Guitar Pedals Expert Guide
- Dynamic, Filters and Pitch
- Gain Based
Ready to dive in? Let’s get started.
Dynamic, Filters and Pitch Effect Pedals
It’s worth noting that a compressor pedal for guitar won’t necessarily work as a bass guitar compressor, and vice versa. Both types of compressor share similar features, but there are two key differences. A bass compressor deals with lower frequencies. Therefore the range is smaller than you’d find on a guitar compressor. Also, bass compressors have more controllability on the attack than guitar compressors.
Any time you hear guitarists discussing pedals, this one comes up. Most notably played by Jimi Hendrix, and more recently on The Stone Rose’s Manchester anthem ‘Fools Gold,’ it’s sound has infiltrated rock guitar of the last fifty years. So much so, that not having one is a bit like not having a smartphone today. You don’t need one as such, but it’d be sort of weird not to.
The octave pedal mixes the input signal with an artificially synthesized one that is exactly an octave lower or higher than the original tone (known as an ‘octave-down’ or ‘octave-up.’) The effect is made possible due to the simple 2-1 relationship between the frequencies of musical notes, which are separated by an octave.
One of the first musicians to apply the octave effect was the great Jimi Hendrix, who bounced back and forth between octave and fuzz to create an effect known as “Octavia.”
Featuring heavily in the 1970s by Jerry Garcia (among others) to get that ‘guitar mutron’ vibe, and equally great for getting a solid funk tone too, envelope filters are a little bit like the wah above in that they directly change the sound of your instrument by altering the frequency of the signal.
Modulation Effects Pedals
Flangers divide opinion (some love them, others loathe them). They create an effect that mixes two identical signals. The result is a swept “comb filter” noise. Flanger pedals allow you to produce a variety of these time delays, which causes them to sweep up and down the frequency spectrum.
Also known as phase shifters, the phaser is a modulation effect used to impose a resonant, ethereal swirl to your sonic palette. Players in many different genres use these wonderfully versatile pedals and add an ‘iridescent’ quality to your tone.
Gain Based Effects Pedals
These boxes create a rounded, warm and sparkly distortion sound, providing a meatier and more sustained tone. Dynamic fuzz boxes are ideal for preserving the critical elements of touch and tone—an enriched sound that allows the tone to be heard loud and clear.
Time-Based Effects Pedals
It’s used in countless songs, too many to mention here. Its also works superbly well in conjunction with distortion effects. Check out 90s grunge connoisseurs My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth to hear how they used the effect, along with a short scale guitar.
With its enormous power to create long delays, clean sounds and the fun of 1-16 seconds delays, this tool became one of the most widely used effects in the industry.
Looper pedals are straightforward in concept: you record what you’re playing, which is played back on a loop – providing a perfect backing track to record another line over. Some of the better products let you record several lines of music, and some allow you to import tracks.
The main benefit of the noise gate pedal is that it automatically detects the signal level so it can slowly lower the volume while the playing of the guitar fades away. This prevents notes that are fading away naturally—usually towards the end of the song—from being cut off abruptly.
These provide a graphic or visual representation of the overall frequency response. Parametric equalizers, on the other hand, provide bass and treble controls that work as normal tone controls to allow broad shaping.
Another benefit is they let you tune-up on stage when it’s too noisy to hear, thanks to illuminated LED displays.
Best Guitar Pedals to Buy First
You may be wondering which are the best pedals to buy to get started? Collecting and experimenting with pedals is a journey, and the ones you choose should be informed by the type of music you’re into.
As a rule of thumb, if you love funk and many types of rock, you’ll need a wah pedal. Overdrive is a worthy addition too to give your tone extra crunch. If you play metal or hard rock, an overdrive pedal is a must also.