How to Build A Pedalboard: Beginner’s Guide for Guitarists

This guest article “How to Build A Pedalboard: Beginner’s Guide for Guitarists” was kindly submitted by Daniel Thomas for Basigue.

Learning how to build a pedalboard may seem as daunting as the first time you tried to play “Eruption” by Van Halen, but with the right guidance, it can be as rewarding as finally nailing that guitar solo.

If you’re anything like me, your collection of pedals is starting to look like a graveyard for lost sounds, waiting for resurrection in a neat and tidy pedal setup. Unless you like the old-school way of laying your pedals on the floor like Jimi Hendrix, you should use a pedalboard.

A guitar pedalboard will give you the power to organize your signal chain and enhance your playing ergonomics, allowing you to focus on shredding like a pro without fumbling around like a novice.

So, let’s rock and roll! We’ll be your trusty roadies, guiding you through the process of planning and how to build a pedalboard that fits your needs, and ensuring you’re ready to hit the stage or studio with a killer sound that will make even Eddie Van Halen proud.

What to Consider?

Here we’ll discuss key things to remember when planning and building your dream guitar pedalboard.

What equipment do you need to get?

You need four main pieces of equipment: pedals, a guitar pedalboard, a power supply, and cables.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Well, duh!” However, if you get into the nitty-gritty details, it can be quite overwhelming.

Do you go for stomp-box or multi-effects pedals? In what order should I place the pedals? Do you need an angled, flat, or case pedalboard? Should you be using patch cables or cable kits?

Additionally, if you record electric or acoustic guitar, it’s important to note that aside from the pedals and your skills as a guitarist, the method used to mic your band and the microphone used to record the guitar amp can greatly impact the quality of the recording.

If you are a novice guitarist, between dynamic mics, condenser mics, and ribbon mics, I would recommend starting with a dynamic microphone such as the industry standard Shure SM57.

This mic is a superb starting choice because it is durable, able to handle high sound pressure levels (SPLs), affordable, easily attainable, and capable of achieving a good sound in a bedroom studio setup. It has been used on countless classic guitar recordings, so you can be sure it will get the job done.

What do you want to achieve?

Knowing how to build a pedalboard is one thing. Knowing what you want to achieve with your guitar pedalboard is another.

Are you a studio musician looking for a modular pedal setup that can be easily reconfigured for different recording sessions? Or maybe you’re a gigging musician needing a portable pedalboard that can seamlessly switch between styles, lead, and rhythm during a live performance.

Whatever your style of music and performance needs may be, it’s important to consider how your guitar pedalboard can meet them. Do you need room for expansion, or do you want a compact pedal setup that does it all? Do you prioritize versatility or a specific sound?

By taking the time to consider your goals, you can figure out how to build a pedalboard that helps you achieve them.

What is your budget?

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: your budget. While you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole and break the bank, you also don’t want to sacrifice quality for affordability.

Building a guitar pedalboard on a budget and still having it look and sound great is possible. You should set aside around £500 to £550 for a complete setup.

However, if you’re on a tight budget but still want a complete setup to understand the different effect types, a multi-FX unit is a good alternative. 

Front shot of a BOSS GT-1 Guitar Effects Processor.
A multi-fx like the BOSS GT-1 can be a great entry point into the world of guitar effects.

Why go for a multi-fx unit?

One of the most budget-friendly options for beginners would be the Boss GT-1 Guitar Effects Processor Pedal, which is affordable at £199. It is an ultra-portable guitar multi-effects processor that is driven by the premium BOSS GT-series engine, giving access to 108 effects and amps.

It features easy-to-use functions for patch selection and editing, as well as assignable footswitches and an expression pedal. The unit is compatible with free pro patches and editing software from BOSS Tone Central, making it an excellent choice for beginners and experienced players on the go.

If you have an additional £90 to £100 to spare, the Valeton GP-200 is an excellent alternative with more effects, a coloured display, and stompbox-type footswitches. 

