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Effects for Guitar

Updated on July 6, 2015
By Massygo (Flickr: connectionvox) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Massygo (Flickr: connectionvox) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

What are guitar effects pedals

Guitar effects pedals are connected between your guitar and your amplifier. What they do is take the signal from your guitar and change it to achieve a specific sound. In this manner you can achieve effects like distortion, chorus, delay, reverb, etc. Every great or aspiring guitarist must have a guitar effects pedalboard or at least a few pedals to achieve the sound they want. It's vital to note, however, that good effects don't make good players. Using these effects properly is a skill in itself. However, when mastered, this skill can add a whole new dimension of flavour to your playing. Part of this skill is realizing when more is not necessarily better. The only way to learn all this is through trial and error

Choosing guitar effects pedals

The range of effects to choose from is never-ending. It's impossible to cover all of the effects comprehensively, but there are a few basic effects that you can almost definitely use in your playing. For now, I will cover Distortion, Overdrive, Delay and Wah. Other effects include chorus, flanger, reverbs, graphic equalizers and many more. This is really just to serve as a starting point into the world of guitar effects.

By User:Surachit (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By User:Surachit (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Distorion and Overdrive

Distortion and Overdrive are very similar (I think I possibly just killed an audiophile). The difference between the two is in how they produce the final result. In a nutshell, they take the smooth and clean sound of a guitar string vibration and dirty it up. It's the difference between the type of electric guitar you'd hear in country versus the type of guitar you'd hear in blues or metal. It's loud and it's aggerssive, but beautiful. Behind the scenes, these two effects modify the signal by amplifying it too much (hence overdrive). They take the normal soundwave, amplify it and then clip off the tips of the waves. The manner in which this simplified version of the process is carried out is what separates overdrive from distortion, but to the novice, it's all the same really.

By CLI (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By CLI (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Delay is a tool that is used by the majority of the pros. It really is not essential by any means but certain styles and genres make it necessary. There are also many different types of delay with unique sounds, but the general idea behind delay is that it 'echoes' your guitar sound. Often, the amount of times the sound is repeated, the volume of the repeats and the duration of time between repeats can be altered by the user. The effect can easily be overdone. A simple chord progression could very easily sound ridiculously amateur with even the slightest delay on it (Imagine two guitarists playing just out of time). In some cases, however, the delay could create the illusion of speed or just make your guitar sound large and powerful and allow it to stand out from the mix just a bit.

By Самойлович М.А..Maka2004 at ru.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Самойлович М.А..Maka2004 at ru.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons


Wah is another one of those effects that has a time and a place and can very easily be misused or overused. Unlike the other effects where you engage them when you need them then switch them off again, wah is actively controlled while you're using it. What a wah pedal aims to do is immitate the human voice by adding a 'wah' (read it out loud and then listen to any Mark Tremonti solo) sound to the sound being played. It sweeps through a range of frequencies, at your command, emphasizing and de-emphasizng certain frequencies along the way. In rock and blues, you'll find wah effects mailny on the lead parts, but the wah also has many other applications in funk and obviously any other style of music you want to apply it to. Wah's do get seriously expensive and they actually require a significant amount of skill to operate succesfully, but absolutely no two guiatr players will ever use a wah in the same way and that means your sound is yours alone.

Can You Hear the Wah in these solos?

How else can I get these effects

It's not always necessary to buy the pedals seperately. This can become very tedious if you want to try out different effects or if you ever need to travel with them. For this reason, the music geeks from our favourite companies have spawned Multi-effects pedals.

Multi effects pedals are awesome little things. They're becomming more and more popular amongst beginner and professional musicians alike. A quick google search for "effects pedals" would probably lead you to something with the word "BOSS" on it. Boss is one of the leading pioneers in guitar effects today and are really worh checking out. Some great Boss multi effects pedals can be found in their GT and ME ranges for guitar and bass and they are really handy for creating signature sounds at brilliant prices. You can also get Zoom multi effects pedals that are just as good for great prices.

Also, as I mentioned earlier on, many combo amps come with basic effects. As far as I understand, Boss falls under the Roland Corporation. For this reason I will recommend the Roland Cube Guitar amplifiers for anyone that wants to utilize built in effects without selling a kidney. The Cube 30x is a great place to start. It's really powerful and has many effects and modelling capabilities. You can also get the Roland cube footswitch which allows you to easily toggle the desired effects from your amp. Behringer always makes high quality products for low prices. The Behringer V-ampire series is also a steal. Their effects, presets and so forth are just astonishing and footswitches are also available for them

The possibilities will never end (until your funding does). If you're getting bored of your guitar sound or just want to take that next step to sounding like the greats, I really recommend spending some time picking out the effects you want to incorporate into your arsenal.


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