You might have the coolest amplifier on the face of the Earth. You might have that perfect, face-melting distortion tone. You might even have some cool pre-sets.
But eventually you’ll wanna try that Kirk Hammett Wah-Wah solo- and you’re gonna have to buy an effects pedal.
Effects Pedals pretty much do what they say on the tin- you hook them up to your Guitar/ Amp, and when you press on them (presumably with your foot) they will create an effect until you press them again to stop the effect. I mentioned Kirk Hammett because pretty much all the good Metallica songs have a Guitar Solo with wah-wah effects that was most likely activated by a pedal (“Holier Than Thou” being a good example).
Anyway- here’s a rundown of the basic types of Effects Pedals and what they do:
A Chorus Effect will make your Guitar sound a lot fuller and thicker. The Chorus effect is there to mimic the sound of ensembles like String Orchestras and Choirs- it mixes your notes with near-identical notes that have slight differences in timbre and pitch.
So for example- if you picture your Guitar as a Solo Singer- with its own unique sound to its voice. Now imagine the same unique sound with a choir backing that includes all different voices. This is the best way I can describe Chorus effect to you.
It is most likely to be used on a clean Guitar part- quite often in verses- to give a kind-of relaxing feel.
The Danelectro Fab Chorus Guitar Effect Pedal is a cheap and cheerful example of this effect.
A Phaser effect is best described as a sort-of “Rippling” effect. It takes your audio signal and splits it into 2, altering the “Phase” of the second signal. The result is a very trippy-sounding noise- which tends to be more prominent on chords rather than single notes.
Phaser effects are another example of an effect that would likely be used for Clean Guitar parts. To be honest- they aren’t heard much in mainstream Guitar-playing- but they would be brilliant for a Psychadelic Rock band or something of the sort!
The Behringer VP-1 Vintage Phaser Pedal is a critically aclaimed Phaser Pedal that won’t break the bank either!
Flange basically mimics an effect that they used to create in Recording Studios by messing around with the reels of the tapes (the “flanges”) and that’s where it gets its name. It basically causes your note to play, whilst a second note constantly rises and drops in pitch. It’s a marmite effect really- people either love it or find it really annoying.
The most famous example of Flange effect is probably in the main riff for “Barracuda” by Heart, where some mild Flange effect can be heard in the background of the riff.
For a Flanger Pedal I would recommend the Joyo JF-07 Classic Flanger– which features little Karate people doing some moves on the front. I’m not sure why; perhaps because this pedal kicks ass? That’s my best guess up to now.
The Tremelo effect is kind-of similar to what Tremolo is in musical terms. It creates lots of “little notes” to follow your initial note. The notes will tend to die off in volume as they go on. The resulting sound almost sounds: “wobbly” in a way.
A good example of this effect is in the song: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” by Nancy Sinatra- which many people may know as the opening theme to Kill Bill Volume 1. The guitar in this has a tremolo effect throughout which suits the song incredibly well and almost gives it a kind-of nostalgic feel.
The rather longly-named Dan Electro CT1 Cool Cat Tremolo Pedal would be a good pedal to try out for this effect.
The Vibrato effect mimics the Vibrato effect seen in singers- particualrly Opera singers. It causes the pitch to “wobble” around the played note- this makes the note or chord sound more interesting and vocal-like.
The Behringer UV-300 Ultra Vibrato is an inexpensive Vibrato pedal with roaring reviews.
I’ll give you the Scientific explanation:
“A Wah-Wah pedal sweeps the peak response of a filter up and down in frequency to create the sound (spectral glide) also known as the Wah-Wah effect.”
If you understand that then well done! If you don’t- it basically makes a Guitar sound a bit more like a human voice. Like if you imagine humming a guitar solo whilst moving your lips in and out to make a kind-of “Wah-Wah-Wah-Wah” sound.
Just listen to some mettallica or Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix and you’ll see what I mean.
Although a little more expensive- I would recommend the classic Jim Dunlop Crybaby Wah-Wah Pedal. I have used one of these myself and it is pretty much the bog-standard Wah-Wah pedal to own.
A Delay Effect is essentially an: “Echo” effect. The original signal is repeated slightly after you play it- only quieter. You change your Delay settings- so the sound may just be repeated one time quite quickly after the initial note- or it may be repeated several times quiite slowly after the original note.
A Delay Effect might be used for a unique-sounding Guitar Solo- for example the rather unusual-sounding solo in “Drown” by the Smashing Pumpkins- in which odd notes, harmonics and feedback noises are fed through a Delay pedal.
A good basic Delay Pedal would be the Behringer VD400 Vintage Delay Effects Pedal, which comes rather cheaply too.
Reverb Pedals create a Reverb or: “Reverberation” effect. The reverb effect is often incorrectly described as an: “echo”, though it is not. A reverb effect makes your guitar sounding like it is playing in a room of a certain size- and then sound is basically back off the walls. So playing with a small amount of reverb might represent the kind of sound you would expect to hear in a typical bathroom (bathrooms seems to have more reverb than other rooms) whereas playing with a large amount of reverb might represent the kind-of sound you would expect in a Church or large Hall.
A Reverb pedal basically gives your guitar-playing a “noise-tail” that follows after the intial note and makes it sound like you’re playing in a very spacious area.
The Biyang RV-10 Stereo “Tri Reverb” Guitar Effects Pedal is a well-reviewed Reverb pedal that has a pretty cool design. Not that that makes any difference to the sound- but still.
OVERDRIVE/ DISTORTION PEDALS
The difference between Overdrive and Distortion is kinda hard to explain. Basically they both give your guitar that Crunchy rock sound- but in different intensities.
Overdrive tends to mean that you can still hear your notes quite clearly- but crunchy tones are added to make the Guitar sound grittier. Think of bands like the Who- and pretty much any 70s/ 80s band that wasn’t Metal.
Distortion is basically higher up the scale. What distortion does is: “Clip” the soundwave of your guitar, so that it plays out with a very different-looking soundwave than it would if it was clean. The idea is that your sound-wave becomes “Distorted” by the effect- both visually and audibly.
Overdrive is more for Classic Rock like the Who and AC/DC, whereas Distortion applies more to heavier genres such as Heavy Metal- i.e. Metallica, Slayer and Pantera et cetera.
For Overdrive I would recommend the Digitech Bad Monkey Overdrive Guitar Pedal, whereas for Distortion I would recommend the Digitech Death Metal Distortion Guitar Pedal. Both are critically-acclaimed and pretty cheap too.
These also do what they say on the tin. A Multi-Effects Pedal combines different effects- quite possibly the ones mentioned above- and gives you different switches to activate different effects.
This is handy if you’re doing a song where there are a lot of changes from Clean Guitar to Distorted Guitar, or if you’re in pretty much any 90’s alternative band.
The Boss ME-25 Multi-FX Pedal is a good example of a Multi-Effects pedal.
So there’s your rundown of the basic types of pedals. Use them wisely and you may create a really unique tone for your guitar-playing!