Although these units may sacrifice immediacy and tonal quality, they’re still a viable option for guitarists who want to explore different sounds without spending a fortune.

Guitar pedals can cost anywhere between £30 to £300, depending on the brand and type. But if you like to geek out on tech stuff, you can even build your own DIY guitar pedal. Check this post to see whether or not it’s worth it to build your own DIY pedal.

Also, don’t skimp on the power supply and cables. Cheap power supplies without isolated circuitry can create unwanted noise, and flimsy cables can lead to tangles and signal loss. Invest in reliable power supplies and cables to ensure your pedalboard performs at its best.

Remember, a guitar pedalboard is a long-term investment, and you want it to be something that will last you for many years.

Choose the Guitar Pedals First

What comes first, the pedalboard or the guitar pedals? Spoiler alert: The answer is in the heading.

Most people will tell you to decide on the pedalboard size first, but honestly, that’s putting the cart before the horse.

How would you know what size pedalboard to get if you don’t even know what pedals you will use? It’s like trying to buy pants without knowing your waist size.

Here’s my advice – forget about the pedalboard size for a minute and focus on the pedals themselves. Whatever your goals may be, choose your pedals accordingly.

There are six categories of pedals to consider:

  1. Distortion/Gain effect pedals: Gain boost, distortion, overdrive, fuzz
  2. Dynamic effect pedals: Compressor, volume, noise gate, EQ
  3. Pitch-altering/Frequency effects: wah, auto-wah, envelope filter, pitch shifters, octaver, harmonizer
  4. Modulation effects: Chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, vibrato, univibe
  5. Time-based effect pedals: Delay, reverb
  6. Utility: Looper, buffer, tuner, multiple effects

If you’re a new player on a budget and unsure of what to get, here’s a great starter pedalboard setup to begin with: 

  1. Pedalboard: Pedaltrain Metro 16
  2. Tuner: Ibanez BIG MINI Tuner Pedal
  3. Gain: Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal  
  4. Time-based effect: Boss DD-3T Digital Delay Pedal
  5. Power Supply: Truetone 1 Spot Combo Pack
  6. Cables: MXR 3PDCP06 Patch Cables

This setup will cost roughly £365 at the time of writing. Also, the size of the Pedaltrain Metro 16 will give you the extra space to add an additional 2-3 pedals and even a Cry Baby Junior Wah Pedal.

Buffered Bypass Pedals or True Bypass Pedals

You bought your first electric guitar, ready to rock and roll. But to your horror, the pristine tone of your brand-new electric guitar is lost to the murky abyss of long cable runs and multiple effects pedals.

When it comes to maintaining your signal’s strength and clarity, understanding the difference between buffered and true bypass pedals is important, and choosing between them can be crucial.

True bypass pedals allow the signal to pass through the pedal unchanged when turned off, maintaining the guitar’s tone without adding colour.

They work well with short cable runs below 6m, but if you’ve got a longer chain of pedals, they won’t do much to boost the signal and compensate for the weakening effect of the long cables.

Buffered Pedals

That’s where buffered pedals come in. Long instrument cables and too many true bypass pedals can cause signal loss and high-frequency roll-offs. Buffered pedals amplify the signal to preserve its strength and minimize the effects of long cable runs by converting the high-impedance signal of a guitar pick-up to a low-impedance signal.

In addition to the benefits of buffered pedals, it’s worth mentioning that the incredibly popular BOSS pedals are usually buffered. This is great news for guitarists who already use or plan to use BOSS pedals in their signal chain.

Unlike true bypass pedals, the circuitry of buffered pedals remains active, even when the pedal is switched off.

So, which one should you use? Well, it’s recommended that if you’re using long instrument cables over 6m in total, you should use buffered pedals to avoid tonal degradation. But don’t worry, you can mix and match! Many guitarists and bassists use a combination of both buffered and true bypass pedals to enjoy the benefits of each.

If you combine the two, start your signal chain with a buffered pedal to strengthen the original tone before it passes through subsequent pedals. And if you’re using low-impedance pedals, placing them after a buffered pedal will help minimize any loss of signal strength.

