Best Guitar Pedals for Blues – Buying Guide & Reviews

Blues musicians have been known for getting by on the bare minimum. Think of those players who used to use a broken off bottleneck as a slide for example.

But here's the thing:

It’s time to put to bed the snobbery about not needing anything more than a guitar, an amp and a bottle of bud.

The right array of effects pedals will transform your music, giving you options you never had before.

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Guitar Pedals for Blues On The Market

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Buyer's Tips: What you need to know when buying guitar pedals for blues

The most important thing when it comes to blues music is authenticity.

This is kind of a vague assertion, but stick with me.

The music needs to have an unfiltered character. The pedals you buy should help to contribute to this. I don’t mean you need to go all out and lose clarity, that would be going too far. After all, you can’t expose real emotion through your playing if nobody can tell one note apart from the other because you’ve got the distortion cranked up to 11, a blown out speaker and a broken guitar. 

But with that in mind, here’s some quick tips.

  • You don’t need to waste your money on super expensive boutique pedals. Blues came out of the poorest sections of society, and money was never an issue then. Just like back in the old days, you can get a brilliant set of pedals without breaking the bank if you make the right choices.
  • Go for the type of pedals that add a raw character to your playing, and work well with your amp. This means things like expression pedals, overdrive and fuzz. You can stay away from more fancy effects like vocal harmonizers and the like unless you really want to use them, but there’s no need to go crazy with the pedals as it won’t stop you from getting a great bluesy sound.
  • Since you can get away with a sloppier sound in some ways when playing blues, don’t worry too much about getting super specific tones. You can use pedals that only have a rudimentary bunch of controls, so you don’t need to spend more money to get pedals with tons of dials, plus EQ and noise gates and the like. If you’re ever going to need this sort of thing, it’ll only be for recording in the studio and not live playing.

5 Best Guitar Pedals for Blues

Some pedals are much better suited to blues than others, so we’ve gathered up a list of the five best guitar pedals for blues that work well no matter what specific type you’ve got in mind. So without further ado, let’s take a look in detail...

1. Ibanez Tube Mini Screamer (Editor's Choice)

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

An absolute must for blues music if you want to get the feeling of that raw emotional outpouring. It’s also one of the most common pedals around thanks to its high quality, low cost and versatility. It’s definitely one of the best guitar pedals for blues, but you’ll want to have a couple of different effects to boost your available styles within the blues genre.

  • Tiny pedal that fits well on a cramped pedalboard
  • Extra large Overdrive knob so that you can adjust it with your feet, as the other two knobs are smaller so you won’t accidentally adjust them
  • When paired with a tube amp it brings a whole new level of power to your overdrive, but you have to be careful not to over do it
  • There’s no options for using a battery, but this shouldn’t be a big problem as you’ll mostly want to use mains power for reliability anyway
  • You can sometimes hear a “click” when you turn it on if you’re playing at high volumes
  • There a few overdrive pedals out there that give you a lot more options for tweaking the tone of the effect, whereas this one sticks with the standard options you’ll find on nearly everything

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2. Electro-Harmonix Big Muff

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi Guitar Effects Pedal

One of the most well known and widely revered fuzz pedals around, the Big Muff is an excellent effect for blues music, especially if you combine it with a smaller tube amp.

  • Extremely good value for money
  • Straightforward controls
  • Very powerful sustain settings
  • Input and Outputs are awkwardly placed at the top
  • Huge width takes up a lot of pedal board space
  • Very basic, will provide the muddy quality common to all stoner rock, but not much else

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3. Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive (Budget Choice)

Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive

No blues rig is complete without a decent overdrive pedal. The Boss SD-1 is a budget friendly option that works well with a variety of styles, but by keeping the settings towards the lower end you can get a great tone that sounds raw and authentic. It’s not quite as good as the Tube Screamer in some ways, but it provides an interesting alternative as it has a noticeably different tone.

  • These things are sturdy. You can stomp on them all night long and it won't even notice
  • Really flexible despite only having three dials that let you adjust the tone, level and drive
  • Easily affordable
  • The output can be quite low. For something that's called the 'super overdrive', it really seems to be lacking in the 'super' part
  • This pedal has a little too much emphasis on the high end of the scale, making it sound a little metallic
  • If you’re wanting to go beyond blues, this pedal lacks the meatiness to go into other genres, so it definitely lacks versatility.

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4. Digitech Polara Reverb Pedal

Digitech POLARA Lexicon Reverbs Stereo Pedal with On/Off Switch

If you don’t have decent reverb within your amp, this pedal can give your blues playing a little more life. It’s a little higher up in terms of budget category, but it’s well worth it for the quality.

  • Has a broad range of unique tones that can let you give your blues playing some very creative licks with interesting qualities
  • It looks really cool. While this isn't normally a top priority, it really sets it apart from other similar quality reverb pedals
  • Comes with a three year warranty. Unlike most pedals the switch is a little more delicate, so you need to be a bit more careful with how hard you use it, but it the warranty can help a bit
  • Definitely not a pocket-change pedal, so you’ll need to be certain that you need a reverb before investing in it if you’re on a budget
  • Best to use with mains power supply
  • The settings can be a bit fickle, as you can easily go overboard

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5. Dunlop Crybaby Wah pedal

Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby Wah Guitar Effects Pedal

If you haven’t got yourself a wah pedal, you’re going to be limited to the more basic and plodding sort of blues style playing. With this you can really add some powerful feeling, and it’s such a useful pedal that you should have one regardless of what kind of music you play.

  • Very responsive, the quality of sound in treble and bass ranges is exceptional and you can apply the effects to any style of music
  • Easily accessible. Even if this is your first pedal, you will be able to get going with it very quickly without spending hours learning the ins and outs as it’s mostly just an expression pedal
  • Affordable. Compared to a lot of other pedals on the market, including other wah-wah pedals, this one will easily fit the budget of even beginner guitarists
  • This a pretty basic pedal as far as things go. You can do quite a lot with it, but you won't be getting anything fancy
  • Over time they lose some of the responsiveness and get stiffer when exposed to moisture, so be sure to take good care of it
  • There are various versions of this pedal that inexplicably have wildly different prices despite no real difference between them. Do yourself a favour and follow our link for the best price

So which should I buy?

As you can see, there’s no single pedal on this list that you would immediately be able to say is the best guitar pedal for blues since they all serve different purposes.

However if you’re having trouble deciding which should be the first pedal to add to your rig, then I’d definitely recommend going for the Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini thanks to it's high quality, low cost and versatility.

What’s your experience been with blues music and pedals? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.

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