Posted by: worshipguitarguy | November 17, 2006

Mail Call: Effects Order

This question comes by way of Marc, from the “My Live Setup” post a few months back… 

Would you please please please explain how to place your effects in order… which ones should go before which…? I understand how whatever is first goes into the second one, therefore the second effect with be processing both the first and the itself… I guess what I’m most concerned with where to put the distortion/overdrive and the wah in with the chain…

Ok, before we jump into answering this, let’s answer two simple questions first:

Why should I care about the order of my effects?
This is a simple question with a simple answer.  When you hook up your effects, the later ones in your chain will process the sounds from the earlier ones.  For example, if you have a chorus in front of an overdrive, (and both on,) your chorus sound will be overdriven, making the effect a little less pronounced and more muffled.  If you switch the order though, the chorus effect will be a little clearer and more distinct.

Before we jump into this, I’ll first say there is no right or wrong way to order effects.  Some of the coolest and most creative guitar sounds come from playing around with effect order.  That said, there are some commonly accepted ways many guitarists order their effects.  Here I’ll try to explain them, and also mention common variations in order.

I don’t have single effects, I have MultiFX unit *X*, why should I care about effects order?
Many current MultiFX units have modes that set the order of effects, so this discussion also applies for many MFX units.    

So here we go with effects order:

1.  Volume Boost | Compression
A compressor pedal takes your volume levels and evens them out.  (For example it limits the volume of hard strums and increases the volume of light strums.)  Many guitar players will tell you that a compressor can give your sound a bit of sustain and strength.  Alternate Placement:  Since some wah pedals give off drastic changes in volume, some players like put the compressor after a wah pedal, evening out the volume changes, or after the OD pedals.

A volume boost pedal is one that increases the preamp volume heading out to your amp.  The key reason for running it before the overdrives is it will provide a greater punch going in, meaning it gives your overdrive more saturation and sustain.

2.  Wah Pedal
A wah pedal’s essentially an EQ shift effect (it’s often called an envelope filter.)  Most guitarists I know place it before their overdrives.  Placing it after the overdrive/distortion effects can create a cool synth style effect, but it will take away from the smooth and natural OD sound your guitar produces. 

3.  Overdrives | Distortion | Fuzz
Next in your chain comes your OD style effects.  It’s pretty much a consensus among guitar players that unless you’re experimenting tonally, your OD’s should come before your modulation and delay effects.  If placed after Mods and delays, the OD’s will tend to make them sound muddy and less distinct. 

Note: some players like to put EQ boxes after their OD’s to give them greater control over their tone EQ.  If you’re putting EQ at the front of your chain, you’ll probably want to make adjustments more subtle.

4.  Modulation Effects
Phasers | Flangers | Chorus | Tremolo | Pitch and Phase Shifters | Rotary Speakers
Mod effects typically follow Overdrives.  The one exception is a phaser pedal, which some guys run before their Wah’s and compressors, since it is also an envelope filter style effect.  The only downside is if all your Mods are in a single box, (like the Line 6 MM4), you’ll be locked where you can put them.

5.  Delays | Echo Effects (including Reverb)
Ok, there are two schools of thought on where to place delay effects… this is the way I do it, (placing it before my volume pedal), but many many players do it the other way.  I’ll explain the benefits and drawbacks of each. 

Many guitarists place their delays and echos after their volume pedal so when they cut out their volume, their delays will still trail off at the end. 

The reason I place mine before my volume pedal is this.  I use delay in alot of the songs we play, but we like to introduce clean stops throughout many of our songs.  If my delay is after the volume pedal, (especially if I’m using a long delay….)  I can’t cut it on a dime.  By running delays pre volume pedal, I can cut it whenever I need to. 

6.  Volume Pedal
There’s two schools of thought on volume pedals… some players place it at the front of their chains, some at the end. 

The benefit of placing it first is this… if you back down a volume pedal at the front of your chain while playing an overdriven sound, you’ll notice it actually begins cleaning up your tone first, before dropping the volume level coming from your amp.  Alot of players use this to smoothly vary their tone from “semi-clean” to “dirty.”

By placing your volume pedal near the end of your chain, it controls the overall output from your effects rig more than whether your tone flows from clean to dirty.  It’s a great way to handle your volume levels, especially for swells.

I place my volume pedal near the end because I use my volume knob to control my pregain volume… then I use my pedal to control overall volume.  By having it at the end of the chain, I can have the best of both worlds. 

