I love putting a volume pedal in my signal chain in order to help me control my guitar output level and where I put in in the order of other pedals can make a huge difference in how you sound. Volume pedal placement is important!
There’s no real “you must place it here or else” situation – it’s really going to depend on what you are looking for. We’ll get into that but first for guitarists that might not have any experience with a volume pedal, let’s start with the basics.
To get right to the heart of the question on where in your signal chain to put the volume pedal, my advice would be to experiment with your own set up. Try stuff and see what you like. There really is no right or wrong answer here!
What Is A Volume Pedal?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. You’ve probably seen a wah pedal, right. Well, think of a wah pedal looking thing. The only difference is that when you rock the pedal up and down, instead of getting a wah sound, you get a volume control.
One other key factor though is that it is important to note that there are actually two types of volume pedals:
- High impedance – better suited for at the beginning of the chain where you can control how much signal gets passed through the effects (overdrive distortion, delay and reverb) before outputting to the amp.
- Low impedance – these are designed more to go closer to last in the chain. Resembling an amp’s master volume.
How Does A Volume Pedal Work?
A volume pedal is actually very simple – it’s basically just a volume knob in pedal form. That’s really all there is to it. Rock the pedal back and the volume lowers, rock it forward and it increases.
Do I Need A Volume Pedal?
Well, that depends. I would have to say that it is a good thing to have on your pedal board in order to help you with the creative process and give you a bit more tools to work with in your guitar playing. Who doesn’t love volume swells!? But, I would recommend taking a look at this article that really dives into this question to help you answer it for yourself:
Why You Need A Volume Pedal (samash.com) – Aug 27 2019
There’s barely anything as exciting for a guitar player as building a pedalboard . Although things sometimes might get too geeky, focusing on all the simple details, it’s still one of the most fun things to do. Just imagine all those effects that will not only make your music more exciting but will help you express yourself better through playing. Which is, at the end of the day, the very point of guitar pedals and all the other equipment. (samash.com)
Do Volume Pedals Affect Tone?
Now this is where you get into the importance of the placement of you volume pedal vs all the other pedals that you have in your pedal board. We’ll go into a bit more detail in the next section of this article but here’s an example of how it can affect your tone. The placement of the volume pedal comes into play here.
Have you ever been playing with a distorted guitar tone coming from your amp and turned down the guitar’s volume knob a bit in order to clean up the tone and take out a bit of the distortion? Well, you can do the same thing with a volume pedal – which is definitely impacting your guitar tone.
Where Should The Volume Pedal Go?
There’s a lot of excellent information online about this that I would recommend looking at the following forum discussion that a bunch of guitarists had here:
Volume pedal placement/impedance…….. (forum.seymourduncan.com)
Topics: volume pedal, effects loop, high impedance, word post, minimum volume, high gain channel, exact same way, volume control
- EBs are passive, if you go straight from the guitar to the pedal, you want a high impedance.
- If you have it after buffers or in the effects loop, you want low impedance.
- Or, if you don’t want to change the gain/tone at all, you just want to vary the volume, the best way is to put a low impedance volume pedal in the effects loop.
Where Do You Put The Volume Pedal For Swells?
So maybe you are looking for a specific technique like swells. My opinion would be after any effects like overdrive pedals or distortion pedals. But, if you have modulation pedals in your chain too, such as a delay pedal, reverb effects, chorus, place it before these modulation effects.
Looking For A Volume Pedal Recommendation?
That’s easy! The Ernie Ball VP Jr. because it’s decently priced, is fairly compact compared to other options so it won’t take too much pedal board space, and you have two settings for the rate of volume with give you a couple different swell options. Take a look at this video: