Five Pedals Every Guitarist Should Own

Five Pedals Every Guitarist Should Own

August 20, 2019 9 Comments

If you can’t tell by our previous articles, we love pedals! All kinds, shapes and sizes are welcome in our rigs. The vast array of options available are dizzying. Many guitarists don’t know where to start. This week, we want to share with you the five effects pedals that we feel EVERY guitarist should own.

We’ve kept our choices simple and easily accessible with a wide variety of models available. With these effects you can plug into any clean amplifier and get a wide variety of tones that will get you through any session or gig! So here they are…

1. TUNER

It doesn’t matter how good your tone is; if you’re not IN TUNE you’re going to sound BAD! The sound of an out-of-tune G chord is just as unpleasant as out-of-tune note bends in a solo. There are many great options available and if you haven’t chosen one yet, you need to.

Although some guitarists have gravitated towards headstock tuners, the reliability of the pedal tuner is unparalleled. The pedal reads pitch directly from your guitar’s pickups meaning it doesn’t “hear” any other sound sources. Plus, these come in handy as a master “mute” switch for any pedalboard.

2. FULL RANGE OVERDRIVE

You may notice we specified “full range” on this option (think Fulltone OCD or similar). The reason is that these types of overdrives are much easier to grasp than others, like a Screamer or Timmy-style. They work just as well on their own as they do boosting the preamp of a crunchy amplifier. Some models also work great as an “always on” pedal, coloring the original clean amplifier for a more ear-pleasing and vibrant tone.

3. “AMP LIKE” DISTORTION

Also known as “amp-in-a-box” pedals, a wealth of options are available in this category. These pedals are meant to replicate not only the tone of famous amps but the feel as well. At the click of a switch you can turn your American-style clean amp into a Rectifier or hot-rodded British amp.

It’s very easy to go overboard buying these so do your research and play as many as you can in-store before spending your money! 

4. CHORUS

Chances are that some of you are scratching your heads at this choice. But in case you didn’t know, chorus is making a comeback! More and more players are throwing chorus pedals in their rigs. Analog or digital, the lush modulation is making its mark in modern music.

AND…chorus opens the door to other modulation like Vibrato and Flange…really!

5. DELAY

Whether you choose Analog or Digital a good delay can add a lot to your sound. A simple slapback echo is key to roots and country guitar tones and long delay times make for soaring solos. And if you choose an option with “Tap Tempo” then you have an echo for every song in the set! Next to distortion pedals, delay pedals probably have the most options available on the market.

When you go shopping, PLAY AS MANY AS POSSIBLE! Some models are more suited to ambient music, some have more pronounced rhythmic patterns. So consider your playing style and buy accordingly.

With these five pedals in your arsenal you’ll be able to create more tones for a wide variety of genres of music. Whether you’re playing for your own enjoyment or beginning a professional career, you could consider this the perfect “tool box” for tone. So go have some fun and explore!



9 Responses

Brian Scalise
Brian Scalise

December 11, 2019

For me tuner & wah are musts. They go at the front of the chain. Other pedals are optional, but the one I have to disagree with, although they are incredibly common, is the distortion, or “amp in a box.” I don’t think anything beats all-organic, analog, tube distortion found in the pre-amp section of my Carvin amplifier, and that’s why that amplifier’s effects loop is so important. That’s where I put the other modulators, like echo, reverb, & chorus.

David A Walker
David A Walker

September 06, 2019

I try to keep it simple. I have my Carvin Belair twin 12, Sabine rack tuner, and a Lexicon Vortex soundscape rack mount. The 2 button Carvin Channel changer and reverb sits on the floor next to a small custom mount that hold the two pedals with 2 actuators each for the Lexi-bypass and step on one, A-B toggle and tap tempo on the other. This covers everything you described. The Lexi is extensively programable and covers slap back to long delays, polyrhythmic echo, tremolo, phase, chorus and flange. The A-B let’s you morph between two soundscapes on a given channel, and you can set a transition time faster or slower. I have set up in stereo to take advantage of the polyrhythmic echo, and stereo modulation of the other effects. I believe the guitarist for the Cranberries was using a Lexi on their first album. The Carvin has all the distortion I could ever want for my taste in music, and tone! I have a PRS 20th anniversary, Les Paul Pro, and a Washburn stunt guitar that provide help in “amp modeling” and a Marshall JVM 210H to really amp model when more power is needed. This set up has worked for me for the last 20+ years.