Using an Effects Loop on an Amp

Running all of your effects into an amps preamp input is fine if you have a single channel amp, and are planning on running the amp itself fairly clean.  But if you want to use the built in overdrive on your amp, (or your amp is multichannel with a clean and OD channel), then check out your amps effects loop.

What is an effects loop? 
If you look at the order of effects above, you’ll see my recommendation that you run mod and time based effects after your overdrive.  But if you’re running everything into the preamp input on your amp and using your amps gain stage, then you’re actually placing your mods and delays before your OD.  How do you fix this?  That’s where your effects look comes in.

The effects loop is essentially a loop out and back in that’s between the preamp and the power amp.  A general rule of thumb with an effects loop is to run your compressors, wah, boosts, and OD/distortion pedals into the preamp input, and your mods, delays, etc in the effects loop. 

My Pedalboard Setup:

 Great Links on this Topic::



  1. Great post.

    I’m a fan of the effects loop… I am one of those guys who likes to keep the amount of stuff between the guitar and the amp to a minimum. Exceptions are granted for wah and overdrive.

    I’ll start the inevitable “here’s my rig!” posts… my old rig during my much cooler days was:

    ’68 Goldtop Les Paul – Boss Tuner – Crybaby Wah – Vintage Ibanez TS-9 – Sovtek Big Muff Pi – to signal splitter – to amp(s).

    Amp(s) – Mesa Boogie Mark IV head pushing Marshall 4×12 cab loaded w/ 75 watt Celestions, a Fender DeVille 2×12 combo, and sometimes my Fender Champ.

    In the effects loop of the Boogie – Rackmounted Alesis MidiVerb 4, and Line 6 DL 4 pedal.
    The other amps ran without effects, unless I was feeling Edgy, then I’d run the effects loop stereo between the Boogie and the Fender. The MidiVerb was controlled via a neat little MidiMan foot controller.

    OK am done being a geek… =)

  2. I like your style Tony! Sounds like ur set up much like the edge. Are you controlling every effect by a midi interface?

  3. I was generally only using the midi controller to handle the Alesis… I wasn’t smart enough to hook the rest of it up that way, and couldn’t afford a Bradshaw system.

    My rig today is MUCH smaller… sold the Boogie and DeVille (had to pay the rent!), the Tube Screamer was fried by a well-meaning guitar tech, and I traded the rest of the gear for a painting. Yep.

  4. OK the link to my blog on the last two posts was wrong… s/b My bad.

  5. I actually put my overdrive last because I turn the output up very high with a moderate amount of gain in order to get a little more natural distortion out of my clean amp. When I tried to use the overdrive first, it was slamming the inputs of my other effects too hard and caused them to distort in a bad way.

  6. I forgot to mention that Rick, but you’re not the only one I’ve seen do that… Thanks for the addition…

    By the way Tony, don’t worry… geek spoken here. 😉

  7. Great post about a question I too hear all the time from guys at church’s. My setup is similar (since we’re all being geeks anyways):
    Tuner->Wah/Filter->Compressor->Boost->OD/Dist->Volume->Pitch Shifting->Modulation->Delays->Reverb->Looper

    Works great as I run everything into my AC30’s preamp. It’s running on the verge of breakup/clean all the time, so it works well actually.

  8. I put my compressor after my distortion. that way I can get less distortion when I play softer and it’ll distort more when I play louder. Then the compression after it will even out the sound a little.

    At church I just use
    GE-7 EQ->tubescreamer->compression->line6 Pod amp modeler straight to the PA. The GE-7 it just a clean volume boost to drive the tubescreamer more when I need more distortion or switch to a single coil.

    Obviously I’m not a big effects guy. 🙂

    I don’t know how to use effects properly so it would be distracting if I did it in church. I don’t even know what the difference between overdrive and distortion is.

  9. I’m a church guitarist, and so I don’t have the volume headroom to run an amp to a level where you get good tone. Also, here in Egypt it’s impossible to find good amps, and they are WAY too heavy to ship them in. Soooooo…. (confession coming) I have a Behringer V-Amp2. I know, Behringer seems to have a reputation for stealing technology and undercutting competitors. However, they were the first to market with the V-Amp and anyway, mine was $100 on ebay five years ago, and for the money it is AMAZING! I control it with a $30 midi control pedal from ebay.

    Get to the point. Guitar -> Marshall Guvnor (OD) -> Boss EQ20 -> Behringer V-Amp2 -> Volume pedal -> Line6 DL4 -> DI box -> main PA board.