Guitar Pedal Order

Once you’ve nailed down your guitar pedals, it’s time to plan your signal chain, as this can drastically affect the tonal quality of your pedals and how their effects are produced.

While there is no right and wrong way to lay out the order of your pedals, there is some conventional wisdom to follow, some more rigid than others.

The signal path and gain structure are key to getting the pedals to sound how they are meant to. While there is flexibility, deviating too much from the convention can often lead to a muddled mess of sounds.

However, don’t let these guidelines discourage you from exploring new and unconventional pedal configurations! For example, while placing your reverb pedal at the beginning and fuzz pedal at the end might not be the most typical setup, it could lead to some unique and interesting sounds you might not have discovered otherwise.

Here is some conventional wisdom to follow:

  1. Buffer pedals are frequently used after fuzz or wah pedals or at the very end of the chain.
  2. Time-based effect pedals are used near the end of the chain to keep the tone from sounding cluttered.
  3. Since the signal is purest close to the guitar, tuner pedals should always be placed at the beginning.

To know how to build a pedalboard, we need to discuss a typical guitar signal chain:

Guitar pedal order

First Group: Impedance-Sensitive

We all know that tuning your guitar is the most important thing you can do before you play, and a tuner pedal is almost always the first guitar pedal because it needs the purest frequency from the guitar.

Next up are the impedance-sensitive pedals. Think vintage fuzz pedals, treble boosters, and wah pedals. These impedance-sensitive pedals usually have geranium or silicon transistors and are normally true bypass pedals; hence their tone won’t be affected.

What exactly is impedance?

Now, I know the term “impedance” can sound intimidating, but bear with me. In simple terms, impedance is just a measure of how much a circuit resists the flow of an electric current, AC to be precise. The important thing to note here is that some pedals are sensitive to the impedance of the signal they receive, especially pedals with low input impedance like the Fuzz Face. So, if you’re running your guitar signal through a bunch of pedals with different impedance levels, it can affect the overall tone. The key is to keep in mind which pedals are impedance-sensitive and try to group them together in a way that makes sense.

In most pedalboards, the wah pedal comes right after the tuner pedal, followed by the other impedance-sensitive pedals.

When it comes to getting funky, there’s no doubt that your foot will be working overtime on the wah pedal. So you should make things easier for yourself by putting your wah pedal in the most accessible part of your pedalboard, the lower right-hand corner.

Next comes the first input buffer. As mentioned, buffers are essential pedals that amplify signal strength and minimize high-end roll-offs due to long cables or having too many true bypass pedals. 

The input buffer has to come after the impedance-sensitive pedals because impedance-sensitive pedals, like fuzz pedals and the wah pedal, will sound weak if they receive low-impedance signals from a buffer.

Second Group: Dynamic & Pitch-Altering

After the first input buffer, the next group of pedals would be the dynamic pedals, like compressors, and pitch-altering pedals, like octavers, pitch shifters, and envelope filters.

Pitch-altering pedals come early in the signal chain because they respond better to pure signals closest to the guitar. Also, they are often placed before distortion pedals and overdrive pedals, as they need a clean signal to work their magic.

The compressor is also placed close to the guitar so it can even out your guitar playing by reducing louder and boosting quieter parts (which also creates sustain) without affecting other pedals.

It’s uncommon to place a compressor or distortion pedal after a reverb or delay pedal, as the tail will be amplified, making them loud instead of trailing off. However, some guitarists like to experiment with placing delay or reverb in front of distortion, which can create a unique sound reminiscent of the classic guitar tones of Jimmy Page, Van Halen, and Joe Walsh, who would run tape echo boxes into valve amps.

Third Group: Distortion & Gain Effects

Next are the powerhouses of the guitar pedal chain – gritty, harmonics-saturated distortion pedals and overdrive pedals.

These dirt pedals add a crunch to your tone, perfect for shredding and riffing. Most people prefer to put them after the dynamic and pitch-altering pedals to benefit the pitch tracking of each note.

