Behringer DD600. Did the job well, BUT, I went through about 3 in two years. But then again, they're like £17.00 brand new.


Another great option if you've got a bit more to spend would be a TC Electronic Nova Delay ND-1. It has 9 presets so works well in a live situation. You can pick these up for about £150.00 if you look in the right places. 




Some people like the sound of a natural amp reverb. Some people like the sound of


mic'ing up the room they're in to capture the rooms natural reverb. However, this is not always possible.


Luckily, technology is such nowadays, that you can get accurate representations of these sounds from pedals. 


For worship, I'd recommend getting a Boss RV-5 (second hand ones are plastered all over eBay) for about £70.00.


This was my first reverb pedal and I had it for around 8 years before I moved onto a Strymon Big Sky.




The boost I have bought more recently has been the TC Electronic Spark Mini. For the money, it's incredible. Around £35.00 (GBP), this is a must have for the guitar player on a budget. 


Following my recommendations, you'd be spending around:



- Clip=On Tuner - £10.00

- Compressor (Marshall ED-1) - £40.00

- Overdrive (Boss Blues Driver) - £70.00

- Delay (TC ND-1 Nova Delay) - £150.00

- Reverb (Boss RV-5 Reverb) - £70.00

- Boost (TC Spark Mini Boost) - £35.00


You may also need a case for your pedals - £40.00



The Stagg Boards are great for starting a board. Lightweight and durable. I had one for years before I bought a Pedaltrain PT-2.


To round it all off, you'll need a fairly decent power supply and some patch cables.


For a power supply, i'd recommend the Diago Micropower for £40.00. This does use daisy chaining as the power source for your pedals, which I don't like, BUT, it's a good starting block.



For patch cables, try the Kirlin patch cables. You get 6 in a pack for £10.00.

















All together this set up would cost you £465.00 (around $610.00 if you're from the U.S.). Not a bad figure if you're gradually buying these and building your sound.







- Finding your sound TAKES TIME

- The best pedals are not always the most expensive ones



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