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Guitar pedals can bring a lot of value to a guitar player’s repertoire. From classic reverb to distortion and just about everything in between, pedals can give you that extra edge to bring your playing to a whole new level.
If you love pedals as I do, now is an excellent time to be a guitar player. With thousands of choices from world-famous names like BOSS and MXR to dozens of boutique companies, there are sure to be a few to fit the needs of any player.
With so many options available, choosing which pedals to buy and use can be overwhelming. However, let’s say you have been able to narrow down your choices and now have a few pedals assembled on your pedalboard. Now what?
How do you go about using multiple pedals at once?
Connecting and using multiple guitar pedals at once is actually pretty simple, as long as you have enough patch cables and a power supply to connect all of the pedals. Another option is to add a pedal switcher to your board, which allows you to activate multiple pedals with one click.
Below we will take a more detailed look at the different considerations and ways to use multiple guitar pedals at once.
Is It OK To Connect Multiple Pedals At Once?
The short answer to this question is yes; it is perfectly fine to connect multiple pedals together. Guitarists have been doing this for decades.
Many guitarists have large pedalboards with several pedals connected together. I play in a couple of bands, and a guitarist in each band has around eight pedals connected and ready to go.
Most guitar pedals are resilient. I mean, think about it; they get stomped on all the time.
Connecting multiple pedals is essentially the same thing as simply connecting your guitar to the pedal and the pedal straight to the amp. The only major difference is that there are multiple pedals between the guitar and the amp.
Connecting multiple pedals is not going to cause any damage to the pedals. However, you should be aware of some important considerations, especially regarding powering the pedals.
How Do I Supply Power To Multiple Pedals?
We’ve established that it is fine to connect multiple pedals without the risk of harm to your pedals, but nothing will happen if you don’t have a power source to turn them all on.
Unfortunately, guitar pedals cannot simply be powered on by plugging a guitar and amp into the input and output jacks.
There are three main ways to supply power to multiple pedals.
Some, but not all, guitar pedals come with a 9-volt battery compartment.
My JHS Reverb, Electro-Harmonix Canyon, and BOSS pedals do not have a battery option. In fact, right now, out of all the pedals I have, only one has a battery power option.
A Benefit of using batteries as the power source is that they are self-contained, so you don’t have to worry about power cables.
Powering up a pedal with a 9-volt battery is as simple as it gets; open up the battery compartment, make the + and – on the battery are in the correct spots, close up the compartment, plug in the guitar and amp, and you are good to go.
This is a simple and effective way to run your pedals.
However, 9-volt batteries aren’t exactly cheap, and if you are relying on them to power multiple pedals, it could end up costing you a small fortune.
Another big downside to the battery option is that they often don’t have a very long lifespan, which means you will continually have to buy expensive batteries in order to keep your pedals working.
Further, if you forget to unplug the guitar or patch cables from the input jacks on the pedal, it can quickly drain the battery even if the pedal is off.
So if you do choose to use this method, make sure to always unplug your cables from the pedals; otherwise, you will end up having to replace the batteries much sooner than you would like to.
The next method to power up multiple pedals is using a daisy chain. This is probably the most common method of powering up multiple guitar pedals and is also the cheapest.
If your pedals do not have a battery option, like most of mine, or you are looking to save some money on batteries, a daisy chain setup might be the way to go.
A daisy chain is simply using one power source to operate multiple guitar pedals at once. Typically, a daisy chain consists of one plugin and multiple connectors that attach to the original DC plug.
It is by far the most cost-effective method for powering multiple guitar pedals. There is a wide range of options, but you can find some for as little as ten bucks or less on Amazon or other music stores.
This is the method that I use, as you can see in the pictures below.
Note that this might not be the exact order in which I would put pedals. Instead, it is simply for demonstration.
While this has worked well for me, there are some that do not recommend powering multiple pedals with this method. In fact, the pedal company JHS advises against using this method as they state it can create unwanted noise and potentially damage the guitar pedals over time.
Further, while most pedals run on the typical 9-volt DC, there are pedals that require 12, 18, and even 24 volts, and the rare pedal may require AC power as well.
Due to this, it is crucial that you read the manual that comes with your pedals to ensure you are using the appropriate power supply for the pedals.
Power Supply Unit
If you are serious about using multiple pedals, especially if you are a touring musician, opting for a pedalboard power supply unit is going to be the gold standard option.
Most of my guitar playing is done in my home recording studio, so I don’t really have a need for a guitar pedal power supply unit, but if I were to spend a significant time touring with multiple pedals, I would absolutely opt for this power supply method.
