Advanced guitar players and novices alike sooner or later develop an interest in guitar effect pedals. No wonder why. These devices extend the possibilities of one’s sonic output tremendously and can help players shape their own style and render their unique personality through countless sonic flavors.
However, finding the right pedal for your needs is not an easy task, considering the many types available out there and the different features and effects they come with. To help you find the ones tailored for your style, we will describe the different pedal categories and their sub-sections below.
What are effect pedals?
These pedals are little metal boxes placed on the floor or on a pedalboard connected between the guitar and the amplifier. They feature connection points to help you connect your guitar and the amp as well as an input for a 9v power adapter. Some models can operate with batteries, too.
The top of the pedal typically features a foot switch that is used to turn the pedal on/off and several dials that will enable you to control various parameters. Today’s market offers both analog and digital pedals and although they might seem simple things, and they are so from some points of view, the effects they create can be really complex and nuance your sonic output in outstanding ways.
Distortion and overdrive effects
Overdrive pedals are a good starting point, that’s why many players choose them for their first encounters with effect pedals. They are designed to mimic the sound produced by an overdriven tube amp, so they create a warmer and more subtle sound. They are ideal for genres such as blues and country and any genre that calls for a warm distortion.
Some of the most popular effects newbies resort to also include the distortion pedals. Such units will get you a louder guitar tone because they thicken up the signal, which makes them ideal for heavier forms of rock. Still, many distortion pedals offer a broad range of textures. Their name often suggests the sound type they produce.
This category includes the phaser, flanger, and chorus effects that split the signal of your guitar and then recombine it in different ways to create certain effects. Thus, in the case of phasers, the copy of the signal is filtered and slightly brought out of phase, which creates a futuristic and sweeping sound or a chewy tone depending on the settings used.
Flangers, on the other hand, will split the signal and then recombine it with a slightly delayed copy of the signal. When used at extreme settings, the flanger creates the so-called “jet plane” whoosh. When dialed back, though, such a pedal will produce an effect similar to chorus pedals.
Chorus pedals combine the original signal with a copy that is at a slightly different pitch, which results in a glassy sound. Such units can be used with a mildly overdriven guitar sound or to thicken up lead tones and rhythm.
This category includes the highly-appreciated reverb, delay, and echo effects that are designed to split the output of the guitar into two identical signals and hold one of them back while allowing the other one to play in real time. The two signals are then combined into a single one at the output.
Some of the most popular effects used are the delay effects that duplicate the original signal. The copy is repeated after the original sound is played. Delay pedals offer different controls that will help you select the number of repetitions, the time between them as well as their volume.
Reverbs offer a more subtle form of delay and they can replicate the natural echo effect produced in concert halls and rooms of different sizes. They are ideal if you want to add some color to a clean tone. However, depending on the way they are used, they can also add a muddy touch to a heavily distorted tone.
Echo effects are also known as long delays. They will sound like when you emit a loud yelp that you can hear a second later bouncing back to you from a wall. Echo effects typically let you adjust the level, the time between the playbacks as well as the decay.
If you want to add depth and flavor to the sound your guitar produces, then you might want to try the effects included in this category. These effects will take the fundamental note that’s played on the guitar and add another note below or above the original. To avoid off-key notes, modern pitch-shift effects feature advanced technology to enable the added notes to work in harmony with the original.
Harmony pedals will blend the note from the original signal with one that is shifted to a preset interval. Most such pedals allow users to specify exactly how much lower or higher the accompanying note should be.
Another type of effect this category includes is the octave effect that, as its name suggests, adds an octave above or below the original note. You can use an octaver to completely replace the original note or blend the original one with the octave note.
The Whammy pedal falls into this category as well and allows you to immediately shift the pitch of the note you are playing. You can thus use such a pedal to enjoy radical pitch-shifting in real time.
Guitar effects are varied and the categories mentioned above are the main ones. The market offers a great selection of variations based on the models we’ve described. Guitar tuners are also worth mentioning as they are some of the most important pedals on your board. Wahs also have a special place in this field.
No matter the one you want to go for, make sure you get acquainted with what it can do before buying. Check out their features, guitar delay pedal reviews or reviews of the pedal type you’re interested in, customer feedback, and the way they sound before placing an order. Adding them to your gear will help you experiment with sound, however.