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An effects unit is also called an "effect box", "effects device", "effects processor" or simply "effects". In audio engineer parlance, a signal without effects is "dry" and an effect-processed signal is "wet". The abbreviation "F/X" or "FX" is sometimes used. A pedal-style unit may be called a "stomp box", "stompbox", "effects pedal" or "pedal".

A musician bringing many pedals to a live show or recording session often mounts the pedals on a guitar pedalboard, to reduce set-up and tear-down time and, for pedalboards with lids, protect the pedals during transportation. When a musician has multiple effects in a rack mounted road case, this case may be called an "effects rack" or "rig". When rackmounted effects are mounted in a roadcase, this also speeds up a musician's set-up and tear-down time, because all of the effects can be connected together inside the rack case and all of the units can be plugged into a powerbar.

Musicians, audio engineers and record producers use effects units during live performances or in the studio, typically with electric guitar, bass guitar, electronic keyboard or electric piano. While guitar effects are most frequently used with electric or electronic instruments, effects can also be used with acoustic instruments, drums and vocals.[See Wikipedia].

A short guide to guitar effects pedals.

Distortion Pedals

First up we have the most widely used and most useful pedal ever created – the Distortion pedal! If you’re wondering “What is a distortion pedal” the clue is in the name with how this pedal sounds. It basically takes your signal (the guitar) and distorts it, adding volume, crunch and sustain to your sound and is basically used as a contrast to the natural sound of your guitar. Often used in the chorus of some of your favourite songs. A distortion pedal can often be confused for a fuzz or overdrive pedal, but the trained ear can definitely hear the difference. A distortion pedal also changes the sound of your guitar and responds differently depending on which guitar you use.

Reverb Pedals

If you’ve already got an amplifier, chances are that it’s got reverb pre-installed, so you might not necessarily need a pedal. However, some amps don’t give you the option of turning it off at will via a foot pedal. A reverb pedal basically gives an echo effect and gives your guitar more weight. Think of the sound you hear when you walk into a church or cave – a big expansive sound that reverberates off the walls. In addition, if you want to completely oversaturate your sound with reverb to sound like you’re in a massive cave, you can turn the reverb up all the way and engage it when the song calls for it.

Wah Pedals

Wah pedals make exactly the noise they’re named after – yep a “Wah” noise! If you say to yourself “Wah, Wah, Wah” slowly, that’s the same sound the pedal makes. Imagine a baby crying in slow motion and you kind of get the idea. The Wah sound was probably best captured on “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix and is widely used in funk and rock solos thanks to its really cool sounding effect.The most famous Wah pedals are the Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedals.

Overdrive Pedals

Overdrive pedals are very different to distortion pedals, and without getting too technical, they drive/push your guitar signal harder rather than changing the sound completely like a distortion pedal does. An overdrive pedal retains a lot of the original sound of your guitar and amp but pushes the amplifier harder to give it a heavier, thicker signal. They’re ideally used with valve/tube amps as they push the tubes to their limit and allow them to bring out the more natural distortion that tube amps are so renowned for.

Delay Pedals

Delay pedals take your original signal, a guitar chord or note for example, delays it and plays it back exactly how the pedal hears it the first time. It can either play the note back once or multiple times depending on your settings or “feedback time”. Often, you’ll see Digital Delay pedals as well as Analogue Delay pedals. The major difference is that digital delay pedals will offer longer delays and a ‘cleaner’ exact sound, however guitarists often prefer the analogue sound for all the subtle nuances and slight unpredictability in sound. This comes down to personal preference but both options sound great.

Fuzz Pedals

Fuzz pedals provide guitarists, bass players and even keyboard players with a hefty amount of distortion that sounds VERY different to regular distortion sounds. Fuzz pedals make your guitar sound like its pushing your amplifier to the point of blowing up. A fuzz pedal completely changes the sound of your guitar signal into a heavy, fizzy, and extremely noisy sound that, depending on which pedal you choose, can provide a bass heavy noise, to a spitting ‘broken’ amp sound. Think Velcro being ripped apart and you’re somewhere pretty close.

Boost Pedals

Boost pedals increase the strength of your signal going in to your amplifier. This means you don’t have to use distortion to get that volume jump when you want to make the chorus or lead line jump out. A boost pedal increases the signal without adding distortion, and can be used to fatten up your sound, ‘pushing’ your amplifier harder and louder, just without the grit that a distortion pedal will add.

Chorus Pedals

Chorus pedals actually make your guitar sound like there are a variety of different guitarists playing the same thing that you are playing, but with a different guitar and slightly out of time with you. This effect makes everything you play sound a little bit ‘warbly’ and thickens up your guitar or bass lines. We recommend experimenting with these as you can use them subtly to add weight to your sound or as a full-blown effect that completely takes over your signal.

