Guitar Pedals 101

Guitar pedals take the signal from your guitar and alter it before it reaches an amplifier and speaker, creating unique tones in your sound. There are a wide variety of pedals on the market from subtle to wild that can alter its frequency ranges and transform your sound completely.

Singers frequently make use of various effects such as chorus and reverb to add ambience and dimension to their performances.

Time-Based Effects

Delay pedals take a short snippet of your guitar signal and play it back for you, from slapback to reverb-like trails, at different rates to add depth to your tone that may otherwise not be achievable through simply increasing or decreasing volume knob(s).

Guitar players frequently utilize delay effects in combination with other effects like modulation pedals like flangers and chorus pedals for ambient music to build layers of sounds that create space and dimension.

Delay pedals can add depth and weight to a guitar or bass solo by creating an echoy effect that allows individual notes to “ring out.” Guitarists such as U2’s The Edge, Slash and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) often utilize long and high feedback delay settings to craft signature sounds.

Modulation pedals are essential components of any guitarist’s pedalboard, providing effects like tremolo, flanging, chorusing, vibratoing and vibratoing. Modulation effects are especially useful when combined with effects that change frequency response such as distortion pedals.

Pedal placement is ultimately up to you; some guitarists choose to put their delay pedal at the end of their pedalboard while others like it placed earlier in their drive section. If placing at the end, be mindful of your amplifier’s gain setting; placing after drive pedal allows for quicker adjustments without any unwanted effects such as phasing or other unwanted features. Alternatively, opt for a MIDI compatible delay such as Roland RE-201 or RE-2 Space Echo units which enable full control via MIDI and can automate or sync delay times between other MIDI compatible equipment.

Volume-Based Effects

Many effects that influence your tone rely on gain staging, so they should often be added first to a chain. Gain-staging pedals alter the fundamental character of the guitar signal and can serve as the basis for harmonically complex tones. From clean boosts to heavy overdrive and distortion pedals, gain staging pedals can shape it all!

Other volume-dependent pedals include pitch shifting effects like whammy or octave shifters that modify the frequency response of your guitar signal. We advise using these before any drives so they won’t add extra octaves or other frequencies (unless that’s what you desire! ).

Auto-wah or envelope filters use an electronic circuit to adjust the volume of your signal when played, altering its volume as you play. Rocking this pedal creates everything from soft chorus sounds to intense vocal effects reminiscent of Crybaby pedals made famous by psychedelic rock and 1970s funk artists.

Compressor pedals act as an automatic volume controller by gradually decreasing output from your guitar as the signal gets louder, thus helping prevent sudden, dramatic notes with short attacks such as distortion pedals from becoming too loud too quickly.

Another type of pedal called a flanger uses similar technology to alter the volume and phase of your guitar’s signal, creating volume fluctuations via modification of phase. Flangers are great after drive pedals to avoid too much reverb being added onto your tone. Finally, loopers create layers which can be added or subtracted at will; many famous guitarists such as KT Tunstall and Ed Sheeran use loopers in creating their signature sounds.

Modulation-Based Effects

Modulating a signal’s pitch and/or frequency with an effect pedal can add movement and sweeping sounds to your tone, such as chorus, flanger, tremolo or vibrato effects. Such pedals work by altering its waveform – creating everything from spaceship-inspired vibrato sounds to classic vibrato sounds. Recently there has been something of a revival in modulation-pedal production from companies such as Line 6 and BOSS producing an array of modulation effects in this category.

Delay pedals take your original signal and play it back at a slower rate than it first came through, often at digital or analogue rates depending on personal preference. Both forms have their own distinct benefits that could work for you.

Reverb pedals are another time-based effect pedal commonly found on guitarists’ pedal boards that can add space and depth to your tone. Reverbs have long been considered essential elements in creating that spacey vibe guitarists love so much.

Modulation pedals may be difficult to understand at first, but they provide an easy way of adding subtle, yet dramatic sound effects to your guitar tone. One such modulation pedal from TC Electronic is the Corona Chorus; this device takes your signal and splits it in two paths before slowing one half while speeding up another to produce shimmering chorus-type sounds. Another effect commonly used with modulation pedals is an octave divider which works similarly but produces higher pitched sounds such as those produced from moving up and down on whammy bars whammy bars whammy bars whammy bars.

Tremolo is an effective modulation effect with various applications that is both straightforward and versatile, from sounding stuttery or smooth depending on how you adjust its settings. Many tremolo pedals also include an expression control for additional control over its amplitude and rate of delivery.

Compressors & Limiters

Compressor and limiter pedals can make or break your sound. A compressor works by turning down any volume that exceeds a certain threshold; while limiters have extreme ratios to create an impactful wall of sound that squashes any over-amplitude that may come through your mix – both are essential elements in creating polished performances in both studio and live settings.

Utility pedals add another element to your tone and enable you to hone your musical skills as an artist. They include effects that alter pitch or modulate guitar tone like pitch shifters or modulation devices; alter guitar volume using drive pedals; or simply alter its tone with simple drive pedals like drive wah pedals; adding treadle-operated wah pedals (that allow you to shift guitar tone with treadle rocking) is another effective way of altering guitar sound while adding some unique effects; multi-effects units are another essential addition – these compact devices allow space saving effects for all effects needs in one convenient package!

Gain pedals are also indispensable tools for any guitar player. Overdrive pedals provide less distorted tones while fuzz pedals offer that “Jimi Hendrix or Seattle grunge feel.”

Finding the ideal pedals may take time and research; the Sweetwater Buying Guide makes the search simpler by breaking down major categories of guitar pedals that shape tone – making it simple for you to find exactly what you need for yourself.

Looper Pedals

As with choosing an ice cream flavor or paint for your living room, there is an array of effects pedal options. Selecting which pedal best meets your needs can be daunting for beginning guitarists.

One of the most versatile pedals available is a distortion pedal. By increasing gain and adding some character to your sound, distortion pedals allow your music to become fuller and stand out in band settings or simply add depth and dimension to lead lines and riffs.

A boost pedal is another effective tool that can be used to easily alter the overall volume of your signal. Some models are user-friendly while others contain additional features that may take some getting used to.

Reverb, delay and chorus pedals are also commonly found among effect pedals. Reverb pedals such as the Dunlop Cry Baby can help recreate an echo effect, or create the sounds of an enormous concert hall. Delay pedals like DOD Rubberneck allow you to repeat your signal at gradually fading volumes for quick slapback effects or long delays ala Pink Floyd-style delays.

Chorus pedals such as the Electro Harmonix Small Clone or MXR Micro Chorus can help add thickness and body to your guitar tone, either subtly to add fuller sounds or more dramatically for warbly modulations effects. They often overlap with modulation effects; therefore it is wise to experiment until you find what suits you best.