What’s The Difference Between Latching & Momentary (Non-Latching) Footswitches?

As guitarists, when we’re on stage or playing in our practice space, our hands aren’t available to do anything other than play our guitars. Therefore, the main way we can interact with our gear is by stepping on footswitches.

When sourcing components for your DIY guitar pedal builds, you’ll find two different types of 3PDT footswitches. These are latching footswitches and non-latching (momentary) footswitches.

However, what are the key differences between these two types of footswitches? Why would we choose a momentary footswitch over a latching footswitch or visa-versa? Let’s take a look at each of these, shall we?

What Are Latching Footswitches?

Latching footswitches are the most common type of footswitch used in building DIY guitar effects pedals. These are your standard on/off footswitches. Normally, you will feel/hear a click when you step on the footswitch as the mechanical connections inside the switch move from the on to the off position (or visa-versa).

When you step on a latching footswitch, the connections within the switch move from the first position to the second position and they remain that way until you next step on the switch. They latch in place.

There are a few ways you can introduce these into your pedal builds and you can view my guide to the different types of pedal bypass switching here.

What Are Latching Footswitches Used For?

As previously mentioned, these are the most common footswitches for building guitar effects pedals and following the previous explanation, it should be simple to see why.

With two positions available to toggle between we can use these to send out signal through one route or another. For example, it can send our guitar signal from an input jack to an output jack or, if engaged, it can send our signal through an effects circuit.

These latching footswitches are what you will use for 99% of your projects. This is definitely a component worth stocking up on when building DIY effects pedals.

What Are Momentary (Non-Latching) Footswitches?

Momentary or non-latching switches don’t have a click like latching footswitches. There is a spring inside the switch that pushes the switch back into open mode. This means that the circuit is only engaged if you remain stood on it.

The wiring for these types of footswitches is exactly the same as that of the latching footswitch. However, rather than remaining in position when you step on it, it switches back to the initial position as soon as you take your foot off of it. This makes it ideal for circuits you only want to be engaged for a short time.

What Are Momentary (Non-Latching) Footswitches Used For?

There are a few different use cases for momentary footswitches in guitar effects pedals. Here are a few uses that I like to use them for:

  1. Tap Tempo – This can either be in a stand alone pedal or as part of a greater effect. You’ll notice that the general trend in the industry at the moment is for any delay or modulation type effect (e.g. tremolo) to include a tap tempo as a second footswitch. Check out my guide on how to build a DIY Tap Tempo pedal here.
  2. Temporary Effects – Not every effect is something you’ll want engaged all the time. Sometimes you’ll just want a short burst of feedback, octave or something similar. In this case, a momentary footswitch is a great item to have in your back pocket.
  3. Killswitch/Stutter Pedal – If you love the stutter effect Tom Morello uses in some of his solos but don’t have a guitar with two volume knobs to toggle between, a momentary killswitch/stutter pedal is a fantastic addition to your pedalboard.

So there you have it. A simple rundown of the differences between latching and momentary footswitches.

Latching footswitches are the footswitches used in most effects pedals to turn them on and off. Whereas momentary footswitches are useful to interact with your effects or guitar signal with a little more precision.

Both have their place when building DIY effects pedals and both are equally as fun to play with. Once you’re familiar with how to wire a footswitch you can start to get really creative with your projects.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know and get in touch.

Happy Building.

Hi, I'm Pete!

I have been a guitar and effects pedal enthusiast since 2005 and electronics tinkerer since 2017.

I’m here to help you begin your journey with building DIY guitar effects pedals. Get in touch with me if you have any questions.

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