Other Equipment

Why is it pedalboards…

1

...are usually set up more or less with signal flow from guitar to amp "reading" right to left?

Another in the Who-Cares series of curious questions

Most of us are right-handed; most of us are Westerners who read from left to right.

And I know this isn't a universal rule, and on most boards a box here and there defies the general pattern, usually for reasons of fit or most convenient handiness (footiness?) of operation.

But, in general, don't we put the first pedal in our chain at the right of the board, then work our way across to the left? Even pedals appear to expect this, with their input jacks almost always on the right, and outputs on the left.

Why, I idly wonder, is this so?

ALL I can think of is that the output jack on virtually every right-handed guitar is at the right side of the guitar, so our lead from guitar to first pedal is kept (or at least could theoretically be kept) short and out from under foot. But in actual practice, we use cords long enough to get wherever they have to go.

Any other suggestions?

(To be abundantly clear, it doesn't matter, it seems natural to me, I'm not asking if I should change mine, and I'm not challenging conventional practice. I just wonder.)

2

Nothing good new to offer, Tim. I think the output jack being on the right probably started the trend.

Edit: If no one ever wondered, we would still be wearing lion cloths and roaming the land like our predecessors.

3

Yes, I think you have it Tim; a matter of configuration: guitar jack on right, entry pedal on right, exit pedal on left near the amp's input on left. Somehow it became a convention.

What I find puzzling is the position of the power connector on some pedals. Why not put them all in the back of the pedal? Some are crammed in front of or behind the input or output jack.

4

Pretty sure my RAT and Holy Grail have the input/output jacks on the top , so the right to left theory would'nt apply to them.

5

Even if they're on top, Manny, I bet input is on the right SIDE of the top.


I wonder when this beCAME the convention. The Fender Blender destructo fuzzwhacker (late 60s?) has the jacks in reverse orientation on the front of the case.

6

and The amp volume knobs are usually on the front left side of the Amp,,hhmmm.

7

How about the idea that we play the guitar the wrong way round? Obviously there’s skills to be developed in both hands but we demand so much dexterity from our left hand around the fretboard. Especially that little pinky on the weaker left hand.

My theory is that it goes back to early music when there may have been greater demands on the master hand plucking techniques.

And before the smarty pants jump in showing some clever Trevor with a wizzy right hand technique...I’m talking about ‘most of us’. We’re not all Chet.

8

My old brain warps a bit when folks talk about pedal order too...left and right thing. Leaves me staring like a cow at a new fence

9

When people insist on wrongly calling the guitar output jack the input jack, it's no surprise that everything is ass-backwards!

10

Even if they're on top, Manny, I bet input is on the right SIDE of the top.


I wonder when this beCAME the convention. The Fender Blender destructo fuzzwhacker (late 60s?) has the jacks in reverse orientation on the front of the case.

– Proteus

Vox Tonebender fuzzes too. And echoplexes. So it's definitely not a 60's thing, haha!

11

The cable coming from the right, would not get in the way. If fed from the left, it dangles in front of you.

12

I just realized that when I said the amp's input is on the left I was facing the amp. It's on the right when behind you on stage. That would support the idea that the output jack should be on the right side of pedals; I think you are on to something Protius. I have to say that Geoff V's point is not to be dismissed though, long cables aside. (no almost pun intended)

13

I have pondered this all before, as well. You're probably on to something with the guitar chord being to our right. How do lefties feel about all of this? Paul?

14

Yeah, I agree... I think it has to do with which side of you the cord is coming down as you hold the guitar (sorry, Lefties). For most of us, the cord is coming down our right leg, so if it needs to go in front of us, the input needs to be to the right side. And if you're going to an amp, you'd be coming to the left side of the amp.

In theory, it keeps the cord from crossing you or tripping you. In practice, there's an awful lot of ways to trip on a cord anyway

15

Yep, must be because the cord comes out of your guitar on the right side. But I was really confused about that in the beginning too. It's very counter intuitive.

