There are many creative ways to dial in your pedals to get new, creative sounds. I've outlined some different types of effects and ideas to try. There are no exact settings, as those are dependent upon the pedal. Twist those knobs and get creative!
Stereo Output Split Signal
You can easily split your signal with a pedal with stereo outputs, such as most tuner pedals offer. It's a very easy and efficient way to run dual amps, two pedalboards, or anything else you'd want to try.
Easy Back-Up Rig
You can have an easy back-up rig that is amazingly portable. Using a pedal that has a DI out like a Sansamp or the Tech 21 character series you can have a solid back-up with a great amp sound without having to haul a second amp around with you. Put a booster in front of the pedal with the DI and you have a 2 channel setup.
You can even have these on your main board and utilize them with an amp, having them ready if there are technical difficulties so you don't have to stop rocking!
Drive The Preamp Tubes
Most people use dirt pedals as such, and that's certainly fine, but they are also very useful in other ways. You can get a very good result using them to drive the tubes in the preamp section of your amp. If you reduce the gain and boost the volume you can get a cleaner boost, or go the other way around and increase the gain and balance that with the output volume.
If there is a pedal that you really dig the sound of, considering leaving it in an always on setting and using that to shape what the signal that gets to your amp. With proper gain-staging you can totally re-invent your sound. This can be really fun with pedals like the Tech 21 Character series that model specific types of amps.
The same concept as above also applies to using the pedal as a boost. You can dial it in to be a clean or dirty boost, and use this in different ways. The clean boost can be kicked in to take solos to another level, or the dirty boost can throw more gain on the signal.
This idea is built around the tone section of your pedal of choice, and probably won't sound that great if said section isn't that great in your pedal. Dial up the tone level, pull back on the gain, and increase the volume. You can mix the gain in for a dirty treble booster sound.
High gain and volume settings can make a pedal a great feedbacker. Hit the pedal when you want feedback, turn it off when not. This can be a great way to control feedback. Very fun to experiment with!
The sound of 2 guitars can be approximated by dialing down the feedback, pushing the delay time a little bit, while at a shorter setting of approx. 50ms. Very cool if you're the only guitarist in your band!
These two are related for obvious reasons and most delay pedals can get a good reverb sound.
Rotary Speaker Effect
This works especially well with a stereo tremolo. Set it to a slower rate and you can get a Leslie, rotating speaker type of effect.
Set your tremolo to a slower rate and you can get volume swells. You can play some very cool violin-like lines at this setting.
Electric Piano Sound
If you balance the rate and depth with a sine wave setting, a cool pseudo-electric piano sound is possible.
Unique hybrid sounds of chorus and tremolo are possible with most chorus pedals by balancing rate and depth knobs.
Chorus pedals are great for getting really out of tune types of sounds. These can be really cool in genres like metal to throw on lead lines, and are also great in any way you could find useful. Fun to try.
Many flangers are capable of a great chorus sound, as the two effects are closely-related. Check out what yours can do!
A cool tremolo effect can be dialed in on most flangers. Mix with that the modulation of the flanger and some otherworldly sounds can be had.
Many octave pedals are capable of getting thick unison sounds, another fun thing to try if you're the only guitarist in your band.
See what kind of thick, synthy sounds your octave of choice is capable of. Easier to get with a pedal that has multiple octave knobs.
Another cool idea for lead lines, dial in a setting that gives an arpeggio quality to your playing. Very easy to do with polyphonic octave pedals.
These are only a few ideas to get you started. Some pedals are more versatile than others, but most are good for a wide range of sounds. Go get experimental!
About The Author:
Brandon Stoner runs Audio Ecstasy Productions out of Los Angeles, CA specializing in guitar and backline tech for touring, custom stompbox and cable design for stage and studio, audio engineering, and many other audio and guitar-related services.