Guitar effects pedals have become a necessity on stage for many guitar players. Effects pedals help define many guitar players’ tone and playing style. As advanced as technology is today, there are thousands of effects pedals to choose from to help guitar players recreate their idols’ sound or to develop their own unique sound. Still in early rock and roll guitar giants would splash a few effects through their rig to add that necessary “oomph” to their tones.
To better understand guitar effects pedals, it’s important to take a look at some of the most prominent pedals guitar players have used for years. Also, effects pedals have come a long way and come in a variety of options for the gear “minimalist” to the monster effects pedal player on stage.
First it’s important to understand exactly what effects pedals are used for on a guitar rig. Find a great explanation of this at http://ezinearticles.com/?Guitar-Accessories:-Effect-Pedals-and-Devices&id;=6445027.
Electric guitarists seldom just plug into an amp and start playing. Well, they may start out that way, but if you listen to the radio – or any recorded guitar music, for that matter – you quickly notice a lot more going on than just a “straight” guitar sound. At the very least, you hear some ambient treatment in the form of artificially created echo, or reverb, as the effect is known in guitar lingo. You may hear some (intended) distortion, especially in rock and blues music, and you may hear additional effects, such as wah-wah, vibrato, and other electronic manipulations. Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of guitar accessories known as effects.
Effects are devices that plug in between your guitar and amplifier and enable you to alter your signal in all sorts of creative and unusual ways. Scores and scores of these guitar accessories are available from all different manufacturers and in all price ranges. You can buy them as individual units or as an all-in-one box, called a multieffects processor. But whether you go for the package deal or à la carte, effects can spice up the basic sound of your guitar in all sorts of exciting ways.
Most effects come in the form of foot-accessed pedals, also known as stomp boxes because they reside on the floor and you activate them by stepping on a footswitch. This setup enables you to selectively turn effects on and off while playing the guitar without interruption.
If you plug, say, a reverb device inline (that is, between the amp and guitar), you can make your guitar sound as if you’re playing in a cathedral. A distortion unit can make your tones sound like those of Jimi Hendrix, even at low volumes and with your amp set to a clean sound. Dozens of different types of effects are available – more than you could possibly own, not to mention use all at once. The price of these individual units varies, too, with distortion boxes as cheap as $45 and digital reverbs and delays as much as $175 (or more).
Individual pedals are a great convenience because they enable you to buy effects one at a time and use them in a modular fashion – you can choose to include them in your chain or not, and you can rearrange their order to create different effects. But many guitarists opt for a multi-effects unit, which puts all the individual effects into one housing. Multi-effects units are programmable, meaning that you can store different settings in the effects and recall them with the tap of a foot. Multi-effects guitar accessories, like individual pedals, also offer a modular approach to effect ordering, although they accomplish this electronically rather than physically.
Let’s look at an introduction to some of the most famous guitar effects pedals ever used. Find this introduction here at http://ezinearticles.com/?Guitar-Effect-Pedals—The-4-Most-Important-Pedals&id;=5623796.
From its introduction in the 1930s, the electric guitar has become the most popular and maybe the most important musical instrument of our time. In the early days electric guitar players had to work hard to create the different sounds they wanted. Today, however, the guitarist has a huge repertoire of sound effects at his/her disposal thanks to guitar effect pedals.
Guitar pedals can be grouped into four main categories: distortion, reverb/delay, modulation and wah-wah. Of course, there are lots more effects including multi-effect units but the ones already mentioned are certainly the most popular and the focus of this article.
Distortion Effect Pedals
Distortion is what happens to the electro-magnetic signal when its shape is changed by a distortion pedal. By altering the shape of the incoming signal, all sorts of interesting sounds can be created. From a clean piercing sound to a thick heavy fuzz, the distortion pedal can be used for all sorts of jobs. It’s often used be rhythm guitarists to fill a large space but it can also be used to produce piercing guitar solos.
Reverb and delay is the effect of putting a time-delay in the signal. Early reverb and delay devices were limited in what they could do but still managed to create a large variety of distinctive sounds. With the introduction of digital electronics, so came the introduction of digital delay pedals and with it the guitarist gained amazing control over the period and attenuation of the delay. One musician in particular, The Edge (U2 Guitarist), has mastered this effect to produce one of the most distinctive and recognisable guitar sounds of any era.
Modulation (Chorus) Pedals
Modulation pedals, more commonly referred to as Chorus, work by enhancing the harmonics of the root note being played. This in turn produces a fuller sound, or a sound with more depth just like a chorus, hence where the name comes from. Usually, pitch and vibrato can be shifted on chorus pedals too which adds further control.