Stacking Gain Pedals

When it comes to gain stacking dirt pedals, you can choose whichever order to place the distortion pedal and overdrive pedal. Most people prefer to place the distortion pedal (higher gain) before the overdrive pedal (lower gain) to give the distortion a thicker tone and boost. Doing it the other way around adds additional gain to the distortion, creating a more saturated sound. Stacking gain pedals such as fuzz, distortion and overdrive is a fine art that many guitarists continue to experiment with.

Since distortion pedals have a compression effect, using the wah pedal at the front allows different frequencies to be accentuated evenly and musically. The volume will be consistent, without any frequency being excessively emphasized in a distracting manner.

You can put an EQ pedal after the distortion pedal if you want to fine-tune the levels of the bass, mids, and treble frequencies.

If the EQ pedal is placed before the distortion pedal, the compression effect of the distortion pedal would even out the loudness across the frequencies, cancelling the effect of the EQ pedal.

And if you really want to kick it up a notch, throw a clean boost pedal after the EQ pedal for some dynamic variation. Who doesn’t love standing out during a guitar solo?

We normally put the volume pedal after the gain pedals, which acts as a master volume control.

Some people choose to put the volume pedal at the beginning of the signal path. This causes the volume pedal to override the guitar’s volume pot so that it can control the saturation of the distortion effect without you having to meddle with the guitar’s volume pot.

Fourth Group: Modulation Effects

If dirt pedals are the powerhouses for your guitar tone, then modulation pedals are the flavour enhancers that add spice and flavour to your guitar tone.

There’s no right or wrong way to place these pedals, and it’s all up to personal preference. Putting modulation pedals before dirt pedals makes the effect more subtle, whilst putting modulation after dirt makes the modulation effect more exaggerated.

If you’re using a phaser, flanger, or uni-vibe pedal, placing them before the gain pedals can help maintain their “frequency-sweep” characteristic. This means you get that sweet, natural sweep that gain pedals can sometimes remove if placed after the modulation pedals.

The tremolo and chorus pedals can come after the gain pedals so that you chorus the overdrive pedal instead of driving the chorus. But hey, rules are made to be broken, and experimenting with different pedal orders is part of the fun!

Fifth Group: Time-based Effects

The fifth and last group would be time-based effects pedals like the reverb and delay pedal.

Delay pedals create echoes of your notes. If you’re performing live, you’ll definitely want to use a delay pedal with a tap tempo that will allow you to easily dial in the perfect delay time and rhythm subdivisions just by tapping a button with your foot.

Reverb pedals add a sense of space and ambience to your sound. You can experiment with a reverb pedal with a wet/dry mix knob that seamlessly blends trail-only reverb sounds to add a touch of otherworldly ambience to your playing.

The most common order would be to put the delay pedal first, then the reverb pedal. Putting the reverb pedal before the delay pedal will cause the sound to be muddy.

Also, you might want to add a buffer output pedal last, especially if all your pedals on your guitar pedalboard are true bypass pedals, which would cause a huge signal loss down the line.

Effects Loop

Guitar amp settings and knobs can be confusing at times. Some amplifiers have an effects loop that allows you to plug your effects pedals in after the preamp but before the power amp; this is denoted by the “Send” and “Return” jacks on the amp.

This means that the amp’s preamp circuit won’t mess with the tone of your pedals, giving you complete control over your sound.

Now, some guitar players are perfectly content running all their pedals into the front of the amp. But those who want a little more control over their tone would add their effects pedals into the amp’s effects loop.

Modulation pedals and time-based effect pedals such as chorus, tremolo, delay, and reverb pedals sound much better when plugged into the loop, as they can get muddy and distorted when run through the front of the amp.

However, boosts and drive-based effects pedals can overload the power amp section, so you’ll want to avoid running those through the loop.

Effects loops come in two types: series and parallel. In a series loop, the entire signal flows through the loop and back into the amp. On the other hand, parallel loops split the signal in two, with one signal passing through the loop while the other signal has to be mixed in using a “blend” control.

