Guitar pedals, fun or frustrating?

  • by

Hopefully, this article will take the frustration out of putting a basic guitar rig together. So if you’re liking your guitar and your amp and the cords you’re using, then next step is get some pedals to color your sound. Guitar pedals are one of the funnest and favorite things we buy as guitar players. I’ve spent thousands on these little boxes and am still intrigued by them.

Guitar pedals is a science unto itself and a book 100’s of pages could be written on the details of pedals, using pedals in different combinations, the sounds of various famous players rigs and on and on. I want to address and try to make it as simple as possible to read this, hook your pedals and get a quality sound. It always takes a bit of experimentation.

The first thing to do is to get a good clean sound. Plug your guitar into your guitar amp at the volume you will be playing whether it’s home, a club or studio. Set your guitar on a pickup that’s not too bassy and not too trebly. Don’t use neck or treble pickup. I would have my guitar volume on 10 for full signal strength.

Make sure you are using a quality guitar cord. I think for the value, you can’t go wrong with George L cables. I’ve tried several cables that were over a $100 a piece and did not feel they were so much better to justify the extra cost. I was ever sponsored by a cable company and sent a cable that was a value $130. Liked the George L better. This is all my own opinion, all I’m saying is try things but if you buy a cable for a $100 make sure you can send it back if you don’t like it.

Now you should have a good quality full clean sound for your rig. Add in one pedal at a time. Maybe you’ll try a Compressor first. I’m going to write some blogs on individual settings for pedals at a later date. This article is going to address things generally so get you up and running quickly.

The next biggest thing is to set the volume level of the pedals even or what’s called unity gain to the volume level of your amp. Play your guitar rig then hit the pedal and make sure the volume is similar. Could be a desired effect to boost your rig but that’s not the idea here. I like to put Compression pedal up front. It’s my first pedal after a tuner.

Overdrive pedals are next in line. I like to have 2 Overdrive sounds, one for a moderate OD for a Blues sound and one with a heavier OD or possibly Distortion for a Rock sound. I like pedals with true bypass sound cleaner to me.

Next I like a Chorus pedal which I mostly use for a clean sound on ballads. To thicken up the sound a bit. Next I place my Delay pedal in line. I use a longer delay with about 4 repeats for lead solos. Not too prominent but just to make the guitar sound bigger. There are many, many ideas for each of these pedals but we’re just trying to get a high, quality basic sound. Again, there so many ideas, methods and choices here and things may vary a bit depending on the style of music you’re playing.

This article more for players that are trying to decide how to put a rig together, what pedals to buy, how to get most needed and used sounds. Generally I get Reverb from an amp but if you have a non reverb amp then you’ll need a Reverb pedal. In my opinion to get started I would get a Tuner,Compressor, Blues OD, Rock OD or Distortion, Chorus, Delay and Reverb. You can do gigs with this and build from here. Other pedals you’ll want to add in the future is Wah Wah, possibly a Volume pedal. Phase Shifter, Flanger and Tremelo.

If you’re on a budget check out the Boss pedals (very durable pedals and can take a beating) they have great videos on You Tube showing the sounds you can get and settings. Xotic makes some affordable pedals I think that a couple notches above Boss. We need to attach the pedals to something sturdy and durable. I believe for convenience and price, the Pedaltrain boards and cases are great.

I had a student who was playing with a band and had a small budget to buy a few pedals so I told him for the music he was playing to get a Comp, Blues OD and Delay. He actually had a gig on a Sat and we did a one hour lesson and got his whole rig set and I wrote down the settings on his amp and each pedal in case something got changed. He played the gig and text me that night how the band couldn’t believe how good he sounded. And because his rig sounded so good he was playing better.


Keep playing and have fun,