When diving into the world of guitar pedals, beginners often find themselves overwhelmed by an abundance of options, each promising to transform their sound in unique and captivating ways. With countless effect pedals available, it can be challenging to decide where to start.
So, if you’ve been pondering the question what effect pedal should I buy first? Fear not!
Now, I know it can be pretty overwhelming in the beginning. I mean, there are so many options out there, and each one claims to be the key to unlocking a unique and captivating sound. Trust me, I’ve been there too.
In this beginner’s guide, we will guide you through the maze of choices and reveal the ultimate must-have first pedal that will kickstart your journey into sonic exploration while keeping things simple and exciting.
Get ready to unlock a whole new dimension of creativity as we guide you towards the perfect introductory pedal for aspiring guitarists.
But before we get to the good stuff, let’s take a moment to talk about the different types of effects available, so you’ll have a better idea of what’s out there to begin your pedal board journey.
Types of Guitar Pedals
Guitar effects pedals can be categorized into several groups based on the type of sound modification they provide. Here are the main categories:
1. Gain/Drive Effects:
2. Time-Based Effects:
3. Modulation Effects:
4. Dynamic Effects:
- Noise Gate
5. Filter Effects:
6. Pitch Effects:
- Pitch Shifter
7. Volume Effects:
- Volume Pedal
Most Important Factors to Consider When Choosing the First Guitar Pedal
Let’s explore the essential factors to consider when selecting your first guitar pedal
Choosing the Right Pedal for Your Musical Style
Selecting your first guitar pedal hinges on understanding the unique demands of the musical style you are into. Each genre requires specific tonal characteristics and effects to complement its sound.
Here’s some examples of different styles of music and the guitar pedals that shape the sound.
Compressor Pedal: A compressor pedal is essential for country music enthusiasts as it evens out the dynamic range of the guitar, giving it a smooth and consistent sound. It helps maintain a balanced tone, especially when playing fingerpicked passages or chicken-pickin’ licks.
Blues and Classic Rock
Overdrive Pedal: Blues and classic rock players appreciate the warm breakup and harmonically rich tones produced by an overdrive pedal. It adds a touch of natural grit and sustain, perfect for emotive bluesy solos and classic rock crunch.
Distortion Pedal: A good distortion pedal is essential for creating the gritty and aggressive tone that is characteristic of punk music. It adds a level of grit and crunch to your guitar sound, helping you cut through the mix with a powerful and aggressive tone.
Chorus Pedal: New Wave music from the ’80s is known for its use of chorus effects on guitars. A chorus pedal adds a shimmering, swirling modulation to the sound, creating a lush and distinctive sonic texture that is synonymous with the New Wave genre.
Distortion Pedal: Heavy metal players crave raw power and aggressive tones. A distortion pedal provides high-gain saturation, creating the intense, crunchy sound that is characteristic of metal music. It allows for tight palm-muted riffs and blistering solos.
Spring Reverb Pedal: Surf music is synonymous with the distinctive, dripping wet reverb sound that emulates the crashing waves at the beach. A spring reverb pedal is a must-have for surf guitarists as it replicates the spring reverb tanks found in vintage amplifiers. It adds a sense of space and surfy atmosphere to your playing, enhancing the twangy, surf-rock guitar tones and giving your sound that unmistakable surf vibe.
With a spring reverb pedal, you can achieve those classic surf music tones reminiscent of legendary bands like The Ventures and Dick Dale, making it an indispensable tool for any surf guitarist.
Tremolo Pedal: While not as essential as the spring reverb, a tremolo pedal can also be a great addition to a surf guitarist’s toolkit. Tremolo adds rhythmic volume modulation to the signal, creating a pulsating effect that adds further depth and texture to the surf sound. It can enhance the rhythmic drive of surf rhythms and complement the reverberated tones with a touch of movement.
Using a tremolo effect can provide additional versatility to your surf guitar setup, allowing you to experiment with different rhythmic patterns and intensify the hypnotic atmosphere that characterizes surf music.
Analog Delay Pedal: Rockabilly music embodies the vintage charm of the 1950s, often featuring fast-paced rhythms and distinctive guitar techniques. The signature sound of Rockabilly is the “slapback” effect, achieved using an analog delay pedal. This type of delay creates a short and distinct echo, reminiscent of the sound produced in old recording studios. It gives the guitar a lively, retro vibe, perfect for the energetic and rhythmic playing style of Rockabilly.
Once you have chosen the type of pedal you want then obviously budget is a major factor. The good news is that there are pedals available at various price points, including some pretty good budget pedals that provide a satisfying taste of the desired effect.
If you’ll primarily be playing in the comfort of your bedroom, a budget pedal might suffice. However, if you’re part of a band or regularly rehearsing, durability becomes a critical factor. Opting for a more robust and rugged pedal can withstand the wear and tear of frequent packing, unpacking, and moving. Investing in a durable pedal ensures it will endure the rigors of live performances and rehearsals, giving you the peace of mind to focus on your music without worrying about equipment issues.
