I just saw Rosetta last night, and noticed that the vocalist uses some kind of all-in-one effects pedal. I don't know whether or not it was specifically made for vocals though.

I would like to have some effects on my vocals (live, not necessarily for recording), mostly reverb and distortion, though a "radio" or "telephone" effect that cuts all the lo's and hi's would be nice too. Looking on sweetwater, I found the Boss VE-20, which does everything I want (assuming that the amount of distortion can be changed, and that it's not just a fixed preset), but it includes so many other features that I would never use. I don't want to pay $250 for something when I'll only use about 10% of the features.

I plan on picking up an Electro Harmonix 12ay7 mic pre for live use, that I'll then run through an EHX Black Finger for compression, but I'm not sure what I should add to the chain for distortion, reverb, and the "radio" EQ effect. Can regular guitar pedals be used in a vocal chain? Would I (or should I) use the guitar pedals before or after the mic pre? Or in other words, will guitar pedals work better or worse on a mic level or line level signal? I know that "instrument level" isn't entirely standard. It's usually more than mic level (millivolts), and less than line level (1.2 volts).

Some of the connections might be a problem too. The black finger, for instance, does not have XLR in/out. Only 1/4" TS (tip-sleeve), so if I'm using an XLR cable for the mic, then I'd have to go to the mic pre first (XLR in), using the 12ay7's 1/4" out to the black finger, so I'd already be at line level. Honestly, I don't even know if the Black Finger is supposed to be used with a line level signal. It's for guitar and bass, so it's designed for instrument level.

  • Eventide have a stompbox preamp for mic with a hi-z efx loop on it
    – user17591
    Feb 21, 2016 at 9:39
  • You think you will not use the other features now. Trust me, you will end up wanting more features :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    May 2, 2017 at 11:21

10 Answers 10


Guitar pedals usually run at a high impedance instrument level. You would need a pre-amp and a few converters to get a microphone working correctly thru it. Not very hard to do, and it's definitely been done. You would have to go from the mic into a pre (the EH one would work, or the Tube Pre from Presonus), from the pre through an impedance matcher (Lo-z to hi-z), and into the guitar pedals. Then most likely out of the guitar pedals into a DI box and into another mic-pre on the console. Crazy strange signal flow, but it would work.

Another idea - if you wanted the FOH engineer to control the sounds, you could rig the pedals on the insert of your microphone channel and have all the pedals by the console. Again, you'd need some impedance matchers, but it should work.

I know that Sage Francis uses a Rat fuzz pedal on his vocals. I've also seen vocalists pull out a bull horn and use that between their voice and the microphone to get a sort of "telephony" or "radio" effect. Very cool sound.

TC-Helicon (part of TC Electronics) makes vocal foot pedals, as well as other cool on-stage tools such as a touch screen vocal effects processor that mounts to the mic stand. Imogen Heap uses TC a fair amount in her live shows. Very cool stuff.

TC-Helicon's Site

Imogen Heap on TC-Helicon (My mind explodes every time she explains anything she does)

  • BTW, if you've never seen Imogen Heap in concert, or even a taping of a concert, you MUST do so! It's an amazing example of on-the-fly sound design!
    – Colin Hart
    Jul 26, 2010 at 1:14
  • @Colin, thank you for this answer. I kept searching based on what you said, and discovered "reamping", which is essentially what I need to do. Convert from a lo-z line level to a hi-z instrument level is exactly what a reamp box does (reverse DI). Radial even sells a reamping kit that comes with a top notch reamp and a DI box. Sold! Jul 26, 2010 at 2:19
  • Yeah, a reamp box should do what you're looking to do, but you'll still need a mic pre. Radial has that reamp kit you were talking about, and Little Labs has the Red Eye, which is also really nice.
    – Colin Hart
    Jul 26, 2010 at 2:30
  • You don't ever want to convert something to a high-impedance output. A preamp takes a device like a mic or guitar, which have high output impedances, and buffers them or amplifies them with a low output impedance.
    – endolith
    Jul 26, 2010 at 18:35
  • Normally, you wouldn't, however some guitar pedals have high impedance inputs. If you send a low impedance signal (such as the output of a mic pre) into a high impedance input (guitar pedal), you may find yourself with a few frequency response issues.
    – Colin Hart
    Jul 26, 2010 at 18:42

Absolutely! I used to play in an improv jazz/drum n' bass ensemble thing a while back and the vocalist would stand at a podium covered with a slew of effects pedals that she would sing through. If I recall, she had a preamp of some sort at the front and then it was just a series of Boss guitar pedals and other weird stuff. She actually didn't sing any lyrics at all, more using her voice as an instrument and would tweak it out into weird madness live. I remember she had removed the foot pedals off all of them so that she could easily fire them off with her hands. Fun stuff. In short, yes you can. You'll need some kind of pre. Loads of people doing this now, like Imogen as mentioned above, but most are probably just doing it with a laptop instead.