Phaser Pedals

A phaser pedal is similar to a chorus as it thickens up your sound but also adds a sweeping effect – almost as if the speaker within the amplifier is spinning around or moving up and down. If you pretend the speaker is moving away from you and moving closer and back again – you’ll get an idea as to how it sounds. You can change the length of the effect and how quickly the movements are via the pedal.

Flanger Pedals

A flanger is similar to a chorus pedal but makes more of a whooshing effect. This is more noticeable than a chorus. This makes your signal rise up in pitch and down again.

EQ Pedals

An EQ pedal has been designed to allow you to tune certain parameters of your sound such as the bass, middle and treble frequencies. They are predominantly used by more experienced guitarists who want to add or take away specific bands of sound. These are great for guitarists who want to really boost the treble, bring out the bass or just ensure their guitar signal sounds as flat as possible.

Looper Pedals

If you’re new to the world of guitar or bass, a looper pedal is a great way to hone your skills. A looper pedal is not an effect, but more a tool that allows you to record chord progressions, notes or riffs and then play it back through your amp. It’s ideal for playing a chord progression or rhythm section, looping it and then playing a lead line or riff over the top – like two guitars playing together.It essentially records for you when you hit the pedal and then plays it back when you hit it again. Each time you stand on the pedal it allows you to lay another track down. Looper pedals are great for live use and home use when you need to make it sound like there’s more than one guitarist.

Compressor Pedals

A compressor pedal is another type of pedal that you could class as more of a tool than an effect. It essentially takes all the dynamics out of your playing and ensures every note you play is the same volume. When you engage this pedal, regardless of whether you play a string lightly or hard, it will sound the same in terms of volume. These are favoured by bass players as they ensure each note can be heard correctly and are loved by guitarists who like to solo as they add sustain to your playing by allowing the note to ring out longer.

Tremolo Pedals

A tremolo pedal takes your signal and chops it up, making it sound like the volume is dropping and reappearing very quickly. Imagine what it would sound like whilst holding a note and turning the volume down on your amp and back up again and you’ll get the idea. A tremolo allows you to change the speed at which the volume drops happen and how severe the cut off is. You can have it set to completely cut your sound out or just gate it, which allows a certain amount of sound through at each interval.

Tuner Pedals

A tuner pedal is an absolute essential purchase for guitarists of all levels. This is a quick and convenient way to be able to tune your guitar during a live set or at home. They also cut your signal when they’re engaged so no one has to listen to you tuning up! A guitar tuner pedal is an absolute must have if you’re serious about guitar as it provides accurate tuning instantly and can even allow you to tune your guitar to alternative tunings such as Drop D, open tunings and more.

Volume Pedals

A volume pedal is ideal for those guitarists out there who like to use volume swells or fade-ins, and those who don’t want to have to use the volume pot on their guitar to do so! All you do is apply pressure on the front or back of the pedal to get the desired effect and you’re good to go! They’re super simple to use and only change the signal rather than the tone of your guitar or bass.

Noise Gate Pedals

If you’re using a bunch of high gain pedals, or a lot of pedals chained together, chances are you’ll get a little bit of hum or unwanted buzzing coming from your amp. This is especially noticeable if you’re using high gain amps and guitars. If your amp is buzzing when you’re not playing anything, you might benefit from a noise gate pedal as they cut out all that unwanted noise but preserve your tone. A noise gate pedal completely cuts off your signal when you’re not playing anything and prevents noise from getting through to your amplifier until your start playing again.

Octave Pedals

An octave pedal listens to what note you’re playing and adds the next octave up or down (depending on your settings) making it sound like someone is playing the octave note with you. If you’re familiar with guitar or just learning, you’ll know that an octave is the distance between one musical note and it’s corresponding note at a higher or lower pitch. For example, if you play an open E string and then play the E string on the 12th fret, it will sound the same, just an octave higher. You can set an octave to play the higher or lower notes or both at the same time. This is ideal for those who want to really thicken up their sound and are often used by heavy metal guitarists to make solos and riffs sound really cool!

Acoustic simulator guitar Pedals

If you love the sound of both acoustic and electric guitars, but you want to play both at the same time without draping one of each over your shoulder, then an Acoustic simulator pedal is ideal. These pedals take your guitar signal – regardless of what electric guitar you’re playing and make it sound like it’s an acoustic. These are often used by guitarists on stage who want to switch between an acoustic and electric guitar sound during a set or even the same song.