The Guide To Effects

A guide on how to use effects and distortions. What is each effect and how you can use it.

Ultimate Guitar
It's normal when you play the first time your guitar you get a little dissapointed because you can't get the sound of your favorite artist. But how they get their sounds? Besides their technique and the amps, the use pedals. The pedals are boxes with circuits plugged between the guitar and the amps that modifies the sounds, but not only you can obtain sounds with the peddals, also you can use multieffects, and effects integrated in the amps.


The distortion was invented one day when a guy was playing the guitar with a lot of volume and the amp was overdriving, and he liked the distorton that it made. After the years people improved the distortions and they invented a diferent kind of distortiions like:
  • Distortion: Well, it's the standard distortion, it uses to play rock, make solos, etc. Bands like Aerosmith, Guns and a lot of bands uses them, it can changes depending of the amps etc..
  • Overdrive: that pedal is used with a little distortion, for example, you get a little distortion with your amp, and plug the overdrive, and you get a crunchy song, like hot, it uses to make rythms, and sometimes for soloing. This distortion is like noisy buy it's not heavy like other distortions. Bands like Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, ometimes Guns N' Roses uses that effect.
  • Fuzz: Was used in the 60's and 70's. It is like the overdrive but the sound is like Vintage. Now bands like Strokes, White Stripes and that bands use it.
  • Blues: This distortion as the name says, is used to play blues, is familiar of fuzz and overdrive. Clapton and that kinds of guitarists love this sound.
  • Lead: It's like distortion but it has more Gain, and it's for make solos, like Marty Friedmand and Slash. You maybe can't get this sound in pedals, but you can get in the amps or multieffects.


  • Reverb: It produces a normal echo, for example imagine that you play in your bathroom, an empty house or in a hall. You can change the level of reverb and the kind. This is not common in the pedals, you can almost always get on amps or multieffects because it's a must have, is not a crazy effect, it works if you don't want that your guitar sounds dry.
  • Delay: This is an echo, that repeats the sound (2 times, 4 times etc, in different times), like if you were in a very big open place, you shout something, and it repeats. This effect produces an athmosferic sound, it's very sugestive. It's common used to make songs with feeling like Radiohead for example. It's supposed that Pink Floyd nvented this effect, (Another brick on the wall), bands like Smiths, The Cure and U2, used a lot the delay, in fact, it were the bassis of their music. Nowadays, bands like, Radiohead or Coldplay uses that effect.
  • Flanger And Phaser: That effects are almost the same, you can hear that the sound is being sweeped, but the flanger for example it sounds like an aeroplane, is like a harder sweep but is not very pronounced. And the phaser is like fine sweep but very pronounced, the phaser sometimes is used to play solos.
  • Chorus: It's like a 12 string guitar, and it's sound like full. Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden it's an example.
  • Tremolo: Some people think that is delay but is very different because the tremolo, cut constantly the sound and it sounds like a ship. Songs like How Soon Is Now (Smiths) and Like A Stone (Audioslave) have tremolo. This is the tremolo effect, but other diferent things are called tremolo. For example tremolo also is when you pick constantly and quickly a string, or the whammy bar is called tremolo.
  • Compressor: It "calibrates" the sound, for example, a higher tone could hear louder than a lower tone, but the compressor makes that it doesn't happen and all the tones sound at the same volume, also it gives more gain and by that, this is used to make solos.
  • Wah-wahs: It changes the frecuences constantly, is like the cousin of the phaser, but it makes a sound like if the guitar were saying "waaah". There are 2 forms of wah wah, the auto-wah, that the wah increases with the attack that you give to the strings. And the manual wah is a pedal, like a car pedal, where you manipulate the wah as you want. Jimmy Hendrix invented that effect, and it's used for soloing.
  • Reverse Delay: The way to produce the sound (circuit) is almost the same that the normal delay but the sound is very different, with that effect the guitar sounds like a violin, because it supress the hiss that you give to the strings, and produces a soft attack.
  • 77 comments sorted by best / new / date

