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In the good old days, when there were no pedalboards, and the fully outfitted musician might have a Hendrix-like arrangement of plugging into a wah, that went to a Univibe, then to a fuzz, none of which was "attached" to any surface other than the floor, and tremolo and reverb were something in the amp, what came first, second, third, etc., was reflected in a physical sequence from right to left on the floor.

As pedal use became more complex and players started to require a pedalboard, not only for portability/setup purposes, but also to organize the many forms of sound modification they might use. Of course, in only very few instances could a pedalboard simply become akin to a piece of floor that the player could simply pick up, with the same 3 or 4 pedals, laid out from right to left, like the old-school floor trio or quarter held together by patch cables. The task became one of creating some sort of rectangular space - perhaps with multiple levels - that could provide a physically accommodating space for all those pedals. And the player had to fit them all into the most compact space, like some sort of Tetris game.

All of which leads to the question that forms the basis of this thread: How much do you need to have your pedals laid out in a physical sequence that corresponds to the way you plan out your tone?

Can you simply stick 'em where they fit, and still be nimble and error-free when selecting them? Or do you wish your pedalboard could be one long right-to-left thing; 10" deep and 12 feet wide?

In short, does your thinking about pedal use lean heavily on spatial thinking, where your pedalboard needs to be laid out like a flowchart?
 

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If you need more than one tier, the most used pedals should be closest to your feet. That's really the only thing I follow.
 

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I've never used a switching system, but that would allow you to just place them where they fit and control them from the switcher.

I lay them out linearly for the most part, from in at the tuner to out at the verb, or modulation, depending on the rig.
The utility pedal are on top, tuner & comp, primarily. Some less used modulation in the top row.

I like my main dirt, boost and delay on the bottom row for easy access.
 

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I generally lay them out flowchart style. I find that makes it easier to troubleshoot if there is an issue as you always know where the signal is coming from and going next. Always good in the heat of the moment.
 

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IMG_2079.JPG


Here's the PT1 I recently put together, similar to my other one with the exception of the verb.

Into the tuner, comp, fuzz, wah, O/D, distortion, boost, delay, flanger, phaser, trem and verb.
 

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I've never used a switching system, but that would allow you to just place them where they fit and control them from the switcher.
Then you would need space for the switcher though.
 

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For the conventional pedalboard, I use a switcher which resolves a lot of this but I do try to keep the order of the chain as well which a) keeps the wiring clean and simple b) it is recommended that the order of the pedals be followed even when using a switcher (by the manufacturer) although I don't know if it makes a big difference.

As @Budda mentioned, keeping the pedals that I use most close to me is also a consideration.

On a slight tangent, this is why the Fractal (or other comparable units) makes sense. The pedal order can be assigned in any possible combination without changing the spatial limitations inherent with old school pedals.

I spent a couple hours last night assigning various functions on my FX8 which now triggers amp channel changes (works flawlessly with the Relays), auto engages the wah as soon as I touch the expression pedal which I can select the speed of the latching (slow if I want wah trails, medium and fast which stops immediately once my the expression pedal is back to the heel position ). No need to to "toe-on or toe-off" - it's pretty wild.

Not a cheap piece of equipment but for top of the line switcher, looper and not to forget the incredible sounding effects, it is a great bang for the buck unit imo. I still like using the "old" pedals which I think is just old habit but when I rationalize it, the FX8 is a no brainer.

IMG_8231.JPG
 

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Once you get beyond 3 or 4 pedals it helps to start thinking in patches. Now if only there were an inexpensive way to switch between those patches...

I have a 5 channel true bypass looper pedal that a friend built for me and have recently begun to out grow it. Maybe 8 loops would do it, I haven't got there yet. At the moment I have a Cornish style buffer first in line and on all the time. Then a couple TB compressor builds which run into the 5 loops. I try to organize the signal flow order like this:

buffer > compressors > dirt > modulation > booster/eq > delay > out to amp.

Currently my board is 30 x 19. Which is definitely big, but not too cumbersome that it is not portable. In the loops I have various dirt pedals in 1 and 2. Modulation in 3 and 4. EQ, boosters, and another buffer in 5. Then three different delays before the signal hits the amps. I can re-configure different combinations on the fly pretty quickly this way. Momentary relay switching would kick ass but I might need some help figuring out how to implement that in DIY fashion.
 

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Ironically, most languages read left to right. So why do we arrange pedals right to left? And what if you're a lefty, like Hendrix where the cable descends to the floor on the left and not the right. Perhaps that cross flow was part of his formula that created the magic. Interestingly, the Fuzzface has the input jack on the left...
 

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Most people have a dominant foot, and that foot is usually the right. Just like in various types of board sports it is "best foot forward".

I use my right foot for 90% of my buttons.
 

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Size is the ultimate limitation in my world. No big stages where I play out.

My largest board is still small by most people's standards, being about 5 pedals wide by two deep (assuming standard Boss sized pedals). That board then limits what I can put on it. I could use a Klon but it would take the place of two pedals and I don't think it's worth it in the size:flexibility ratio. But the fact that I custom build all my patch cables helps in me being able to put pedals wherever I want on the board and wire them to each other as necessary - an extra 6" of cable doesn't mean a thing in real-world scenarios. So I put the pedals where I want for easy access and logic and then build the cables to connect them all in sequence.

My B board is smaller - only big enough for one row of 6 pedals. The M9 is a godsend on that board. It allows me to rearrange the order of my mod stuff in software with 6 separate scenes of 6 effects each in the space of 3 standard pedals. There is still space for two analog drives and a comp (my bare minimum for amplitude pedals).


The second guitar player in my band does the Jimi thing - drops a drive, echo and wah on the floor with a little power supply and connects it with two short cables. Takes him less time than it does for me to unpack mine and set it up. But I do have more sonic variety in my set up - he makes up for that with sheer talent. :D
 
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