Shaping Your Sound

When talking about complex sound manipulation using effects and effects pedals and devices the first thing one should consider is the order of the effects. Of course, we’re referring to serious musicians who really want to take the best out of their playing.

So the first thing that needs some explanations is the way effects work. It is obvious that each effect manipulates the input sound. In other words, every device applies an effect to the sound it receives.

This means that if, for example you first apply a fuzz box effect to your violin and then apply a wah effect, the wah effect will work with the already fuzzy-manipulated sound.

If you were to change the order and put the wah effect first you would get a totally different sound. Why? Well, because every effect manipulates the sound in a different way.

For example, the fuzz has more effect on the loud sounds than on the quiet ones. On the other hand, the wah will affect the volume of different notes and frequencies in different ways depending on the way you rock the pedal.

That means that when you rock the wah pedal you’re actually controlling the way the fuzz behaves.

Another thing worth mentioning is that there is no wrong order when arranging your effects.

As with all music related topics the best way to learn and find out what you like is to experiment. However, you should take into consideration some general rules.

For example, do not use strong effects for a long period of time. Chorus or phasing can be used a long time, even an entire song, but strong effects like wah can become annoying if played for a long time.

Be subtle in the way you build your effect and always do it with taste. The most interesting results are achieved with just little modifications. It’s not the strength of the effect that matters; it’s its looks.

Here are a few tips on arranging your effects.

There are many discussions about whether a compressor should go before or after the effects. Putting the compressor first will bring your original violin sound to the desired volume and the effects will work with the resulting sound.

However, putting the compressor last can even out volume changes caused by effects. Again, the only way to see which fits you best is to experiment.

The arrangement of the overdrive effect is also a matter of taste and what sound you’re looking for.

Using strong effects after overdrive will result in a stronger, synth-like sound. Using the overdrive last gives you a more natural blend of the effects and a warmer sound.

The only effect that should go after overdrive should be the harmoniser as you do not want to be sending a whole bunch of different sound to the overdrive.

This would cause heavy distortion adding notes which may have nothing to do with the harmonies you were aiming for.

If however, you are using lighter effects such as modulation effects (flanger, chorus) you may want to put them after overdrive. Furthermore, you should consider putting them before the echo effect.

The reasons for this are quite obvious: as in the case of overdrive and harmonisers, you do not want to send multiple sounds to chorus for example.

Another thing you may want to consider is the placement of level controllers such as limiters, volume pedals, noise gates. Their order depends on what effects you want to use them with.

For example, if you use a volume pedal with an echo effect you should put the volume pedal before the echo in order to achieve a natural effect.

If you would use them the other way around you would also be controlling the volume of the echo.

As far as preferred effects used in different music genres it’s hard to say which effect belongs where. Today’s music has evolved to such an extent that you can’t really set any boundaries like this.

If, however, such an association exists it might be said that some effects started out in certain music genres: the fuzzbox, overdrive and distortion can be considered as being used more in rock and heavy metal music; the wah-wah effect is most often used in jazz but has also been brilliantly used by rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Eric Clapton; compressor is usually used in rock or pop music to make it sound louder; tremolo and vibrato can’t really be categorized as they have been used for hundreds of years in classical musical pieces and they are presently used in all music genres.