So, you’ve got your guitar rig, amp, and some skills under your belt. You’re looking to spice up your sound a bit with some effects, but you’re not sure what kind to get, what they do, or anything else about them for that matter. Not to worry, choosing pedals is relatively simple. There are only a few major types, and though you can get many others kinds, keeping things simple is usually the best approach. In this article, I will outline the different types of pedals available, what you can expect from them, and how to choose the best model.
First and foremost, a good tuner pedal is an essential accessory for any gigging musician. Sure, you might be able to tune by ear just fine under normal circumstances, but things might get a bit harder on a noisy stage. A tuner pedal cuts off the signal from your guitar (so your audience doesn’t have to hear the tuning process), and gives you visual indicators as you tune your string, allowing you to keep in perfect tune even in the most difficult of conditions. Though this isn’t an “effects pedal,” its such a key item that I still needed to mention it.
A reverb pedal is perhaps one of the best basic pedals you can get. Unless you’re fortunate enough to own an amp with high quality built in reverb, you probably don’t have a really good reverb sound available. Reverb adds a lot of depth and atmosphere to a piece of music. Of course, like many effects, it can be easily over used, but in moderation it is excellent. There are many types of reverb, ranging from high tech digital designs to really basic technologies. One of the most sought after reverb types is modeled after the spring reverb found in early Fender amplifiers. These are expensive, but they do give a very lovely vintage tone. If you’re interested in a reverb unit, be sure to listen (and play through, if possible) each pedal to see if it has a sound that suites you well.
The most commonly desired pedal by many players is the distortion pedal. A distortion pedals, as its name implies, distorts the signal from your guitar to give a distinctive sound. Of course, there are many ways of accomplishing this distortion, so every pedal has its own unique sound. It’s hard to give general guidelines for choosing a distortion pedal, since every one is completely different, but you should definitely make sure that your pedal does not sound too harsh. This harshness is a common flaw with cheaper or lower quality distortion pedals, so try to buy quality.
Another essential pedal is the delay pedal. A delay pedals plays back your guitar sample in a loop, with a given decay. It’s a little hard to explain, but if you listen to almost all songs by U2, or “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd, you’ll hear the effect clearly. It’s a fairly complicated effect and requires precise timing to get the repeated loops to sound in rhythm, but the final effect is worth it. Definitely a pedal to check out. One of the most important aspects of choosing the delay pedal is that it has intuitive controls. You don’t want to be fussing around with a bunch of fiddly controls on stage.
For the final pedal, I recommend getting whatever you want. This may seem like a copout on my part, but I can’t speak at all to your personal sound and style. If you’re going for a trippy sound, try a flanger. If you need a wah pedal, by all means get one. The point is, sound is very personal, and nobody else can tell you what to get. Shop around, play around, and you’re sure to get the pedal board of your dreams.