Which Guitar Pedals to Buy First?

Finding your ideal pedal collection is a journey, and trial and error are a big part of that. A good place to start is with a tube screamer or a distortion pedal.

Overdrive pedals often have a smoother sound, while distortion pedals can offer a bit more grit, such as the iconic Pro Co Rat pedal that can be heard all over Led Zeppelin songs. A tremolo pedal can also add a cool effect to your guitar.

Tube Screamer

The Tube Screamer is one of the most well-known overdrive pedals in the world. This is because it’s incredibly versatile and can be used for almost any style of guitar playing. It also has a unique sound that is not found in other pedals, making it highly sought-after by guitar players.

The TS808 is an original overdrive pedal that was first released in the late 1970s. This was followed by the orange OD-808 and green OD-II overdrive pedals, which were similar but slightly different in their circuits. The TS808 is still a popular choice amongst overdrive fans and it has inspired legions of clones, both from small boutique builders as well as large manufacturers such as Ibanez.

Ibanez’s TS Mini is a miniature version of the classic TS808 overdrive pedal and it has been designed to be as close to an original TS808 as possible in terms of both looks and tone. This makes it the best choice for beginners who are looking for an authentic TS808 pedal on a budget.

In addition to being a budget-friendly option, the TS Mini is easy to use and provides an excellent overdrive sound. It has a simple layout with three dials; drive, tone and gain. The drive knob allows you to adjust the amount of overdrive that the pedal produces from minimal to maximum, while the tone and gain knobs are standard controls found on most overdrive pedals.

Other TS-style overdrive pedals such as the Ibanez CS-1 and JHS Moonshine V2 are excellent alternatives. The CS-1 offers a more subtle overdrive sound while the Moonshine V2 includes a clean blend control, which lets you decide how much of your clean signal is blended back in with the overdriven tone.

Chorus pedals are another type of effect that is often a staple in most guitarists’ rigs. They produce a rich and lush sound by producing two slightly detuned copies of your guitar’s signal which then blend together when you play chords or single notes. The Boss CH-1 Super Chorus is one of the most popular chorus pedals on the market due to its warm analog sound and simple design.


At some point in your guitar journey, you’ll want to add a little bit of dirt to your sound. Whether it’s a searing Hendrix solo or a groovy reggae vamp, that gritty growl of distortion is something you won’t want to be without.

A good distortion pedal can serve a lot of purposes – even as a cleaner overdrive if you’re not ready for it to be your main distorted tone. It can also be used to dirty up your practice amp’s clean channel or add some extra saturation to a high-gain pedal. With a bit of tweaking, you can create a wide range of sounds from bluesy overdrive to heavy metal.

There are a number of great distortion pedals on the market, but for beginners, the BOSS DS-1 is a solid option. It’s a simple pedal with only one giant output volume knob, leaving the rest up to you and your amplifier. With the pedal set to low, you’ll get a nice overdrive; with it turned up, you can achieve everything from bluesy breakup to chugging hard rock.

The RAT series from Pro Co is another modern classic. While it may not offer the granular controls of some other options, its signature 70% distortion/30% fuzz sound makes it an essential. The RAT 2 is especially versatile; with it turned down you can achieve smoother bluesy overdrive, and with it cranked up it can deliver a variety of different metal tones.

If you’re looking for a distortion pedal that’s a little more aggressive, the Wurm M75 is a great choice. It has a unique dual distortion control that acts like a gain and volume knob, which helps you dial in a wide variety of sounds. The pedal is relatively inexpensive and easy to find second-hand, making it a great option for beginner guitarists.


A fuzz pedal is a great way to add an insane amount of sonic mayhem to your sound. It’s also a good option for heavier styles of music such as metal, prog and contemporary rock. The downside of this kind of pedal compared to the overdrive is there’s less clarity but it is an excellent choice for adding a huge dose of distortion and grit to your guitar tone.

For a truly wild ride, check out the EarthQuaker Devices Hoof fuzzer (opens in new tab). It’s based on the green Russian Big Muff circuit but uses hybrid germanium/silicon transistors to deliver an exceptional sound and unparalleled temperature stability. The pedal has a lot of clipping options from pure to saturated distortion plus an amazing octave BLEND control that takes your sound from a nice, clean octave up to screaming-sounding sonic mayhem.

Another great option is the ZVex Supersonic Fuzz Factory (opens in new tab). It’s been used by the likes of Robert Fripp, Buckethead and Rivers Cuomo to name a few and it’s known to pick up radio transmissions. The controls don’t really describe what they do and the circuitry is a little wild, but that’s part of its charm.

If you want a more subtle wah effect that sounds more natural, try the Strymon TimeLine Wah (opens in new tab). It’s an all-around great pedal that’s used by funk and soul musicians to create that classic crying sound. It’s best placed after the overdrive and distortion pedals in the signal chain to get a fuller sound and it’s an excellent choice for adding depth to your guitar playing.

There are many other effects that you can use to enhance your guitar sound but these three are a great place to start for beginner guitarists. As you progress and become more comfortable with the pedals, experiment with different settings to discover your ideal sound. Eventually you’ll find yourself creating all kinds of amazing tones that you never thought possible! You’ll then be glad you bought that first pedal. So go ahead, grab a power supply and get experimenting!


The wah pedal is one of those effects that can make you stand out as a guitarist and really help you to express yourself. This pedal has a classic sound and is used in a lot of genres from funk to metal. The wah can also be used to accent chords and create a unique sound that will set you apart from the rest of the band when playing live or in the studio.

There are a number of different wahs to choose from depending on your style and budget. The Dunlop Original Crybaby is a good option that will give you that classic wah sound without a lot of extra features. The Xotic XW-1 is another wah that is based on the vintage Vox 847A wah and has a great sound with a ton of options for customizing your tone. The Morley Steve Vai Bad Horsie is another great wah that has more modern features like MIDI capabilities and the ability to save presets.

When choosing your first guitar pedals, it’s important to keep in mind what you want to use them for. Some pedals, like distortion or overdrive, have specific sounds that are better for certain genres of music. Other pedals, such as reverbs and delays, can be used to add space and atmosphere to your sound or to make your clean guitar tones bigger.

It’s also worth thinking about your budget when choosing a new pedal. Some pedals, such as a tube screamer or a fuzz, will be more expensive than others. For a beginner, it’s probably best to start with something affordable and then move on from there.

Regardless of what you decide to purchase, your first guitar pedal will be an important step towards shaping and perfecting your sound. Once you have the basics covered, it’s time to start exploring other effects and discovering the possibilities that are available to you! If you’re interested in learning more about the world of guitar effects, check out this Sweetwater Buying Guide. It’s full of valuable information and can help you make the right choices for your next pedal.