How Many Guitar Pedals You Actually Need

There are so many different types of guitar pedals on the market, plus tones of different brands and models. But how many do you actually need? 

It’s a big debate. Some guitarists think they’re unnecessary and you don’t need any at all, but others have pedal boards packed with different effects. So who is right? 
There are a few things to think about when deciding how many pedals you actually need. These include:
  • What kind of tone you want
  • The types of songs you are playing 
  • What amp and guitar you’re using 
I’ll go through this all in more detail and then address the question, how many pedals is too many? I’ll also talk about the best way to connect your pedals. So let’s get started! 

What Tone Do you Want?

The first thing to decide on, is the kind of tone you’re after. One of the main advantages of an effect pedals, is that they allow you to achieve a unique tone, especially when you combine multiple different pedals together. 
Effects pedals are instrumental in providing the unique tone that so many famous guitarists have achieved in the past. 
Here’s a quick summary of the main kinds of pedals: 
  • Distortion pedals: these add sustain and gain and are best suited to metal and hard rock guitarists.
  • Overdrive pedals: these add grit and crunchy tone.
  • Reverb pedals: these add depth without adding gain. 
  • Delay pedals: these take a chord or note and play it back repeatedly.
  • Fuzz pedals: these add a unique fizzy kind of tone.
  • Boost pedals: this give you extra volume and depth for solos or lead guitar.
  • EQ pedals: these allow you to control the bass, mids and treble.
  • Tremelo pedals: sounds as if the volume is increasing and decreasing rapidly.
  • Phaser pedals: these add a kind of whooshing sound.
  • Chorus pedals: these sound like multiple pedals are playing at once.
So you know what each pedal does individually. But what happens when you use multiple pedals at once? Well, this is how you create that unique tone. And it’s what loads of famous guitarists do. Some of the most popular combinations are:
  • Distortion and overdrive pedals
  • Overdrive and reverb pedals 
  • Delay, reverb and boost pedals
  • EQ pedals are also commonly combined with loads of other effects

What Kind of Songs are you Playing?

Leading on from the idea of creating a signature tone, the amount of pedals you need also depends on what kind of songs you’re playing. 
Another huge advantage of effects pedals, is that they can be easily switched on or off during a song. So if you’re playing a song that requires multiple tones, they’re really helpful because they mean you don’t have to mess about with your amp midway through a performance. 
For example, if you need to switch between a clean verse and distorted chorus, then you can add a distortion pedal to do this really quickly and easily. Also if you need to give your sound an extra kick for a solo, then you can add a boost pedal into the mix. 

What Amp and Guitar are you Using?

Finally, the amount of pedals you will need to achieve the sound you’re after, depends on what amp and guitar you’re using. Let’s take an example.

Say you are using a Fender Stratocaster combined with a Fender Blues Junior Amp. This setup really sounds great if you’re playing using very little distortion. But what if you want to play some metal music? If you try playing heavier music with this setup, then you can start to run into problems, and the sound won’t be as good as you’d like it to be. 

That’s where pedals can really help. Adding a distortion pedal into the mix will help you achieve a higher quality distorted tone than if you simply cranked up the gain on your amp. 

So when you’re thinking about what pedals to get, try and consider what your guitar and amp lack. This could be an extra effect like delay or reverb, or it could be that you need more of a kick for a solo than your guitar and amp can give you, so you can throw in a boost pedal too. 

Which Pedals are Most Important?

This is a really tough question. The answer is definitely specific to each guitarist, and the type of music they’re playing. So you should really consider the factors we just addressed:

  • Which pedal will help you achieve a specific tone?
  • What kind of pedal will make up for what your guitar and amp lack?
  • Do you need multiple tones in one performance?
Use the answers to these three questions to help you decide which pedals are right for you.
For example, I enjoy playing some Oasis songs, but I don’t have Noel Gallagher’s setup. Instead, I use a PRS SE Custom 24 and a Blackstar amp. So I can use pedals to compensate for this. Oasis are known for their bluesy and gritty tones, so using a Tube Screamer overdrive pedal is perfect to replicate this. They also have some great solos, so I like using a boost pedal for these parts. 
So try and think about what kinds of songs you’re playing, and how best to replicate it. You can visit our “sound like” section of the website to help you figure out how to sound more like your favourite bands if you’re interested!

How Many Pedals is Too Many?

Anyone who has ever bought a guitar effect pedal before, knows that it can get addicting. There will always be another pedal that you want to throw into the mix to see how it enhances your tone. But can you have too many pedals?

Andertons blog did a pretty in-depth test to see if having two many pedals could reduce the sound quality. They concluded that increasing the number of pedals, doesn’t really have a huge impact on it. You can check out the full post here

Personally, I think the only time that have loads of pedals is an issue, is if you don’t have room for them, or it’s making things too complicated. If you have so many pedals that you can’t find the one you’re looking for, or if your pedal rig takes up tonnes of stage room, then it’s probably best to stop adding to your collection. But this is only really the case if you have more than 12 pedals. So go wild!

How to Connect Pedals Together

The best way to connect your pedals together, is by using a pedal board. They really vary in size, so pick one that suits the amount of pedals you need, and maybe with a little extra space if you decide to add to your board in the future. 

When you play without pedals, you connect your amp directly to your guitar. But when you use pedals, you connect your guitar to the pedal, and the pedal to the amp. This way, the guitar and amp are not directly connected to each other. 

When using multiple pedals, you’ll also need to connect them together to create a chain. You can connect pedals together using “patch cables”. They’re very short, so will keep your pedal board neat and tidy. 

You’ll also need to make sure your pedals are connected to a power supply. Some pedals and boards come with their own power supplies, but if not then you’ll need to connect them to a power supply. The good news is though, that you can just connect your pedal board to a power supply, rather than all the individual pedals. 

What's the Best Pedal Order?

There aren’t any specific rules when it comes to the order of your pedals. However, different orders can result in different effects. Generally, most guitarists tend to go for the following order:

  1. Guitar
  2. Wah pedals
  3. Compressor pedal
  4. Distortion or overdrive pedal
  5. Volume pedal
  6. Modulation pedals e.g. phaser, tremelo or chorus
  7. Reverb pedal
  8. Delay pedal
  9. Amplifier 
There is some debate as to whether wah and compressor pedals should go before or after distortion and overdrive pedals. Generally, most agree that they should go before gain type pedals.   
Distortion and overdrive pedals add gain. So they go best towards the beginning of your pedal board because it distorts the sound that initially comes from your guitar, which makes it a bit clearer. 

Modulation pedals should go next because they will affect the gain if they go before the distortion or overdrive, but won’t have as much impact if they go at the end. 

Time related pedals like delay and reverb should always go at the end of your gain. This prevents the echo effect being altered by the other pedals, giving a truer sound. 

The position you put your volume pedal in can vary.

  • If you put it at the beginning it acts like the volume control on your guitar.
  • Putting it in the middle allows you to keep the gain, but does not mean it’s impacted by the time-related pedals.
  • Having at the end of the chain means it acts more like the volume control on your amp. 


So there you go! That’s a guide to how many guitar pedals you actually need to get! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful:


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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