This is a pedal I built that allows you to use guitar effects inline with your vocal signal,


This project began when I wanted a way to help out a few of my musician friends/bandmates use guitar effects on their vocals and experiment with getting new vocal tones in a live setting.

Thanks! Travis

  • Are you the Travis that used to work at the Music Broker in Phoenix, AZ? Made the Love Fuzz pedal and others? Aug 21, 2010 at 9:17
  • I mean @Travis. So you'll see the comment =) Aug 21, 2010 at 17:02

There is way easier way to do all of this. Maybe the sound quality isn't as good, or it's causing some issue that I'm not aware of, but I've been doing it for years and it works just fine for me. Just buy an inline impedance transformer. You just plug it on to the end of of an xlr cable, and it converts it into hi-z 1/4" output. They cost 20 bucks. Run your mic into that, plug it in to your pedal, then run a line from your pedal or pedal chain to a DI box connected to FOH. Just about every venue should have a DI box on stage. It's what the house mics typically feed into. I did buy my own passive DI box for house parties, emergencies, etc. but I haven't had to use it much.

  • scott is right i went to the music store like 4 years back and talked to a dude working there he went and grabed this green box and so for 45 dollors i purchased this impedence converter so from mic to box to pedal to amp volla it makes your voice sound bad ass through guitar distortion without any bs feed back that you would normally get doing this without the converter box, thats it oh and some expensive patch cable that was low im pedence or high impedence i forget now but it was 25 bucks for the 6 foot cable Nov 9, 2014 at 21:03

I've been using a multi effects pedal for almost 6 years for my guitar. Recently, my wife and I were wanting to be able to build a karaoke set up that is compact. When using a laptop didn't work out because of feedback issues, I tried plugging the mic to the guitar pedal and use the guitar amp for vocals. I've experimented editing some patches to get me a nice vocal effects...reverb,echo,noise reduction,equalizer, and so on. I've never used any DI or anything else just pedal plugged the guitar amp.


As Submadreamgun said you can do it with a good preamp and a good DI, but there is a great solution for that matter, this box that combines both for doing it very easily during live gigs : http://sub-continental.com/dd/bodyplug.html

Here's how to plug your setup : http://sub-continental.com/dd/modules/bodyplug/bodyplug.pdf

It combines a high-end class A preamp with a good DI, and you can blend dry vocals and effected sound, also has a true bypass (which is not often the case with digital vocal processor, ask live techs), every live sound engineer who dealt with the bodyplug was happy with it. The quality of the preamp even improves the vocal sound on most mixers.


Yes, you can! You just need a DI box with a good pre-amp for vocals. If vocals are run into a mixer or into a vocal FX unit and it works at all than it means that the pre-amp is built in somewhere. Most pre-amps intended for use with vocals have both 1/4 inch and XLR outputs. I use "Really Nice Pre Amp" but ART makes a portable tube pre-amp that is cheap and lively if cost is an issue. An alternative is to have a small personal mixer onstage for the vocalist, and to route the effects through that. But the pre-amps that are built into inexpensive mixers are not usually very good. The effects themselves don't need to be expensive -- I noticed in one video that Thom Yorke of RadioHead uses a programmable Line 6 Delay multi-fx pedal for his vocals. Whatever you do, don't pay a lot of money! ;)


i am bassist so i have bass effects with me..and due to some reasons i performed as lead vocal for last few shows..i created some patches on my vox sl-2b using only reverb,delay,noise reduction and equalizer only....and believe me it sounds great..u can set the values accordingly...this is value for money


For reverb delay etc you can use a voice pedal like Boss VE-20. I have it and it has lots of things like EQ compressor, delay, reverb, harmony, distortion, radio


Hi for a standard mic cable you need a lo-z to hi-z conector.

I have used guitar effects pedals, I have a korg AX10A acoustic guitar multi-effects pedal, and a Korg AX5B bass guitar multi-effects pedals, for vocals to add reverb etc. It seems to work ok. Using a standard XLR to jack con Hector, not the lo-z t o hi-z conector, it gave horrible buzzing feedback.

If you are wanting a cool radio effect if you can find a cheap retro rotary phone. You can use the mouthpiece and earpiece to make a cool radio sound no eforces needed. Just wire the element to an jack and plug in a guitar cable done. There are many cool youtube videos on diy radio mic or harmonica mic that will give you ideas on how to wire it. Have fun.

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