Choosing Your First DIY Pedal Project
If you’re new to building guitar pedals, choosing your first DIY guitar pedal to make is a daunting task and choosing the wrong one could put you off from building anymore.
This is why I’ve put together a list of easy DIY guitar pedal kits that will help you get started on this truly fantastic hobby.
These builds have been separated into different types of pedals so you can easily find something that you actually want to build. Use the quick links below to jump to the corresponding kit overview.
All of the effects pedal kits I’ll link to are available to buy from PedalParts, a UK based company that I’ve had a lot of fantastic experiences with.
I am not affiliated with them in any way but I’m recommending them based on my experience.
Boost pedals are one of the most flexible pedals you can have on your pedalboard. They can be a utility to boost signal chains, part of your base tone or used to really push your amp for leads & solos. Below, I’ve pulled out a few examples of DIY Boost pedal kits that start with very simple circuits with few components and go up to more advanced transistor circuits that require a little more fine-tuning.
Check out my page all about DIY guitar boost pedals here if you’d like a bit more information.
Easy To Build Boost Pedals
Below is a selection of my favourite boost pedals that make for great beginner DIY guitar pedals. With very few parts and simple circuits, these are perfect circuits to help get you started with building DIY pedal building.
MXR Micro Amp
The MXR Micro Amp is a classic 1 knob boost pedal that is ideal for either boosting your signal for a lead sound or to adjust for different pickup outputs (humbuckers, p90’s or single coils). You could also use this to boost your signal through a large pedalboard.
This simple 1 knob boost offers up to 26db of gain and because it’s so small, you can house it in the 1590A case.
Dallas Rangemaster Treble Boost
A circuit originally created around 1965, the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Boost was created to boost your signal into the amp, but more specifically, the higher end frequencies. Hence the name ‘Treble Boost’.
With a whole host of incredible guitarists to have used this over the years including Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, Brian May & Tony Iommi, this is sound everyone needs to experience in their rig.
ZVEX Super Hard On
The Super Hard On, or SHO as it’s most commonly known, is the classic transparent boost pedal that will help transform your sound without colouring your tone.
Anyone who follows Zvex will know that their pedals are quite expensive but once you try them, you’ll find that this price tag is understandable. They make fantastic circuits and with this boost pedal kit, you can build your own guitar pedal.
Intermediate Boost Pedal Builds
If you’ve already had a bit of experience with electronics or want a bit more of a challenge, you may wish to have a stab at one of the below boost DIY pedal kits. These are a little bit more advanced than the beginner guitar pedal kits but still all very achievable.
Most notably made famous by John Mayer, the Keeley Katana has been through a few different iterations but this is the first and most well-known version.
With just one knob, it may appear to be a simple boost, but Robert Keeley has designed something truly outstanding.
This build is a little trickier to build than the easier boost pedals previously mentioned as you need to bias the two transistors to hit that sweet spot.
Overdrives & Distortion Pedals
No matter which guitarist you ask, they’ll say that there’s always room for another overdrive or distortion pedal on their pedalboard. Unfortunately, this can quickly become an expensive habit that will unlikely be settled with just one more pedal. A much more economical way to cope with this habit it to make your own overdrive & distortion pedals. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that even the most expensive Klon style pedals can be made for a fraction of the retail value.
Easy To Build Overdrive & Distortion Pedals
Below is a selection of my favourite overdrive & distortion pedals that make for great beginner projects. Many of these pedals can be picked up on eBay for cheap, but where’s the fun in that. With a few hours of work, you can create your very own version of some classic drive pedals.
Lovepedal Purple Plexi
The Purple Plexi by Lovepedal is an awesome three-knob Marshall Plexi style pedal. Helping you create British style distortion from the classic cranked tones of the JTM45 all the way through to the modded Plexi or JCM800.
While this does have a very usable volume and tone knob, the gain knob can seem a little unwieldy as there isn’t a massive change between 0 and 7. However, the last few notches really take things up to 11.
The original Univox Uni-Drive pedals were created back in the 60’s and favoured by players like Jimmy Page for really pushing the front end of their amp. Trying to find one of these second hand will set you back about $1,200 so if you’d like to own this pedal without paying the extortionate price tag, this DIY kit is for you.
Intermediate Overdrive & Distortion Pedal Builds
Unfortunately, many of the classic overdrive & distortion pedals that have become staples on pedalboards around the worlds are not super simplistic designs. They’re a little more advanced than many of the one-knob boost pedals we’ve already taken a look at. However, they’re all very achievable to make at home and with one of these kits, you can make their tones part of your rig.