Douglas Robinson
Douglas Robinson

August 30, 2019

Most of the pedals you mentioned are fairly self explanatory, or their manufacturer’s will gladly explain them to you, as in the case of the “full-range overdrive”, the attributes of which being exhaustively touted by their makers, i.e. “natural sounding”, “transparent”, (blah, blah, blah), but what’s an “amp like” distortion? I swear I’m not trying to be a wise guy. I’m serious; are we talking about any distortion pedal that the manufacturer describes as sounding like a distorted amp, like the Boss DS-1, or are we talking about newer high-tech digital modeling stuff? I can see how it could be a sticky mess you’d rather not step in, but a few more examples would make what you’re explaining much clearer to novice gear-heads like myself. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that we’re just talking about having a smooth-ish distortion pedal and a much MORE distortion pedal… right?

Jacob Davidson
Jacob Davidson

August 23, 2019

Great advice! The only things missing are a good wah-wah and reverb pedal; wah can be used best as a midrange tone filter for overdrive or distortion, reverb is good for adding depth and richness to the overall sound.

Don Widger
Don Widger

August 23, 2019

Wise choices. I would suggest adding an octave pedal, too. I have not been too excited about some of the all-in-one pedal boards. I still haven’t used the one I picked up (not a Carvin)couple months ago in public because of the steep learning curve involved for any settings other than post-pubescent thrasher guitar. The manufactuers should post some more adult oriented product demonstration Youtubes But there are many good choices of pedals out there.

Jerry Boquette
Jerry Boquette

August 23, 2019

What about a wah pedal?
I’d rather have that than a tuner pedal.

Paul Havrilak
Paul Havrilak

August 23, 2019

My signal chain is: volume pedal, then a compressor to control the harmonics released by my 12AX7 tube overdrive pedal and amp modeler pedal, then on to the delay/reverb pedal. If the song calls for it, I have a tremolo/vibrato pedal. No amps on stage for my gigs, so off to the direct box from there. The inline tuner is essential if you bend the strings a lot or have little accidents like me, bumping the tuning peg or snagging a string while pulling off the capo…

Doug Dickeson
Doug Dickeson

August 23, 2019

I’d like to add Pedal #6: A good compressor.

Paul Honeycutt
Paul Honeycutt

August 23, 2019

I like multi modulation pedals. I have a TC NOVA Modulator on one board and a NuX Mod Core on another. That way you have all of the modulation effects you need in a compact package. I still have my old Boss CE-2 from the ’80’s that I bought after seeing David Lindley & El Rayo-X. But multi-mod pedals are really handy.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Guitar / Bass Amplifier Info & Education

Start With The Drums: Cleaning Up Your Stage Sound From The Ground Up
Start With The Drums: Cleaning Up Your Stage Sound From The Ground Up

July 02, 2020

It’s not a lot of bands who take the extra time to address how drums work in a room, but when it's done, everything else tends to fall in place. Guitars can sit in the mix, bass can thump, and vocals can cut through without over-compressing.

Read More

Why (And How) You Might Want To Turn Your Amp Down On Stage
Why (And How) You Might Want To Turn Your Amp Down On Stage

June 26, 2020

It’s no secret house sound engineers fight with guitarists about the volume of amps on stage, especially in small venues. It may even be a bit of a cliché to mention it. “Turn it down!” often becomes “I’ll turn it down for you!” and “I need it louder!” turns into “I’ll just sneak over here and turn this up…”.

Read More

Tips For Setting Up Quickly On Stage
Tips For Setting Up Quickly On Stage

June 11, 2020 11 Comments

Nothing saps your energy on stage like running late and being in a rush. To boot, you can’t always get into a venue at 9AM like the big shows do and set up. So, getting your stage set up done quickly and efficiently is crucial to ongoing success as a gigging musician.

Here are some of our best tips for getting your setup done quickly and easily, so you might have a chance at a good sound check and a little break before rocking the crowd.

Read More