02 Gain stacking
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