The Basics of Pedalboards and How to Build Your Own System

The Basics of Pedalboards and How to Build Your Own System | MusicStreet

The guitar is one of the leading musical instruments played by people. It has become arguably the most iconic instrument thanks to musicians such as Hendrix, Van Halen, and Slash, and their musical innovations have paved the way for improving guitar technology. More specifically, pedalboards have become a necessity in any guitarist's arsenal, famous or otherwise.

A pedalboard is a collection of connected effects pedals. Pedals typically used include distortion, wah, delay, reverb, and overdrive. Effects pedals allow the guitarist to modify their sound and create new tones, textures, and dynamics. Pedalboards are the perfect way to organise the pedals and ensure they are connected and powered correctly. However, building a pedalboard system is a complex task and requires guitar wiring and electronics knowledge. Few people know how this works, so we will discuss the details in this article.

A Brief History of Guitar Effects

Guitar effects have been around since the early days of the electric guitar. Distortion was first created by pushing the volume on the amplifier beyond its limits, and it quickly became a famous sound because early guitar amplifiers were low-fidelity, allowing for more creative manipulation. Around the mid-40s, musicians such as Elmore James and Buddy Guy attempted to replicate the raw sound of early blues musicians, particularly Muddy Waters and Charles Burnett, more famously known as Howlin' Wolf. Things changed in 1955 when Chuck Berry released his hit song "Maybellene" and popularised the use of guitar effects. He used a combination of distortion, echo, and reverb to create a unique sound that would soon become the standard for rock and roll guitarists.

During the British Invasion, The Kinks' Dave Davies used a razor blade to slash the speaker cones of his amplifier, which laid the foundation for the band's hit song "You Really Got Me." Around that same period, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones used a Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone to record the band's hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

Things elevated further around the 1970s when hard rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath used guitar effects to create a unique sound, which laid the foundations for heavy metal as we know it today. Since then, more and more effects have been developed, from wah-wah pedals to octave dividers. Guitarists have all used them to create an even wider range of sounds. Today, effects are an integral part of the guitar sound and can be heard in almost every genre of music.

Building Your Own Pedalboard

Creating a pedal board is an excellent way to customise your sound and allow you to create a wide variety of tones. However, not all effects pedals are the same, so you must consider various factors when making a pedalboard, depending on its size.

Small Pedalboards

If you are limited in space, a small pedalboard is ideal. This type of pedalboard typically consists of a few essential effects, such as distortion, delay, and reverb. This setup is perfect for those who are just starting but want to experiment with different sounds.

Medium Pedalboards

A medium pedalboard grants you more room to add additional effects to your setup. This size is perfect for those still experimenting with their sound but wanting more control over it. You can add more complex effects, such as modulation and pitch-shifting, and additional effects, such as compressors, EQs, and filters.

Large Pedalboards

A large pedalboard gives you complete control and flexibility over your sound. You can add any type of effect you desire and create complex and dynamic sounds. This type of setup is perfect for experienced guitarists who want to have ultimate control over their sound.

Adding Accessories

Pedalboards are also excellent for adding accessories such as power supplies, patch cables, and other items you deem essential, such as controller. When building your pedalboard, you must carefully plan and leave enough room for these accessories. This will help keep your setup organised and efficient.


A pedalboard is an indispensable resource for guitarists looking to improve their sound. However, not all effects are created equal, and you will be hard-pressed to find the perfect combination of pedals to suit your needs. With careful planning and organisation, you can create a pedalboard to help you get the most out of your gear and make your playing more enjoyable.

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