What are the different guitar pedals types? Diving into the vast world of guitar pedals is a beautiful one, and we remember we first got our hands on some effects. It changes the game and really brings in a whole different universe of sounds and creativity tools we can use to further our guitar and overall musical skills. If you’re searching for guitar pedals to suffice your needs and you don’t know which one is the best for you, then this article will help you decide.
What are guitar pedals? What do they do?
What don’t they do? For those unaware, ever see a guitar player look down and press their foot in the middle of a gig? Ever hear their electric guitar sounds change simultaneously through out a session and wonder how they’re able to twist and turn the feel of what they’re playing?
Guitar pedals create different noises and/or manipulate the sound of a guitar in one way or another. Some of the sounds are very obvious and others can create a simple shine to the overall sound, and there are a few out there that land somewhere in between. If you’re still at the point of trying to understand them all and decide which guitar pedal is right for you, keep in mind you may need 5-6 different pedals at some point. We know many who have almost a hundred. Don’t stress, either — we know there are a lot out there, but just take it one at a time and understand it will be a process.
Whether you’re just starting to learn to play the guitar or are an experienced vet looking to expand their palette, we think we’ve covered all of the bases below. Click over to one of the pedals to jump to the description, or just scroll on down and read as you go:
What are the different types of guitar pedals?
- Distortion: This is the most common type of guitar pedal. As the name suggests, distortion pedals distort the sound of a guitar making it more aggressive. This kind of pedal is grouped into three different types.
- Distortion: The first one is just plain ‘distortion’ — The Distortion pedal can be a very obvious effect which gives out a good amount of sustain and crunch to the sound. Although this kind of pedal heavily distorts the sound, hiding the actual tone of the guitar, but you can still hear the original tone, or try to find a level that hits home for you.
- Overdrive: The second kind of distortion pedal is Overdrive. Although this kind of pedal distorts the sound, but it sounds a little bit more neutral.
The overdrive pedal pushes the amplifier harder giving it a heavier and thicker sound. With the overdrive pedal, you can hear a lot of the original sound of the guitar. This kind of distortion pedal is often used in classic rock and blues but as it is a popular pedal, it’s also used by many guitarists.
- Fuzz: The third type of distortion pedal is Fuzz. This kind of pedal is the most extreme of the three kinds of distortion effects. This kind of pedal changes the sound of a guitar into a heavy, fizzy and extremely noisy sound. Because of this reason, it is very hard to hear any of the original guitar tone.
- Wah: The Wah guitar pedal makes a “Wah” noise by using a foot pedal, almost like we’re sending a human voice to say word but as a guitar (is that a weird way of explaining it?). The more you press it, the more obvious the sound will be. This kind of pedal is commonly used in funk and rock solo but we’ve heard it really everywhere, even at lower levels for a less intrusive effect.
- Delay: This type of guitar pedal delays the signal of the guitar by a varying amount and then plays it back creating a doubling affect. By controlling the pedal, you can decide how long the delay is. This kind of guitar pedal is good for creating experimental effects and sounds, but can also be subtle. The followings are different types of delays:
- Slapback: Which is usually a shorter delay pedal
- Reverse: Which plays the note backwards. It’s kind of an odd delay, but we’ve heard in some awesome psychedelic songs, or keep it a low level for a nice little effect.
- Lo Fi: The repeats of which are usually less crisp than a normal delay.
- Tape: This type replicates the delay from the old techniques of using tape machines. It’s almost like running it through an old tape deck for a warm, gritty feel (that’s actually making a huge comeback right now).
- Phase delay: It’s the same as the standard delay, but with a bit of a modulation effect added.
- Chorus: This kind of pedal creates a sound of a lot of different guitars playing the same thing you are playing, but very slightly out of time with you and creating a mild warble type of sound. So, the outcome is a rich, thick and full sound. This can be used as a subtle or a more obvious experimental effect.
- Flanger: Similar to the chorus, the flanger pedal provides a little bit more of an obvious whooshing effect. Although it doesn’t sound like there are so many guitars playing the same thing you are playing, but still can thicken up your tone. The sound effect of a flanger pedal is more obvious than that of a chorus.
- Phaser: A phaser pedal is also similar to a chorus pedal in that it thickens up the sound of a guitar but also adds a sweeping effect creating peaks and troughs (base). By manipulating the controls on the pedal, one can change the heist of the peaks and troughs in the guitar tone. In the case of a phaser pedal, the thickening effect created sounds like there are a few guitarists playing rather than a lot of them like in case of the chorus pedal.
