Guitar effects pedals come in a huge assortment of types, makes, and models. With so many to choose from, it can be tough to know where to start. With that in mind, we wanted to take things back to the basics, to make a list of five types of guitar effects pedals that nearly any guitarist can make use of, no matter what style they play. Read on for the five guitar effects pedal types that we feel every guitar pedal should own.
Easily two of the most popular effects in guitar driven music, distortion and overdrive are responsible for some of the most recognizable and legendary tones in rock. While there is a difference between these two effects, they are similar enough that they can be listed together for the purposes of this list, with the choice between the two coming down to what type of tone and dynamics you’re aiming for. You can read more about their differences in our Overdrive VS Distortion article. You might be thinking to yourself, “hey, my amp already has built-in distortion/overdrive, why do I need one?”. Well, unless you have a nice tube amp, your distortion/overdrive tone might not be on par with what the pros are using. Furthermore, a pedal adds a good amount of extra versatility and control that you can’t get from using the effect on your amp alone, and having extra tonal options is never a bad idea. Whether its metal, blues, punk or good old classic rock, having a pedal that can add a certain amount of grit to your sound is an absolute must.
We’ve all heard it before, that well-known echo that has carved innumerable soundscapes throughout the history of rock. From its early days as a bulky tape echo machine to its modern inception as a pedalboard mainstay, delay is an essential effect that every guitar should own. From David Gilmour to Eddie Van Halen and – of course – U2’s The Edge, some of the most famous guitarists in music have written some of their most memorable licks with delay. A big benefit of adding delay to your sound is the textures and dynamics it gives. If your guitar lick sounds a bit flat or dull, add some delay for a fuller, three-dimensional sound. And you don't always have to go overboard with it either, as just a touch of delay can do wonders in adding great subtle textures to your sound.
If you take a quick look at some of the most well-known players in guitar history, you will find that many of them incorporated a wah-wah pedal as part of their signature sound. From Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton to Slash and Prince, the wah-wah and its signature cry can be found throughout rock, funk, metal and more. The hallmark of these pedals is the foot rocker, which allows you to move the frequency of your signal up and down, delivering that signature crying wah-wah sound. But they are much more versatile than that. For example, they can be used as a filter for adding subtle textures to your overall tone, as a way to emphasize certain notes, as a sweep for a gradual crescendo, and more. As one of the most expressive pedals around, it's definitely a pedal every guitarist can make use of.
Compressor pedals are often overlooked because they don’t have an archetypical sound of their own is easily recognizable. Instead, they work by squishing your guitar signal, making the loud parts softer and soft parts louder, giving your playing a more consistent response. That might not seem like much at first but with the right experience, they can be powerful tools that any guitarist can benefit from. For example, guitarists regularly use compressors to increased their sustain -- instead of notes quickly dying, a compressor allows them to ring out for much longer. This is especially prominent among country guitarists. They can also be used as a clean booster pedal in order to up the volume or send your amp into overdrive while keeping your guitar's tone uncolored.
Yes, a tuner is not an effect but seeing as how the theme of this article is, more-or-less, pedals that every player should have on their board, we can make an exception. Staying in tune is obviously important, but rather than using one of those little independent tuners (or worse, tuning by ear), a tuner pedal on your board can get the job done without the need of unplugging your instrument. Not only that, but many of today's tuner pedals allow you to tune all of your strings at once. No matter how you look at it, using a tuner pedal is the most efficient way that players can tune their instrument.