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