What Do Guitar Pedals Do?

The best of the best have it. The up and coming all want to get it. Today, we’re going to be talking about guitar pedals. Particularly, we’ll be answering the lingering question in your heart “what exactly do guitar pedals do”?

Before we answer that question, we need to, first of all, determine what guitar pedals are in the first place. 

Photo by Anton Shuvalov on Unsplash

What Is A Guitar Pedal?

A guitar pedal is basically that small metal box that stays on the floor in front of you while you’re playing. You manipulate the switches using your feet, which is why they are called pedals. 

The essence of a pedal is to alter the tone and sound of your guitar. This gives you a lot more creative freedom while playing as you can create a lot more sounds with the guitar. 

For example, you can make the guitar sound louder and cleaner by adding some fuzz, reverb, and whammy. If you don’t know what all these mean, don’t worry at all. These are things you’ll get to know about the more you learn about guitar pedals. 

Types Of Guitar Pedals

Now that we know what guitar pedals are and have a rough idea of what they do, let’s look at the different types of guitar pedals there are. We would also be looking at how each of these guitar types affects the sound and tone of your guitar. 

Photo by Frankie Lopez on Unsplash

Distortion Pedals 

Distortion pedals are the most popular type of guitar pedals there are. There’s no need to wonder what these are, it’s right there in their name. Distortion pedals that the sound that guitar produces, adds a big of volume sustain, and crunch, thereby “distorting” its original sound. 

This is done to contrast the normal sound of your guitar. If you listen to the choruses of some of the greatest rock hits, you would see this being used often in their choruses. 

They definitely sound similar to overdrive and fuzz pedals (both of which we’re going to look at soon). However, with a bit of training, your ear would begin to tell apart, one from the other. 

If you want to listen to how a distortion pedal alters the sound of your guitar, watch the video below. Also, if you want to buy a distortion pedal and you’re on the lookout for some of the best ones, watch the video below:

Reverb Pedals 

If you have an amplifier, it might already have a pre-installed reverb. If that’s the case, then there is no need to go out and get another reverb pedal. This is unless the amplifier doesn’t give you the option to turn the reverb off, which you would be able to do with a footswitch. 

So what’s a reverb pedal? Well, basically, a reverb pedal gives your guitar sound some echo and weight. It makes you sound like you’re playing in a big empty church where the sound just keeps reverberating off the walls.

This makes your guitar sound weightier than it actually is. And if the song you’re playing requires it, cranking the reverb on these pedals up will give that filling effect. It will sound like you’re playing in an empty cave. 

Click here to find a list of some of the best reverb pedals. 

Do you want to buy a reverb pedal? Watch the video below as it would definitely help you out. The video will teach you what to look out for when choosing a reverb pedal. It will also teach you what you should be expecting in terms of price. 

Overdrive Pedals

They are often confused with distortion pedals because they look similar and can get similar results. However, they are completely different from one another. While distortion pedals completely change the sound of your guitar, overdrive pedals only drive the already existing sound. 

With overdrive pedals, you still keep a lot of your guitar’s original sound. It only overdrives the amplifier such that it produces a much thicker and heavier signal. 

They are mainly used for tube/valve amplifiers. This is because tube amps naturally don’t have a lot of distortion, this helps drive that further to bring out more distortion than it normally would.

Check out this list of really good overdrive pedals here. 

Do you want to get an overdrive pedal for yourself? Watch the video below to understand the things you’ll need to look out for before purchasing an overdrive pedal. This would help you pick the overdrive pedal that works best for you. 

Fuzz Pedals

Unlike the other pedals we’ve been talking about, fuzz pedals also work well for keyboardists and bass players. It creates a distortion. However, it’s a much heavier distortion that is very distinct from other distortion sounds. 

See also  How To Write A Melody On The Guitar

With a fuzz pedal, your guitar is made to sound like your amplifier will soon blow up, literally. It completely alters the sound of your guitar and changes it into a very heavy and noisy sound. 

Depending on the type of fuzz pedal and the amplifier it’s attached to, this can result in a very bass noise, or make it sound like your amplifier is broken. 

At this point, we’re sure you’re wondering what the difference between fuzz and a distortion pedal is, being that both of them distort the sound of the guitar. Well, we’ve got you covered. 

