Why Should You Build Your Own Effects Pedals?
Guitar effects pedals have been on the scene since 1948 when DeArmond first started producing the Trem Trol 800 Tremolo. Whilst this effect looked nothing like modern-day pedals and wouldn’t fit on on your pedalboard, it started a wave other builders creating new and inventive effects for guitarists.
The market is now flooded with pedal makers. From huge companies like Boss that have shaped the pedal industry and sold millions of pedals worldwide to boutique pedal builders like AnalogueMan who handmake all of their pedals at their shop in the US.
However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a gap in this market for you to build your own pedals.
There are plenty of reasons you may want to build your own DIY guitar effects pedals, but I’ve narrowed it down to the below:
- Build iconic and rare effects pedals
- Create your own unique sound
- Modify and tweak your existing effects pedals
- The joy of the hobby
- Make some extra money
Let’s dive in.
Build Iconic & Rare Effects
Most effects pedals are created equally, but only some are lifted to the upper echelons of notoriety.
As soon as a famous guitarist starts using a guitar pedal, the prices go through the roof, the amount of them available on the market dwindles and the number of people building their own version of that circuit surges.
A great example of this is the Marshall Bluesbreaker. Before it appeared on John Mayers pedalboard, you could pick them up for £30-£50 on the used market. Then, following a leaked picture of his pedalboard the prices shot up and now you’ll be lucky to pick one up for less than £180. Luckily, many boutique builders took it upon themselves to create their own version of this circuit. The most famous clone of the Bluesbreaker is the Morning Glory from JHS, but even these will cost you £160 on the used market.
Thankfully, as a DIY guitar pedal builder, given the correct components and a few hours of your time, you can build your own version for less than £40 using a guitar pedal kit. You can pick one of these up from one of my favourite suppliers here:
Other pedals are built in such limited numbers so they are incredibly difficult to get a hold of. Combine this with the notoriety they receive from being used by famous guitarists and you have a recipe for a pedal that will be unobtainable for the majority of pedal enthusiasts.
A fantastic example of the one pedal that seems to go up in value every year is the Klon Centaur. The last time I checked Reverb for a Klon Centaur, I found that they were selling for anything between £3,000 and £5,500. For most of us, this simply puts this circuit out of reach with only actual rock stars being able to purchase them. There have been many clones of this pedal over the years with the Electro Harmonix Soul Food, the Wampler Tumnus and the J Rockett Archer being just a few. However, the most cost-efficient way to try this pedal is to build it yourself with kits starting at around £50:
Create Your Own Sound
Guitar effects pedals are a fantastic way to turn your standard electric guitar sound into something more inspirational and expressive. As previously discussed, there are hundreds of guitar pedal builders out there and thousands of different pedals. All of these will help you achieve different sounds and tones. However, what if you’re chasing a sound that isn’t currently available with existing guitar effects pedals?
This is where building your own DIY effects pedals can come into play.
Once you are comfortable building guitar pedals from kits and you understand how the schematics create the effects you hear, you can begin building your own effects.
Building your own guitar effects instead of building a clone of an existing pedal is a way for you to really stand out in a crowded pedal market.
If you don’t have the knowledge to create something from scratch, use an existing pedal as a base and start experimenting with different components to see how they change the signal and tone of your guitar. The more you experiment, the better understanding you’ll have of how everything works.
Modify And Tweak Your Existing Effects
Modifying and tweaking existing guitar effects pedals that you own is generally how many guitar pedal builders start out. It’s much easier to modify an existing pedal than it is to build something from scratch.
Modifying a guitar pedal will also allow you to see what effect changing components has on the sound of that pedal. For example, when you change a diode, how will it affect the clipping of that pedal? By testing different combinations, you can make a pedal you already love, even more versatile.
The main guitar effects pedals that people like to modify are:
Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive
Boss DS-1 Distortion
Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
DOD OD-250 Overdrive
EHX Soul Food
If you have any of these pedals already in your collection and would like to see what modifications are available, have a look online. It may be that it isn’t possible to modify the pedal you have as it only uses surface mount components, but you won’t know this until you open up your pedal.
It may seem a strange place to buy them, but you can pick up pedal modification kits on Etsy at fairly reasonable prices. You can check these out here:
It’s A Fun Hobby
If you’re like me, I love to create things myself rather than buying them ready-made. If you’re willing to learn how circuits work, how to solder and how to build your own DIY effects pedals it can make for a very fun hobby.
My site is here to help you get started on this hobby but there are fantastic forums and communities out there that will help you take this even further. Some of the communities I follow can be found here:
The feeling you get from completing a pedal, trying it for the first time and it working as it should is incredible! I’ve now built quite a few pedals and that feeling doesn’t go away. Plus if you’re in a band or have friends who also play the guitar, it’s a sure-fire way to make them jealous of your custom setup.
That jealously leads me to the next point on our list of why you should start building your own DIY guitar effects pedals.
Make Some Extra Money
Whilst I’m not suggesting you quit your job to build pedals for a living, it can be a fantastic way to earn some extra cash. When you really get into it and move away from premade DIY pedal kits, you can put your own pedals together at a fraction of the cost. For example, a silicon Fuzz Face DIY pedal kit can cost anything from £35 to £70. However, if you were to make this pedal from scratch using stripboard and components you piece together yourself, you can probably build it for £10 to £15.
Once you’re happy that you know what you’re doing and could fix any issues that may arise, you can comfortably sell the pedals you create. Quite a few DIY pedal builders will sell their pedals in order to fund buying new ones. However, if you have someone willing to spend a bit more and buy your projects, it’s a great way to earn some extra cash.
If you’re a guitar player with a bit of time on your hands, this is truly a fantastic hobby to get into. If you’re still not sure and would like some more information on how to get started, check out my beginners guide to building DIY guitar effects pedals here.