From blues rock through to heavy metal, the Ibanez Tubescreamer is one of those pedals that is so versatile, every guitarist needs to own at least one. While it’s had many different iterations over the years, the most notorious is the TS808 and TS9. This kit will allow you to nail both of those classic pedals with just one circuit board.
Pro Co Rat
Like the Tubescreamer, the Pro Co Rat is one of those classic distortion pedals that you will have heard on records spanning multiple genres. It’s a classic circuit that pedal companies have cloned, modded and tweaked to try and make it their own. However, nothing quite compares to the original and this kit will help you recreate those classic tones for your own board. A perfect DIY distortion pedal to add to your collection!
After overdrives, fuzz pedals are one of the most common guitar effects that some guitarists have made a part of their key signature sound. From its beginnings with Jimi Hendrix to the more modern players, fuzz is a sound that should take pride of place on everyone’s pedalboards.
Easy To Build Fuzz Pedals
Starting life in the 60’s, fuzz pedals are historically very simple circuits using either silicon or germanium transistors to add sustain to your guitar tone. When dealing with such simple circuits, the relationship between the components becomes a much bigger facet of the sounds they produce. Change one piece of the puzzle and you drastically change the sound from the pedal. Some of these circuits are easy DIY guitar pedals to get started with.
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face
The legendary Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face first came to life in 1965 and found fame with artists like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmore & Eric Johnson. The Fuzz Face has been reproduced in lots of different forms but the main difference tends to be the types of transistors used. The blue Fuzz Face is the standard silicon transistor pedal while the rest tend to be different sets of germanium transistors. The only way to figure out which version works for you is to build them all.
Way Huge Red Llama
First released in the 90’s, this pedal was hugely popular for the range of gain available on tap. It has been re-released in a few different formats since but the original designer, Gorge Tripps knows a thing or two about creating an awesome fuzz pedal.
Using an integrated circuit instead of transistors, this is a super simple fuzz pedal to help kickstart your fuzz pedal obsession.
Maestro Fuzz Tone
The Maestro Fuzz Tone was one of the original fuzz pedals to break out onto the scene in the 1960’s and was shot into the limelight when Keith Richards used it to record the opening riff for ‘Satisfaction’. Gibson later reissued this classic fuzz in the 90’s but discontinued it soon after, making this a highly sought after fuzz. Any fans of the Rolling Stones need to have this pedal in their arsenal and using the below fuzz pedal kit, you can make yours for a fraction of the cost of an original.
Intermediate Fuzz Pedal Builds
While the classic fuzz pedals are very simple circuits, there are more modern designs that have less reliance on transistors in favour of integrated circuits. With this change comes the ability for greater tone shaping and gain options. The below circuits are a little more complex but nothing too advanced that you shouldn’t be able to make them over a weekend.
Electro Harmonix Big Muff
Electro Harmonix have made some incredible pedals over the years but none as famous as the Big Muff. This fuzz pedal has seen a few different variations over the years with some of the most popular being the Green Russian, Rams Head and Triangle Big Muff. This fuzz pedal kit will allow you to conquer them all and provides the instructions necessary to create any of the classic muff circuits to suit your tastes.
Modulation pedals take many forms from a subtle chorus all the way through to a psychedelic flange. While there are some modulation circuits that are easy to build, many require lots of components and are quite complex designs.
Easy To Build Modulation Pedals
Once you’ve built a few simple drive pedals you’ll want to tackle something a little more advanced and modulation is a great next step. Take a look at the below beginner DIY modulation pedals that you can jump into.
Colorsound, most notable for their classic fuzz, also built a fantastic tremolo pedal back in the 70’s. This pedal was originally created to mimic the warm tremolo of an old Vox AC30 amplifier. Being the favoured tremolo for blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa (a man notorious for having a very compact pedalboard and very expensive gear), it highlights how incredible this pedal actually is. While we don’t have access to many of the original parts, this tremolo kit takes advantage of a few modern components while not compromising on tone.
Intermediate Modulation Pedal Builds
As previously mentioned, modulation pedals are a little more complex build and once you’re comfortable building your own guitar effects pedals, you should take the plunge with one of the below intermediate DIY modulation pedals.
Electro Harmonix Dr Q Envelope Filter
If your’e a 70’s funk guitarist, you’ll already be familiar with envelope filters and the Dr Q from Electro Harmonix is a fantastic example. The original one knob design can be expanded with an additional knob to help control the range of the filter. While this kit is a little more advanced, it’s definitely a challenge worth taking to help you nail those funky riffs.
That’s my roundup of DIY guitar pedal kits for beginner electronics enthusiasts.
If you’d like to read more about kits, check out my guide here:
If you can think of any pedals I’ve missed or any that you’d like to see featured on this list, let me know and get in touch here.