Both have pros and cons, but most amps come equipped with a series loop, which is the easiest to use.

Choose the Style and Size of the Pedalboard

Regarding pedalboards, don’t fall into the trap of thinking bigger is always better. There are 3 questions you should ask when choosing a guitar pedalboard:

  1. How many pedals does the guitar pedalboard need to hold? What shape and size are the pedals?
  2. Will you expand your collection in the future?
  3. Is portability a requirement for using it at gigs?

Which Pedalboard Size to Choose?

Sure, it’s tempting to splurge on a massive board to accommodate all the pedals you’ll be buying in the future. However, the more space you have, the more you’ll feel the itch to fill it (which means more money out of your pocket). And let’s be real, how often will you actually use all those pedals at once?

Don’t underestimate the importance of pedal placement. Always leave enough space between pedals for easy cabling and a tidy, accessible layout. While it might seem like a small thing, accidentally engaging a fuzz or distortion pedal when you’re going for a clean tone can be a jarring experience. For example, imagine you want a clean chorus tone during a quiet section, but then you accidentally stomp on a loud Big Muff pedal instead. Not only would it be disruptive to the song, but it will cause you a lot of embarrassment as well!

Also, a behemoth of a board may look impressive, but lugging it around to gigs can quickly become a nightmare.

Therefore, if you have 5 standard-sized pedals or fewer, you should get a small pedalboard that can accommodate 6-7 pedals. Also, if you use large pedals like a Fuzz Face, you would need a guitar pedalboard with multiple rows.

Which Pedal Board Style to Choose?

Angled Pedal Board

Angled pedal boards are great for live performances, as it tilts the pedals towards you, making it easier to see and access them while you’re playing, especially the pedals at the back.

These pedalboards have more space beneath them, allowing you to hide the power supply unit, cables, and other components that might have been put on the surface.

Pedaltrain Class JR with 9 pedals

The Pedaltrain Classic JR is a great medium-sized angled pedal board to start with. It requires Velcro for attaching the pedals and has space for 5-9 standard-size pedals.

Flat Pedal Board

If you have 5 or fewer pedals, a flat pedal board like the Pedaltrain Metro 16 would be a great affordable option. You’ll be surprised that you can squeeze in up to 7 pedals like in the example above.

If you’re looking for something more compact, you might want to consider a flat pedalboard. These pedalboards have a low profile and are cheap, and they’re great if you’re using a single row and will fit easily into any gig bag. However, they don’t have much height to add components like a power supply underneath the board.

Pedaltrain Metro 16 with 7 pedals

Case Pedal Board

If you’re looking for a more rugged and portable option, you might want to consider a case-style guitar pedalboard. These are great if you’re going to be travelling with your pedals, as they provide protection and can be easily transported.


When it comes to attaching pedals to a pedal board, Velcro (hook-and-loop fastener) has been the tried and true method for years, they stick easily, and you don’t need to be an engineer to use them. But let’s face it, those adhesive strips lose their grip after some time, and your pedals won’t stick as well to your pedal board. Also, they tend to collect dust over time which can be a hassle to clean off.

Modular Pedal Board

Temple Audio SOLO 18 Modular Pedalboard

Modular pedalboards like those from Temple Audio are becoming more popular these days. These pedal boards have a perforated surface where you can easily attach your pedal using a quick-release mounting plate. They also have cable management holes across their surface for you to tuck excess cables underneath them.

Choose the Power Supply

The power supply is the backbone of the pedal board. It is often hidden from plain sight underneath the board but is just as important as any pedal above it. Your pedals are as good as aluminium scraps without a power supply unit.

Voltage, Amperage, Polarity

There are three main factors to consider when selecting a power supply:


Most pedals run on 9V DC (direct current), so choosing a power supply with plenty of 9V outlets is crucial. Some pedals use AC (alternating current), but those often have their own power supply.

