A question I get asked often is where to place volume pedal in the signal chain.
Beginning? Middle? End?
The volume pedal can serve different functions based on where in your effects signal chain it is placed, so there is no “correct” placement. It comes down to personal taste and playing style.
Let me explain the differences:
When the volume pedal is placed at the beginning of your signal chain, or before your drive pedals, it acts the same as your guitar volume knob, essentially duplicating its function – for instance, when you bring the pedal down halfway, your drives start to lose gain, or “clean up”. This is how drive pedals are designed to react to lower input levels, and many players control their drive gain simply by using the guitar volume knob.
By placing your volume pedal after your drive pedals, your signal hits your drive section first so the volume pedal no longer controls the signal that goes through. This gives you the ability to play the pedals at full gain “saturation”, but at lower volumes. This is great for things like ambient swells – getting the sound to swell in a full drive saturation, or even situations like practicing quietly in your bedroom, but still allowing the drives to have some “punch”.
If you put your volume pedal at the end of the signal chain, it works as a master volume, when your put your volume pedal down, it’ll kill the trails from your reverb and delays which is not good for swells or ambient playing. This is probably the least useful and least common placement for your volume pedal.
My personal preference is in the middle of my chain. After drives and before delay/reverb/modulation. I do this a lot with all my drives on from tremolo picking, at lower levels. I engage my drives and lower my volume pedal down a bit so my playing doesn’t get in front of what the singer is singing, and it still has all that gain and punch.