      it was okay...basically you listed what I already knew, you just gave effects and what bands used them. Like me, you should try a bit harder next time
      I'm pretty sure we're all not here to be this guy's english teacher. I'm sure he didn't put any mistakes in the article on purpose, so why the hell criticize him so harshly? Even if some of his stuff was inaccurate, a simple "Actually, it does this" would have sufficed rather than a "Learn your stuff before you make an article about it!" Because, after all, he made this article to try and help you guys, and he MORE than likely thought he knew what he was talking about. Dude, if you ever have another article don't be afraid to post it up again. I'm sure there were plenty of people that didn't comment that got something out of this. -cheers-
      Lol - some of the comments are more useful than the article! Seriously though: it was good but, as has been pointed out, the spelling/grammar could do with some work.
      Jimi didn't invent the wah. Vox got the idea from Clyde McCoy (a trumpet player), and decided to produce a similar effect.
      BigAndy's response was better than this entire freaking article..... way to hand this guy his ass on a plate big andy, i salute you
      Almost Imfamous
      and let him go on the reseach of the wah pedal. does it matter? hendrix made it big... when you hear the word "wah" you probly think of hendrix dont you??
      Ignoring the fact the english is bad (not necessarily your fault) this article is STILL poor, because it has so many inaccuracies. Tremolo IS NOT what the whammy bar on a guitar is, the whammy bar is a tremE lo bar, and tremO lo is an effect, wherein the volume decreases to 0 and increases to the original level, over and over. The amount of people who are ignorant of this simple fact amazes me. Also, fuzz is not "overdrive but like Vintage" fuzz is a lot harsher than overdrive, like some of Jimi Hendrix' sound. The technical reason for this is the order of harmonics being emphasised, fuzz emphasises even numbered harmonics, and overdrive emphasises odd numbered ones. Also overdrive is just a name for slight distortion, because they are both examples of clipping the audio signal.
      you are all saying shit about the article but if you are that good why dont you make one better??
      well.. the explanation and list of effects is decent for a novice, but most of the history and lil notes given are quite wrong.. for example, hendrix did NOT invent the wah.. frank zappa used the wah pedal before jimi hendrix did .. anyway, i agree with Alfablue abt the language
      I think we should encourage people to have a go at submitting articles even if their English is far from perfect. Lets face it, anyone with reasonable intelligence can work out the general meaning here, and who can honestly say they always write or speak the language so perfectly? There is not much evidence on this thread! Do you imagine English speakers DON'T sound funny when attempting other languages? Don't be so parochial (or "little Englanders") Give the man a pat on the back for having a go - he's braver than me! I wouldn't want all this grief for trying to help!
      Almost Imfamous
      leave the poor dude alone on the language!! at least he (or she..i dont know) was kind enough to post this for you. you obviously needed it if your here. so let the man go! like KamikazeGuy said!
      This site has really gone down a black hole because of all these talantless foreigners using a dictonary to directly translate their lessons and what not, I learned english from reading and by surfing the internet, not by school, so even if they don't have english as a subject in their schools they should be able to learn the f**king language somewhat decently for christ sake! Goddamn I hate when you read something and you figure it could mean 12 different things...
      strat 01
      english was bad and you dont spell jimmy hendrix like that it is jimi hendrix
      not bad article is. language confusing is very. Not that bad but Yoda speaks better english
      I'm correcting my grammatical/ typographcal errors: *You, *I'm, *I, and *since. Sorry for the inconvenience...
      you forgot to classify the effects to their respective types: Overdrive/Distortion, Modulation, Dynamic, and EQ. i'm not saying this to criticize you, i just though that you should know wince others may get confused...
      The wah was invented by a sound tech guy who was just trying stuff out and when he first played the wah everyone came looking to see what was making the noise. I forget his name...
      me foreign man like play geeettt7r it nice sound mmake ears happy me use delay it not reverb but llike reverb but not reverb9. me like wah woh it go waaaa waaaa waaa.. waaa.. waaa.. waaa.. all live long day,;0 it sound like jimmy handtricks
      i can clearly see that he's first language is spanish, nice try, the point of the article was clear, although the writing dont be so mad, nobodys perfect
      ok artical but you didn't cover noise gate,pitch shifter,volume pedals and order of effects,multieffects or rack effects. It was more the history of pedals than the guide of pedals
      they leave these posts open too long, ppl start repeatin 'emselves - anywho, good article, finally someone explains the difference btween distortion and overdrive - if somewhat vaguely - and yeah, leave the guy alone! learning languages sux
      Brendan DEwald
      hey my spelling is worse then the guy who wrote the article(and yes it can be that bad and ges what my haome language is english).So stop critisising him he wrote this article to help you guys and his spelling might be bad but i bet he knows more about sound affects on guitar than halve of you guys so shut up everyone that is critisising him(so i dont know how to spell that word) .
      A compressor evens out the volume in the sound, so it all sounds the same. Its generally used for recording vocals and clean guitar. Some say it takes away the guitars tone. It can also add sustain (by making the note louder when its actually so quiet you can harly hear it).
      \m/ (o o) \m/
      lol, it was funny how your english sounds like chinese people trying to talk english. But I understood it...Good Article
      aw shit... improve ur english man. can understand wad u're writing.
      Tom Martin
      Reverse delay? Is that when the guitar predicts what note your about to play and delays it before you've even got to it?
      Backup Guitar
      dude, like, well, like, this wasn't exactly great... "like" isn't the only work in the english language!
      downhillbattler, "u" is spelt "you", "an" should have a d on the end and "mate" contains no numbers Seriously though, do some more research before posting articles like this in the future. It is helpful though.
      Reverse delay? Is that when the guitar predicts what note your about to play and delays it before you've even got to it?
      no its a delay in reverse. the solo in "give it away" by the red hot chilli peppers uses reverse delay. this did not need to be written. only the newest beginner doesn't know this stuff. and the rolling stones, aerosmith, and gnr use amp settings not pedals