    This affords me max flexibility with min space and no excessively loud amps (much as I’d love one). I have the V-Amp2 set up with four drive levels (clean to searing lead) and then four different effects patches for atmospheric and tonal texture-type sounds. If I need more drive then I use the Guvnor as a big boost or the EQ20 for a small boost. I like the delay after the volume to preserve the delay trails.

  10. Great info here. I like your board setup, it’s almost identical to mine. In order I have TS808, Fulltone2, MM4, DL4, DD-20, BBE SonicStomp, EB volume pedal.

    My only suggestion for DL4 and MM4 users is to get a 1/4″ Stereo-to-Dual 1/4″ Mono Y Cable. That sounds complicated… but it’s not. It’s a simple Stereo plug on one side that splits into two mono plugs, plug this into a Ernie Ball VPjr, this will alow total control of all the effects, especially on the MM4. For a chorus you can set the amount of chorus you want based on where you set the volume pedal. You can use the pedal to control a tremolo, a little phaser or a lot.

    Anyway, this is just my suggestion for MM4 pedals, the extra volume pedal used as the expression pedal, will add a lot of control to your modulation effects.

  11. Interesting idea Todd… never heard of anyone doing this before… so that means I’m going to have to give it a try! 😉

  12. Howdy everyone. I’m currently playing through a Vox AC30 and after reading this, I decided to try and run my DD-5 and my DL-4 through the FX loop in the back of the amp. I’m gonna have to say this was definitely a good idea, because now the tone of my delay is sounding much more distinct. Some of you may know who ALex Nifong is… and if not, he plays for Passion Conferences and 722 (a huge youth group down here in GA) He also recommended this so… worshipguitarguy, thanks for the useful advice and the site 🙂 cheers

  13. car news

  14. well thank you so very much WGG i really appreciate you going over this, i’ve added a lot more effects recently and i’m and getting a MPS XL pedal board by Pedal pad… if anyone wants a boutique/custom made style pedal board at a mass production price i would recommend checking them out… ONE LAST QUESTION, well at least for now, lol… what do you recommend for boosting the volume for a solo, while using overdrive or no overdrive either way? I already have my volume pedal at the very beginning of my signal because i use it a lot for volume swells with the delay on… so aside from another volume pedal?

  15. Hey Marc, two thoughts, you could add a compressor, which of course can bring you out over the top but it does compress your signal, or a volume boost pedal. That’s why I have the Fulltone Fat Boost in my signal chain. Except I like the way it sounds so much, that I leave it on all the time now, so I don’t have a boost… 😉

    Another thought could be a second OD pedal that blends between a clean and a dirty OD… and set it to be fairly clean. (a pedal like the Sparkle Drive would work…)

  16. Quick question not really about order, but in terms of analogue delay, which would people say is better for worship music (and in general) the EH Deluxe Memory Man or the Boss DM 2. I’ve got DMM at the mo, but noticed that quite a few worship guitarists have the DM 2 on their boards.

    And to go with the real theme of this post, My setup is:
    Fender Tele=>Big Muff=>Crowther Hot Cake=>Boss CH1=>Boss DD 6=>EH Deluxe Memory Man-> Ernie Ball volume Jr.

  17. Hmm, I’ll have to leave this one to some of the other guys… I’ve been around the DMM, but never played the DM-2. I love the sound from the Memory Man though…

  18. By the way, in case your wodering my amp is an Orange AD30 Through Orange 2×12 cab 🙂

  19. Hey man, I’m a huge fan of your posts! I’m one of those hidden guys that always reads but never comments. Hopefully you still check for comments on your older posts.

    Here’s my question: I’m really new to the single/stomp box effects world. I’ve used a Line 6 POD my whole life but recently decided to upgrade and purchase a Vox AC30. I’m a high school student with low income and am trying to decide which effects would be best for me to purchase first. As of right now, I own a Line 6 DL4 and an Ibanez TubeScreamer. If it helps to know my style…I play a lot of Crowder and Hillsong stuff.

    Also, because you play an AC15, I’m up for any tips with the amp. I’m still really new to it as well. Thanks so much, man…God’s really using you in ways you don’t even know! Keep up the good work!

  20. Man, thanks for stopping by Lucas, and yeah, I can see all the comments on old posts. 😉

    You already have a great start with pedals… I’m speaking for myself here, but the next thing I’d get would be a volume pedal… you can get a good deal on an Ernie Ball VP or VP JR off ebay. I realized how much I rely on my Volume Pedal after it went on the fritz a few months ago.