- Tremolo: Tremolo has a nice wobble sound. It sounds like the volume is being turned up and down very quickly after you play a note, but it blends together so nicely that it doesn’t sound out of place. This pedal lets you change the speed at which the volume drops happen and how severe the cut off is.
- Looper: A looper pedal isn’t considered as an effect pedal. It lets you record chord progression, riffs amp notes and then plays it back through an amp. This kind of effect is mostly for live guitarists and is very useful when there’s only one guitarist and there are two guitar parts. Here is the process of how you use the looper:
- a.- Hit the pedal and play the rhythm riff.
- b.- Hit the pedal again, the riff plays over and over without you playing.
- c.- Then, you have the option to play the lead part over the rhythm.
- d.- Finally, hit the pedal again to stop the loop.
- Reverb: A reverb pedal is one of the best and popular out there, which gives out an echo and can provide you with different atmospheric reverb sounds. You can control the amount of reverb effect by turning it up or down. There are mainly three main reverb types and they are:
- a.- Spring
- b.- Hall
- c.- Room
- Compressor: This type of guitar pedal is technically not an ‘effect pedal’. The job of the compressor is to normalize the volume of your guitar making it even. Let’s say you pick a string lightly and then heavily, the compressor evens it out and makes it sound the same. This kind of pedal also has the ability to make notes last longer. The compressor pedal is mostly used by bass players as well as guitarists who like to solo.
- Volume: As you might’ve guessed, the volume pedal is used to control your guitar volume. It is useful when you’re playing the guitar and want to quickly control the volume. Instead of using the volume pot on the guitar, you can simply use the pedal with your foot. This is useful for fade outs, fade ins or volume swells.
- Octave and Pitch: An octave pedal automatically plays the note you’re playing, but one octave up or down, making the sound thicker and fuller when used with single notes. An octave is the distance between one musical note and its corresponding note played at a higher or lower pitch. This type of guitar pedal is usually used by heavy metal guitarists to make solos and riffs sound good. Similar to the octave, the pitch shifter pedal can do an octave or two up or down, but also can do variations in between an octave. Both the octane and the pitch shifter pedals work best with single notes, not with chords.
- Noise Gate: If you’re using a number of pedals, you’re going to get some unwanted noise in the form of hum or buzz coming from your amp. The noise gate cuts off all sorts of unwanted sounds going into your amp. Even when the guitar is silent, it will preserve its tone.
- EQ: The EQ pedal is used to fine tune the bass, treble and middle frequencies. It has many choices about the specific band of sound you want to add or take away. This type of guitar pedal is for experienced guitar players who are trying to fine tune their sound, knowing what they want to change. This guitar effects pedal lets the player boost the treble, bring out the bass or make sure their guitar sounds are as flat as possible by cutting the frequencies, too.
- Acoustic: The acoustic pedal turns an electric guitar sound into an acoustic guitar sound. This is useful in live performances, when there’s only one guitarist and there’s a need to quickly change the sound of the guitar from electric to acoustic.
- Tuner: This guitar pedal helps you tune your guitar by plugging it into your guitar set up. It is a very useful pedal as it quickly, quietly and conveniently tunes a guitar during a live performance. Nowadays you can just use your phone app, but we still know guitarists who like having one on deck just in case.
- Boost: This kind of pedal boosts the output strength of a guitar signal. It keeps your tone clean, but gives it more of a push. The boost guitar effect pedal is useful to boost the volume of a guitar during solos as well as to beef up the sound without adding distortion.
- Multi-Effects: Multi-effects pedals are the coolest guitar pedals as they have different kinds of effects in one pedal. There are different types of multi effect pedals. Some mix together distortion, overdrive and boost and others specialize in a range of delay effects. Some just a few, others nearly 10!
- Buffer pedal: This type of guitar pedal helps maintain tone by converting the signal to lower impedance.
Concluding the different types of guitar pedals
Now that you have an idea of what each of the different kinds of pedals do, they can be categorized into different functionalities. As you have read above, not all guitar pedals are effect pedals. Some make specific sound, some help with the volume, others have to do with timing and frequency and some others are modulation effects. What’s your favorite type of guitar pedal? Let us know in the comments!