Wah pedals typically go after tuner pedals but before all other pedals including fuzz, compressor, overdrive, distortion, EQ, modulation, delay and reverb.
Pedals Which Go Before the Wah Pedal
The only pedal which should always go before the wah pedal, is a tuner pedal. This is because tuner pedals require the cleanest signal for the most accurate results. For this reason, tuner pedals go at the start of the signal chain before every other pedal including wah, overdrive, compression, EQ, reverb etc.
Pedals Which Go After the Wah Pedal
Since wah pedals are impedance sensitive, they should go towards the start of the signal chain before most other pedals. There are several pedal effects which (almost) always go after the wah, and some which are debatable (more on this later).
Always after wah pedal:
Wah pedals should go before compressor pedals because otherwise the compressor will limit the dynamics and response of the wah pedal. Wah pedals also go before modulation, delay, reverb and EQ effects which typically go at the end of the chain to achieve their full effects.
Wah pedals are typically placed after buffer pedals because the wah is impedance sensitive so responds best to the signal sent directly from the pickups. Some wah pedals are already buffered though, and in this case it won’t really make any difference where you put your buffer pedal.
Keep in mind though that you can definitely experiment with these pedal orders. Just because I’ve said they should go “always after” the wah, does not mean you can’t try new things out. This is just generally the order that the vast majority of guitarists use.
Typically after wah pedal:
- Overdrive/ Distortion
The pedals in the list above are definitely up for debate, although most guitarists will tend to place the wah pedal in front of them. Here is some more information on the effects with each pedal order.
Fuzz and Wah
Typically, the wah pedal is placed before the fuzz pedal in the signal chain. This is because it keeps a clearer wah effect and a more subtle effect. Putting the fuzz before the wah pedal results in a more intense and dramatic sound which some players prefer but others find too busy.
Check out this video comparing the different pedal orders.
Distortion/ Overdrive and Wah
Most guitarists put overdrive and distortion pedals after the wah pedal in the signal chain to produce a more vocal sound as the gain can react to the filter effect of the wah. However, some players put overdrive/ distortion pedals before the wah in order to result in a more pronounced sweep.
Check out this video to hear the different orders.
Volume and Wah
This really depends on what kind of effect you are looking for:
- If you want the volume pedal to act in the same way as the guitar’s volume control = place the volume before the wah pedal
- If you want the volume pedal to act as a master volume control = place the volume pedal after the wah pedal
Some players like to follow the rule of having all filter pedals (wah, fuzz etc.) first, so will go for wah into volume into distortion/ overdrive.
In or Out of the FX Loop?
Wah pedals should generally not be placed in the FX loop. The only exception is if you are looking to put the wah in-front of your overdrive/ distortion section, in which case you could place the wah pedal in the loop. This will result in a much more pronounced sweep.
Here’s an article on effects loops and which pedals should and shouldn’t go in them.
Check out my complete guide to FX pedal ordering for a complete explanation of the recommended order for each type of effect.