Which Effect Pedal Goes First?

Do you place your wah pedal before your distortion pedal?  Or do you run your fuzz before your wah?  While there is the conventional wisdom surrounding effect pedal order, there are as many different schools of thought as there are guitar players.  The fundamental question you want to ask yourself is:

Do you want your distorted guitar sound wah’d or do you want your wah’d sound distorted.  Splitting hairs?  Not really.

A wah pedal is by definition a filter and when thinking about it in those terms, should be placed first.  Placing a wah first in your pedal order will allow that effect to see your unadulterated guitar tone and to sweep that signal.  In many ways, that produces a natural, sweet wah tone.   Another reason to place a wah or other filter first in the chain is that most are very touch sensitive.  Your fingers and pick attack can most affect the first pedal in your chain and therefore, a wah makes most sense.

Talk to other guitarists and they’ll tell you to place your fuzz or distortion pedal first.  Many fuzz pedals react best when hit with a straight guitar signal.  Secondly, a distortion or fuzz pedal is often the core tone for many guitarists and therefore is a good base for building tone, including wah.

Ibanez Wah Pedal

Ibanez Weeping Demon Wah Pedal

Other effect pedals like delay, chorus and other modulation type effects should come later in your signal chain.  We’ll discuss these later.

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