Countless musicians love to boast about their massive guitar pedal collection, and videos on websites will reveal that many of these guitarists have huge amounts of pedals strewn about the stage.
In many cases, having this many pedals is unnecessary, yet many guitarists feel that the more pedals they own, the better a play they are. Sure, having a pedal is nice, and in many times it can certainly add or improve your tone, but only if you have the right one.
How do we determine which pedal is right for us? Well, we have to ask ourselves a few questions first.
What Kind of Music Do I Want to Play?
The pedal you want to choose will largely depend on what kind of music you want to play. If you are aspiring to play psychedelic music, you will probably want effects that add a transcendent element to the guitar, whereas if you are a death metal guitarist, you would want the best distortion you can get. Pop music and country have very little use for pedals, though you can definitely add some as you see fit.
What Guitar Do I Have?
This is an important one. If you have a Fender Stratocaster with single pickups, I am willing to bet that you are not playing metal, and are looking for a diverse, flexible guitar that can provide many different tones. If you are playing metal, rock, or anything of the sort, guitars like Ibanez, BC Rich, Schecter and ESP Guitars will all have guitars that have humbuckers, which are like two single pickups combined into one and in turn produce a thicker sound. If you add distortion to a single coil pickup guitar, it will not sound as heavy as it would on a humbucker. On the other hand, if you are trying to achieve light, airy sounds with a humbucker, you will have a tough time trying to accomplish this.
What Amp Do I Have?
The amp is as important, if not more important, than a guitar. You can have the best guitar in the world that will take you a million years to pay off, but if you don't have a decent amp to compliment it, it will still sound like rubbish. If you had a cheap, inexpensive and low quality guitar running through a high end amplifier, I can almost guarantee that in the hands of an experienced guitarist it will sound much better than the former situation. There are many types of amplifiers out there, and it is best to check out some reviews and information regarding your specific model to determine what type of music it is best suited for.
Below are a few of the different types of pedals available, and what kind of effects they provide, as well as what type of music you might find them in.
Distortion - Mostly found in hard rock and metal genres, distortion will give the guitar a crunchy sound that, when strings are palm muted, will add a very heavy feel to the music.
Reverb - Adds a sort of echo effect, as if you were standing in an empty room or a large cavern. This pedal is extremely popular in most types of music, from country and pop to metal, alternative and blues, as well as jazz.
Delay - Delay is more of an experimental effect that isn't used too heavily, but can add nice touches when used sparingly. Most commonly found in psychedelic music or guitar-centric music, a delay pedal will repeat a riff that you play a certain amount of times, while you continue playing other things. Takes a lot of practice to be able to pull this effect off successfully.
Wah Pedal - Ah, the great Wah pedal. It is basically a pedal that you can move back and forth while playing, and it will make the guitar sound like it is screaming or crying, hence the name. You may have heard this in countless solos by Hendrix, Metallica, Cream, and most blues artists. It certainly provides a fun sound that can add an extra layer of emotional depth to your solos.
Flanger - Flange is what you hear when a speaker is held up to your ear and it is moved to the other side, and back and forth quickly. That kind of whooshing sound is what you will get with a Flanger pedal, and it can be found in many songs by Hendrix, as well as the intro riff to Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne.
Compressor - A compressor will be your best friend if you rely heavily on your distortion pedal. It will prevent any extra noise from seeping through, and when you aren't playing any notes it will quiet down the excessive humming that may be coming out of your speakers. Also makes abrupt stops in your songs more effective, as it will instantly kill of the note you end without any extra noise.
Multi-Effects - If you can't decide on any one pedal, try looking into multi-effects pedals! These things will feature dozens of different effects that you can use either singly or together, and you will be able to create your own effects using attributes from many others. Usually features a number of pedals that you can step on and program your preset effects, so that you don't have to bend down and choose a new preset in the middle of your song. A little more expensive and definitely larger than most other pedals, but the multi-functionality will be a payoff for those looking to purchase more than one effects pedal.