Guitar effects: Most Popular

If you want to expand on your Guitar playing experience, then the most obvious course you will take is the use of Guitar Effects pedals.

Five very common Effects Pedals are as follows:


1.  Compression Pedal

This pedal is the hardest to use and the least understood. However, it is an extremely useful pedal. Effectively the Compressor enables the guitarist to play over a wide dynamic range – from loud solos to soft rhythmic chords – while maintaining the same output volume of the Amplifier. This way the audience can not only hear those softer passages, but also the more dynamic lead work without drowning out the other musicians.

An effect put to good use, is the ability of the Compressor to enable long sustained notes, far beyond the natural ability of the instrument. Ideal for all Gary Moore type sustained notes which seem to last forever

Care must be taken when using a Compressor, as improper use can lead to the introduction of noise, or lead to a rather bland dynamic performance.


2.  Tremolo Pedal

A very popular Pedal used in the 60’s and is still used today. The Tremolo Pedal produces a vibrato effect to the chord or single note by changing the volume of the signal – the variation of which is determined by the user. The Pedal allows control of both the signal depth and rate of the speed variation, due to a sine wave which is applied to a Voltage-Controlled Amplifier. It’s the Frequency and Amplitude of the sine wave – which the controls alter – that affects both the rate and depth of the effect.



3.  Overdrive and Distortion Pedals

Overdrive and Distortion Pedals are used to amplify the guitar signal to the point where the sound produced is anything between a warm rich ‘clipped’ sound to a dirty or gritty tone. Depending on your budget, the number of controls, and hence the available tone variations, vary from pedal to pedal. These range from just a few simple pots and a footswitch, to more complex versions incorporating Tone Shaping facilities.



4.  Wah Wah Pedal

The Wah Wah produces an effect, which sounds similar to a human voice saying – yep you’ve guessed it ‘wah’. The effect is produced by a foot pedal in the form of a rocking treadle, and is great for enhancing your lead or rhythmic playing.

Being a bit technical again, the Wah effect is produced by a low-pass filter whose cut-off frequency is control by the foot pedal. Interestingly, this type of low-pass filter is used often in modern Dance or Trance type music where the high frequencies of the song are gradually filtered out until only a kind of muffled beat is left. As the high frequencies are restored the sound returns to normal.


5.           Chorus pedal

A Choir or Orchestra creates the chorus effect naturally in music, where all are singing or playing the same piece. This is due to the time variations and differences in timbre, which creates a ‘shimmering’ or ‘spatial’ effect. This effect is also created when double tracking is used in Recording Studios. In the case of a Guitar Chorus Effect, the signal is split and vibrato is added to one. The signals are then re-mixed, creating the effect of multiple guitars playing together. Altering the rate or depth of the vibrato controls the chorus effect.




Guitarist set up their effect pedals in two ways. By use of multi-effects Units that have various types of Guitar Effects in one ‘box’ – which range in price depending on the facilities available. Where most are now microprocessor controlled, many tone and parameter settings are available to the musician.

The other method is by the use of individual pedals which are ‘daisy chained’ together by short cables. Many guitarists have favourite individual pedals, therefore they adopt this method. Also, pedals can be bought separately if you happen to be on a low budget and added to the chain. The downturn is that the set-up time takes longer and more cables are involved (which always seem to go wrong at the gig).


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