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What guitar effect pedals should I use and how should I use them?

Tennyson WilliamsTennyson is author of The Essential Guide to Guitar Virtuosity, which is an excellent ebook we recommend and can be downloaded from He’s just sent us this brand new article on guitar effects pedals, if you enjoyed reading it then make sure you visit his site!

So you’ve got the guitar, you’ve got that amp, and you’ve got a lot of music in your head. You’re well on your way to devouring musical theory and exercises, but what about your sound? Every guitar player strives to have a unique and characteristic sound. Its in this article that we’re going to talk about effect pedals, which ones to possibly get, and how you can use them to create this sound, but first I would like to give a little disclaimer.

All the effect pedals or effect processors in the world can’t make you a good guitarist. I’m sure most of you out their who are reading this right now, are probably saying “yeah, yeah – we know, we know”, but its something that needs to be addressed.

I can’t tell you how many guitar players that I have seen who have been playing their whole lives, and are not very good at all, but man they love their pedals. It becomes an obsession, and really it becomes a compensation for a lacking of musical talent.

So, in other words, don’t get too wrapped up in effect pedals. Sure they look nice, sure they can do cool stuff, but they simply won’t bring you talent. You have to work for this kind of talent. In fact, if you will notice, effect pedals come in almost candy wrapper like colors and designs. If you stare them down all together, they’ll make your mouth water. Even today this still happens to me, but I also know that there is a time and a place for them.

What effect pedals do I use? none. During the recording process I use subtle amounts of delay and reverb, and the occassional flanger to get a really great sound, but when it comes to playing live through an amp, I simply don’t mess with them.

One more thing before I get into the nitty gritty of effects. You are your own effect pedal. I know it sounds cheesy, but by picking strings with different amounts of pressure and thumb positions, you can create a wide variety of sounds on your guitar alone. If you are aware that you can get a lot out of the guitar just by your own means, then this will give you a definite style in your own playing.

1. Effect Pedals

First of all, effect pedals can really start to add up when it comes to funds, so I suggest that any guitarist get a nice multi-effect pedal board. When I was a kid I used to think that having the individual pedal was more important and cooler, but I was just being stupid in my own opinion. The great thing about the multi effect pedals is that they come fully loaded with some really great effects, and most importantly, those effects are all tweakable. In other words, you can create your own effects quite easily.

If you decide to go this route, then I suggest not settling for a cheapy. Go ahead and drop a few hundred now, because thing will reward you full circle. Zoom makes great pedal boards that are very customizable. Line 6 makes even better pedal boards, but either will do.

In my opinion, Line 6 makes some of the best effects out their. Since some of the best delays, gate pedals, flange pedals, and chorus pedals are rare and hard to acquire these days, Line 6 has really stepped up to the plate. They are also quite affordable when it comes to the individual pedals.

2. Don’t settle

I always talk about not settling on anything when it comes to guitar, but when it comes to effect pedals – I really mean it. We are all tempted to bring home that “ghost brand” pedal, hoping that its the holy grail of effects, but most of the times these models are just plain rotten.

Stick with the big boys, but make sure that you truly know what you want first. Anymore, you can go onto a manufacturer’s website and actually hear what the effect is going to sound like. Then there’s always youtube, and believe it or not, you can actually do a search for the exact model of effect pedal, and generally get a video on that pedal, that has results. This should give you a good idea of whether or not you want to even mess with it.

3. The order of effects

There are also chain orders that work better than others. When I say “chain” order, I mean the order that the effect pedals are laid out. This subject matter could be a monstrous article within itself, so I won’t get into all of that, but be aware of all of this. There are plenty of fantastic resources out their that give excellent sugestions about how you should set your pedals up. Or better yet, listen to the advice, and then experiment with different orders. You’ll find out very quickly that some orders will deplete the sound of certain pedals drastically.

4. The little things

Too much of any one effect can be quite gawdy. You don’t need to go overboard with your effects, as it tends to produce too much noise pollution. I’ll give you an example of a clean, electric sound that I like to use.

When I’m doing any recording with a clean sound, I tend to use a little bit of reverb. I’ll set the knobs of the reverb about half way. I don’t want too much, because I want to make sure that the notes or chords that I’m playing are in the foreground. I don’t want my guitar to sound too distant.

I’ll then take delay and run it directly before the reverb, because I don’t want the delay to be heard as much as the reverd. The delay is extremely minimal. The time that a note is delayed is very short and the overall mix of it is set very low. This creates a sort of secondary and complimentary reverb that mixes well. It also gives my guitar a real erie sound if I want to go for a more experimental seventies sound. Its also ideal for Latin strumming and reggae.

5. Tease people

If you are in the habit of writing your own music, then just use a little bit of an effect, and save it for when it counts. It only sounds cool if its used as a teaser. Effects become very menotenous if used over and over again.


Your best bet is to always be aware of what’s really going on with your music. Always ask yourself “does it need this? does it need that?”. This will keep your head straight and help you to produce incredible sounds on the guitar.

Copyright © 2012 Tennyson Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this article! It’s very informative. Those people who are newbie to guitars can learn many things just by reading this.