16

If anything, you'd think we'd arrange pedals without regard to signal flow, with the pedals we need to footiculate most often being in nearest proximity to our most articulate foot.

(Are we footed in the way we're handed? If we're right-handed, is our right foot more agile, precise, tap-dance trustworthy than our left foot?)

On my "big board," I've partially broken with strict right-to-left plugology, in order to position pedals A) so that more infrequently pedaled pedals are in the more inaccessible locations and more-used pedals come more readily under foot, and 2) wherever there's room. (Doesn't it always come down to that, pedaljunkies?)

This has made for superficially very inefficient wiring, as by putting ins on the right and outs on the left, the pedal industry has made sure that wiring from right to left takes less cable in fewer tangles than otherwise. But that wiring nightmare is tucked underneath the board and strapped up, so OK.

And even with that cable convolution, I do plug INTO the whole board at a pedal on the right. (The outputs happen to come from just right of the middle, where I needed to put the maximum-footiculation-required looper.)

On my "new" and daily-evolving shortboard, though, I'm adhering to strickly right-to-left like a good effect citizen. And I GUESS it KINDA works out practically: gain pedals at the right where the right foot can tap dance as they're needed, reverb at far left where it's pretty much always on, preceded by the likewise idle EQ. BUT...some guys leave gainers on all the time. And tremolo (one of those intermittently used effects) happens to be in the far-left Flint with reverb. And delay/modulation are toward the left side as well, and those are frequently switched in and out.

It remains a mystery within a compromise wrapped around a commercial convention.

17

Moreover, as a right-handed player, I've always found my stance to be more stable with my weight on my right foot and the left foot stomping switches or treading wah or volume pedals.

Works that way on keyboards, too. Right foot does piano sustain or organ volume, left foot works the Leslie switch, synth-volume or wah pedal.

18

I've always found my stance to be more stable with my weight on my right foot and the left foot stomping switches or treading wah or volume pedals.

Ah yes, of course. My right foot is only more agile when I'm seated - which is how I prefer to play guitar, even when gigging. If I stood...the right foot is probably a better anchor.

I right-foot the sustain pedal and left-foot other stuff at the keyboard too.

But not wah. I don't have enough dexterity in all my limbs together to operate a wah pedal. I understand it takes rhythm or something, and I'm disqualified.

19

I've found I can trip over cables no matter where I put them. Even when going wireless, I can find a cable to trip over. I'm left-handed but play right-handed, and maybe for that reason I use my right foot for volume/expression/wah pedal adjustments, plus it's better trained at subtle movements thanks to automotive design conventions. But I'll stomp whatever needs stomping with whatever foot is available or closest to the stomp target. Oft-stomped pedals are generally placed on the board where they can be hit most easily, like an Atomic Brain works best for me on the board's lower left corner, because that puts its nulclear-option button in the corner where it's tougher to miss (though I'm sure I could, and do, manage). But after the critical pedals are positioned, it's wherever they'll fit.

20

"...gain pedals at the right where the right foot can tap dance as they're needed, reverb at far left where it's pretty much always on, preceded by the likewise idle EQ." -Proteus

Wait, so your EQ is near the END of the signal chain???

I always thought EQ should be early (I have mine at the very front), because any lost frequencies can be boosted before they're diminished by permutations of the signal chain, so you net out even. Seems to me trying to do it after the fact means you're trying to make up for something that's already gone; i.e. boosting highs at that point means essentially boosting noise instead of signal...no?

21

Yeah, EQ position could certainly vary depending on purpose. In this case, it's just a last-stop tweak.

Each of the gainboostdirts has its own subtle eq profile, each claims to want to "see" the pure signal from the guitar (though obviously they can't all get their wish) - and I've paid attention to their order for gain stacking. (The pedal selection and sequence is experimental at the moment, subject to change when I see how they work live.)