Watch the video below as it would give you a proper understanding of the differences between a fuzz guitar pedal and a distortion guitar pedal. 

Boost Pedals

A boost pedal gives your guitar sound a boost, without altering it as a distortion pedal would. So, you get an increase in the strength of signal that goes into your guitar’s amplifier. 

This way, you won’t have to use a distortion pedal to shoot the volume up when you are about entering a chorus or solo. Boost pedals would help you fatten your sound by pushing your amplifier to be louder and harder. 

Watch the video below to give you an idea of what different types of boost pedals are available to you and which is the best for your particular needs. 

Wah Pedals 

Lol, these ones are a bit funny because of their name. But like the other types of pedals we’ve talked about, the name gives off what it does. Slowly play the sound in your head “wah, wah, wah, wah”. Uh-huh, that’s what this pedal sounds like. 

This effect is mainly used in rock and funk solos because, believe it or not, it actually sounds cool. 

But these pedals are actually quite funny. In fact, two of the most popular Wah pedals are called the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal and the Electro-Harmonix Wailer Wah. Aren’t they just funny? Cry-baby and wailer. 

Watch the video below to get a feel of what wah pedal sounds like. Also, if you’re in the market for a wah pedal, the video would help you decide which one is best for you.

Delay Pedals

Just like the name implies, delay pedals take input from your guitar and then delay the playback time by how long you set it. It does not alter the input signal it gets. 

So, the exact same note or chord you play is what the pedal would give out, only that it is delayed. Normally, it would give off this sound only once. However, you can change the feedback time to make it sound multiple times. 

When you’re searching for delay pedals, you would come across two types. Digital and Analogue delay pedals. Picking between either is a thing of preference as opposed to functionality. 

The digital delay pedal would produce a much cleaner and longer sound. This sound is usually a more accurate depiction of what you initially played, compared to the analog delay pedal. 

While some guitarists prefer the accurate and clean sound from the digital delay pedal, some others prefer the slight nuances of the analog delay pedal. So, it’s best you figure out which you would prefer, and then go with that. 

For a more comprehensive overview of the differences between analog and digital delay pedals, we suggest that you watch the comparison video below:

Chorus Pedals

Chorus pedals will have your one chord sounding as if it’s being played by three different guitarists at the same time. It creates that illusion by producing slightly different sounds at different times. 

The difference in the sounds and times they are played are so minute that you would feel it’s just the difference in the speed and timing of different guitarists. The effect would create a warbly sound that either fattens the bass or the guitar lines, depending on your settings. 

These effect pedals can do a really good job of adding some weight to your sound. This is definitely one you should check out. 

If you’re trying to pick one up for yourself, check out these 10 options by watching the video below. That should give you a fair idea of what they sound like and which you might prefer. 

Flanger Pedals

These pedals are very similar to chorus pedals. However, while chorus pedals produce a more warbly effect, flanger pedals produce a more whooshing effect that is more noticeable than the effect produced by chorus pedals. 

With this effect, your signal goes up and down in pitch.

If you want a more comprehensive comparison between flanger and chorus pedals, then we suggest you watch the video below. It would give you a complete understanding of what each pedal does and how they differ from one another. 

Phaser Pedals MXR M101 Phase 90 Guitar Effects Pedal

These are also similar to chorus pedals. However, they are not as close as flanger pedals. These pedals thicken up your sound and add a sweeping effect to it. It makes it feel like the speakers inside the amplifier are spinning. 

Do you know how your guitar sounds when you move away from your amplifier and then move close to it again? Yeah, that’s the kind of effect that these pedals produce. You can change how long you want this effect to last and how quickly you want the “spinning” effect to be. 

See also  How To Set Up An Electric Guitar

Tuner Pedals

A tuner pedal is one of the most essential tools you must have in your arsenal as a guitarist, no matter what skill level you are at. A tuner pedal makes it really easy and convenient to tune your guitar, whether you’re just sitting at home, or you’re at a live concert. 

The great thing about tuner pedals is that once they’re engaged, the signal to the amplifier is cut off. That means nobody will hear you struggling to find the right pitch. 

The great thing about tuner pedals is that they don’t only work with the standard E-E tuning. Even if you have a baritone guitar with a B-B tuning, you can still properly tune it with your tuner pedal. 

