When it comes to using volume pedals, there is a lot of debate going on. A large number of guitar players appreciate what these pedals have to offer, while the other part of the community feels that volume pedals are a solution to a non-existent problem.
The truth is that volume pedals perform a very specific task and that a good portion of guitar players simply don’t need them. Whether or not you’re going to have any practical use for a volume pedal depends on the type of music you play, and how important you think volume is in general.
We won’t go deeper into why you should use a volume pedal. If you are interested in that subject, you can read all about it in our article here ‘Why Use a Volume Pedal’. What we are going to talk about is the best way to use volume pedals, and just what kind of improvement you can expect from one of these devices.
Chances are that you will realize a volume pedal is a missing link you were looking for all along. So stay with us as we explore all of the different ways you can use this effect in your signal chain.
Before we go into standard placement of volume pedals in the signal chain, we have to insert a small disclaimer. As you probably know, guitar effects chains are a very personal subject. Almost every other guitar player will have a preference of their own and a unique setup that works for them. So when you start telling people where a pedal should be placed, it will cause a lot of eyes to roll.
The thing about volume pedals is that guitar players have already established where they work the best, and there aren’t many other places you can put them to achieve those same effects. With that said, experimentation is always the key to a great sound, so what we are going to talk about further down in the text isn’t set in stone in any way.
The standard practice for using guitar volume pedals is to place them either at the end of the signal chain, or before delays. That’s pretty much it when it comes to standard practices these days. There are several good reasons why most people place volume pedals at these two positions. When you place the volume pedal at the very end of a signal chain, you are attenuating the processed signal as a whole.
This means that it will still retain full overdrive saturation, all of the modulation effects, and everything you chose to include. The only thing that changes is the volume. Coincidentally, this is exactly why volume pedals came into existence. People grew tired of controlling the volume using nothing but guitar pots, especially since most of the tone quality goes to waste. Using a volume pedal, you get the full control over the volume levels while retaining the quality of your tone.
Placing a volume pedal in front of the delays has a different effect. Using this setup allows you to reduce the volume as much as you want, but also retain the sustain qualities a delay pedal gives you. This extra sustain makes everything sound more organic and enables you to do pretty decent swells without sounding artificial.
No matter which one of these positions you use, you will experience all the benefits of using a volume pedal.
Preserving that gain is definitely something many guitar players can benefit from. On the other hand, you can use a volume pedal to get a bit more versatility out of your tube amp as well. To do this, you set the volume on the amp right in that sweet spot where tubes run at max capacity, and then attenuate the volume using a volume pedal. This way you can tap into that optimal tube range whenever you need to.
On a grand scale of things, a volume pedal has a much smaller footprint on your signal chain. It won’t affect your tone like a distortion pedal could for example. However, it’s a tool with that was built for a niche purpose. Some will find volume pedals to be one of the most important parts of their pedalboard, while others will see it as a novelty piece of gear. Whether or not a volume pedal is something that can help you, and expand the range of your tone is completely up to you. It definitely doesn’t have the same effect on all genres of music and playing styles.
If you are building a complex pedalboard, and you are researching different types of effects pedals you could find interesting down the road, volume pedals are definitely worth your attention. If you’ve already built an impressive chain, and you use pots to attenuate the signal, you are basically nullifying your whole setup.
Investing into a volume pedal might prove to be a good decision in this case. If you’re still not sure, you can always go and test one of these out. Actually, that is the best way to really figure out whether or not a volume pedal is something that could contribute to your sound.
With all this stuff out of the way, feel free to check out our list of Best Volume Pedals on the market today.