    If you’re into the Hillsongs/Crowder/Tomlin stuff, ya may want to consider getting a good reverb pedal. Vox amps have never really been known for their reverb, (unlike Fender amps) and a good verb pedal will add a whole other dimension of sounds that are similar to, but compliment your delay.

    Other than that, a compressor or boost is always cool!

    Next week, I’ll try to post a bit about my approach to setting up my amp and fx.

    Thanks so much for your encouragement Lucas… feel free to comment anytime!

  21. Oops, I forgot to mention that I already have an Ernie Ball VP JR as well, so that’s one more to check off the list!

    One other thing I’ve had somewhat of a hard time understanding is what and what not to run through the effects loop. Also, do you use the reverb/tremolo footswitch that came with the amp?

    Last question for the moment…this may be dumb, I dunno! Haha! Can I run my Line 6 POD in line with my other effects? If so, where would I place it in the lineup?

    Thanks so much for your help man! This is great!

  22. How about if you want to add a separate stompbox effect to a multieffect board? I have a floor pod, and I want to add a Line 6 Echo pack pedal to get a dotted 1/8 sound.

    1. Is it ok to do that?
    2. If it’s ok, should the echo park go before or after the floor pod? I usually connect the floor pod directly to the church system.


  23. Hey Mike,

    If you were running an Echo Park, you’d probably want to run it between the XT Live and your amp.

    If I’m not mistaken though, your XT Live has a dotted eighth capability built in. If you can’t set it from the pedal settings, you definitely can if you plug your POD in through the USB port of your computer and define the patches with the free Gearbox software. Once you save the patch, it will always be there for you, you’ll just have to tap your tempo in when you start playing.

  24. Hey man,

    Did you ever read my comment above? I think you may have skipped over it accidentally or something…or else you just don’t like me and won’t respond to my questions. Either way, I completely understand! Haha!

  25. Hey Lucas,

    I looked over your post, I’m sorry!

    Hey, you could run your POD in-line with your effects… My question is, what effects do you have? If you’re planning on just using the POD for amp modeling, then you’d run it last in the chain. If you want to use the effects on the pod, then you have a whole other ballgame.

    If this is the case, I’m just giving you a general rule of thumb idea, but I’d run everything but your delays before the POD, then put the delays last.

    Of course it all really depends on what sounds best to you.

  26. Thanks very much for the useful information. I follow your ideology. My question is: I just purchased a new fulltone Fulldrive2. To keep true to guitar/effects tone, it is placed before the delay pedal. As the FD2 is a true bypass, everytime i activate it there is a small click/pop that rings through the amp because of the delay… you have any suggestions on how to fix this issue?
    Obviously if i place the delay first, the click goes away but the tone sounds muddy as you have stated.

    I would love any advice you could offer…fulltone hasn’t gotten back to me in a long while.

  27. Haha, thanks for the reply!

    I only have the basic floor pod though. So I don’t think it has the dotted eighth setting. So, I guess I should run the echo park between the floor pod and the amp then……but how about if I want to go directly to the Chruch PA? Will that still work? Or could I connect the guitar to the echo park forst, then to the floor pod, then to the house pa?

  28. I actually run my tremolo last. It’s like this.

    Les Paul>Ernie Ball VP JR>BOSS BD-2 Blues Driver>Ibanez TS-9>BOSS DD-3 Delay>Dunlop TS1 Stereo Tremolo…

    I use my tremolo last because of the stereo output and because I don’t want the trem sound in my delay repeats when i turn it off.The intensity on my trem isn’t turned up too much either. I don’t like really deep trem sounds.

    I have two amps that i run into. . One is tube (vox ac15) the other is solid state (fender ultimate stereo chorus). Both amps are VERY different and have there own distinct sounds. I use the Vox as the “tip” of the trem and the Fender as the “ring”. My trem pedal allows me to send the same sound to both amps in mono mode, and in stereo mode i can pan between the two. It’s really cool

  29. I have a few effects lying around. The main effects I use are the DD6 and the DS1, although there are several others in line similarly to how you run yours. Unfortunately, I do not have a tube amp at the moment. I hear a lot of guitarists really using sustainish feedback almost as an orchestral type sound during soft intimate sections. What is the best way to pull of this effect? Is it in the type of guitar, or is there a great way to manage this type of effect? I hear it a lot in Hillsong United music, as well as The Edge. Before I sink too much more money into my rig (although I really want to), do you have any suggestions?