As if that’s not enough, the best thing about these things is that they are super affordable. Don’t believe us? Watch the video review of the Monoprice Guitar Tuner below:

Octave Pedals

Octave pedals basically add an octave of the note you’re playing so it sounds like someone else is playing that octave with you. This can either be an octave higher or an octave lower. It totally depends on your settings.

You can also set it to play both the higher and the lower notes at the same time. This helps to fatten up your sound, making your riffs and solos sound a lot cooler. 

In fact, if you know your way around octave pedals, you might not need a bassist in the near future. Want to find out how to do it? Watch the video below:

Acoustic Simulator Guitar Pedals

MOOER Acoustic Guitar Effect Pedal, 2.25 x 4.25 x 1.75 (Acoustikar)

While octave pedals can be used to eliminate bassists, these pedals can be used to eliminate your rhythm guitarist (if they play the acoustic). They would take your guitar signal and convert it to sound acoustic. 

This way, you can easily switch from an acoustic to an electric sound midway through a song if there’s any need for it. It’s great for guitarists who are also singers. You can use the acoustic version when you’re singing along, and use your normal electric to play solos.

EQ Pedals

These pedals enable you to quickly adjust and equalize your sound. So, you’re able to tune the bass, mid, and treble frequencies, independently. 

As a beginner, this is definitely not something you should be worrying yourself about. Most people who use EQ pedals are experienced guitarists. 

Looper Pedals

Now, this pedal is not necessarily an effect pedal. In fact, as a beginner, this is one pedal that we highly suggest you get because of its great features. A looper pedal is a tool with which you record your notes, chord progressions, riffs, and then play them back with your amplifier. 

It’s great for practice. With this, you can record a particular chord progression, loop it, and then play a leading line on top of it. It would sound like there are two guitars playing, one melody and one solo, but the melody track is only being looped. 

It’s pretty easy to use. You step on the pedal to record the input signal and step on it again to stop. Once it stops, it begins to play that sound over and over again in a loop.

Because it’s such a great tool, we suggest that you learn how to use the looper pedal to its fullest potential. Simply click on the video below to watch and understand how to use the looper pedal.

Compressor Pedals

Compressor pedals are like looper pedals in the sense that they can’t both be classed as tools, rather than effects. 

Basically, what this pedal does is that it removes every form of dynamism in your playing. Such that, every note you play is produced on the same volume, whether the string is played hard or soft.

There are two main groups of people who love to use this tool. The first are guitarists who love to solo. With this, they can add a lot of sustain to a particular sound by just allowing it to ring for longer.

The second group is the bass players. They use this tool to ensure that every note they play can be heard properly. 

To find out which compressor pedal you should pick up based on your personal needs, we suggest that you watch this video below. It also gives you a deeper understanding of what compressor pedals are and how you can make use of them. 

Tremolo Pedals

This one is a bit technical. These pedals take the signal from your guitar and then chop it up. This makes it sound like your volume is appearing and disappearing rapidly. 

You that stuff you do when you strike a string very hard and then rapidly increase and decrease the volume of your guitar? Exactly. That’s what this effect does for you. 

You can alter stuff like the speed at which it drops and gets back up, and also how drastic the cut off is when it happens. You can set it to completely cut off the sound, or for it to just reduce it by a certain amount. 

Volume Pedals

BOSS Volume Pedal (FV-500H)

These ones are very basic. They are used to control the volume of your guitar. However, as we’re sure you must have figured out by now, with these guitar pedals, there’s always a catch. 

See also  What is Gm7 Guitar Chord? Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

Well, the difference between these pedals and the volume knob directly on your guitar or amplifier is that these can produce volume swells, as well as fade-ins. 

Other than that, they’re very basic and super easy to use. Just step on it and go. 

Noise Gate Pedals

Noise gate pedals are called into action when there are other effects in use. If you have a lot of different effects being used at the same time, you can get some humming and buzz from your amplifier. You would notice this more if you are using amplifiers or guitars that have a high gain. 

Sometimes, you might notice this without using any effects. Any which way, if you notice your amplifier buzzing when you leave your guitar without playing it, then you need a noise gate pedal. 

