9 Effects Pedals Tone Tricks that Actually Work!
There’s a lot of inexperienced people making videos about effects pedals online. Many of their “tone tips” are not of any value in reality.
I’ve been a gigging musician now for over 20 years and have tested hundreds of pedals over the years. I’ve found a number of different tone tricks you can use with effects pedals that actually work.
Here are my 9 Effects Pedals Tone Trick that actually works.
1. Running a Boost Pedal AFTER your distortion or overdrive
90% of people run their volume boost pedal before an overdrive. The reason why most people decide to do this is that they get more gain in the signal.
More gain is not more volume. Pushing an overdrive or distortion with a clean boost pedal won’t make you much louder at all.
What happens when you run the volume boost after your dirt pedals are, it keeps the tone the same but makes it much louder! This is a great way of getting more volume out of a clean channel amplifier that already has your dirt pedal running.
If you want more gain, turn the dirt up on the overdrive.
2. Set Your Pedal as the Master Volume
If you own a loud amp odds are you’ve struggled to get a great tone at a lower volume. What a lot of people don’t realize is you can get great guitar tone by using an overdrive pedal as a volume control.
You can, of course, do this with a volume boost pedal if it allows you to drop the volume under unity. I find it easiest with an overdrive.
Simply get a nice transparent overdrive pedal on the floor set your amp up as you usually would then use the master output on the pedal to bring your volume down as desired.
3. Run 2 Delay Pedals
Wait, what? That’s right. This is a trick of the pros. If you’ve ever heard guys like Matt Schofield play, you have heard this in use. Having a short slap-delay before your main delay makes the tone really sing! It adds a really 3D dimension to the sound that you might not otherwise have just by using one delay.
My suggestion is to try this with whatever you have before you go buy another pedal. This will work with both Analog and Digital delay pedals. The Digital delays will give you the shortest repeat times in general.
4. Change the order of your effects
Changing where the effects are in the chain will drastically change your sound. I used to think you can’t put a certain effect here or there. This simply is not true.
For years I thought I had to run my modulation effects after my dirt pedals. I preached this for a long time because this is what I had heard from others. One day, I thought to myself I am going rogue and mixing up the order.
The Modulation before my dirt pedals made them clearer and fuller sounding especially when I had the dirt pedals enabled. There is no right or wrong, just give it a shot and see which way works best for you.
5. The master volume makes your current pedals better
This is especially true if you are running distortion and overdrive pedals. Many guitarists run either their amplifier volume or pedal volume way too low. Turning up the volume control on the pedal opens up the dynamics more and allows you to get more sustain in the process.
If you’re a high gain player, then this will still work. The further up the master volume is the better most pedals sound.
Experiment with the amplifier and volume control on your pedals and see which combination sounds best. This is one of the best tone tricks to making your tone better quickly.
6. Run an amplifier simulation pedal in the effects loop
If you have a good clean channel amplifier like a Fender, for example, an amplifier simulation pedal is a great addition. There’s a lot of affordable amplifier simulation pedals that can turn your beloved fender into a Marshall, Mesa Boogie or VOX. Tech 21 Make some awesome pedals that will transform your amplifier.
7. Try pedals that might not be “ideal” for your genre
Finding your unique sound and voice is not buying what everyone else has. Be brave enough to pave your own way when it comes to effects. Just because your hero used a particular pedal doesn’t mean if you buy it, you’ll sound like him or her.
8. Use 2 Overdrive Pedals on the clean channel for a 2 channel amp setup
If the drive channel sucks on your amplifier grab two of your favorite overdrive pedals and use them like a 2 channel amp. You can do this by setting up on overdrive as an off clean tone and then using the second one before or after the rhythm pedal.
SRV used to use two overdrive pedals in this manner and it works. It works so well it’s also how I look at a dual dirt pedal setup. One pedal gives me the off-clean tone I love and the second one is my lead tone.
The reason you can order your lead pedal before or after is if you want more gain and not so much volume you can run it before the rhythm pedal. If you need more volume on your solo and not so much gain run second overdrive after your rhythm tone.
When you run it in this second configuration, make sure you have the gain down and the volume up to make the second pedal run like a clean boost.
9. Run your Effects Pedals on 18v when possible
While this might be obvious to some people many people don’t realize some effects can handle up to 18v. Now, before you go plugging any 9v pedals into an 18v power supply make sure 18v is listed on the pedal. If you plug a pedal that can only handle 9v into an 18v power supply you will fry it.
All 18v capable pedals usually make mention of it on the back or beneath the pedal. If it doesn’t say it, do not plug it in.
Now with the warning out of the way what does 18v do over 9v? While most pedals won’t be drastically different running on higher power some will really come alive. A lot of people say it’s a “headroom” thing. I am not sure that’s really the case but it can open up the dynamics of the pedals a little bit more. Any audible changes in the tone might be appealing if it’s an improvement. If some of your pedals are 18v capable check out this great power supply that can be used with various voltages.
I hope this has been helpful. In the end, great tone comes from great playing. The answer to getting great tone isn’t always in buying something new. It comes from practice and experimentation with what you already have. What I have found over the years is my tone is very similar even when I have the chance to try a new pedal in my lineup.
The biggest difference with pedals is how well they stack together more so than “making you sound way better”. Keep your fingers on the fretboard and experiment with what you have and odds are you can breathe new life into your tone.