So, you’ve been playing the electric guitar for a while now and you have decided that you’d like to purchase some guitar pedals.
But you’re new to guitar pedals and you have no experience using them. You’re not sure what guitar pedals to start with or how to connect them together. Adding a few guitar pedals to your signal chain can be both a fun and creative experience. So let’s take a look at some of the best guitar pedals for beginners.
There are so many different pedals on the market today that it’s easy to see why it can get very confusing to pick the one that’s right for you. We’ll take a look at 5 tried and true pedals that are a good place for you to start. Before we dive into things, I’d like to mention that it is a good idea to visit YouTube and check out some of the pedals that I’m going to suggest. It will give you a very good idea of how they sound and if they are right for you. I’ll list the YouTube links at the end of each pedal description.
For the sake of this blog post, I’m going to keep things very simple. I’m not going to get into the technical details of how these pedals function – there are plenty of sites on the internet that cover that in more detail. For now we’re just going to take a look at these effects and give a brief description of what they do.
First up is a chorus pedal. Simply put, a chorus pedal can make your guitar’s sound fuller and more lush. Some chorus pedals have one knob and are very simple to use, while some have several knobs and features and it can take some experimentation and practice to learn how to use them. But chorus pedals don’t have to have a lot of features to sound good. A few good choices when you’re a beginner are the Electro Harmonix Small Clone and the MXR Micro Chorus. Both pedals are really simple to use and sound really good, especially for the money. If I were to choose between the two I’d pick the Small Clone. I actually have both of these pedals in my collection and I think that the Small Clone sounds better and is more versatile. If you want to step it up a bit and take it to the next level, then you should consider the Boss Super Chorus. It has a lot more features and sounds really great. But any one of these pedals would be a good choice if you’re a beginner. Here are a few links you can check out on YouTube:
Electro Harmonix Small Clone Chorus
MXR Micro Chorus
Boss Super Chorus
Boss Chorus Shootout
Chorus Pedals Explained
The second pedal that we’re going to look at is a Phaser. You can get some pretty dramatic effects using a phase pedal. Just like chorus pedals, when it comes to phase pedals, you don’t need one with a lot of features to get an amazing sound. In fact, some of the most popular and best sounding phase pedals only have one or two knobs. Some of my all time favorite phase pedals are made by Electro Harmonix and MXR. The Electro Harmonix Small Stone is my all time favorite. It has one knob that controls the rate or the speed of the phase cycle and a switch that makes the effect more or less intense and dramatic. The Small Stone can be heard on countless records from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Next up is the MXR Phase 90. This phase pedal has only one knob that controls the speed of the phase effect. It doesn’t have a switch like the Electro Harmonix, which makes the effect more intense, but it’s a fantastic sounding phase and it is about as simple as it gets. Just like the Small Stone, the Phase 90 can be heard on countless recordings. If you want to step it up a bit, you may want to try the Phase 90’s bigger brother, the MXR Phase 100. The phase 100 has two knobs and offers more control. There is one knob for speed and a second knob which controls the waveform intensity of the phase effect. Unlike the color switch on the Small Stone, which only has 2 positions, the intensity knob on the Phase 100 has 4 positions, giving you more variations of intensity. I own all 3 of these pedals and my all time favorite is the Electro Harmonix Small Stone, but any of these pedals are a great place to start and will do the job. Here are a few links you can check out on YouTube:
Electro Harmonix Small Stone
MXR Phase 90
MXR Phase 100
Phase Pedals Explained
