Considerations before building a new pedal board

The list below represents my accumulated experiences with building pedal boards through the last 15-20 years. I do not make any claims that the list is anywhere near complete, but if you follow it, you should not be too far off.

This list also applies to most commercial pedalboards (Pedal Train, Emma Amarhyll, T-Rex Tonetrunk etc.).

When building a pedal board there are some points to consider:

1. What pedals need to be on the board? – This will determine the minimum size of the board. Consider the order of the pedals, especially if you are daisy-chaining them. Remember to include everything! – DI-boxes, wireless units, power supplies, buffers, amp footswitches etc. – Also make sure you have room between the pedals for the cables and plugs.

2. What pedals do you use the most? – These should be placed in the front row, easy to reach with your feet. Tuners should be placed so they are clearly visible – also from an angle. Rocker pedals (Volume-, wah-, expression-) pedals should have enough room around them so you don´t hit anything else with your foot when using them. Imagine hitting the Mute button on your tuner when you turn up your volume for a solo!!!

3. Should the board be flat, slanted/angled, or maybe flat with risers? – Slanted/angled boards (and risers) have room for power supplies, wireless units, buffers etc. underneath the board, but on flat boards, these have to go on top.

4. How should your pedals be secured to the board? – Hook-and-loop (Velcro), Pedal Fasteners, bike chain links etc. – Please note that really heavy pedals can be problematic when using hook-and-loop. You do not want a pedal to come loose during transport so the pedals need to be secured.

5. Power supply – it should be powerful enough to supply all your pedals. Should the board have an external power connection or maybe include a power strip? – This should be considered when deciding the size of the board.

6. Should the board have jack or XLR sockets so you can connect your guitars and amps directly to the board for quick setup/teardown? – What cables need to be connected to the board? – Are some of the pedals going into your amp’s effects loop? – Take care when you decide where to mount the sockets so they do not sit near pedals that radiate noise (typically digital pedals). – Consider how you want the cables to run on the stage. If you are right-handed, you might want the guitar input on the right side of the pedalboard and the output(s) on the left.

7. Cabling – are you going to make cables yourself, or just go with pre-made cables? – If you make cables yourself, you can make them the exact lengths you need. George L, Lavacable and a bunch of other cable manufacturers make solderless kits that are easy to assemble, but this is also the most expensive option. The advantages with these solderless kits are that they are easy to make, and the plugs are small and the cables are thin so they do not take up a whole lot of real estate on the board.

There is a lot of debate regarding these solderless kits. Some of it is true, some of it is just plain rubbish IMHO. One camp claims that the solderless cables have bad connections, they do not last etc.  And another camp claims that they have never had a solderless cable fail them in 20 years. I believe that it depends on where you want to use your solderless cables and how much they will be moved around. If your pedalboard stays the same for long periods and the cables have been assembled with great care and tied down and neatly routed, they can work just as well as soldered cables.

8. Transport protection – Should the board be in a flight case? – or a gig bag? – or maybe an old suitcase? – Flight cases are of course the most solid and secure solution, but it is also the heaviest and most expensive option. Also consider the size if it should fit in an existing flight case/gig bag

5 Responses to Considerations before building a new pedal board

  • Stephen Stacy says:

    I’m half done building a DIY Pedalboard. I’d like to post a design but I don’t see where attachments can be uploaded. I need advice on the best pedal order, etc. (I could email it to you if you respond back to my email) But in case that’s not possible, I’ll try to give a description: Pedalboard; 30″ x 15.75″ top, angled from 1/2″ to 3.75″ in the back. 1/2″ MDO construction w/ recessed male plug, locking 1/4″ jack inserts on either side of the board (from guitar, out to amp. Amp is primarily a Marshall DSL 40C or at times, a ’77 OR-120 Orange head…one channel w/ overdrive and hard to get a clean sound) So, Pedals: > guitar > Pure Tone Buffer > Tuner > Wah > Compressor > Key 9 > NS-2 > MXR Fuzz > OCD Distortion > Fat-Boost > Rotary Machine > Digital Delay DD-6 > Analog Delay > Amp

    • admin says:

      Hi Stephen,

      First of all: I am sorry I haven’t answered your post before now. The notifications from my web site are only working sporadically.

      I’m also sorry that my site does not allow users to post attachments. This is for safety reasons.

      I think your pedal order is fine as it is. I think I would probably use the NS-2’s loop for all the noisy pedals. I think you will find that it makes it a little easier to get the noise under control.

      So this would mean: Guitar > Pure Tone buffer > Tuner > NS-2 in, NS-2 send > Wah > Compressor > Key 9 > Fuzz > OCD > Fat-Boost > Rotary Machine > NS-2 Return, NS-2 Output > DD-6 > Analog Delay > Amp

      You can find an article on my site that describes how the NS-2 works and why this wiring is less noisy.

  • JIm McLemore says:

    Dear Allan: I am rebuilding my pedal board and I have spent a great deal of time reading other people’s ideas but they don’t cover what I’m trying to do. Maybe if you have time you could give me your ideas of a good way. The guitar comes into a “Road Rage” looper. Loop 1 is a Digitech RP 255. Loop 2 – I want to use the following pedals, Empress Buffer/boost that has an out for a tuner. An old Dunlop Wah. Barber Tone Pump, Maxon VOP-9, Timmy Pedal, Oddfellow overdrive, Wampler EGO Compressor, Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor, Boss Tremolo, TC Electronics Chorus, T-Rex Replica Delay. I do have a Loop 3 – I could use this for the Wah pedal by itself if you think it is better. I also a little bit confused where the Buffer goes into the signal chain in relationship to the Boss NS-2. I would be glad to pay you for your time for your ideas. Let me know if you can help. Thanks, Jim

    • admin says:

      Hi Jim,

      No need to pay me! – This is something I love doing!

      I would probably reverse the signal chain so you have the Wah first and the Digitech last. Something like this:

      guitar -> Empress buffer in -> Empress buffer send -> Boss NS-2 Input -> Boss NS-2 Send -> Road Rage looper -> Loop 1 send -> Wah -> Loop1 return -> Loop2 send -> Barber -> Maxon -> Timmy -> Oddfellow -> Wampler -> Tremolo -> Chorus -> replica -> Loop 2 return -> Loop 3 send -> Digitech -> Loop 3 return -> Boss NS-2 return -> Boss NS-2 output -> Ditto X2 -> Empress buffer return -> Empress buffer output -> amp

      The reason for this is that you want the amp emulation to be last, after all effects are added.

      However, I am a little confused as to why you want to use the Road Rage at all. It would make much more sense if it had a loop for each pedal so you could bypass each pedal individually.

      Allan

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