No article about wah-wah pedals would be complete without paying homage to Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix worked his wah-wah so well that you’d think listening to his guitar that it was talking. Steve Vai also perfected this technique much later on. The wah-wah works by filtering out frequencies in the soundwave by opening and closing a variable switch in the foot operated pedal. The resulting sound is a waaahhhh which often sounds like a baby crying, hence wah-wah. It’s one of the hardest pedals to master as it requires coordination of both playing the guitar while operating the pedal with your foot.
Distortion effects pedals are probably the most popular pedals for guitar players worldwide. Giving your guitar some distortion and overdrive can exist in a very wide variety of styles of music. Plus it sounds really cool. Here is a guide to buying distortion effects pedals at a very reasonable price at http://www.guitarworld.com/five-best-distortion-pedals-under-50.
There’s nothing more exciting for guitarists than finding a good distortion pedal, especially one that sounds crushing and is affordable. Distortion is one of those mandatory pedals you’ll need as a glorious boost for rhythms, solos and — most importantly — to summon the gods of feedback.
Keep in mind that distortion pedals can range anywhere from fuzzy to clipped, articulate to unrefined, muscular to flabby and occasionally overdriven to gobs of gain, so it’ll take a bit of research and some discerning ears on your part to find the one that suits your playing style.
I know guitarists often scrape by when it comes to gear, so while I believe you no longer have to spend a lot of dough to get inspiring tone, I must admit you should stretch your dollar further because some of the better stuff can be had for around a C-note.
But for those of us who have to tighten our budget belts, I’m presenting you the five best distortions for under $50. Be sure to check out the photos in the photo gallery below.
1. Jet City Amplification Shockwave Distortion, $49.99
I’m a big fan of Jet City Amps because their amps are designed by amp guru Mike Soldano, who is regarded as one of the pioneers of high-gain amplification; so naturally, this pedal captures that Soldano-in-a-box tone. The Shockwave has plenty of gain and its distortion is smooth and full of character, making this pedal a true tone champion.
2. Visual Sound GarageTone Series Chainsaw Distortion, $49.95
The Chainsaw is a full-sounding gain pedal that’s more on the ruder side of distortion. Many guys will dig this distortion because of its firm and unforgiving character that doesn’t wish to be tamed. It’s a little flabby on the low end, but nobody ever faulted Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top for that sound.
3. Boss DS-1 Distortion Pedal, $39.99
I started with this pedal and it’s a favorite of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, and if you need any further persuasion, Satriani based his signature VOX Satchurator pedal on a DS-1. This pedal is rugged, takes abuse willingly, and the one I’ve owned since the eighties is still going strong. A solid distortion that works well for soloing, the DS-1 is not without some issues; it is fizzy-sounding and a bit granular on its own but paired with a great overdrive pedal like the BOSS SD-1 Super Overdrive ($59.99), the combination achieves the most musical and natural-sounding distortion.
4. DigiTech Hot Head Distortion, $49.95
One look at the orange-colored Hot Head and you’ll think you’re seeing double next to the BOSS DS-1, but that’s where the similarities end. The Hot Head has more gain and level output, more aggressive mid-range and somewhat of a rounder, fuller tone. I find the Hot Head takes a little more tweaking because of its low and high tone controls, but once you find its sweet spot, it’s a grungy and thick distortion.
5. Modtone MT-DS Speedbox Distortion, $49.95
The Speedbox is an old-school-sounding distortion, so I’ve included it as a tip of the hat to classic rock and metal players. It has that Randy Rhoads Blizzard Of Oz tone, and it nails that eighties modded-Marshall amp tone, too. The Speedbox is edgy and has tons of gain, so it will take a strong picking hand and proper muting on your part to control its chaos but you’ll find the tone rewarding.
Honorable Mention: DeltaLab RD1 Rock Distortion, $49.99
The RD1 is somewhat of a newcomer, and although I have yet to try one, I’ve been hearing some great sound clips from this pedal. DeltaLab seems to have made an articulate distortion that seems to do one job and does it well. Stay tuned; I’m sure I’ll be reviewing it soon.
Another thing to consider is that you can find great deals online for distortion pedals, and you can pretty much have your pick of tried-and-true ones like the original Pro Co Rat or Marshall Shredmaster and everything in between.
I’ve even seen great boutique distortion stompboxes starting at just $10! The trick is to be patient and know what you’re looking for because I can guarantee you someone is willing to let that pedal go for a song.
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most prominent guitar heroes in the history of the instrument. Find an awesome interview with Jimi, featuring his effects setup, here at http://www.guitarworld.com/interview-roger-mayer-secrets-jimi-hendrixs-guitar-setup.
Nobody knows the ins and outs of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar sound like Roger Mayer.
