Effects Basics: Everything You Need to Get Started
by Mark White
George's Music, North Wales
Effects and pedals are really fun to explore. There are many options available to musicians and - when choosing an effects pedal - there is no wrong answer. There are many different effects and many different and creative ways to utilize them. At George's Music, we help guitarists find that perfect sound no matter what style of music they play.
There are some "old standbys" in the pedal world that are as important today as they were when they were released. In a lot of cases it can be important to have these pedals (or their modern counterparts) in your collection or on a board because many songs and musical situations still call for them. Dunlop's Original CryBaby Wah Pedal is a great example of an effect that never goes out of style.
To keep things simple, I’m going to discuss some basics that will cover most of the tonal ground. You can certainly expand on this and interject your own personal pedal tastes and preferences, but these are the basics to get through any gig.
I always recommend a pedal tuner when available. Clip-On tuners are awesome, and ultimately can save space on your pedalboard, but in gigging situations pedal tuners offer benefits like muting the signal that clip-on tuners don’t. If you're new to pedal tuners, Korg's PB01 PitchBlack Mini Tuner is a reliable and easy-to-read tuner that takes up very little space and won't break the bank.
While we're discussing the essentials, it's good to remember that there is a whole world immediately beyond your tuner that is worth exploring. Compressors, Wah Pedals, Octave Boxes and Filters are all worth exploring. They can add a lot to your sound. I recommend positioning these after a tuner because they behave best with strong signals.
Drive tones are a hugely important part of live guitar tone and ultimately can become a guitarist’s calling card. That is why it’s important to find the right drive pedal for your rig.
Some options to get you started are classics like the Ibanez Tubescreamer and BOSS SD-1. Both of these pedals have unique voices that work well in just about any musical situation. This makes them truly unique and ultimately timeless.
Modulation has a place in all genres of music. Whether it’s pop, new wave, rock, or metal there are many instances of modulation. If you are playing rock or metal the BOSS line of chorus pedals and flangers are a great place to start.
The Electro-Harmonix Small Clone nails the chorus tone we hear on a lot of grunge and punk records. If you want to go classic, there is nothing better than the MXR 117 Flanger and its reissue does a great job recreating that classic tone with some modern enhancements.
Loop pedals - or "loopers" - have become increasingly popular in the past few years. Consequently, manufacturers have stepped-up the performance and features of these pedals and there is a large variety from which to choose.
In essence, a loop pedal is a digital recorder where the user controls the start and end of the recording. This allows you to record a phrase of music and play it back repeatedly (in a loop) while you play over it. Recording time varies depending on the model you choose as does the number of recordings or "loops" you can record at the same time. Some loopers - like the BOSS RC-300 - are like small recording studios that allow you to create and store many loops and include on-board effects.
A great entry-level Loop Pedal is the BOSS RC-1. It's easy to use and has up to 12 minutes of recording time. It's also our top-selling looper.
While not technically an effect, Loop pedals belong at the end of your pedal train so you can record your total sound when looping.
Ready for the big time?
Multi-effects pedals are exactly what the name implies - many effects collected together in one large pedalboard-type unit. These units can be as simple or as complex as you want depending on your preference and the sounds you want to make. BOSS makes a variety of multi-effects from the easy-to-use GT-1 Processor all the way up to the feature-packed GT-1000 Effects Processor.
Multi-effects are perfect for those who play in cover bands because the user can create and store many different combinations of effects and call each one up at the touch of a button. This means the right sound for any song is at your fingertips.
Multi-effects come pre-programmed with a large number of pre-set effects to get you going. These usually cover most of the sounds you'd need for any gig. But for the more adventurous, multi-effects also allow you to alter those pre-sets or create and save completely new sounds depending on your preferences.
These are some basics to get you started with a great effects board that will give you tons of mileage in any musical situation. There are certainly other things to consider, like power supplies and cabling, but these are the basic effects needed to get rocking and sounding great.
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