Pedals like the one’s from Boss have proved themselves over time. Not only do they sound great but can withstand some serious abuse and often give decades of use.
Are you just going to be bedroom playing or playing with a band – even if it’s just rehearsing (that means you are regularly going to be packing it up, moving etc. If it’s the latter then choosing something more durable might well be worth it.
Five Pedal Types I Can’t Live Without
The style of music you want to play is probably the biggest influence on the pedal you are likely to get.
All these things considered I’d like to highlight my top five essential pedals for guitar. Note: the first two aren’t even effects!
If you haven’t even got a tuner yet – buy one! Nothing worse than trying to learn with an out-of-tune guitar.
If you are going to be putting a pedal board together then a tuner at the beginning of the signal chain is a must.
In the early stages though, a stand-alone / clip-on tuner one will be sufficient.
This is something that didn’t even exist when I started playing – the looper pedal. This ingenious device has revolutionized the way musicians practice, perform, and experiment with their craft. Essentially, a looper pedal allows you to record a segment of your playing and then play it back in a loop. They are absolutely amazing for learning lead guitar and practicing in general.
If you haven’t got it on your amp you probably seriously consider getting a reverb pedal.
I’d pretty much class reverb as an essential effect for guitarists and will add depth and atmosphere to your sound.
While amp reverb will do you well, a dedicated pedal is something you want to seriously consider at some point.
A delay / echo pedal is used in many different styles and great fun to practice with too. It’s another that I class as a must-have.
Want a bit more of a raw, gritty sound with some attitude? Overdrive pedals offer the sweet spot between clean and distortion, giving your sound that edge and crunch without sacrificing clarity.
Overdrive pedals are versatile companions, whether you’re seeking the smooth bluesy tones of Stevie Ray Vaughan or the crunchy power chords of rock legends. They respond to your playing dynamics, letting you control the intensity by adjusting your picking technique.
Why Multi-Effect Pedals Make Perfect Starter Pedals
Still feel a bit overwhelmed? More than one of these sound like you need them now? What might well be the best choice for you is to buy a multi-effect pedal could well be the solution for you.
Multi-effect pedals stand out as an excellent choice for beginners taking their first steps into the realm of effects. These versatile devices pack a punch by combining a range of effects into a single unit, making them an ideal starting point for any guitarist.
Here’s why opting for a multi-effect pedal as your first investment can set you on the path to sonic exploration and discovery.
1. A Palette of Sounds at Your Feet – Multi-effect pedals are essentially a treasure trove of sound-shaping tools. From classic overdrive and distortion to ambient reverb, shimmering delay, and intricate modulation, these pedals offer an array of effects that can cater to a diverse range of musical styles. For beginners, this means having the opportunity to experiment with various tones and effects without breaking the bank on multiple individual pedals.
2. Cost-Effective Introduction to Effects – One of the significant advantages of starting with a multi-effect pedal is its cost-effectiveness. Purchasing individual pedals can quickly add up, especially when you’re just beginning to explore the world of effects. A multi-effect pedal provides a budget-friendly way to sample a broad spectrum of effects, allowing you to discover your sonic preferences before committing to more specialized pedals.
3. Aiding Informed Pedal Selection – As a novice guitarist, it’s natural to be uncertain about which effects will best complement your playing style and musical genre. Multi-effect pedals play a pivotal role in helping you understand your preferences. By using a single unit to experiment with various effects, you’ll gain insights into the types of sounds that resonate with you. This hands-on experience becomes a foundation for making informed decisions when it comes to investing in dedicated individual pedals later on.
4. Convenient Learning and Exploration – Learning the ropes of guitar effects can be a gradual process, and a multi-effect pedal simplifies this journey. Instead of wrestling with a multitude of individual pedals, you can focus on mastering the art of signal routing, tweaking parameters, and creating your signature sound, all within a single unit. This streamlined approach allows you to dive into the creative process without getting bogged down by complex setups.
5. Room for Growth and Experimentation – As you progress on your musical path, your sonic preferences may evolve. Multi-effect pedals can grow alongside you, accommodating your changing tastes. Many advanced multi-effect units offer in-depth editing capabilities, enabling you to fine-tune each effect and even create your custom signal chains. This flexibility fosters an environment for continued experimentation and encourages you to push the boundaries of your sonic palette.
As you can see, a multi-effect pedal serves as an excellent starting point for beginner guitar players venturing into the captivating world of effects pedals. It provides a cost-effective means to explore a myriad of tones and effects, helping you identify your sonic preferences. With the knowledge gained from using a multi-effect pedal, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions when selecting dedicated individual pedals in the future. So, whether you’re strumming soulful blues or shredding metal riffs, a multi-effect pedal can be your gateway to a universe of sonic possibilities.
Among the vast array of pedal types, there are a few that stand out as great choices for aspiring guitarists.
If you are playing a specific style of music then the first choice might be a no-brainer. If you still feel a bit uncertain then a multi-effect pedal can provide an excellent solution and it’s cost-effective too.
Don’t forget about looper pedals, having one will transform your playing and accelerate your progress.