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Basics of Electric Guitar Pedals

The most famous guitar pedal is probably the wah pedal. The wah pedal, getting its name from its trademark “wah wah” sound, is a pedal commonly associated with guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine.) It is controlled like a gas pedal on a car, pushing down and up adjusts the filter that creates the “wah wah” effect. A good song to hear this on is Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” or the intro to Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child.”

The next two pedals are reverb and delay. Reverb creates an instant echo that is comparable to yelling in a cathedral or a large open building. Delay is another type of echo, however it is multiple controlled repeats. There are many types of delays, but they mainly fall into the categories of analog or digital delays. The most prominent user of delay pedals is The Edge of U2. Listen to any U2 song and there is likely the extreme use of delay and reverb to create lush soundscapes.

The final types of pedals we’ll be discussing are the overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals. Almost everybody uses one of these types of pedals, as they are the unsung heroes of guitar pedals. Overdrives are typically used to add a bit more grit and drive to an amp. Distortions are used to add a full on distortion to a clean amp. Fuzz is that in-your-face, overly distorted, buzz saw sound. The song that comes to mind for great fuzz tone for me is the song by The Black Keys “Strange Times.”

Of course, there is a lot more to know about pedals, and a lot more pedals to know about. I chose not to mention modulation pedals such as flangers, phasers, and chorus because those are much more advanced than the ones I have mentioned above. The best way to experience the magic of playing with pedals is to go to your local guitar store and try some out.