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October 11, 2008

What guitar pedal to get?

After getting a guitar and a guitar amp, many guitar players start looking for options for getting a variety of sounds out of their gear. I think the most common way to do this is by getting a guitar effects pedal, sometimes called a stomp box. These have been around for ages, and probably the first brand people would think of would be BOSS, because they have been extremely successful in promoting the guitar pedals over the years.

There are so many options out there these days. When I started playing, pedals were expensive and there wasn't much to choose from either. These days, we have cheap, mass-produced pedals (many of which sound great) and we have boutique pedals, carefully crafted by hand by small companies wanting to offer nothing but the best. It can sure be confusing to know the differences between all the alternatives available.

What kind of guitar pedal do I recommend?

Well, I think the first pedal most guitar players look at is a distortion pedal or an overdrive pedal. The difference between these two effects is subtle, yet important. Both type of pedals add gain to the signal, and transform the sound in a way that is great for rock and blues, and especially lead playing. Many guitar players have both type of pedals - I do. Overdrive sounds more "bluesy", and distortion is more "rockier", and some pedals are somewhere in between.

You may not need an overdrive or distortion pedal if your amp has good gain. By gain, I mean natural overdrive/distortion from the amp itself. Most amps start to produce gain as you turn them up. Amps geared toward heavier rock have lots of natural gain. Mesa Boogie, Marshall, Soldano, Line 6, Randall, for example, all make amps with lots of gain. If you have such an amp, you may want to try a Booster pedal. What a booster pedal does is to increase the level of the signal going into the amp, and it usually brings in a bit of gain at the same time. The result is a pedal perfect for solos and lead playing. The pedal will add more volume and produce more gain as well. Some examples of booster pedals - Dunlop Micro amp, RC Booster, ToneCandy Big Boost, Keeley Catana, Keeley Java Boost, Dirty Boy Ball Buster, 19 Sixty 3, Behringer PB-100 (very inexpensive), etc.  I could go on and on.

The next type of pedal you may want is a Delay pedal. This kind of pedal adds an echoing effect to your sound, and I pretty much always use a bit of delay. You can set it to long repeats to get a big, majestic sound, or you can set it to short repeats and get a rockabilly slapback sound. A player who uses delay as a big part of his sound is the Edge from U2. Many country players will use a short delay in order to get the right sound for country picking. Remember to put the delay last in your effects chain or even better, in the effects loop of your amp (if your amp has one) for the delay to sound the best. I use a BOSS DD-20 which I really like. Other good delay pedals are MXR Carbon Copy, Maxon AD-999, Line 6 Echo Park, Digitech DigiDelay, Ibanez DE-7, Behringer DD400 and Danelectro PB & J (both inexpensive).

If have both gain and delay covered, some sort of swirly effect is fun. By swirly, I mean modulation effects like Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, Vibe, Tremolo or similar. These effects can be a lot of fun if you use them right. Danelectro Cool Cat Chorus, Tremolo and Vibe, Digitech CF7, Line 6 Space Chorus, MXR, Behringer UF100, Voodoo Lab Analog Chorus and Tremolo, Boss CE-20 Chorus Ensemble. The list goes on.

If you have gain, delay and modulation effects togeter with good basic amp tone(s), you can cover a lot of bases. For me, this covers most of what I do live. I may add some other type of effect like a wah or octave pedal once in a while, but the effects previously mentioned cover  95% of my needs.

Distortion, overdrive, booster, delay, chorus, etc

Here are some good pedals you may want to take a look at.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com

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Posted by Robert Renman on October 11, 2008

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