Why use one?
The first reason for using a volume pedal is to get a fine level of control over your volume. Often you’ll want to be louder during lead breaks, finger picking parts etc., and then turn it down during other parts of the song – sure you can try turning your guitar’s volume knob while playing – but that’s cumbersome and not all that easy to do well.
There are also special effects that you can attain which are different to other pedals. Probably the most famous of these is the ‘Volume Swell’ or ‘Violin’ effect where you turn the volume to 0, then pick the string, then turn the volume back up again. You get the note and sustain without the initial attack of the pick. You can also do the process in reverse to get a tuned percussive effect. And it doesn’t work with just individual notes; you can have fun playing around with these effects on chords as well.
This is by no means a complete account of what you can do with a volume pedal, but it‘s a good starting point – try playing around with one and you’ll soon find new ideas that can unleash a burst of creativity.
Where to place it in your Effects Chain
Choosing the placement of your volume pedal depends on its function in the signal chain of processors. While there is no single ideal way to position the pedal, here are few tested variations:
Volume Enhancement: When using a volume pedal only as an augmentation to the guitar’s volume control to give you greater control over the guitar’s volume, it is best to place the pedal at the beginning of the signal chain.
Cleanup Setup: Place the pedal at the end of the signal chain to enable control over the overall sound and signal of all effects including overdrive and distortion.
Natural Placement: Placing the volume control pedal before the flange, delay and reverb pedals allows control over most of the signal while allowing for the natural decay of these effects. This is particularly helpful if you use a lot of use flange and delay in your solos.
Overdrive Control: Placing the pedal after the compressor, chorus, reverb and wah but before the overdrive and fuzz effects allows control over the ‘clean’ sounds while retaining the raw sounds from the ‘dirt’ pedals.
Some guitarists even go as far as using multiple volume pedals at various places to control the volume of discrete sets of effects. However, a single volume pedal can be used to give you control over specific effects, or sets of effects, depending on the placement in the chain.
Which volume pedal should you get?
It can seem difficult at first when presented with so many options, however I wrote round-up featuring 6 of the better volume pedals on GuitarSite.com which you should find helpful.
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