The Guitar Plus Amp Plus Effects Sound Chain

By Dave Hunter

Each piece of gear you use together to make music is part of a sound chain. When you play an electric guitar, your sound is never just about that guitar; it’s an amalgam of everything else that contributes to the sound. In that sense, although your hands manipulate the guitar itself to make music, that first piece of the chain isn’t really an instrument all on its own.

The full instrument includes your amp and any effects pedals or units you use to further manipulate your sound.

The elements in the sound chain aren’t just individual components; they all work together and affect each other’s performance. To understand how any one change in your setup will affect your overall tone, you need to be familiar with each piece of the sound chain. Every type of guitar affects the sound of effects pedals differently, and both guitars’ and effects pedals’ tones vary depending on the type of amplifier used.

In other words, this whole sound-chain thing is a game of infinite variables. You’re only going to get a handle on what the end results will be — as opposed to shooting for random sounds every time — by understanding both the individual stages and how they interact with each other.

If you’re fairly new to the concept of working with amps and effects to get the sounds you’re looking for, this all may sound fairly confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of this kind of thinking pretty quickly.

Open your mind to the big picture right from the start, and you’ll find it a lot easier to take in the theory of interplay and interactivity between not only guitars, effects, and amps but also between the smaller interdependent components of each of these individual pieces of equipment.