How to Build the Ultimate Pedal Board — Video
Are you a pedal-board dunce? Fear not! In this illustrated tutorial, Guitar World shows you everything you need to know, from choosing a board to powering up and laying out your pedals.
The more effect pedals you use, the more you need a pedal board. Even the most basic unpowered board can provide a useful platform to hold your pedals securely, provide cable management and keep everything from sliding around onstage.
Powered boards have the added function of supplying electrical connections to all your pedals, thereby eliminating the need for power strips and multiple wall warts that can take up space and create a nest of dangerous wires around your performance area. For more complex or specialized rigs, a custom pedal board can meet your specific switching requirements and make performance headaches a thing of the past.
Unfortunately for those who have never had a pedal board, the prospect of building or buying one can be overwhelming. You have to determine not only what size you’ll need for your set-up but also make sure it matches the power requirements of your pedals, some of which might take require, 12, 16, 18 or 24 volts.
There’s also the matter of cables, of which you’ll need many, each cut to the minimum length to ensure signal integrity and keep your layout tidy. The confusion only gets worse once you go online and see the plethora of pedal board models and options available to you.
We wrote up this guide to make selecting and setting up a pedal board easier. In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through every step of the process, from choosing the pedal board, power supply and cables to laying out your pedals in the order that works for you and making it all work to meet your needs.
The choice of a small, medium or large pedal board comes down to one thing: the number and size of the pedals you’ll need to use. If you use five or fewer standard-size pedals and don’t plan to add to your setup, a small pedal board should suit your long-term needs. If you have more than five pedals but fewer than 10, you’ll want to consider a medium board. More than 10 and you should choose a large board. And if you have only five pedals now but plan to add another two or three in the near future, it’s better to plan ahead and go for a larger board today.
Remember, too, that pedals with large footprints take up more real estate, and even a small set-up consisting of a few oversized pedals may require a larger pedal board to prevent overcrowding. When planning, remember to leave enough space between the pedals to facilitate cabling and create a clean, uncluttered and easily accessible layout.
Which Pedal Board?
Pedal boards can be purchased off the shelf, custom-built to your specs, or even built at home using readily available building materials, cables and power supplies. Music stores carry a range of boards, including bare unpowered platforms and boards with built-in power supplies and power strips. Other possible features include cable compartments, wheels, cases, heavy-duty corners and raised or pitched surfaces that make it easier to reach the pedals furthest away from you.
Need something special? Many companies are available to build custom pedal boards to your specs, using the materials, power supply, hardware, wire and cables of your choice. If you have specialized switching, looping or MIDI requirements, a custom pedal board can meet your specific needs, though at a greater cost than an off-the-shelf unit.
For this demonstration, I’m using medium and large Pedaltrain boards: the Pedaltrain 2 and Pedaltrain Pro, respectively. I like Pedaltrain boards for their lightweight frames and strong construction. The boards are slotted for easy management of cables and power supplies, all of which can fit under the board and out of sight.
Slotted boards are especially nice in clubs, where spilled drinks can make a mess of your pedal board; with a slotted board, spilled liquids drip off, unlike a solid board, which will allow liquids to pool. The Pedaltrain boards are also angled, which makes it easy to reach pedals that are furthest away from you without accidentally stepping on other pedals or knocking their control settings with your foot.