Guitar effects are essential for every guitarist, who seeks out any kinds of new sounds. Commonly called stomp boxes, there is a wide variety of such effects on the market, and we’re still getting more and more of them each year. You can find everything, from distortions, through modulation with more space or delay, up to the ones, which are quite difficult to describe.
Nearly every beginning guitarist might feel some kind of a lack in tone right after buying their first guitar and amp. Lots of different amp have some built-in effects, like for example reverb, but the lower models usually operate with nothing more but a simple switch between its clean and distorted channels, out of which the ladder is usually not of any good quality. To enrich your tone, you can go with some help from more effect pedals.
The most popular guitar effects producer is a Japanese brand Boss, which belongs to Roland. Though we shouldn’t forget about brands like Digitech, Mooer, TC Electronic, Jim Dunlop, and last but not least, Electro Harmonix (which stays faithful to analog technologies and is one of the leaders in bringing original and fresh projects to the table).
Distortion pedals give us the most common effect, and there is a wide selection between different models, what should work as an advantage, but maybe also leaves too big of a choice. There’s three basic groups: overdrive, distortion and fuzz. The distinction between the first two of these might not be so easy for beginners. The two are very similar, but it’s enough to say that overdrives are pretty much warmer and more delicate. It is a bit of an overstatement though, seeing as the power and character of its tone is basically left to different producers and their models. The premise here is to imitate the sound of a valve amp pushed to the point of breaking and getting slightly overdriven. Classic models here are for example Tubescreamer by Ibanez or Boss Overdrive, which became a models and inspiration for many different products of the same type. Overdrive pedals are great for putting texture on already distorted channels, giving it a proper boost. Distortion on the other hand, was made to fit with heavier players, experimenting with rock and heavy-metal music. The character of its tone has been widely enriched, and we can find different types of it, too, which might sound totally not alike. Worth to note would be some models like Boss DS-1 or ProCo Rat, which might easily fall under kinds of a cult. There’s also some effects with even more power like for example Boss Metal Zone or MXR Fullbore Metal. A vastly different category is found within fuzz pedals. They’re the first effects of such kind, their history can reach back to the 60’s. The most primitive and minimalistic form of distortion, which surely doesn’t mean it’s the worst. They’re some of the most precious pedals for professional musicians, and their raw and typical sound can be found on thousands of important rock recordings. Some of the more recognizable fuzzes are Electro Harmonix Big Muff and Fuzz Face, which was used by Jimi Hendrix. It’s the fuzz, which is responsible for most of the tone in bands like White Stripes or Queens Of The Stone Age.
Reverb effects are necessary for musician, who want their tone to be more rich and full. They allow us to play more texturally and transmit the signal from different angles, making you feel surrounded by the sound. Reverb can be adjusted to sound like in a church or a concert hall, depending on what we like more. Just a reverb might make a small amp with one speaker sound twice as big. There’s a variety of different models, but a good example might be TC Electronic with its Hall Of Fame or its smaller version Hall Of Fame Mini. With that effect we can get to rediscover the tone of our guitar.
Delays effects are made to resemble an echo, bringing the sound of one guitar stroke to be repeated a few more times, as if it’s still being played repeatedly in a given tempo. Thanks to that we can create a huge wall of sound or set it on short repeats and resemble a wild effect of a few parts being played at once. Probably the most recognizable player using that ladder technique is David Evans, knows as The Edge of U2. If you enjoy his playing, a delay effect is more than a key to it. In a documentary movie “It Might Get Loud” The Edge admitted that his playing is very often sparse and minimalistic, it’s the effects that play the big role. Delays might get pretty expensive, but If we’re looking for something with a lower budget, we can try models like Behringer VD400, which might be thought of as of a plastic toy by some, but it’s hard to find a better product in its price range.
Within that weird name we find that specific sound, which has probably been heard by most in music. That effect resembles kind of duck noises, with its characteristics depending on our foot control and on how hard would we step on the pedal. It’s difficult to describe its sound, so it might be the safest way to just listen to “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix. Right away from its intro Jimi moves the wah-wah on muted strings. Dunlop Crybaby is a very good model. A rather standard model, which is still used by beginners and more advanced players as well.
Within this group there’s a huge variety of different sounds and stuff, and there’s always some new ones already on the way. Most basically it consists of effects like chorus (which modifies the guitar to sound more choir-like) or tremolo (which resembles the idea of playing notes and shifting between different levels of volume in a steady manner). A good example of a song with that kind of sound is “Rumble” by Link Wray. What’s more, we can very often hear effects like flanger (which makes you feel like the sound is repeatedly getting closer and further away, might resemble an effect of an airplane flying by). Kurt Cobain of Nirvana used it on their song “Come As You Are”, which can be clearly audible at the beginning.
Multi-effects are nothing more but some complex devices, which are equipped in types of distortion, reverb and delay all in one, and much more. If we can’t spend too much money on effects, there’s a good model of a multi-effect called Vox Stomplab, which allows us to use all of the aforementioned effects.
Did you know there are types of effects, which can’t be pigeonholed so simply. Electro Harmonix have effects such as Ravish Star, which changes your guitar sound to resemble an Indian instrument called sitar. Another example is Organ Machine, which obviously does the same thing, but with the final outcome being close to real organs, instead of a 6-string.
Guitar effects mean the same thing to guitarists, as what spices mean to cooks, and there’s really lots to choose. You can always find something that you’re going to like or enjoy, the only limit is probably the budget.