Distortion and chorus pedals are two effects that go well together but what the best pedal order? The simple answer is chorus, as a modulation effect, generally goes after distortion or any gain pedal for that matter. In fact they go pretty late in the signal chain and generally sit right before delay and reverb which typically go at the end.
Some say that it’s best to put a chorus pedal before distortion in the guitar signal chain, while others say to place it after. So, which is it? The answer, like with most things in music, is that it depends. What really matters is the sound you’re going for and the rest of your pedalboard setup. There are, however, some general recommendations on where to place your guitar pedals.
Let’s look at the different categories in order they’d normally sit in the effect chain and what is contained in each of them.
1. Dynamics / Volume
This includes volume pedal, compressor, pitch shifter, tremolo, octave
2. Drive / Gain
Overdrive, distortion, fuzz, boost
Chorus, phaser, flanger
Delay and reverb
Read our other article for more information about chorus pedal placement in relation to other effects.
A Difference of Opinion
The reason we generally put chorus after distortion effects is because the chorus effect will create multiple voices and when these are processed through a distortion pedal the sound can become muddy. It’s much better to make multiple voices out of the raw original distorted sound.
However, some actually prefer to put modulation effects before any type of distortion in the pedal chain as it makes them less pronounced. It certainly sounds less 80s this way and many guitarists do want to avoid that more dated guitar sound.
Putting your chorus pedal first in certain contexts can make sense and you’ll only know if it works if you try it.
Another alternative, if your amplifier has an effects loop, is to run the chorus effect through it while leaving your drive pedals in front of the amp.
When wondering if you should put a chorus pedal before or after distortion, try both set-ups and see which you prefer. While most chorus pedals and other modulation pedals will end up being placed after distortion, it is worth experimenting! Ultimately, it is up to you and your own personal preferences as to which set-up sounds best for you and your guitar playing style.
Remember this is your sound. Experiment and go with what you like the best.