There are numerous power supply options and styles, but the general idea is that this unit individually powers each pedal, so you don’t have to worry about powering all of your pedals off of a tiny power source like you do when you daisy chain.
If you would like to dive deeper into the nuances of the many different types of power supply units, check out the video below.
Another benefit of power supply units is that many of them have the ability to power those higher voltage pedals that you couldn’t do with a 9-volt daisy chain power source like I use.
It is clear that these units are the optimal way to power multiple pedals. However, they are not exactly cheap. Depending on how many outputs you want, you will be spending anywhere from $80 to almost $400.
While this cost may seem high, it is cheaper in the long run than continuously buying batteries. Another consideration is that if powering multiple pedals with a daisy chain can potentially damage the pedals, a power supply unit will be cheaper than having to replace multiple guitar pedals.
Even if damage to pedals is a rare occurrence when connecting multiple pedals to one power supply, there is a good chance you will create a lot of unwanted noise and humming, which can be detrimental to your playing. If nothing else, opting for an isolated power supply unit can alleviate this issue.
How To Connect Multiple Pedals
Connecting multiple pedals is extremely easy. All you need are enough patch cables to connect all of your pedals.
Patch cables are typically right-angled to allow for easy connecting between pedals on a pedalboard and generally are between three and six inches long. However, some are longer, so whatever your distance needs are, you should be able to find the right patch cables for you.
Pedals will run right to left regarding input and output jacks, so you don’t need to worry about longer patch cables or weirdly configuring your pedalboard to accommodate different designs of pedals.
While connecting multiple pedals together is easy, deciding the order of those pedals is not so simple.
While there isn’t a “wrong” way to order your pedals, there are certainly ways that are better and make more sense than others.
If you spend any amount of time on guitar forums or ask other guitar players this question, you are likely to get a wide variety of answers. Believe it or not, this is one of the most debated topics in the music world and can lead to some pretty intense debates.
A quick rule of thumb would be to place pedals that have the most significant impact on your tone at the front of the chain, like compression, followed by distortion-type pedals, then chorus or tremolo pedals, followed by reverb and delay pedals.
Again, this is just a general guide, and you will find tons of different opinions, articles, and videos on how to set up the pedal order on your board. It’s not a bad idea to experiment with the order of your pedals to find the sound that works best for you.
Below is a good video to get you started, but remember that there isn’t a wrong way to do this, and a lot of it comes down to personal preference. However, some signals through certain pedals will change based on the order, so again experimentation is critical.
How To Turn On And Use Multiple Pedals At Once
To turn on multiple pedals at the same time, all you have to do is step on the controller switch to activate them. This is the simplest way to use multiple pedals, and it will work fine if you are playing around in your bedroom, only have a couple of pedals, or use only one or two pedals at a time.
Most of the guitarists I play with operate their pedalboards this way. They typically only use one or two pedals at a time, so it isn’t a big deal for them to step on them to turn them on and off.
However, if you are in a situation where multiple pedals need to be turned on at exactly the same time, and you can’t waste any time balancing on one foot as you click on a bunch of pedals, this method wouldn’t work.
Thankfully, the music gear makers of the world think of almost everything and have developed pedal switchers. Pedal switchers allow you to program and turn on multiple pedals simultaneously with one simple click.
The video below showcases the Electro-Harmonix Super Switcher, which allows you to program several different pedal combinations that are stored and recalled with a simple click of the foot.
This means you can program multiple pedal combinations for different songs or parts in songs without worrying about which pedals are needed to be on and off. Further, this eliminates the difficulty of turning on or off multiple pedals without getting off time or missing the cue in a song.
Much like the order of guitar pedals on a pedalboard, choosing which and how many pedals to use at the same time is a very subjective process. There is no wrong answer here.
However, certain pedals might not sound good together or end up messing up the signal so much that it wouldn’t be worth using.
For example, it might sound terrible if I were to use my JHS reverb pedal and the reverb setting on my Canyon pedal. However, if I spent enough time adjusting the pedals, I could probably find a cool and good sound.
Another example would be turning on multiple distortion pedals at once, which could muddy the signal so much that you couldn’t make out the individual notes.
Once again, finding which combinations of pedals and settings work is all about creativity and exploration.
There you have it. After this article, you should have a much better understanding of how to use multiple guitar pedals at once and some of the underlying factors that need to be considered to use them.
I hope you have found some value in this article. Until next time, I wish you the best of luck in your music endeavors.
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.