DIY Guide to Building Your First Pedal Board
Published on 20 January 2021
Let's talk about starting your stompbox collection and building your first pedalboard. It's a rite of passage for every player.
Once you've mastered a few chords and bagged a few riffs, you might start to think about adding another element to your playing... pedals! While building your first pedal board can be super exciting, it can also be a little daunting if you don't know where to start.
We're here to help with this handy beginner guide. We'll be giving you some all-important pointers, things to consider, debunking some lingo as well as giving you guys some recommendations along the way.
Before we dive into the specifics, let's take a look at some points you might find useful to think about when building your first pedalboard.
Tips to get you started
- Pedal board essentials. It goes without saying, but to start you off on your pedal board journey, you're gonna need an actual pedal board. If you use more than two pedals, it's really a no brainer to buy a board. It keeps everything neat, uniform and easy to transport. You'll also need a power supply to keep them all powered up and some good old velcro to mount your stompboxes to your board.
- Choose a good mix of different pedals. By choosing a versatile set of pedals, experimenting with your sound should be super fun and enjoyable.
- Get inspired. Think about the sound you’d like to achieve with pedals. A great way to start on this is to think about other player’s sound that you like. Using a resource like Equipboard is super useful when researching what pedals your hero uses and what equipment they use to create their signature sound.
Now, every guitarists’ pedalboard will look different, but the following pedal we will discuss are staples for most players and are a great place to start your journey into the stompbox world. Let’s take a look…
Let’s get the least exciting one out the way first. This one might not be as “fun” as the others, but a tuner pedal will undoubtedly be the most important pedal on your board. No matter how many awesome effects you’re using, if you’re not in tune, it’s gonna sound, well, garbage!
Something as simple as the Landlord Lock In Tuner will do the job. It’s compact, has a large display screen and is super affordable at only £29 it’s a no brainer really. Okay, now let's get into the fun stuff!
Overdrive and distortion pedals are by far the most popular pedals on the market and are often the first type of pedals that guitarists buy to start off their stompbox journey.
An overdrive pedal is designed to emulate the sound of an overloaded guitar signal, adding grit and an 'overdriven' tone to your playing. There are thousands (not exaggerating here!) of overdrive pedals on the market. Our go-to Overdrive pedals include the BOSS DS-1, BOSS BD-2 Blues Driver, or the MXR Timmy Overdrive, which you can check out below.
Basically, a distortion pedal is an exaggerated form and adds more aggression more to your sound. If you’re looking to achieve extreme, earth-shattering tones, well look no further. A distortion pedal will be your partner in crime when cranking out those crunchy rock and heavy metal tunes. Distortion is a real must-have for every guitarist’s toolbox, adding that “heaviness” to any performance.
The BOSS DS-1 pedal is one of the most iconic distortion pedals and can be seen used on the boards of our favourite players, from Kurt Cobain to Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
A delay pedal makes specific echo repetitions of whatever you’ve played. You can determine the space of time between these repetitions, how many repetitions you want to hear and also how loud they should be in comparison to your original note. If you’ve ever heard ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ by U2 (or any U2 song in existence) you should be familiar with the texture and rhythmic momentum that this type of pedal can add to any song.
There is a wealth of delay pedals out there on the market, but we've really been enjoying using the Landlord Taproom Delay pedal. It's straightforward, easy to use, super affordable and great for beginners. A fantastic option for your first introduction to d-d-d-delay.
In short, Reverb just makes everything sound super dreamy. It sounds like playing live in a room with the best acoustics in the world. On a cloud. We won’t get too technical, but simply a reverb pedal creates a sonic space (woah, sounds fancy) around your notes, making them sound all ambient and distant. Something like the JHS Pedals 3 Series Reverb is a great place to start for all those dreamy tones. You can achieve the perfect level of reverb you wish with this little stompbox, from small room sounds to nearly endless washes of ambience.
If there’s one pedal we genuinely believe that every type of player should own (aside from a tuner) is a Looper. A looper pedal is a great way to build up texture in your sound, the creative possibilities are truly endless and having so much power at your feet is awesome. It’s a great way to spice up your practice sessions - just lay down some chords and add some riffs over top or mess around with layering different effects. By building and layering many tracks on top of each other, any guitarist can sound like they have an army of players behind them.
For us the MXR Clone Looper is one of our favourite and is a great addition to any board. It’s compact, easy to use and a whole lot of fun. Check our Keiran taking it for a spin.
Trust us, your pedal journey is sure to be an exciting one! The possibilities are truly endless and experimenting with your sound is an extremely rewarding process. And of course, feel free to experiment with other pedals - not just the ones we've suggested. If you wanna have a go at the Wah pedal, go for it! If you've seen a super obscure pedal and it intrigues you, try it! Go forth, pedal heads. Enjoy.