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Why Your Signal Chain Deserves New Order Yesterday

Your reluctance to change your pedalboard and experiment with tone can result in a one way ticket to Stuck Town.

Signal Change order needs to change
“It's Complete!”

How many times have you misquoted Dr. Frankenstein in the past few months, kneeling over your pedalboard, your fingers sore from repositioning stompboxes into perfect right angles, your ears ringing with sounds of ripping Velcro, transfixed by the neatly routed and tucked away cables, which, if a tenth of an inch shorter, would not firmly connect?

We’ve all been there.

As sweet as conquering a game of Sonic LEGO Advance 3000 is, that fleeting moment of glory was merely an excuse to maybe go pick up a slice of pizza before a well-deserved nap, having to shield your eyes from the sun face to face with the looming existence of the outside world, the inevitable question slowly eating away at your soul...

“Will I ever be satisfied with my pedalboard?”

Sorry to break it to you but my answer is a resounding no. Chase away those suicidal tendencies quick though, because coming to terms with this fact is the best thing to happen to you and your tone in a lifetime.

Tone-searching is very similar to songwriting or any other art form. The words art and form are key here because whether you’re painting, playing guitar, making chili, or indulging in Dadaist poetry, sticking to a tried-and-tested formula forever will eventually lead to the death of your creativity.

If you don’t strive to evolve you’ll soon be stuck in a room lined with the same landscape, eating the same tired bowl of chili until you either give up on life or burn everything to the ground. I suggest doing the latter.

“But what if I like my signal chain as it is?”

Sure, some of us are creatures of habit and we like the comfortable, familiar, good stuff like caressing the crude curves of a Telecaster or never turning up the gain on a Tube Screamer. As much as playing guitar or being creative in any certain way should never be primarily about the tools you’ve chosen but much rather about the struggle itself, reluctance to explore and experiment can swiftly result in a one way ticket to Stuck Town.

Tear up your pedalboard just for the sake of it and see if you wind up putting it back together without even the slightest of adjustments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to force you to change, but how can you be sure the most underused pedal in your chain won’t become your secret weapon just by means of simple reordering and tweaking if you don’t try it?

An effect chain is only a series of tonal compromises. It’s the way we utilize them which makes them work their magic. And the best part is, there is no correct way to do so, no matter what anyone has tried to persuade you to think on certain message boards or in misguided blog posts such as this one.

There’s only one rule of thumb to live by when it comes to tonal endeavours: If it works for you, it works. So stick that overdrive after reverb like it’s nobody’s business. Because, frankly, it really is nobody’s business. But yours. Signed, sealed, delivered.

“So you’re telling me any setup can actually be ‘the perfect setup’?”

Right on, brothers and sisters! But before it’s time to kick out the jams there’s one last thing we should make crystal clear: A perfect setup and an ultimate setup are two very different beasts. The main difference being that an “ultimate setup” is an absolute myth. Just like Bigfoot. The problem is, as in the case of the beloved Sasquatch, we’re dead set on spending the rest of our lives in pursuit of it anyways.

The fine line between tone searching and being a hyperactive child set free to pillage the overstocked candy store of the contemporary gear market is easily blurred if one’s not careful.

Taking the time to find out what your current chain is capable of should always precede sticking half of it on eBay. Although I’m yet to abandon all hopes of stumbling upon stompboxes that won’t force me to adapt my whole rig to their addition while making all my tonal dreams come true myself.

I speak from experience here, for us, guitar forum-dwelling self-appointed gearnerds, are more often than not utmost held back by focusing our energy into what we’re playing rather than what we’re playing. See what I did there?

As with the force, it’s all about balance. Thus if acquiring new pedals merely inspires you to buy more new pedals, you should really try plugging straight in just to see if you still remember any other chords other than G, A and S.

“Ok, I’m in. But what if it winds up sounding like crap?”

Fair point. But that’s just a risk you have to be willing to take. Your sonic arsenal, its complexity and instability aside, should, of course, never limit your creativity but even more importantly neither should your comfort zone. The only way to succeed in materializing your ideal sound is by not being afraid to fail. A lot. Maybe not Pet Sounds’ era Brian Wilson levels of failing a lot but, yeah, pretty close to that. Only then will you truly set yourself free to make the most of the tools you have at your disposal.

And, hey, did I mention it’s fun? Cuz it sure as hell is! All kinds of really frustrating I’m-about-to-flush-this-whole-thing-down-the-toilet fun! But trust me, it’s worth it.

Awright, enough talk, gotsta get back to trying to figure out a way to wire this up without having to turn a single knob when switching from a Strat to a Les Paul. Toodaloo!


by Lazer Viking

Lazer Viking KHDK

The fifth rider of the apocalypse, last true anti-hero, mythical beast and living legend – Lazer Viking is a one man army on a mission to turn every seedy club, forgotten dancehall of yesteryear or your uncle’s garage into the Mecca of Rock’n’Roll. Apostle of future hits, mass murderer of trend and prophet of electric guitar despotism who knows only one speed – Balls to the Fucking Wall. Love him or hate him but be ready to face the harsh reality that you can no longer live without him.