02 Gain stack­ing

Total Guitar - - COVER FEATURE -

Four steps to start gain stack­ing with your drive ped­als now

1. What and why

A gain stack is using dif­fer­ent types of drives to­gether (eg boost, medium drive and high-gain dis­tor­tion) to cre­ate a whole range of new tones and op­tions for your sound. Un­der­stand­ing how they re­late to one an­other in a stack is vi­tal, be­cause it’s dif­fer­ent to how they usu­ally work in­de­pen­dently. The pay­off is mas­sive – and gives you an ex­cuse to dust off some old drive ped­als and bring them back to your ’board.

2. Un­der­stand re­la­tion­ships

It’s worth not­ing a golden rule of stack­ing: the sec­ond pedal in your stack will dic­tate the tone. So the set­tings on that sec­ond pedal will af­fect the way the first one sounds with it. If you have a go-to drive, start by plac­ing it sec­ond (or last if you’re using three). Tre­ble/tone and gain con­trols be­come fo­cal points now. If you pair a lower gain Tu­ber­screamer-type drive that has some mid punch with a higher gain pedal with less mid but of­fers a wider gain for your sound, you may need to com­pen­sate – you may even want to place that TS-type drive after it.

3. Think vol­ume

It’s very im­por­tant to un­der­stand that the ef­fect of turn­ing up your ped­als’ lev­els in a gain stack sce­nario is dif­fer­ent to how it would usu­ally be. Turn­ing up the vol­ume in the first pedal of your stack won’t ac­tu­ally in­crease it, but it will af­fect the amount of gain in the sec­ond pedal. It’s the sec­ond pedal that dic­tates the vol­ume of the stack. With that in mind, you might want to treat the sec­ond pedal as a boost that you bring in for cer­tain parts like so­los.

4. Con­sider your amp too

There’s a whole other part to the won­der­ful world of stack­ing to con­sider that only needs one pedal – using your amp’s drive. Many of our favourite play­ers have done it through­out rock his­tory (of­ten with a Tube Screamer and Mar­shall in­volved) to raise the tonal stakes for a solo. A tube am­pon the edge of break up is a great sound to add a drive to.

Open up tone by gain stack­ing your drive ped­als

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