  30. Man this is awesome people talkin about pedals,
    well i play at church %90 of the time, and im a pedal freak. but enough about my life(cause its boring) i run out of my guitar into > Boss TU-2 Tuner > Sitori Sonics Brownies and Cream OD> Jekyll and Hyde OD and Dist > Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor > Line 6 FM4 Filter > Line 6 DL4 Delay > Ernie Ball VP JR. Vol > Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb > Vox AC30

  31. My order goes as follows:
    1. Cmatmods Compressor
    2. Dunlop 535Q
    3. Fulltone GT500
    4. Voodoo Labs Micro Vibe
    5. Carl Martin Noise Suppressor (the reason I don’t run the noise suppressor in the effects loop is because my loop is running in Parallel)

    In the loop:
    1. Line 6 Liqua Flange
    2. Line 6 Echo Farm
    3. Line 6 Verbzilla

    All this runs into a Marshall 30th Anniversary Combo. I’m really happy with my tones now!!!! I can get virtually any sound with this rig.

  32. Hows it going guys?
    Im setting up my pedal board and ive been reading these posts and trying to decide in what order i should place them. I have a Boss TU2 Chromatic Tuner, Boss NS2 Noise Suppressor, Boss GE7 Equalizer, Boss AW3 Dynamic Wah, Boss DD20 Giga Delay, MXR M151 Doubleshot Distortion, Dunlop Crybaby Classic, and a Ernie Ball VP JR.
    I was just wondering what your opinions were on what was the best way to get these pedals hooked up.

    Right now I have them setup like this:
    Guitar>TU2>Crybaby>AW3>M151>VP JR>DD20>NS2

    I havent put the Equalizer in there yet…not sure what to pur it after/before.
    I’m also thinking of adding a chorus, reverb, phaser/modulation pedal

  33. I use a Sitori Sonics Brownies too! Their Reel Repeat is also very cool!!!

  34. Hey guys, I got the Line 6 MM4, overall its a great Mod but just one thing : the volume (gain) is droped down when the fx is ON … Keeley offer the MM4 Mod Version and they can fix this problem but also high cost for this. Any ideas for this problem ? i mean i can try fix it myself ?

  35. great article!! good posts and rigs, but here is my set up: Abyss J2 Koa Arch top- Peterson strobo-stomp-cmattmods signa comp- analogman bicopm- Prometheus sub decay- foxrox octron- teese rmc 3 wha- analogman sunlion fuzz and boost- analogman king of tone- 2 ts9 tubescreamers mod by analogman- cmattmods brownie- cmattmods black plauge- mojo hand nebula phaser- analogman bi chorus- dls effect rotoSIM- cusak tap a whirl trem- trex replica delay- line6 M13- volume pedal- hardwire reverb- into a swart 30watt head9reverb and tube trem)- 2 12 cab. best of the best in my opinion. if you have not heard of some of these efects…. look them up!! alot of the gear on this page is crap!! dont wast your time and money on something you will get rid of in a few years for something better. just start with the best.

  36. just a imple question. i have a multi effects pedal, you know, lots of effects, small price, and i was wondering whether to put the wah pedal next to the guitar or the amp.

  37. This is a really great resource…thank you!
    I do realize that experimenting is important here, but I’m very open to recommendations for effect placements, looking for the maximum “cleanness” and distinctness for all the effects being used. I have the following:
    Barber Tone Press
    EH Deluxe Memory Man
    Boss DD-20
    Pro-Co Rat Distortion
    Line 6 DL4
    Boss Chorus
    Ernie Ball Stereo Volume Pedal

    I’m using a stereo output guitar with piezos and magnetics playing with a Blues Deluxe. Love to hear your comments!

  38. wow….what an amazing blog here, nice to see you guys…i am also a church guitarist at Indonesia. And here my pedals that i use in the church:

    guitar (ibanez rg 550 ltd japan,ibanez s bubinga series, washburn N2)>>boss pw-10>>mxr phaser 90>>boss ns-2 for send loop>>roctron tremolo>>boss octave>>digitech whammy>>vox satchurator>>boss ns-2 return loop>>boss superchorus ch-1>>digitech flanger>>boss dd-7 with tap pedal (for rythm section and clean hillsong delay mode)>>boss dd-3 (my main delay for solo)>>boss ge-7>>peavy bandit transtube 112.

    i like to play hillsong, israel, and kind like joe satriani and rock, blues, acid jazz.
    And really happy with my pedal board, hope we can change our experience and get more knowledge…thank you

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