Basically what a noise gate pedal does is that it completely shuts off the signal such that when you’re not playing, no noise gets through to your amplifier. Once you start playing, it opens the channel and allows sound to pass through. 

What Pedals Do You Need As A Beginner?

Tuner Pedal

It’ll help you tune your guitar easily and quickly. It won’t alter your sound in any way but it’s definitely a must-have for every guitarist. Playing out of tune is worse than not being able to play at all. 

Distortion Pedal 

It’s the most popular sound altering pedal. It’s easy to sound, and it sounds “effect-ish”. It’s great for riffs and solos and makes your chords stand out. It also gives your guitar some aggression which is great, especially if you’re playing rock. 

Looper Pedal

The looper pedal will make practice more interesting by allowing you to play some solos over a rhythm you’ve played. It’s a great way to practice and jam out. 


Photo by Michael Henry on Unsplash

Alright! We’ve come to the end of this article. We’ve looked at what counts as a guitar pedal, 19 different types of guitar pedals, and the basic three guitar pedals you need as a beginner. 

As a beginner, you should be more concerned about practicing and getting better than anything else. This is why we put in two non-effect pedals as part of the top three pedals you need when you’re just getting started. 

Remember, practice might not make perfect, but it definitely makes better. 

What Is A Guitar Pedal? – Frequently Asked Questions

What pedals should every guitarist have?

Pedals can be used to transform the tone of your music and make it sound more unique. There are many different pedals you could purchase, but some are regarded as must-haves. These include a tuning pedal to achieve that clear and precise pitch from your strings. 

A volume pedal is also fundamental, acting as a pure volume signal for your guitar or as a master volume signal. Other pedals worth purchasing are the Wah-Wah pedal, Overdrive pedal, Distortion pedal, Compressor/EQ Pedals, Chorus Pedal, Delay Pedal, and Reverb Pedal. 

What does a guitar delay pedal do?

A delay pedal is used to record and playback any music that is fed to it. The playback usually happens in milliseconds. Delay pedals can be employed lightly to enhance sound and fill up guitar solos with a little space. 

On the other hand, they can be used heavily to achieve amazingly creative sounds. Delay pedals have been identified as a hidden force behind many astounding guitar performances as it brings immense richness to your sound when employed skillfully. 

How can I get cheap guitar pedals?

You can get cheap guitar pedals without having to break the bank. There are pedals under $100 that are reputed to be some of the best and highly respected guitar pedals in the industry. 

Some of these include the Boss DS-I distortion pedal which costs just over $50 or the Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby standard Wah Pedal that’s also under $100. One great place to get these pedals at affordable rates is by purchasing them online. Amazon sells some of these. Also check out sites like Cheaper pedals.com, guitarcenter.com, gear4music.com, or aclamguitars.com.

Should I get a distortion or overdrive pedal?

There is a common misconception that distortion and overdrive pedals are essentially the same things. This is not true. An overdrive pedal adds gain and texture to your clean tone. It emulates a cranked amplifier. 

A distortion pedal, on the other hand, deliberately clips and distorts the signal from the guitar. This results in a harsher and louder sound often different from the original sound. Distortion pedals are perfect if you are a rock or metal player. Overdrive pedals are often used in rock too, to get a “break up” clean tone or to play solos and blues licks.

Did Jimi Hendrix use pedals?

Jimi Hendrix is arguably one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He left a legacy in the guitar world that remains evergreen today. 

Hendrix was known to have used a number of different pedals throughout his stellar career. Hendrix was known to use the Wah pedal so much that he became synonymous with it. The Octavia pedal was custom designed for Hendrix. This pedal mixes the original guitar sound and an octave higher with some fuzz distortion flavor using Fuzz face pedals. Hendrix was also known to use the Uni-Vibe pedal. 

How many guitar pedals is too many?

There is a belief that having more pedals in your signal chain will weaken your signal volume and quality. This hypothesis has been put to the test at Andertons Music Co, using a variety of dynamic pedals, overdrive pedals, modulation, and ambient pedals. A total of 16 pedals were used. 

They found theta the number of pedals in your chain does not weaken signals but could result in a faint decline in volume and sharpness. So the answer to this question is not quite definite, some advocate that the “less is more” while others posit that you could add as many pedals as desired to your signal chain.

Leave a Comment