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Overdrive and Distortion Pedal Order

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Overdrive and Distortion Pedal Order

In a recent feature from USA guitarist Chris Manning, he emphasised the importance of overdrive pedal ordering and placement. My question is; “Why?”.

…since an overdrive and distortion pedals are both gain devices, place the lower gain pedal last so you’ll have the high gain distortion pedal amplify the clean guitar signal…

Chris indicated that it’s vital to run the lower gain pedal second in the chain. This made me think back to a Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde I previously owned; a twin-pedal design, with the highest gain first in the chain.

I posed this question to Chris and I’m grateful for his response:

“There are multiple reasons to run the lowest gain pedal 2nd in the signal chain. First, since an overdrive and distortion pedals are both gain devices, you want to place the lower gain pedal last so you will have the high gain distortion pedal amplify the clean guitar signal rather than have it amplify a non-clean, overdriven signal. This will keep the overall noise lower with the added benefit of allowing the OD pedal to also function as a boost pedal.”

Chris goes on to add, “So, you set the distortion pedal first at unity gain followed by the OD pedal set for higher than unity gain to achieve a slight boost in volume. Since most OD pedals are based on the Tube Screamer, you will also get some midrange boost to also help your solos cut through the mix”.

Experiment

Traditionally, I’ve tended to run my cleaner overdrive pedal 1st in the chain, but as all things guitar related, it’s good to experiment…

In what order do you run your overdrive pedals and why? Please add your comments below.

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.

1 Comment

  • What is the result of the test? Which pedal 1st?
    I don’t have physical pedals, so will the same hold for amp & effects sims?

    Another thing that i ponder often relates to the almost impossible to get really satisfactory high gain metal tones.
    For that, which is a better idea?
    - Get a good clean sound and go for hi quality effect pedals or,
    - Start with a good high gain amp and then try for some mild boost or overdrive through pedals

    Thanks

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