Mayer had already worked with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and produced a number of different fuzz boxes by the time he met Hendrix at a gig at the Bag Of Nails pub in London. The two hit it off and Mayer showed Hendrix his Octavia, a unit that added an octave overtone to the original note. Hendrix loved the sound and used it on the solo to “Purple Haze.”
“After that we became close friends and started hanging out; and as they say, the rest is history,” Mayer says.
He went on to look after Hendrix’s gear both live and in the studio, gaining a unique understanding of his requirements, playing style and working methods. Today Mayer produces a range of pedals that take his original designs into the 21st century.
Mayer says an important part of Hendrix’s sound was due to his use of carefully selected string gauges, which evened out the guitar’s response from string to string.
“First of all, we weren’t using a flat-radius fretboard,” Mayer says. “We were using the normal one, not the very high radius but definitely curvy. The actual strings we used were not what people would expect. The string gauges would run .010, .013, .015, .026, .032 and .038.
The big difference there is that you’re using the .015 for the third, because if you use the .017 for the third, the actual sound of the guitar is very G-heavy. The electrical output of the strings is dependent on the square of the diameter; if you square all the diameters and look at them, you can get much more of an idea about the balance of the guitar.
“You should always remember that, because many, many times people use a set of strings that are completely imbalanced and they just don’t sound that good. Most people would say a .010 to .013 is the correct jump. And the .015 is much better for the G than a .017. An .015 squares out at .225 and .017 is 289. So you’re going to get 28 percent more output just with a two-pound different in string size.”
Although Hendrix used a custom string gauge, Mayer certainly didn’t mess with the stock pickups in his Strats. He didn’t feel the need.
“When I was working for the government, we had access to certain kinds of equipment. We were encouraged to have a hobby, so I went through all the different number of turns you could have on a pickup very quickly, right from square one. I wound up a whole range of pickups.
“Basically, what became very apparent with pickups is exactly what I thought before we started: They really don’t make much difference! I would say they’re one of the most vastly overrated parts of the guitar itself. If you understand electronics, you understand that as the inductance of the pickup increases — that is, as the number of turns on the pickup increases — all that happens is you get a larger output, and you effectively get less high-frequency response due to the fact that the inductance of the pickups rises. It’s a trade-off.
“And after making several experiments, which probably covered all the number of pickup turns that are available now, I came to the conclusion that Leo probably had it about right! There wasn’t much to be gained by deviating from the 7,000 turns or so on a regular pickup.”
Naturally, because Hendrix was a left-handed guitarist playing a right-handed guitar strung for a lefty, the guitar responded slightly differently to if it was a left-handed guitar.
“When you flip the guitar, the actual cavities in the guitar now appear on the bass strings, right? Because the volume control and all that is facing toward your head. So the actual resonances of the cavity do change. What happens then, of course, is that now you’re faced with the fact that the actual string length on the bass string is now the other way around and conversely, on the treble strings.
“So yeah, that will make the guitar feel slightly different because the actual string length affects the kind of strength needed to bend the strings. That’s one of the reasons we used to tune the guitar down a little bit.”
Mayer says Hendrix’s approach to sound in the studio was particularly abstract, but that a shared love of science fiction gave the pair a common language to discuss and achieve what Hendrix was looking for.
“The actual vocabulary of audio is visual. People say ‘a bright sound,’ ‘a dark sound’ and so on. So we thought in colors and about the actual way the sounds were moving around, and that’s how we worked, really. Jimi was very free-form and he liked to improvise an awful lot, so the actual structure of the songs was very free-form. But once we knew what the song was about and the vision for the song, that would dictate the kind of sounds we might use, or the various effects we would use, from studio effects to panning to various echoes.”
In chasing those sounds, Mayer would often alter circuits in between takes in the studio.
“There’s a big difference between the actual sound produced in the recording studio and the control room, so I guess I was running backwards and forwards between the control room and the actual studio to treat the sound and adjust the amplifiers and so forth.”
Mayer also looked after Hendrix’s gear at many gigs, and in the days before electronic tuners he often had to rely on placing the guitar’s headstock against his ear to hear whether Jimi’s axes were in tune.
“You had to do that because you have to remember that in those days electronic tuners didn’t exist. The only thing you possibly had was a tuning fork. If you go on stage and a red spotlight might hit you, that’s going to put the guitar out of tune. The blue one, not so much, but if they hit you with a powerful red, that’s going to pull the guitar out!”
This is just a sample of the world of guitar effects. Come back for a more in depth look into that world and how it has changed over the years of guitar laden music. Find the individuality in your guitar playing using some of the unique effects pedals mentioned here.
Stay tuned and have fun!