August 20, 2019 17 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!



17 Responses

Mark Wallace
Mark Wallace

October 01, 2020

If you play outlaw country you have to have a phase shifter.

Ron
Ron

August 13, 2020

I’m 69 yo, been playing electric guitar professionally since 1966. When I started, I had a guitar, coil cord, and an amp. No pedals.
I know this article is about five essential pedals every guitarist should own. But I want to express my own experience with, and without, using pedals.

We couldn’t afford the $300 Conn Strobtuner, (the only one on the market) so we all learned how to tune by ear. (Tuners have, thankfully, made accurate tuning in noisy environments now possible, and I of course use them, but I can, and do, still tune by ear, and I require every student I teach to learn this)

I have used plenty of pedals in my 5+ decades of gigging, and I’m not dissing
them at all. A funk band gig requires a guitar through a wah. Many hit songs have so much guitar processing that it’s impossible to cover them without using pedals.

What I am suggesting is that; every one who uses pedals, to play a real gig with just your guitar, cable, and amp.

I imagine most of you are in shock right now, even at the mention of ditching your pedals at a gig!! OMG! Where is MY TONE?!?

I’m only suggesting this as a way to expose yourself to your own playing without the reliance on your pedals’ manipulation, contribution, mangling, caressing, clouding, and masking of your original tone. Lots of players must have their pedal board(s) plugged in before even picking up the instrument. That hurts my brain a little. Plugging straight in to an amp will also demonstrate the real tone of your instrument, and you all need to do it to discover that your “tone” really comes from your fingers.

In some circles I would be considered an old fart. But I’ve made a successful 50+ years-career in music, performed for two sitting US Presidents, studied privately with Joe Pass. So I know a little bit of what I speak.

Again, I am not against using pedals. I’m for musicians learning their instruments, and how to play music without pedals. Then, to judiciously apply with tasteful and appropriate musical discretion. Or, just go crazy and tone-warp those notes into unrecognizable washes of pedal-induced mush and mayhem.
It’s all good, man!😎

David Kelley
David Kelley

August 13, 2020

Great advice and suggestions. I would, as other posts have, suggest a quality compressor, a quality equalizer, and I love a flexible looper and flexible flanger. A wah is nice, but I use a volume pedal even more, especially with a good delay. If you use more than one amp, a high quality a/b/c switcher is super useful. Anything that let’s you run two amps in stereo improves the effectiveness of effects as well. In fact, I run one amp very clean and loud, as an effects platform, alongside a two channel Mesa. I can obtain very thick tones both clean and distorted, with great definition and separation.

Scott Alan Hutchens
Scott Alan Hutchens

August 13, 2020

I don’t have a tuner in pedal form. I have a clip on even the bough I don’t like the way they look. I don’t use chorus, or delay. I would have a digital reverb in place of delay or tuner, an ISP Decimator G-String if I was using single coils, and three OD/Distortion pedals instead of two.

Robert Moulton
Robert Moulton

August 13, 2020

Just getting into pedals – for me, the clean tones are a MUST. I have an OD pedal which I have used sparingly because I didn’t have a power supply (THAT would be my #1 in the list – the cost of 9v batteries will pay for it in no time) Just got a compressor and an analog phase shifter. Have wanted the latter for some time because it’s also useful with acoustic guitars.

Michael G Porter
Michael G Porter

August 13, 2020

I don’t agree with the distortion pedals. I find that my amp’s distortion is always more pleasing than a pedal (unless your pedal IS your preamp, like Carvin’s Vai pedal). Instead, I have a volume/wah pedal and an Xotic SP compressor. The SP has a ton of make-up gain, and is very quiet. That allows me to goose the preamp a little harder for the times when I want a harder edge, and it still sounds better than a distortion pedal.

Matthew Santy
Matthew Santy

August 13, 2020

“Amp in a Box” Pfft. What you need is a great amp. Change that pedal out to a super-premium Boutique compressor to make your exceptional amp sing.

paul childs
paul childs

August 13, 2020

Now do bass!

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.

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