8 Types of Guitar Pedals – And What They Do
Pedals are used by guitar players to experiment with effects, learn an instrument’s sound capabilities and, most important of all, create unique sounds. They are the ultimate tool a modern player will use to shape their tone and produce those noticeable sounds that riff lovers know and love.
Regardless of whether you’re an experienced player, just bought your first electric guitar or are trying to find the perfect gift for a beloved muso, pedals can be a daunting topic to approach. With so many choices available, it can be hard to know which ones will be right for your pedal board. Why? Because they can all extend what the instrument is capable of in diverse and interesting ways.
Choosing the right pedal is completely subjective as only the individual will know the effects they are aiming to make. The first step is to simply understand the different types of guitars pedals and what they do. Enjoy!
A bitcrusher is lo-fi (low fidelity) digital audio effect pedal, which is designed to change, adjust or mangle audio. The pedals essentially use fractional bit reduction, which reduces signal from 24 bits down to 1 bit and is perfect for producing synth electronic sounds.
Bitcrusher pedals are especially ideal for anyone looking for those crunchy bitmapped guitar notes that you are likely to hear used by bands the likes of Depeche Mode and Muse. For more experimental sounds, it can even help in recreating the charming lower quality audio sounds old drum machines.
A clean boost pedal is something that almost all serious guitar players will have on their pedalboard. This is simply because of how versatile and practical an effect they can create.
They are one of the most manageable pedals on the market, with their sole purpose to increase the strength of the signal going into the amplifier without adding any special effects.
They will also provide a noticeable increase in volume lift. So, those looking for an unfiltered, clean sound need to look no further as this pedal will help turn your amplifier to eleven.
Buffer pedals are a guitarist’s best friend. Although not the most exciting tool, it is essential for any musician looking to take their sound seriously. Why? Because it will help to maintain the core tone of the guitar, despite the lengths of pedals and cables the signal has to travel through.
Guitars are far from perfect, so to prevent clarity being lost once the signal goes through a guitar circuit, a buffer will be there to give it that helping hand to keep the core tone intact. They will need to be placed strategically in the circuit to maintain their robust sound, so careful planning on the pedalboard will go a long way.
A chorus pedal effect is used to add a rich and layered effect to a guitar tone. Essentially, it doubles what the guitarist is playing by taking the guitar signal and splitting it in two.
The pedal aims to layer the clean tone with a slightly delayed signal. This gives a multi-instrumental output that is both complex yet instantly recognisable.
These tones were incredibly popular in rock and pop songs of the late 80s, but are making a comeback in a big way in modern times. The watery tone on Nirvana’s ‘Come As You Are’ simply oozes the chorus pedal and is a fantastic example of the lush sounds that the pedal can help create.
Compressor pedals essentially remove the dynamics from guitar tones and ensure every note is played at the same volume. Simply and subtly, this effect helps to creating a balanced sound that means, regardless of hard the guitar strings are played, the volume will remain the same.
This can be used to enhance a quieter, more finger-picked section of the song and will help breath life and character into a tune.
The pedal will also boost a cleaner tone and prevent it from being buried within the band’s mix. After all, no one wants the guitarist to go missing mid-way through a song.
Delay pedals work similarly to echo pedals. They can offer everything from subtle influences only picked up by keen ears, to more noticeable effects. Extremely popular in clean guitar sections and in solos, the delay can help make a guitar’s sound more noticeable when trying to stand out from the other instruments in a band.
The pedal works by playing back the note that you’ve played several times thus echoing and creating an atmospheric sound as if playing in an empty room. While not mandatory, a delay can be highly useful for a player aiming to add textures and specific noises to a song.
A reverb pedal essentially mirrors the sound that your guitar is playing and produces ambient reflections to the noise.
This is an essential effect to use if you want the guitar to be heard within a mix of instruments. In short, the pedal works by adding much more depth to the guitar sounds, making them more prominent and ‘in your face’.
A reverb pedal is not to be confused with a delay, as although they are both generate time-based sound effects, they are slightly different. A delay is simply a repeat of a signal whereas a reverb is more like a large number of echoes increasingly building up.
The best way to imagine the effect a reverb is creating is to imagine the soundwaves bouncing off surrounding surfaces of a room and reaching your ears at slightly different times. It’s most recognisably used with shoegaze bands such as Slowdive and The Verve
Perhaps the most popular and useful pedal on the market, the distortion pedal does exactly what the name suggests. It works by distorting the guitar signal to add extra volume, power and crunch to the sound on a consistent basis.
Distortion can be used in multiple ways. It could be throughout an entire song, or carefully placed in certain sections for a dramatic effect that is distinctively gritty.
This pedal is the weapon of choice for many of your favourite guitarists with distortion allowing them to warp just how aggressive or complex their sound needs to be. Think along the lines of Van Halen, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple’s Joe Satriani.
Perfect for beginners and seasoned veterans, distortion pedals are extremely versatile and have a well-deserved high recommendation.
Finding your perfect pedal
Ready to find the ideal guitar pedal to complement your sound?
Guitar FX Direct is the perfect place to start your search. Within our online shop, you can find a comprehensive selection of pedals, ranging from world-renown to boutique brands, some of which have never been available in the UK before.
With the aim of supplying the absolute best to UK guitarists and bassists, we tirelessly seek out the most innovative pedals that produce perfect tones and look great too. Our hand-picked range that is constantly updated and boasts the latest in pedal technology. Browse our full range of guitar effects pedals today!