These Are The Most Essential Guitar Effects for Defining your Sound

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Effects pedals do not magically make guitar players sound better. Hiding behind them, misusing them, or depending on them, especially in the early stages, will certainly inhibit progress and capability. Having said that however, it must be understood that effects are an integral part of the overall performance. When utilized properly, and considered in the composition of the material, effects become essentially indispensable. Actually, the majority of guitar riffs you know and love are decorated to some extent or another through distortion, or modulation, or reverberation, or whatever the case may be.

I’ve put together a pretty straightforward list, entailing the five most relevant and predominantly used effects. These are must have’s in your rig, the likes of which will help establish the sounds and styles you’re looking for.

5 Compression/Sustain

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If you’re a non-stop shredder this one might not make a whole lot of sense to you. If you build up to those notes that need to be held a little longer though, you’ll like this. And if you’re maniacally obsessed with drawing out notes indefinitely, whether shrill and dissonant, or smooth and embracing than you’ll be hooked. I’ve seen Trey Anastasio from Phish hold a note for what must’ve been well over sixty seconds. That’s all the sustain, the compression tightens things up, cutting the high and low frequencies, thereby cleaning the channel and punctuating the softer plucked notes. Again, Electro-Harmonix does a nice job with the Freeze Sound Retainer, as does DigiTech with their XMS Main Squeeze. As usual, however, this author will go with Boss and their CS-3

4 Reverb

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Here’s another little trick to creating a wall of sound. What’s the point of wailing out creamy notes, bent and romantic, beckoning and exacting if they’re just going to fade abruptly. You’re going to want to make them resound, to carry weight, to push with force and die with might. T-Rex Engineering with their Tonebug and DigiTech with their DigiVerb Digital Reverb and certainly contending with Boss’ RV-5 on the price, and Electro-Harmonix does a great job with their XO Holy Grail.

3 Wah

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No this pedal is not just for funk and reggae. If you can master the dynamic of the spectral glide, these things can supplement any style riff. But yes, this sound pretty much does typify funk, or visa versa. Still, Jimi Hendrix used one. David Gilmour, Frank Zappa, Mick Ronson, they all used one. There’s no doubt about it, the first I’d recommend is the Dunlop Cry Baby. Of course VOX makes a quality wah pedal as well. Steer clear of auto-wah, unless you are looking for something in particular from the auto-wah. But as far as an actual wah effect goes, manual is always best.

2 Chorus

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It’s every performers desire to appear larger than life, and to produce works of epic proportion. You don’t necessarily need a wall of speakers to do this. Sometimes it can be as simple as balancing the right effects. A chorus pedal is going to boost whatever you’re doing, enhancing and reinforcing the intensity of the sound. Once again I am partial to Boss and their CH-1. They’re definitely mastering the art, and their pedals are always affordable. MXR has the Zakk Wylde ZW38Black Label Chorus, and as always DigiTech is reliable with their CF-7 Chorus Factory.

1 Distortion/Overdrive

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I’m not talking anything extreme, no black pedals labeled Metal Death, or Bloody Blade. Just your typical overdrive, useful for blues, punk, classic rock, grunge, hardcore, rockabilly, you name it this sound has done it and will do it again. The best example for the money is undoubtedly the DS-1 by Boss. This thing is built like a tank, as are all Boss products. It’s user friendly, again, as are all Boss products, and it gets the job done. DigiTech has Grunge, also not bad for the price. Rogue, Modtone, Danelectro: no ones producing pedals and neglecting to make an overdrive.

Granted there are dozens, if not hundreds of effects to choose from, and almost as many manufacturers. What’s more, combination pedal boards are consistently improving, and the big dogs are mostly using rackmount processors. Still, these sounds are paramount for a well-rounded, comprehensive sound. If you don’t think so, let us know. After all, it’s always good to contribute and not just spectate. That’s why you started playing an instrument in the first place. Isn’t it?

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