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5 Must Have Essential Guitar Effects Pedals

Updated on March 1, 2016
Chris Whiter profile image

Chris Whiter has been a guitar player for 16 years a guitar teacher for 10 years. He plays many music styles uncluding pop,rock,funk e.c.t.

Five essential guitar effects pedals - Tuner, Chorus. Overdrive. Delay and Wah-wah
Five essential guitar effects pedals - Tuner, Chorus. Overdrive. Delay and Wah-wah

Guitar Effect Pedals

Hardly any of today's guitar players uses just a guitar and amp combination. Most of us uses some effect pedals to enhance our sound in one way or another, some like to experiment a lot and some are more into effects that guitar playing itself.

Anyway, here are five that, in my opinion, are essential for any guitar player, beginner or pro.

And they are:

  • Guitar tuner (not really an effect, but out of tune guitar can have a disastrous effect on you, your bandmates and your audience)
  • Chorus
  • Overdrive
  • Delay
  • Wah Wah

You can also check out my 6 Must Have Guitar Accesories article here.

Guitar Tuner Pedal

I know that guitar tuner is not an effect, as it doesn't modify or change your sound in any way, but this one is an absolute must have for every guitar player out there. Out of tune guitar will make you look incompetent and skill lacking and believe me, having an out of tune guitar in a live situation is one of the worst feelings every guitar player can imagine. People will wonder can you really play, if you can't even tune your guitar. Luckily, there are many guitar tuners in the market today, that will make guitar tuning fast and easy.

The most popular guitar tuner right now seems to be TC Electronics Polytune. When it came out, it revolutionized the way players tune their guitar as it can display the tuning of all six guitar strings at once, making it easier to see which strings are out of tune and tune them. The recent version Polytune 2 has even more features like bright retina display, that allows you to see what you're doing even in direct sunlight, which some older guitar tuner pedals had problems with.

Other hugely popular guitar tuners are Boss TU-3 tuner and Korg Pitchblack tuner. Boss TU-3 doesn't have the polyphonic tuning mode that Polytune has, but nonetheless it's packed with various features like multiple tuning modes, upgraded display and it can also power other effect pedals. Korg Pitchblack has a similar features as the Boss Tu-3 but is cheaper.

Lately many guitar players have been switching from tuner pedals to clip on guitar tuners. Clip on tuners are attached (clipped on) to guitar/bass headstock or any other resonant part. The tehnology behing clip on tuner is very simple, as you pluck the string it starts to resonate withing the guitar. The tuner then reads that resonating freqency and tells you if the string is in tune or not. Snark SN-8, TC Electronic PolyTune Clip and Planet Waves PW-CT-12 clip on tuners.

Guitar tuner in action

Chorus Guitar Effect Pedal

Chorus pedal is an important part of many guitar player clean sound. Here are some examples of chorus pedal usage in songs:

  • The Police's guitarist Andy Summers uses a chorus effect on the song Message In The Bottle to achieve a weird, almost slighty out of tune sound that gives the song a kind of weird vibe.
  • Kurt Cobain used chorus effect in NIrvanas song Comes As You Are to create a dark, spooky guitar sound. He uses the chorus effect all throughout the song, even for the solo. Apparently the chorus pedal he was using in this song is an Electro-Harmonix Small Clone.
  • Slash uses chorus effect in Guns N' Roses song Paradise City to get that extra jangly tone in the intro of the song.

These three songs are really good examples of how versatile an effect the chorus is and what you can do with it. If you want to know how the chorus effect is achieved, you can look here

One of the most popular chorus effect pedals right now seems to be TC Electronic Corona pedal. It's a really versatile pedal with 3 chorus styles and 4 control knobs to tweak it to your need. One of the cool features of this pedal is the TC electronics own Toneprint tehnology, which allows you to send chorus presets from you mobile device to pedal through guitar pickups.

Another popular chorus pedal is MXR M234 analog chorus pedal, that also gives you a great tweaking options. However if you looking for cheaper and simpler chorus peal, I suggest you to look at Electro-Harmonix Small Clone, MXR M148 micro chorus or Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone.