While 9V DC is the most common voltage for pedals, some powerful pedals, like digital pedals, might require 12V, 18V, or 24V due to their more complicated circuit. If you have any of these pedals, you’ll need a power supply to provide the appropriate voltage.

It is important to note NOT to use the wrong voltage cables for your pedals which can potentially damage the circuitry inside!


Most common analogue stompbox pedals, like distortion and overdrive pedals, require 100mA. However, modern pedals that are more robust and have higher processing needs like DSPs (digital signal processors), may require a higher current draw.

If a pedal doesn’t receive enough current, it may sound strange or not work. Also, it’s worth noting that providing a pedal with more than the required current will not damage the pedal.


Most pedals run on centre negative polarity. However, a few pedal types require centre-positive polarity, like vintage pedals. You’ll need an adapter plug to switch from centre negative to centre positive polarity.

Types of Power Supply

Since your pedals run on DC power, they need a power supply unit to convert the AC power from the wall socket to DC power. There are two types of power supplies to consider:

AC Adapter

These are the wall wart types of power supply. The most common ones are the Truetone 1 Spot AC adapters.

These wall-wart types of power supply require you to daisy-chain your pedals because they do not have isolated power output.

While AC adapters are cheaper, a daisy chain is highly susceptible to noise, such as hums, buzzes, and hisses, because there are no isolated power outputs.

Power Brick

A better option than AC adapters would be a power brick, a fully isolated power supply that allows you to provide a clean power signal to your pedals. They offer surge protection and noise filtering as each isolated output has its own ground; hence you won’t get those hums and hisses.

If you use a Power Brick, consider mounting the brick at the back of the pedalboard to keep it out of sight. This also helps to save space on the actual guitar pedalboard.

You can do so either by simply attaching the power brick with a velcro (like how you would attach a pedal in the front). Also, if you want to secure it in place even more, consider mounting it by drilling a bracket that fits the brick.

Strymon Zuma Power Brick

A great option for power brick would be the Strymon Zuma. It has 9 isolated outputs that provide 500mA per 9V DC output power, with 2 of the output being able to switch between 9V, 12V, or 18V DC.

If you don’t need that many outputs and want a cheaper option, you can go for the smaller Strymon Zuma R300, which has 5 isolated outputs at 500mA per 9V DC, with one output switchable between 9V, 12V, and 18V DC.

The Zuma and Zuma R300 can accept a wall power of 100-240V AC, which is a great option for both the US and the UK.

Choose the Cables

Finally, you need to get some patch cables to connect your pedals; these short patch cables keep things tidy and prevent signal loss.

Here’s a pro tip to keep your sound clean and interference-free: don’t cross your power supply cables over your instrument cables.

We all know that electrical currents can significantly impact your tone, especially if you have poorly shielded instrument cables. So, keep those cables separate on your guitar pedalboard and give your sound the space it deserves.

Patch Cables


While there are patch cables with straight connectors, they take up a lot of space on your pedal board. Patch cables with right-angled flat connectors, like the EBS PG10, are the most space-saving types.

Cable Kits

Boss BCK-12 Cable Kit

If you want to customize the length of your patch cables, you can make them yourself by getting a cable kit. Some of them require you to solder, but plenty of solderless options are just as reliable if you’re uncomfortable with soldering, like the Boss BCK-12 Cable Kit.

Cable kits give you more options with cable length, but they are a little more expensive than pre-made patch cables.

Put the Pedal Board Together

Now that you got your stompbox pedals, your guitar signal chain planned out, your power supply, and cables, it’s time to start putting them together!

Learning how to build a pedalboard is a fun and rewarding project that can take your guitar playing to the next level.

It may take some experimentation and tweaking to get it right, but the result is worth it. So, don’t be afraid to get creative and create a unique guitar pedalboard for your playing style.

Author Bio: Daniel Thomas

Daniel is a full-time blogger and founder of Basigue, where he writes about the latest tech and audio products. Daniel has been playing the piano since he was 15 and has a passion for all kinds of music styles and genres. He also loves playing games or watching anime with his wife in his free time.