Very few guitar players have never given in to the temptation to take home those small well known wonders that are called effect pedals. Here I will give some advice on how to connect these pedals to one another so you are no longer going nuts and in order to make sure you get a personalised sound that suits you.
Generally speaking there are three bigger categories: the effects that affect the gain (distortions, overdrives, compressors, EQs, limiters, Wah-Wah, octaver, filters) the modulation effects (chorus, phasers, flangers, volume) and time based effects (delay, reverb).
The filters and the EQ are generally placed at the beginning, the overdrives and boosters in the secondary position, and the modulation and tempo type effects in the last place. In this manner, the ‘dirty’ signal of the guitar is filtered and corrected, it is given body and volume before it is modulated and finally the reverb/delay is added.
If your amplifier has the Loop effect and you want to use the distortion that is also build into the same amp, put the compressors, boosts, octavers and wah between the guitar and the pre amp, and the pedals that handle modulation and time on the pedal. In this fashion you can benefit from the amplifier overdrive. If you intend to use the clean channel of the amp, by following this order you can still use the the Loop effect.
The final placement should reflect the personality of each guitar player, as well as his creativity and style.
1. Effects that influence the gain
The tuners are, of course, placed at the beginning of the chain, that way the signal will be free of any effects and can be interpreted well by the pedal.
In the majority of the cases, and in the situations when we do not have a tuner, the compressor will be the pedal that we place first, at the beginning of the chain. The less the signal is altered, the easier it will be to deal with it.
There are people that put the Wah-Wah before the distortion, but it should always go before the effects that involve modulation and time. A Wah-Wah placed right after the distortion, allows you to get a sound that is fatter but that is less rich in harmonics; if we place it before the distortion, it will allow the pedal to react more easily to the variations of the signal.
The octaver/pitch shifters/whammy are placed in the same way in the sense that they precede the modulation type effects like the delay or the chorus. For the equalisers there are two ways or classes, before and after the distortion/overdrive. There are people that choose to use two EQ pedals at the same time, one before and one after. It is up to you!
Distortions, overdrives and fuzz are used to give shape and grit to the basic and unadulterated signal. Because of that they are very frequently put as early in the chain as possible, although sometimes they are placed after certain modulation type effects like the chorus. Simply try both ways!
2. Modulation effects
The chorus, flangers, phasers often times are employed to give colour and character to the sound. And often the sound is filtered and made more substantial to give it the colour that you require.
The tremolo silences the sound and creates an undulating effect which is really great for the rhythm. This pedal we situate at the end of the chain.
As far as the volume pedal it is like the tremolo, you place it at the end of the chain to affect all the effects already applied to the signal.
3. Time based effects
The delay/echo is placed at the end of the chain, sometimes before the chorus, sometimes after, it depends: if you want to add delay to the chorus, place it after. If you want to create a whirlwind effect on the chorus, put it after the delay.
The reverb is used a lot and almost always applied at the end of the chain of pedals.
The basic idea is to respect the order of the three principal groups of effects and the chain of pedals. Still, bearing all that in mind, there is no magic formula. You will find there is various and varied opinions on this topic… Hence it is always best to experiment and find your own y combination that works best for you!