Chorus pedal in action

Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal

Overdrive Pedals are used by 99.9% of guitar players. From the crunchy intro of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love to Eric Clapton's soaring lead playing in Layla, overdrive has defined rock music and is used in almost any other music genre. It is a MUST have guitar pedal.

Term Overdrive comes from times when rock music was still taking shape. Guitar players started to turn their amplifiers louder and louder, overdriving amp's analog tube circuity and getting that distorted sound. Overdrive pedals uses transistors to create that distorted sound. To learn more about overdrive and distortiton effects you can look here

The most popular guitar overdrive pedal is probably the legendary Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer It has three knobs, Gain for adjusting overdrive level, Tone for adjusting frequency range and Level for adjusting volume of the pedal. You can use is as clean boost with gain all the way down and volume all the way up, for rock rhythm playing, with all three knobs at about middle and for great lead sound, with gain all the way up and tone and volume at about middle.

Other popular everdrive pedals today are Fulltone OCD, Boss SD-1, Electro-Harmonix Soul Food,Way Huge Green Rhino MkII and you can read about the in my article Top 5 Most Popular Overdrive Pedals

Overdrive pedal in action

Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

When people ask me to describe the delay effect I simply put on a U2 song. Edge, U2's guitar player relies heavily on delay effect and you can hear ir on songs like Where The Streets Have No Name and Pride (In The Name Of Love). Other famous songs that use delay effect are:

  • Guns N' Roses: Welcome To The Jungle - Slash uses the delay effect in the intro riff
  • Queen: Brighton Rock - Brian May uses the delay effect to create a really complex solo
  • Elvis Presley: Mystery Train - Guitarists Scotty Moore uses a so called slapback delay effect that was and still are commonly used in rockabily and country.

As you can see, delay is a really versatile effect. If you know about delay effect and it's done you can look here

One of the popular delay effects pedals in the market at the moment is MXR Carbon Copy analog delay. It is a simple, analog circuity delay pedal, with three knobs to alter the signal. Regen is used to set how many times the delay will repeat, Mix sets the delay volume level and Delay sets the time of delay. Also has a mod button for adding a kind of chorusey sound to delay.

Other popular delays pedals at the moment are Boss DD - 5 Digital Delay pedal and TC Electronic Flashback delay pedal.

Delay pedal in action

Wah Wah Guitar Effect Pedal

Wah wah effect pedals come along around mid sixties and have been a part of a lot of guitarists pedalboards since. Some famous songs that has the wah wah effect are:

  • Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - That intro is probably one of the most recognizable guitar licks of all the time and it is achieved with overdrive and wah wah pedal.
  • Guns N' Roses: Sweet Child O' Mine - Slash uses wah wah effect pedal in the solo before the where do we go part.
  • George Harrison: Wah-wah - The song is called Wah - wah and you can really get understanding of what a wah wah pedal does by listening to this song.

As you can see You can use the way wah effect in many different ways.

Wah effect pedal is basically an eq filter that changes the frequency response accordingly to how you operate it. If you move it up you get more treble frequencies and if you move it down you get more bass frequencies. These movements give you that unique Wah sound. Of couse there are also autowah pedals that you can set up without having to operate the pedal with your leg. Some players like Michael Schenker and Brian May likes to leave wah pedal in fixed position, so called "sweetspot", and use this setting for solos. If you want to know more aboutwah wah effect you can get the information here.

Dunlop GCB95 has been the most popular wah for many years now. It has one of the simpliest pedal designs ever and doesn't really need setting it up. Just plug it between amp and instrument, take a step on it, click the switch and wah wah away. It has one minus though, there is no indicator light, so you never know if it is on or off.

Other popular wah wah pedals includes Vox V847 wah wah and Morley Bad Horsie wah wah.

Wah wah pedal in action

Five essential guitar effect pedals - Tuner. Chorus, Overdrive, Delay and Wah-wah
Five essential guitar effect pedals - Tuner. Chorus, Overdrive, Delay and Wah-wah

Which Effect Pedal Do You Think Is The Most Used By Guitar Players?

See results

© 2013 Chris Whiter


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