Different Types of Guitar Pedals
There are numerous factors that affect the final sound that a guitar will produce. The final sound depends on the type of guitar, different hardware that is inside of the guitar, the amplifier, the room you are playing in, and so on.
If you change any of these factors and play the same song again, it will sound different. Among all of these factors, one of the most important is a guitar pedal. So, what is a guitar pedal and what is it used for?
Guitar pedals are small metal boxes, which are usually placed on the floor in front of the player. No matter what type of pedal you use, it can be switched on and off by pressing the big button with your feet. That’s why they are called pedals.
Those pedals affect a guitar's tone in many ways. For example, they can clean the tone and make it louder, or they can add various effects, such as overdrive and distortion.
Before diving deeper into guitar pedals, let’s see what types of effects can they provide. First, we have a ‘drive’ effect, or ‘overdrive.’ It’s achieved by pushing your guitar’s signal before reaching the amplifier, leading to a different, distorted sound.
There are various types of distortion, which you can hear in blues and rock, as well as in most heavy metal songs, too. That ‘angry,’ noisy, and powerful sound that you hear in most of Metallica’s songs is usually achieved by overdrive and distortion.
Besides that, the pedals can also produce a reverb effect, which gives a slight warmth and depth to a clean tone. Basically, it simulates the sound of your guitar being played in a much larger space, like a church or even a concert hall.
Delay (or looping) is another interesting and useful effect that a guitar pedal can have. It displays the sounds/melody that you can play at predetermined intervals. For example, you play the rhythm section for four beats, and then the rhythm will keep playing and you can play a solo over the rhythm.
Another very important effect is tremolo. It gently cuts the signal in and out, creating a very specific sound that can sound great if done well.
As you can see, there are so many different effects, and it can be hard to recommend only one pedal to suit one’s needs. Let’s take a look at a few different types of guitar pedals to see which one might be best for you.
Usually, pedals are divided by the types of effects that they are able to provide. However, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
Since they are the most widely used type of pedal, the first ones that should be mentioned are distortion pedals. A distortion pedal takes your signal from the guitar and distorts it while, at the same time, it adds volume, sustain, crunch, and other necessary effects. In the end, it sounds completely opposite of what the guitar should naturally sound like.
However, a distortion pedal can sometimes be confused with an overdrive or fuzz pedal. Although all of them sound similar, a trained ear can easily spot the difference. We won’t go too deep into the details now, but you should also know that a distortion pedal will not respond the same way for every guitar.
If you already have an amplifier, it will probably already have some kind of reverb installed. In that case, you don’t need a reverb pedal.
As we mentioned, a reverb pedal will give some sort of an ‘echo’ to your guitar, so it will sound like you are playing in a church or in a cave. There are many great reverb pedals, such as the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Nano, or the BOSS RV-6 Reverb.
Wah pedals are named exactly after the sound they make while playing. If you slowly say ‘wah, wah,’ you will understand what kind of sound those pedals provide. It’s something like a baby crying in slow-motion. For example, listen to Foxy Lady by Jimi Hendrix. This pedal is also widely used in genres such as funk and in various rock solos. One of the most popular wah pedals is the Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby.
We already talked about distortion pedals and how they sound similar to overdrive pedals. Those pedals retain a lot of the original sound, but they push the amplifier a bit harder to give a heavier signal. The difference in sound between overdrive and distortion pedals can’t be clearly described by words. However, if you use an overdrive pedal for some time and then switch to a distortion pedal, you will clearly see the difference. Two of the most popular overdrive pedals are the Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer and the BOSS OD-1X.
Last but not least, it’s important to mention fuzz pedals. They are great for guitarists and keyboard players. Basically, these pedals add a specific distortion which sounds very different from regular distortion sounds.
They completely change the sound of the instrument to a fuzzy and noisy sound, but the sound varies greatly from pedal to pedal. Popular fuzz pedals include the Dunlop FFM3 Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Face Mini and the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi.
In the End
If you are new to the world of guitar pedals, it might all seem a bit confusing to you. However, we hope that this article has made it a bit clearer. Basically, you should know that a guitar pedal is a bridge between your guitar and an amplifier. It changes the guitar output before it reaches the amp so that it puts out a different signal.
Also, you can’t have a single pedal for everything. That’s why many great guitarists have pedalboards/circuits on which they put and connect all the necessary pedals for the concert. However, if you always play the same or similar genres, chances are that you won’t need more than two pedals.
With all this in mind, think about what you really need and start improving your musical equipment!