So I specifically did NOT want to change the EQ going in to any of those pedals, toying with the profiles they each carefully (or at least expensively) try to maintain. When I know them better, and/or want to drive or starve particular freqs in them, maybe an eq before.

A compressor follows the gainers (an experiment for me, as I usually put comps first); this compressor also has an eq "slope" control which rarely varies from flat, but when employed is done purposefully - usually to tune a specific guitar's response.

Next Tavo's Mystery Brain, which is not only delay with modulation, but incorporates his Atomic Brain Space Echo preamp. And wouldn't you know it, it imparts an eq bump (which has been useful on my bigger board earlier in the chain, and which I haven't figured out yet in its later position here). But I want the delay where it is (certainly not before gainers - and it's pointless before compression), and I don't know how much I'll be using its preamp in this application. But if I DO use it, again I don't want to impose my own arbitrary EQ before it.

So then comes the EQ, just before the Flint Reverb/Trem. (And it could just as easily follow it.)

With that as background, in this case I intend this EQ (the lowly Boss EQ7) strictly as a "post" EQ, a final problem solver or shaper, like I'd use EQ on the channel of a mixer. Not as an effect or as drive in any way, just as a final tweak to make the guitar sound sit better. Depending on the guitar or the room or the amp, maybe to roll off lows, or to bump a particular range. I don't expect to even use it much.

At least here in my music room, with the amp I'm currently using. What will happen anywhere else, I don't know. But I rarely use extreme EQ in any context, and more often cut than boost. Just slight touches to fine-tune. If I need more help than that from an EQ pedal, I'm either in a horrible room or need to address other issues.

I can't imagine a situation where I'd have to boost the highs. I'm not losing treble anywhere; all tree gaindirt pedals AND the comp AND the Tavobox can add highs if needed.

(As well, of course, as can an amp. But I'm using this pedalboard with the Quilter Microblock with its one-knob "Tri-Q," a clever EQ profiler that isn't as simple as cutting or boosting any one frequency. I'm still figuring it out too. The problem, if it is one, is that this tiny amp through the 1-12 Neo speaker cab Powdog built sounds great to me on ANY setting.)

But yeah - I can see having EQ in any position on the board where it might be needed for a particular purpose. (Like always kicking it in right before a particular gain pedal to push certain frequencies, or in the effects loop of a Tim pedal so it always came on to shape its profile.)

22

When I switched over from strictly acoustic playing to electric, I wondered about the right-to-left thing, too. But being left-handed and playing right-handed, I just accepted it after a while as being the design of some poor, disabled, (read right handed) person.

Another thing is if you play a Vox AC15, the inputs are on the left side of the amp when you have your back to the amp. So the cable from your last pedal on the left, goes left into the amp. And I place the Vox stage left.

What I have difficulties with is my MusicMan. The input is opposite the Vox's input. So if I place the MusicMan stage right, then I have to run the cable from the last pedal on the left under the pedal board to get it out of the way, then over to the MusicMan. A length of gaffer's tape fixes any tripping issues that might have otherwise happened.

23

So you’re not worried that you play the actual guitar the wrong way round? No one listens to me, not even Tim or my own wife.

I’m turning my guitar round right now....so the strings face m’ belly. See if that sounds better. Just then gotta work out where to stick the jack

24

So you’re not worried that you play the actual guitar the wrong way round? No one listens to me, not even Tim or my own wife.

I’m turning my guitar round right now....so the strings face m’ belly. See if that sounds better. Just then gotta work out where to stick the jack

25

So you’re not worried that you play the actual guitar the wrong way round? No one listens to me, not even Tim or my own wife.

I’m turning my guitar round right now....so the strings face m’ belly. See if that sounds better. Just then gotta work out where to stick the jack

– Vince_Ray

Nah. Heck, when I started out, there wasn't anyone around to tell me how the thing was supposed to be held. I just plopped the thing across my thigh, opened up a book, studied those little dot diagrams, and had A, D, and E7 down before Christmas dinner was served. (And very sore left hand fingers!)


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