Guitar Tone Tip: How to Stack Overdrive Pedals

Do You Need Multiple Overdrive Pedals?

I have been playing guitar in churches for over a decade now.  One thing that is extremely common amongst church guitarists is stacking low-gain overdrives.  Some might argue that this is obnoxious.

Why not use a distortion pedal if you are going to use multiple overdrive pedals to achieve the same thing?  I’ll explain all of this and more.

Why Should You Stack Pedals?

First off, why stack overdrives?  Stacking overdrives allow for your gain to be staged in levels.

You can have a light overdrive, a medium overdrive, and/or a boost (clean or dirty).  Each of these serves a purpose on their own, but they can be combined for multiple tonal options.

With one distortion pedal, you only have 2 options, on and off.  With my setup, (3 overdrives) I have 8 different options.

How To Stack Pedals

Main Overdrive

As far as the how, I use 3 different overdrive pedals on my board.  My “always on” overdrive is my Marshall Bluesbreaker. It is a very light overdrive that only distorts when I really dig in.

It is extremely dynamic, and it helps me poke through the band in a mix.  The location of this pedal is between the other two overdrives.

Dirty Boost

Before the Bluesbreaker, I have a JRockett Archer, which is a Klon clone for those of you who don’t know.

This pedal serves one purpose for me, to drive my other overdrives.  This pedal allows me to go from the edge of breakup to a nice full crunch sound.

The way that this pedal setup is very important.  I have it boosting treble, and with the slightest amount of crunch, and pushing the volume past unity.

When it is by itself, it actually sounds pretty ugly, but it drives the Bluesbreaker and the Tube Screamer beautifully.

Secondary Overdrive

After the Bluesbreaker is the Ibanez Tube Screamer, which Is a medium gain overdrive.  The Tube Screamer sounds much different than the Bluesbreaker, which allows me to switch between the two for a diverse palette of tones.

By itself, this makes a great rhythm crunch tone, and I often use it for that, but when stacked with my Bluesbreaker, I have infinite amounts of sustain for soaring lead lines.

Drive Stacking Tips

There are no wrongs when stacking overdrives, but here are 3 tips that may help you get the tone you’re looking for:

  1. Use contrasting overdrive pedals.  Yes, you can use 2 of the same pedal, but your sound becomes more complex and unique with contrasting pedals.  Try a dark pedal and a bright pedal. A mid boost drive and a scooped drive. The possibilities are endless.
  2. Crank the level of the first overdrive (not the gain) to drive the second pedal harder.  This is what I do with my Archer. You can make it a dirty boost to go from rhythm to lead tones.
  3. Crank the Treble of the first overdrive, to give your main overdrive a different flavor.  I know it sounds weird, but the clipping will actually make this sound less apparent, but it changes the feel of your overdrive completely.

Bonus Tip: Use 3 like I do, and turn them all on at the same time for compressed high gain chaos.  It’s more usable than you think.

I hope this was helpful in equipping you to find YOUR sound!  If you found this article helpful, please follow Moustache Audio on social media, and take a look at our products here on our website.


At Moustache Audio, we build gear that allows you to dial in something unique to fit your personal playing style.  We want to help you groom your tone, and shape it into the masterpiece that you have always dreamed of.

By |2018-12-11T21:02:41+00:00December 11th, 2018|Tips and How-to|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Gazza September 10, 2019 at 11:19 am - Reply


    Thank you. I’ve been playing guitar in a church context for 20+ years, and “played safe”, by staying with acoustic guitar and investing in that genre for lovely guitar tones, while distorted electric guitar was for jamming at home. So this summer, I decided this old dog was going to learn new tricks, inspired by some of the ambient sounds Ive been hearing at Christian venues, and starting to be involved with worship bands again, rather than being the solitary musician in a service. But how to get those overdriven sounds that sound so great? Delays and reverbs (with swell pedal) I got to grips with quite quickly, but that only got me halfway there. And I don’t want to sound like Richie Blackmore or Jimmy Page in a church context! Too much distortion!

    So this article has been truely helpful. I had been wondering about stacking my random collection of overdrives, and I shall try my EHX Soul Food (klon clone) in a BB2 into a Bad Monkey (Tube Screamer Clone). I think some of my old distortion pedals have proven too gritty, and will become redundant now.

    So, thank you for this. My electric was used in a church setting fr the first time ever this month (delays & reverbs only) and this shoukd complete the range of sounds Im after. I shall go looking anyway, but do you have examples (such as on Youtube) of the variety of sounds you are achieving.?

    Many thanks, and blessings,

Leave A Comment