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Guitar Effects information
Guitar effects are not just an add-on but can be an essential addition to the sound of your guitar - whether you tote an electric or an electro-acoustic guitar. Right here at Bax Music, you're welcome to flip through a stack of over 1,500 different guitar effects, stompboxes, multi-effects units and slimline pedals, all designed to enhance, warp, mould and shape your signature sound.
Picking Out Your Guitar Effects
A guitar effect essentially adds to or alters the sound of a guitar. These effects can come in an array of different forms, from small pedalboard-friendly pedals to whopping effects-monsters, and they can be built into your guitar amplifier or come in the more space-saving form of software. So if you want to upgrade your guitar sound, or you want to expand and experiment with different sounds or recreate your favourite guitar sound, then you'll be able to find the perfect pedal or combo or pedals that will do the job. If you have no idea what you need, you can find more in-depth info in our Guitar Effect Buyer's Guide .
Guitar Effects in Every Shape & Size
Guitar effects can come in a range of different shapes and sizes. The most common is the stompbox , which is a pedal fitted with an on/off switch that you trigger with your foot - by stomping on it. These pedals usually have a set of control knobs and maybe a few switches so you can manually adjust the parameters of the effect. Then you have expression pedals . These guitar effects are a bit like the accelerator pedal of a car, which does the job of one big control knob that you adjust with your foot to mess with the effect in real-time. Like an accelerator pedal, the intensity of the effect depends on how far the pedal is pushed forwards or back. Volume pedals look like expression pedals, but are basically big volume control knobs instead of effect control knobs. Then there are the non-physical effect-plugins which are controlled via a computer while your guitar is connected up via an audio interface.
Different Guitar Effects
It would actually take a long time to go into detail about every possible guitar effect, but most effects will slot into one of the following categories: distortion (which includes overdrive and fuzz as well as straight-up distortion), modulation (like chorus, phaser and flanger pedals), time-based effects (like reverb and delay), and volume-based effects. You can also get multi-effect pedals that combine two or more effects in one box.
Distortion: Overdrive, Fuzz & Distortion
This category covers that raw, tasty sound that we all know from rock, blues, metal (and more), and doesn't just include distortion pedals but overdrive and fuzz pedals. Overdrive pedals mimic what happens when the volume of a valve amplifier is cranked up. As it gets louder, the valves heat up, which transforms the 'clean' guitar sound into a more raw and aggressive sound. Overdrive pedals are great since you can still get that classic guitar sound without having to turn up your amplifier. Distortion pedals take things a step further than just emulating overdriven valve amplifiers, so when it comes to distortion pedals it's all about the distortion itself. Fuzz pedals have even less in common with overdrive pedals. They mimic the fluffy, messed-up sound of defective audio gear.
Modulation: Chorus, Phaser & Flanger
Modulation pedals like chorus, flanger and phaser pedals take the signal of your guitar, make a copy, then warp or mess with that copy before sending it out. So, a chorus pedal tweaks the pitch of the copied sound and adds that copy to the original sound before sending it out. A classic example of chorus is Kurt's guitar on Come As You Are by Nirvana. Flanger pedals slow down the copied sound, add it to the original sound and send it out. This effect can be heard on tracks like Listen To The Music by The Doobie Brothers. While these pedals add warped copies to the original sound, not all modulation effects do this. A vibrato pedal does something similar to a chorus pedal, but only sends the effected, modulated sound out. Tremolo pedals, which mess with the volume, only output the modulated sound as well. If you're not sure what kind of modulation effect will suit your sound, then have a look through our Guitar Effect Buyer's Guide . A handy tip is to find out what pedals helped shape favourite ever guitar sound and then go from there.
Time-Based Effects: Reverb & Delay
Delay and reverb are two of the most popular guitar effects of all time. If you've never played with either effect before, you might think they're the same, but there's a really big difference between the two. A delay pedal takes the original guitar sound, makes a copy, delays it, and then sends it out like an echo of the original. You can adjust the delay time and amount of echoed repeats really accurately with some pedals. A reverb pedal does something almost completely different. It takes the original guitar sound and adds reverberation to it. So the difference is that a delay pedal adds a copy to the original sound to the point where the echoes become part of the sound, while reverb just treats the original sound, making it sound like you're playing in a larger space.
Compression, Boost, Filter & Equalize
Compression pedals, boost pedals and equalizers are all effects that play with the volume and frequencies of the sound. A compressor pedal takes the dynamic sound of a guitar - so the difference between louder and quieter parts - and balances the overall volume, giving it a push. This makes the quieter parts louder and the louder parts quieter, which also makes the sound easier to place in the mix of the rest of the band. Boost pedals give the total sound of a guitar a volume boost, which is useful for suddenly pushing your guitar sound up and over the rest of the band for a solo. Filters play with the volume of certain frequencies. So a wah-pedal is tweaked in real-time like an accelerator pedal to filter out certain frequencies of your guitar sound depending on where it's set. Equalizer pedals are also a kind of filter pedal but they hand you control over the different frequencies of the guitar sound, usually via a set of sliders. EQ pedals aren't really effects pedals in this way, but are more designed to shape and adjust your guitar sound - much like the EQ section of a stereo.
Guitar Pedal Accessories
Almost any guitar effect pedal needs to be fed power by a power supply . Some pedals can also be powered by a 9 Volt battery, and while you can get power supply plugs for one pedal, or daisy-chains that can be connected to one plug to power a few effects pedals, you can also get multi-power supplies that can power multiple pedals at once. Some pedals have an extra port for an external expression pedal, which can be hooked up to control a certain parameter in real-time - like the delay-time of a delay pedal. And, since most guitarists usually can't do with just one pedal, a pedalboard can be essential so you can neatly line up all of your stompboxes and easily pack them up and get them from gig to gig. Then you'll also need some patch leads . These are basically short jack cables for linking up your pedals.
Acoustic & Electro-Acoustic Guitar Effects
While most guitar effects are designed for the electric guitar, in principle, any effect designed for an electric guitar will also work with an electro-acoustic guitar hooked up to an acoustic amplifier. The only pedals that acoustic guitarists might want to avoid are distortion pedals. Distortion pedals boost the gain and raise the volume which, when combined with the hollow and resonant body of an acoustic guitar, usually leads to horrible feedback. Many acoustic guitar amplifiers will actually come with effects built in, like reverb and chorus. You can also get specially designed acoustic guitar effect pedals .
Frequently Asked Questions About Guitar Effects
What guitar effects do I need?
If you're not sure what guitar effects you need, a good starting point is to pick out a song that features the guitar sound you want, look up which effects the guitarist used, then go from there. If you need some more tips, have a look through our Guitar Effect Buyer's Guide .
What order should I put my guitar effects in?
Where you place your pedal in your 'effects chain' actually has a big impact on your guitar sound. One of the golden rules is to always put your overdrive pedals before your modulation pedals, and then put your reverb and delay effects at the end. For more info, see our blog about Chaining Guitar Effects .