4 Guitar Pedals For Creativity and Inspiration
One of the reason so many guitarists love buying new guitar pedals is because of the inspiration new pedals can give you. Have you ever felt like your mind was full of fresh ideas after trying a new pedal for the first time? That’s the power of adding a new pedal to your rig – it can be a powerful source of inspiration and creativity.
While any guitar pedal can be a potential source of inspiration, there are some pedals that offer more inspiration than others. Some pedals just scream creativity. Let’s check out a few pedals you might want to grab if you’re looking for something to inspire your playing.
The KEY9 is a pedal that makes your guitar emulate classic keyboard tones – and it does it extremely well. The first time I played the B9 Organ Machine (similar pedal but focused on organ tones), I was blown away with how authentic it sounded. I personally feel the KEY9 is even better for creativity purposes as it gives you a wider range of tones.
The reason this is an excellent pedal for inspiration or creativity is because it forces you to rethink how you play guitar. You can’t strum chords or play bends on the KEY9 like you would on guitar because a keyboardist can’t strum chords or play bends. Instead, play chords and melodies like a keyboard player might. It’s surprisingly easy to switch over the way you play and come up with ideas you never would have thought of before.
It’s also a great way to get your playing out of a rut. If you feel like you’re playing the same things over and over any time you try and improvise, I recommend using the KEY9 to force you to try different things. Instead of playing the same licks over and over, it makes you come up with new licks and phrases. Typical rock or blues licks that use a lot of bends don’t sound very authentic when played with the KEY9, so if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut it’s a great way to give yourself a fresh start.
To get an idea on how the KEY9 can give you a new way of playing guitar, check out the video below:
If you’re into classic rock, jazz or any other style where you often hear electric pianos, then the KEY9 is a great way for you to enjoy the style of music you play in a very different way. It should be pretty clear from the above video how versatile the pedal is and how it gives you access to tones usually inaccessible to guitarists.
If you like the idea of this pedal but are more interested in organ tones, read my review of the B9 Organ Machine here.
Ideas on how to get started using the KEY9:
- Have a listen to songs that use keyboards to get a feel for the style of playing you want to try and emulate. For example you’re not going to hear bends, slides or vibrato, but you will hear scale runs, staccatos and arpeggios.
- Some keyboard parts may be transcribed into Guitar TAB so if there’s a song with a keyboard part you enjoy listening to, see if you can find the Guitar TAB for it. That will give you a good starting point to try and emulate a keyboard style of playing.
- Load up a backing track from YouTube and jam along with it imagining you’re a keyboard player. After a couple of jams you will get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Improvising is the best way to learn how to use this pedal.
The first time most guitarists sit down with a multi-effects pedal, they jam along with the factory presets trying to find one that holds their creativity. Some presets will be pretty plain, others unusable and a few will provide seemingly endless inspiration. One reason why so many guitarists love the Eventide H9 is that of the high quality in each of its algorithms and presets.
While the Eventide H9 isn’t a multi-effects pedal as you can only use one algorithm at a time, it works extremely well as a source of creativity. Lush soundscapes, reverbs, delays and other effects are instantly available. While you can easily tweak and change any of the presets, you get an excellent starting point with each algorithm.
The big advantage of the H9 is that each algorithm has been well crafted and very usable. Simply plug it in and start jamming. Here’s a great demo by Rob Chapman which gives an overview of the H9’s sound and how to use it.
If you do decide to grab an H9, keep in mind there are currently three different options: H9, H9 Core & H9 Max. All three use the exact same hardware with the only difference being the number of algorithms preloaded. Here is a quick way to figure out which one is right for you:
- H9 Core: contains 1 algorithm and 25 presets
- H9: contains 9 algorithms and 99 presets
- H9 Max: contains all available algorithms (currently 47) and over 500 presets. Also will include any future algorithms. Choose this option is you want the full experience and have the extra money to spend
Check out my review of the Eventide H9 here for a more detailed look at it’s features, limitations, and options.
Ideas on how to get started using the H9:
- Start with a crystal clean tone and use the H9 to build a lush reverb. From there, experiment with different chords and licks and listen to how the reverb reacts to your playing. The idea is to play around with getting the reverb to respond to your playing in interesting ways.
- Use a light overdrive and set the H9 to any type of harmonizing preset. Play around with riffs and licks around the fretboard and find the area of your fretboard that sounds the best with the harmony. Add in your usual effects once you’re happy with the basic harmony sound and jam with it.
- Work with different combinations of effects along with the H9. Each combination (eg: delay + H9, pitch shifter + H9, chorus + H9) will give you fresh ideas because each combination will react differently to each other. Also experiment with placing the H9 in different positions in your pedalboard to hear how it sounds before or after different pedals. Break the usual rules and see what you can come up with.
Check out the price and full details of the H9 here (link to Amazon).
TC Electronic Ditto X4
If you don’t already have a looper pedal, now is the time to get one. Not only are they excellent practice tools, but they’re a great way to come up with ideas and develop those ideas. Have you ever come up with a great riff or lick only to forget it within a couple of minutes? It’s frustrating. With a looper pedal, you could quickly record it and hold on to it so you don’t forget it. Then you’re able to play around and develop your new idea without forgetting it.
