Best Guitar Pedals: Guide to Building Your Ideal Pedalboard
There are so many different types of effects and guitar pedals for each effect out there. While this is a good problem to have as there are a lot of amazing pedals, it’s hard to know what suits your needs as a guitarist.
This guide will help you figure out what deserves a place on your pedalboard and shows you the best guitar pedals available today for each type of effect. Whether you’re just getting started as a guitarist or want to improve your rig, this guide will give you what you need to set up the ideal pedalboard.
Want to Learn All About Guitar Effects?
If you already know the difference between distortion and overdrive, or you can tell the difference between a phaser and a flanger by ear, you can get right into it and start building your pedalboard with the information below.
If you’re not very confident on the types of guitar effects available today, how they work and how to use them, check out the comprehensive Guitar Effects Course here. The course teaches you everything you would want to know about all the main types of effects, how to use them and even what order to place them on your pedalboard. It’s an easy way to skip through the frustrating trial and error of figuring it all out on your own.
The more you understand how effects work and how to use them, the easier it will be to craft the perfect tone you’ll enjoy playing with. Check out the course now to find out more.
How to Choose the Right Guitar Pedals for You
While I’ve narrowed down the countless guitar pedals available out there, there’s still a lot of different options to choose from. While most other websites will give you a list of the ’10 best guitar pedals’, that’s not really helpful to you. Instead I’ve separated the pedals into different categories to help you work out which pedal suits your needs.
This means whether you want to build a budget-friendly pedalboard or you want a fully flexible and high-end pedalboard, you’ll find it easy to pick out the right pedals for your needs.
To help you figure out what pedals suit you the best, have a think about what you want from your tone and rig. Do you want something quick and easy to use where you just plug it in and you’re good to go? Or do you want to be able to tweak each effect and dial in the perfect tone? Think about what is important to you before you keep reading and you’ll find it easier to pick the right pedals for your needs.
Best Distortion Pedals
A good distortion pedal used properly can give you endless inspiration. There’s nothing quite like cranking a distortion pedal and ripping into a energetic solo. Good distortion isn’t just for soloing though, it can give rhythm guitars that extra spark of energy and life that can transform a live performance.
In my Ultimate Guide on the Best Distortion Pedals, I’ll highlight some of the best distortion pedals available today as well as how to choose the one that suits you best.
Whether you’re looking for full on saturation, a tight distortion for metal or a vintage style dirt for blues or classic rock, you’ll find a pedal that suits your needs.
Best Looper Pedals
As a guitar teacher I feel everybody should have a looper pedal. Not only is it an excellent tool for songwriting/jamming, it’s an excellent tool for practicing too.
If you don’t already have a looper pedal, you might be surprised with how much fun you’re missing out on. Being able to lay your own rhythm tracks to solo over or experiment with different harmonies to a melody you’ve come up with is one of the best feelings you can have playing guitar.
Best Delay Pedals
Most guitarists buy at least one delay pedal at some point because delay is an easy effect to use and can add so much to your playing.
You can use delay to thicken up your lead guitar, create a lush and atmospheric texture or set up a rhythmic effect that allows you to write parts not possible without a delay pedal.
Some delay pedals are simple enough where you simply dial in the delay time and you’re good to go. Other pedals give you precise control right down to the millisecond.
Best Wah Pedals
The wah pedal is the most iconic guitar pedal and also one of the most expressive effects you can use. It’s inspired a lot of countless songs and generations of guitarists.
If you don’t already have a wah pedal, it’s hard to describe how much fun they are to use. It’s more than merely rocking the pedal back and forth, you can use it to express yourself so much clearer and add some vocal-like qualities to your playing. Try playing Hendrix’s Voodoo Child without a wah pedal and you’ll get an idea on how much you’re missing out on when you don’t use a wah pedal.
Some of the most popular wah pedals available are also very cheap which makes a wah pedal a must buy for guitarists of any skill level.
Best Fuzz Pedals
Fuzz is a type of distortion that became popular in the 60s and 70s. It’s partly what gave Jimi Hendrix his iconic tone. There’s nothing like jamming along with a fuzz pedal – it’s so different to a typical distortion pedal and can be very versatile. While it’s usually seen as a vintage-style effect, it’s still used today by a lot of guitarists in more ‘modern’ styles of music.
Whether you’re into Hendrix, Gilmour, Smashing Pumpkins, Jack White or you just want to experiment with different gain tones, you might want to try a fuzz pedal out.
Best Guitar Tuners
Playing an in-tune guitar is crucial for a lot of reasons that should be pretty obvious. It also affects your ear development – playing an out-of-tune guitar (even slightly) can ruin your sense of pitch.
Fortunately there are a lot of high quality and affordable guitar tuners available today in a few different forms. From guitar pedals, clip on tuners, rack units, handheld units and even apps, you have no excuse for playing an out-of-tune guitar again.
In this guide let’s look at the different types of guitar tuners available and which type may suit you the best.
Best Compressor Pedals
Compressor pedals are usually overlooked by beginners and intermediate guitarists because it isn’t obvious at first why they’re so useful. Other types of effects have a dramatic impact on your tone so you can instantly hear why you may want them. But a compressor is much more subtle.
A compressor can tighten up your playing, help add some sustain to your lead playing or add a smooth glass-like sound to your clean tone. It can turn a good tone into a great tone when used properly.
Best Reverb Pedals
While your amp may already have some built in reverb, it’s not going to match the quality and feeling a dedicated reverb pedal can give you.
Reverb is an effect that most guitarists overlook and decide to use delay instead to fill out their tone. But reverb does more than add trails to your tone. It can completely change the vibe of your playing. In the guide there’s an excellent video that demonstrates how changing the type of reverb you use can completely change the feeling and atmosphere of your playing.
Best Phaser Pedals
If your initial thoughts when you hear about a phaser pedal is that they’re gimmicky swirly sounding things that have no place on your pedalboard, think again. A phaser pedal can add some life and energy to your playing in ways that might surprise you.
From subtle swirls to psychedelic pulses, guitarists have been using phasers for a long time to breathe new life into their guitar tone. Even if you’ve heard a phaser pedal in action, actually using one is a very different experience. You feel the swirling motion of the phaser in the tone and it changes the way you play.
Best Tremolo Pedals
Tremolo isn’t a very common effect, but when you hear it in a song, it stands out. Tremolo is often overpowering, but when used properly it can give a song such a unique vibe that wouldn’t be possible without it.
The chances are you won’t have a need for a tremolo pedal unless you like vintage guitar tones, surf rock or experimental sounds in your playing. If you’re looking for a way to add some inspiration to your playing, it’s worth checking out what a tremolo pedal can do for you.
Other Types of Pedals
More guides will be added to this list over time, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter for more helpful guides, reviews and lessons.
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