If you are looking to enhance your guitar-playing experience, pedals can be a great addition to your setup. These small boxes can create different effects, add distortion or overdrive, or even create a looping effect.
One of the most popular types of pedals is the distortion pedal. It can be used to add a gritty, dirty tone to your playing, giving it an edgier feel. Overdrive pedals are also similar, but they are milder and can add a natural-sounding breakup to your tone.
Another type of pedal is the delay pedal. It can create a repeating echo effect, making it sound like your playing is bouncing off the walls of a room. Reverb pedals, on the other hand, create a more natural-sounding echo, simulating the sound of a large hall or cathedral.
Wah pedals are also popular, as they allow you to create a distinctive, funky sound by sweeping the pedal with your foot. Tremolo and chorus pedals are great for adding a unique flavor to your playing, creating a pulsating or shimmering sound.
Overall, pedals are a great way to experiment with your playing and create unique sounds. With so many different types available, you are sure to find a pedal that suits your style and needs.
When it comes to playing guitar, one of the essential pedals to have is a tuner pedal. As the first pedal in the chain, it takes the cleanest possible signal from your guitar and provides an accurate tuning of the strings.
While clip-on tuners are available, tuner pedals offer more accuracy, especially in live performances where external noise can cause interference. Tuner pedals come at different price points, and many professional musicians prefer the T.C. Electronic Polytune and Polytune Mini, as well as the Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner, which also works with bass guitars.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a tuner, but it should be one of your first purchases as every musician needs a tuner, regardless of the genre of music they play.
2. Pitch and Dynamics
After tuning your guitar, the next step is to control the pitch and dynamics of your playing. You can achieve this using pedals that belong to this category:
- Compressor: This type of pedal sets the level for your guitar. You can set a threshold level, and any frequency that goes above that level is compressed. This results in fewer peaks and troughs in your playing, making your overall sound more even.
- Pitch Shifter: A pitch shifter raises or lowers the pitch of the notes played. It can be used to create an extra layer of sound or to make your guitar sound larger.
- Wah-Wah: This pedal alters the tone and frequency of the guitar signal to create a human-like voice effect. The wah-wah effect can be heard prominently in songs like “Bulls On Parade” by Rage Against The Machine and Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.”
There are many other pedals that you can experiment with to create different effects and sounds. However, these three pedals are some of the most commonly used and can greatly enhance your guitar-playing experience.
Gain-based pedals are an excellent addition to any guitarist’s pedalboard, offering an extra crunch or warmth to the guitar sound. Common types of gain pedals include overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.
An overdrive pedal is highly versatile, used in many genres to add more body to the tone. It delivers a grittier sound, making it sound like a tube amp at maximum volume.
On the other hand, distortion pedals are a go-to for metal musicians, providing intense levels of clipping that result in a highly distorted sound.
Fuzz pedals, in contrast, clip the signal hard at the transistor stage. This makes it sound like a square wave with harmonic saturation. Grunge music enthusiasts often use fuzz pedals.
Whether you choose overdrive, distortion, or fuzz pedals, each has its own unique sound, and they can all help create your signature tone.
Modulation pedals refer to those that take the guitar signal, analyze specific characteristics of it, and then continuously alter them. Some of the most common modulation pedals are:
- Chorus: A chorus pedal duplicates the signal from your guitar. The duplicated signal is slightly out of sync and out of tune with the original signal, resulting in a thicker sound. Nirvana’s opening riff of Come As You Are is a perfect example of using chorus pedal.
- Flanger: A flanger mixes two almost identical signals, with one signal slightly slower than the other. The result is a sweeping effect. Tears For Fears’ Head Over Heels is an excellent example of a flanger pedal’s use.
- Phaser: A phase shifter pedal, or phaser, creates a swirling sound that emulates the sound of vintage rotating organs. Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir uses a phaser pedal in a groundbreaking way.
Delays and reverbs are categorized as time-based pedals.
A delay pedal allows you to record and play back the signal from your guitar. This creates a wall of sound, and these pedals are particularly useful for genres that require complex layers and textures. While some musicians add a slight delay to their tone to make it sound cleaner, genres such as Shoegaze use delays with heavy feedback and delay times to create unique and ethereal sounds.
When you enter a large room with a high ceiling, you might notice that the sound of your voice echoes and reverberates. Reverb pedals simulate this effect by adding a simple or complex echo to your guitar signal. They can be used to add texture to solos and make the tone stand out.
Volume pedals are a versatile addition to any guitarist’s setup and can be placed at the beginning or end of the signal chain. Expression pedals, often used to control effects such as the wah-wah, can also manipulate volume when needed.
Where you place the volume pedal in the chain affects the type of effect you will produce.
While the pedals mentioned above are the main categories of effects, additional options are available. Synth pedals, for instance, make the guitar sound like a synthesizer, and vocoders emulate the human voice. There is no limit to the creative possibilities when it comes to guitar pedals.
7. Analog and Digital
Guitar pedals are typically categorized as either analog or digital.
Analog pedals process the guitar signal continuously without altering it. They are known for producing a warm, natural sound.
On the other hand, digital pedals convert the guitar signal from analog to digital at various points and then add effects to the processed signal. Digital pedals are easier to control and offer a wider range of effects than analog pedals.
Choosing between analog and digital pedals is a matter of personal preference. Some guitarists prefer the warmth of analog pedals, while others prefer the versatility and precision of digital pedals. Ultimately, both types have their advantages and disadvantages.
For beginners, the wide range of pedals can often seem overwhelming. However, it’s crucial to consider the type of music you want to play before jumping in.
If you’re just starting out, a tuner should be a top priority and one of the first pedals you invest in. You can then prioritize which pedals are essential based on your preferred style or genre of music.
One great thing about stompboxes is that you can always start with a few and gradually expand your chain over time. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with your pedals before using them at a gig. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun experimenting with them!