There are plenty of great looper pedals as I’ve covered in this guide, but here I want to show you the Ditto X4. The original Ditto by TC Electronic is an incredibly popular looper thanks to it’s low price, small size and ease of use. The Ditto X4 takes the Ditto and fleshes it out with useful features.
With the Ditto X4, you essentially have access to two independent loopers at the same time which is something not many other loopers offer. This allows you to build up complex layers and control the playback of each layer.
For example you could record a chord progression or rhythm on one loop and use the other independent loop to add in a melody or other sounds. Then instead of having to erase everything as you would with other loopers, you could simply erase the melody or the chord progression loops individually and replace them with something different. Having two loopers built into one pedal is surprisingly useful.
From a creativity point of view, the advantage with the X4 is that you can easily build up new ideas and work on them without being restricted to only one main loop.
Ideas on how to get started using a looper pedal:
- If you haven’t used a looper pedal before, work on the simple exercises covered in my looper pedal lesson here.
- Start by jamming with the looper without any other effects or pedals in the mix.
- Place the looper at the end of your rig so you can experiment with recording different effects into the loops. For example, play a simple chord progression with a chorus pedal and record that in the first loop. Then disable the chorus pedal and record a melody on the second loop using an overdrive or delay pedal. Now you have two loops running with different effects recorded on each one.
- Try to record a percussive style rhythm using muted hits, pick scrapes and tapping on your pickups. Play around with different effects pedals to come up with interesting sounding rhythms to play over the top of.
EHX Pitch Fork
Pitch based pedals have always given guitarists plenty of inspiration. The popularity of the Digitech Whammy (check out my review of the Whammy DT here) and the creative ways guitarists use it is an example of how inspiring pitch shifting effects can be.
I’ve looked through a few different pitch based pedals and while there are plenty worth covering, I’m going to recommend the Pitch Fork for a few reasons.
The first reason is because it is far cheaper than many other pitch based pedals while still providing a good range of features. The Pitch Fork is literally half the cost of other pitch based pedals I was researching for this guide.
The second is that it has an expression pedal input jack which means you’re able to achieve pitch shifting effects similar to a Whammy pedal simply by connecting a cheap expression pedal. So if you like the idea of using a Digitech Whammy but don’t have the funds for it, this is a great alternative. Even if you don’t have an expression pedal now, it’s good to know that you can easily add one later on to access more effects.
If you’re looking for an expression pedal to use with the Pitch Fork, I recommend the Moog EP-3 as it’s well built for a lower price than many alternatives.
The last reason I recommend the Pitch Fork for creativity purposes is because of the range of different pitch intervals it allows you to choose from. Many other pedals only allow you to move up or down an octave at a time, which can be very limiting. The Pitch Fork gives you far more flexibility which means you can play around with different intervals for interesting harmonies and riffs. Simply switching to a different interval can open up new ideas and inspiration.
The intervals available are: m2 (minor 2nd), M2 (major 2nd), M3 (major 3rd), P4 (perfect 4th), P5 (perfect 5th), M6 (major 6th), m7 (minor 7th), 1 Octave, 2 Octaves, and 3 Octaves.
While you’re unlikely to make use of all of the intervals, it’s good to have them available for the future. I’ve been frustrated in the past where a pitch pedal didn’t have the right interval so it’s good to have this range available.
If you don’t already have some sort of pitch based pedal, I highly recommend the Pitch Fork as it’s a good starting point that will cover a lot of pitch effects you hear other guitarists use.
Ideas on how to get started using the Pitch Fork:
- Start by playing around with octaves (either up, down or both) as it’s the easiest interval to come up with new ideas and get a feel for the pedal
- Gradually move towards other intervals and write down which intervals you like the most. Keep a notepad next to you and write down any thoughts that pop into your head as you experiment with each setting. This will help you in the future when you want to try and achieve a certain effect
- Use the latch feature to set the footswitch into momentary mode. This means the pitch will only change when you hold down the footswitch. Experiment with riffs that shifts the pitch on and off.
- If you have an expression pedal (the Moog EP-3 is a good choice if you’re looking for one), connect it and play around with Tom Morello style licks. Check out my lesson on using a Whammy pedal here to get a feel for using an expression pedal with the Pitch Fork.
- Experiment with placing the Pitch Fork in different positions in your pedalboard. Quite often switching the position of the pedal with another could be all it takes to produce an interesting effect that can fuel your creativity.
Want more inspiration?
Of course there are plenty of other worthy pedals out there to give your creativity and inspiration a boost. The above pedals really made a difference in my students’ creativity so they’re good starting points. Consider getting at least one of the above pedals and experiment with it. If you don’t have a pedal anything like the ones listed above, then that’s a great opportunity to introduce a new sound into your playing.
Another way to give you a hit of inspiration is to look at other guitarists and how they use effects. For example you could read my guides on Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour or others and the effects pedals they used. Then take some time listening to their songs and experiment with those same effects. The idea here is that you’re using another guitarist as a springboard for your own creativity.
The goal isn’t to copy another guitarist, the goal is to take inspiration from them and use it in your own way. So if you don’t find the above pedals inspiring, I recommend this approach.
Check out my guides on Guitarist Rigs to research other guitarists and the effects they use. I’ll be writing more guides on inspiring pedals in the future, so subscribe to email updates to hear about them.