Watch the Gain Staging online guitar lesson by Jeff McErlain from Guitar Effects Survival Guide
Gain staging is a fancy way of saying stacking output sections of pedals to help push the other one into overdrive. Guitar players have been doing this for decades and it is essential to any great over-driven guitar sound. High gain amps like Bogners, Soldanos and Mesas gain stage internally by adding extra preamp tubes and cascade one into another. If we are playing through a medium to low gain amp or pedal we can get the same effect by placing another gain pedal in front of that amp or pedal. The most famous pedal for this is the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Check out the overdrive tutorial for an in-depth look at this. As I show in this video, experiment with output levels vs. overdrive levels to push the front end of your amp or pedal. They can have a dramatic effect on the sound, feel, and volume of your tone. Also, tweaking the tone knob or knobs on your pedals can make or break the tone. There are many variables so it really takes a lot of experimentation to dial in the right sound for you. But hey, that's part of the fun!