Pedals: An Explanation For Beginner Guitarists

It's about the most popular types of guitar pedals that exist.

Ultimate Guitar
Wah Wah pedal One of the most popular guitar effects, it works by varying the frequency of the signal's tone through a foot pedal. A good wah-wah technique involves moving the foot pedal in time with the music , creating some amazing rhythmic effects. It's a sound thats been used by countless guitarists in all styles. Think Hendrix's Voodoo Chile or Isaac Hayes's Theme from Shaft. An Auto-Wah does the same thing but instead of using a pedal to control the frequencies, it sweeps through them automatically. You can either set it to move over a preset time period or apply a filter to react to how loud or soft you play. Delay A delay takes a sound and repeats it back without altering its tone or pitch, like an echo. You can alter the time between each repetition, measured in thousandths of a second, or milliseconds. Available in Analogue or Digital. The most obvious example is The Edge of U2 , whose classic guitar parts couldnt have been written without a delay pedal. Flanger A close relation to the phaser, but with an even more exagerrated effect. A flanger provides very distinctive modualted psychedelic wooshes and other undulating sounds. It works by boosting and reducing various frequencies applying delay and oscillators and feeding some of the delayed effect back to the original. You can get a range of sounds out of it, including similar effects to chorus, short delay, tremolo and vibrato , right up to the extreme almost synth-like effects. But the most famous sound associated with a flanger is the rushing Jet Aeroplane sound as used by many guitarists, including Eddie Van Halen. Check out Van Halen's song Eruption. Phaser The Phaser effect is so named because it attempts to create the sound of two sounds out of sync, or "out of phase". It does this by using an oscillator across the frequency range and mixing the resulting sound back with the original signal . The result is a thick sound often used in funk and rock playing. There are controls to adjust the the phase effect, while some varieties feature a resonance control for a wider range of effects. You can also use a phaser to achieve tonal modulations , a bit like a wah-wah pedal, and some models enable you to adjust the undulation and speed rate by stepping on the pedal itself. Chorus This effect thickens up the signal to make it sound like more than one instrument. It can also add sparkle and warmth and give a standard guitar 12-string quality . Digital and analogue chorus pedals are now available and these work by delaying the sound by thousandths of a second, sometimes with a slightly altered pitch, and then combining it back with the original signal. Noise Gate This is more of a controller than an effect. A gate lets sound through only after it reaches a specicfic threshold and it cuts off or closes the gate on anything below that level. This is useful for controlloing noise such as the hum from your pickups or the swoop from a flanger. When you stop playing the gate closes and you dont have any embarrassing stray noises emanating from your amp. Gates can be used in conjunction with other pedals to create special effects, such as making your reverb cut off abruptly. Compressor This is the one of the subtlest effects you can apply to a guitar and it's often hard for the beginner to determine exactly how the sound has changed. It reduces the difference between loud and soft sounds, making an overall sound more constant in volume. By increasing the output, this will make the lighter notes seem louder while ensuring that the loudest notes don't go over a specific level which is great for percussive styles like country and funk. You can also use it to enhance sustain, by adjusting the amount of time it takes for the note to die out. Cheers, JC Rea

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Thanks for the info. I have got to try the compressor or noise gate. Anyone no what ZNR/AMP dose? I have a Zoom 505II Multi-effects pedal. Thanks
    come as u are by nirvana uses a chorus in the intro. hey and i need help ive got a marshall amp and its got 10 different reverbs! wat does reverb do? im pretty new to effects
    Geldof the Grey
    a wah-pedal is NOT the same as a tremolo, fool. This article just doesn't do it for me, sorry, but it was lacking details or advice on the use of effects and it didn't even touch upon a bunch of effects... is a sequel on it's way?
    i've been playing for some years now and haven't bought a peddal yet because of all the diffrent settings styles ect. so i just bought one of those gel fish picks and it gives me all the effects i need to play what i want,but don't use one live there way to quite
    wow this is exactly the article i was looking for. i was completely clueless about pedals and now i have some idea what its all about.
    Can a wah pedal compensate for the lack of a traditional tremolo lever? Most guitars in the mid range tend to have either a good sound or a tremolo, not both.
    nice article, i like i like, one thing i wanna know though because i never set ft on a wah pedal. does wah make it easier to do bends during solos? like the crazy bends (i dont know exactly how to explain but I hope you understand)+ is there a difference between cry baby and wah pedal?
    So many different effects, but yet, are there new ones to come? I'd say of course, evolution happens in many forms. hehe. Let me think..... I know!! Someone please create a delay with a waaaah sound first, then when it comes back it reverts to a aaaahhhww sound, how neat would that be?
    Someone asked what 'ZNR' is in their Zoom multi? I have a Zoom GFX-707, and i use the ZNR a lot. It stands for Zoom Noise Reduction, and acts as a noise gate, which is explained in this article. The value that you give the ZNR (from 1 - 10) sets how much noise is cut off. If i'm sitting in front of my computer to play, ill use an effect with a high ZNR, cause my screen makes my pickups buzz like all hell. Hope that helped! Anyway, great article. There's never too much stuff for new players, and even experienced players who are too embarrassed to ask for help
    good stuff. i notice that there's a TREMENDOUS demand for beginner's info on this site, so i think we should keep on making articles like this. it's the phenomenon where people don't know what to ask, or don't know how to ask it. if you can, do another article like this, with the other effects. ps: i always feel like i'm cheating when i use an effect. i hate the thought that if i was left with nothing but a guitar and an amp, i couldn't play anything. to each his own though. wah pedals still rule.
    Yo thanx man, I think you've helped me alot, cuz in a couple of months (Inshallah) I'm going to (Inshallah) buy a guitar and of course a pedal, so thanx man...
    Good explanation. Good article if you like effects, another good examply of a flanger is in satch boogie, the tapping part by Joe satriani.
    HAts off to you! well done, i was just about to make a thread about effects, no need now though
    what about a tubescreamer, tremolo, whammy, envelope, detuner, vibrato and panners??
    thx man you've made it clearer to me now, i was lookin for something like sustain for my guitar and i'm gonna buy a pedal soon so thanks again.
    pedals are wsome.. they only suck when people depend on them for tallent, like tom morello can kick anyones ass using a clean channel, but he uses heaps of effects to allow more room for creativity, thats gret. Someone however canty play shit and just plays a hell basic pentonic scale with wah distortion and chorus just sucks
    pedals are very cool if you just feel like chillin and testin some effects when ur just foolin around. I think they rule no matter what your skill level is. PS i partially agree with jc rea good article too, i know articles are harder to make than one might think, bc you have to watch out for anything that mite offend anyone i should know i occasionally write articles fer my newspaper. Anyways great article very informative!
    hey is there a pedal where you could get all those effects in freind has one and i'm trying to find if there is one in stock in shops (i only have the same as Mosquitocoil's Zoom GFX-707 but i want a different with more effects)...yea the article is a great tip for beginners and hard-rockers. the simple thing comes to my mind, that the cost of all of these effect pedals must be very costly..