So you have been playing guitar and you want to step into the realm of effects pedals. But the question is, where do you start? What pedals should you get? Well, this will be a guide covering some different pedals and effects and how to dial in a great tone with them each. We will cover everything from a compressor pedal to delay and all the way to phaser and chorus. Then we will go into the difference between overdrive, fuzz, and distortion. Lastly, we will talk about the difference between true bypass and a buffer.
The first dedicated flanger pedals appeared in the seventies with the MXR and Electro Harmonix “Electric Mistress”. These pedals came out to replicate the flanging effect without having to bring tape machines out to the gig.
Delay pedals have been playing an intricate part in musician’s pedal arsenals for years, and for many guitarists, it is a staple. Simply put, a delay pedal takes what comes to its input, stores it and repeats it. Delay is one of those pedals that helps to add an ambient vibe and echo to your playing.
The job of the pedal is to create a shimmering effect and make the guitarist tone fuller or more lush. A 12 string guitar has a chorusing effect with the octave strings. One of those effects that makes playing brighter and warmer, giving it almost an angelic tone.
The phaser pedal has been around guitarists feet since the mid-1970s. The effect happens by splitting the original signal into two with the first signal is left unchanged and the second signal is run through a filter that knocks the signal out of phase. This gives a subtle whooshing or spinning effect on the tone. Phaser is one of my personal favorite effects.
Compressor pedals were designed to get the control of a rack mount compressor but put it at the player’s feet. A Compressor takes your loud notes and brings the level down. It does the opposite to the low notes and makes them louder. Great pedals for playing funk music, a compressor helps to level out the volume of every string which helps for a more even tone.
Reverb is a natural effect you hear in a large room or a hall. This is one of the earliest effects that can be found on guitar and is often found in most songs at least small amounts. A warm and shimmering slight echo. Reverb is similar to a chorus and delay but totally different at the same time. Think of it as a slight echo or reverberation from playing in a large room.
What’s The Difference Anyway?
So when it comes to different drive pedals, you will undoubtedly hear the terms Distortion, Overdrive, and Fuzz. But what is the difference between these effects? They all will give a distorted or driven tone with high gain, but they all have their own unique voice. An overdrive pedal can make your clean amp sound as if it is naturally breaking up. Overdrive pedals are gain pedals that can achieve their break up without cranking the amp to ear-shattering levels. A distortion pedal will turn your clean channel into distortion. Distortion will color your tone and add more sustain to a clean channel and it is more aggressive than an overdrive. Fuzz pedals are gain pedals that produce more exaggerated distortion than overdrive and distortion pedals. These pedals are most musical when played into amps natural distortion.
How Should I Order My Pedal Board?
What comes first, the compressor or the auto wah? This has been a backstage debate at many shows. Believe it or not, there will be a difference in tone based on your pedal order. After watching this video, we hope it gives you a solid place to start when building or rearranging your pedal board. There are never absolutes with pedal order, so experimenting is key. We also put together this pedal flow guide to help break things down even further, making dialing your tone in a breeze!
True Bypass or Buffer?
Is true bypass really better? That has been a popular debate for many years. But before we take sides in this heated argument, we should cover the basics, as each type has their pro’s and cons. With true bypass when the pedals are engaged or turned on, the pedal’s circuit is turned on and the signal goes through it and you hear the effects. When the pedal is turned off, you are now 100% bypassing the effects pedal’s circuit. This eliminates your signal going through extra circuits when it is not needed. Buffered pedals have a buffer in the circuit and always have the signal running through the pedal’s circuit. A buffer or buffered bypass pedal will give you back the signal you lost. It will also give your signal a boost.
Alright, so now you should know how to dial in tone with pretty much all different types of effects. Additionally, you should have a grasp on ordering the pedals on your pedal board to most efficiently maximize your tone. Finally, you will be able to choose what is right for you, True bypass or buffered pedals. Take these tools with you on your guitar playing journey and make a style and tone that is all your own! As an added bonus we figured we would throw this in, our pedal buyers guide just to help you make your decision easier.
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