The Most Important Guitar Effects

As you probably know, there are three main types of guitar: classical, acoustic and electric. The electric guitar is the one people usually connect to a pedal or effect. However, some people also use pedals on acoustic guitar as well.

As you will see in the text below, it all depends on the kind of effect. Some are almost exclusively used with the electric guitar, while others can be attached to acoustic and even classical guitar. When you are learning to play guitar, it can seem overwhelming, how many guitar pedals there are that exists! Let’s have a look a few of the common effect pedals that you may come across when playing guitar.


This is probably the most popular guitar effect. What is basically does is mimics the sound of the amplifier that is turned all the way up. There are many kinds of overdrive pedals, so you can use a “softer“ one (for playing blues) or heavy-sounding pedals (for metal or hard-rock).


This pedal is very similar to the overdrive pedal. The difference is that the distortion has a more crunchy tone (some would say “dirty” sound). If you are planning to play more aggressive musical genres, than this is the pedal for you. When it comes to distortion and overdrive, I should mention that a lot of guitar amplifiers have these effects built into them. Some guitarists even prefer to use these built-in effects than to use a separate pedal.


If you ever listened to Jimi Hendrix or Kirk Hammett’s solo, you know what I’m talking about. By pressing the wah-wah up and down with your feet, you are changing the frequencies of your tone, which gives this pedal one of the most recognizable sounds out there. If you are not sure what the wah-wah sounds like, just listen to the Rage Against The Machine “Bulls on parade”.


This is the pedal that repeats the note or a lick that you’ve played. You could consider it as the kind of electrical echo. Of course, the characteristics of the sound can be modified, so you can change the latency between the moment that you played a note and the first repetition. Depending on the pedal you use, this period can stretch from 50ms to a couple of seconds.


This pedal works great on the clear sound, so musicians also use it on the acoustic guitar! It gives your tone that “spacey” and ambient dimension. There are also many guitarists that use this pedal with overdrive or distortion. One of the most popular intros played on this pedal is definitely Nirvana’s “Come as you are”.


You know that echo when you clap loudly in a huge hallway? That is exactly what reverb will do to your tone. It makes the guitar sound more natural and warm. Almost all of the guitarists use some kind of reverb. Like in the case of the overdrive and distortion, the majority of amplifiers have built-in reverb.


As you’ve probably guessed, this pedal compresses your sound. It automatically suppresses the signal that is too loud or ads sustain to a low-volume signal. If you want your note to “ring” for a while after you’ve played it, you should get this pedal. It is also a crucial piece of equipment if you want your tone to be equable during the song (which if often case in funk music). The great thing is that this pedal doesn’t have any influence on the quality of your guitar tone.

Volume pedal

This pedal does exactly the same thing as the control knobs on the guitar; however, if you have a volume pedal, you can control the volume of the signal with your feet. This is very important because, in order to adjust the volume with the guitar knobs, you have to use your playing hand. Of course, you can do only one thing with it – either strum the strings or adjust the volume. This is the pedal that will allow you to simultaneously play and modify your volume signal.


You could consider this pedal as the automated volume pedal. What it does is increase and decrease the volume of your guitar, thus producing short breaks. It sounds very interesting and original. If you want to hear the tremolo effect at its finest, take a listen to The Smiths – “How soon is now”.


These few pedals are definitely among the most popular ones. I haven’t seen a guitarist that didn’t use at least one of them. Of course, there are literary hundreds of manufacturers and types of pedals that you can choose between.

Although pedals and effects are great stuff and can make your sound more interesting, it can never compensate for your skill. So, no matter how many pedals you plan to use, never forget to practice!

About author: Learning guitar can seem difficult. Having a London guitar school like Guitar Tuition East London that can provide extensive support and feedback, makes learning the guitar a lot easier and more fun than trying to do it on your own. If you are based in London and England and would like more help with your guitar playing, then get in touch. We have certified guitar teachers who are trained to help students of all ages to learn guitar.

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