The next two effects that we’re going to cover go so well together that they are almost inseparable. They are Delay and Reverb. Delay and Reverb pedals add space and dimension to your sound. They are so popular that they can be found on almost every guitarist’s pedal board. Let’s look at the delay first. A delay pedal, as its name suggests, delays the sound of your guitar. The delayed sound is mixed in with the direct sound of your guitar. When the two are mixed together the second sound of the guitar’s signal comes after the direct sound producing the delayed effect. Two of my favorite delay pedals are the made by Boss. They are the DM-2 and the DD-3T. The DM-2 is an all analog circuit and the DD3-T is a digital delay. Both sound great and are a solid choice if you want to add delay to your sound. You might also want to check out the Rumble Seat by Analog Alien. The Rumble Seat has 3 effects: Overdrive, Delay and Reverb. The Rumble Seat is being used by some of the biggest artists in the music business, like Stevie Wonder, James Burton and Joe Walsh to name a few. All three effects are in one cool enclosure. There’s no need to connect them together as they are permanently connected within the pedal already. Just plug your guitar into the input of the Rumble Seat and the output of the Rumble Seat to your amp and you’re good to go. In fact, many guitarists have stated that the Rumble Seat is the only pedal that they need to take to a gig. Here are a few links you can check out:
Analog Alien Rumble Seat
Delay Pedals Explained
A reverb pedal will add depth and space to your guitar, making it sound like you are in a large room or church. Two of my favorite reverb pedals that are great for beginners, are the Electro Harmonic Holy Grail and the MXR M300. The Electro Harmonic Holy Grail is very simple to use. It has one knob that controls the amount of reverb and a 3 position switch. The switch allows you to go between a Spring and Hall reverb. The switch also has a third position that adds a flanger effect to the reverb, which is very cool. A flanger is similar to a phaser in its sound and function. The MXR M300 has more controls and features, allowing you to not only add a room or plate sound, but there’s a mix control that allows you to blend the wet and dry signals, as well as a Decay control, which adjusts the actual decay of the reverb effect. The Analog Alien Rumble Seat also has a reverb circuit built into to it. Although there’s only one control for the reverb, the folks at Analog Alien have added a little modulation to the reverb, making it shimmer. It’s a nice effect that many Rumble Seat users have come to love. Here are a few links you can check out:
Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb
Analog Alien Rumble Seat
Reverb Pedals Explained
Finally, we’re going to take a look at what is what many consider to be the most popular effects pedal of all time – the Fuzz Face. The Fuzz Face adds some serious fuzzy distortion to your guitar’s tone. This pedal got its start back in the 60’s with artists like Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. Since then, it has become so popular that there are so many on the market – more than any other pedal. Fuzz pedals come in all sizes and shapes. Some have a lot of features while some only have one knob. First up is the original, the one that started it all: The Dallas Arbiter. The Arbiter was a favorite of Jimi Hendrix. Another classic fuzz pedal that can be found on hundreds of records is the Electro Harmonix Big Muff. The Big Muff has a sound all its own – it sounds great on bass guitar too. If you want to try out a more modern fuzz pedal, you may want to consider the Alien Twister by Analog Alien. The Alien Twister is one of the most versatile fuzz pedals on the market. It has 3 controls: Input, Output and a Stab control which controls the character of the fuzz effect. The Twister will allow you to go from a solid wall of voodoo fuzz, and with a simple turn of the Stab and input contours, will give you some of the sweetest blues tones you’ve ever heard. It’s worth checking out. Here are a few video links you can check out:
EH Big Muff
Analog Alien – Alien Twister
Fuzz Pedals Explained:
Connections and Power
Connecting a few pedals together is very simple, but there are a few rules you should follow. First, use good quality patch cables. It makes all the difference in the world. Patch cables are the life-line in your signal chain. It’s how everything gets connected so don’t go cheep in this department. Get high quality cables. Believe me, you won’t be sorry you did. Second, don’t use cables that are longer then you need them to be – keep them as short as possible. This not only helps to keep your connections neat and organized, but you’re less likely to get impedance issues. Some pedals can be powered by battery – 9v+ is the common battery when it comes to using pedals. But I recommend a good power supply when powering your pedals. Batteries run down and some pedals will drain your battery even if you are not using them. A good choice for a power supply is the ISO-5 by VooDoo Lab. It’s a great power supply, allowing you to power pedals that have 12v+ and 18v+ power requirements. Last but not least, I would recommend placing your pedals on a pedal board. You don’t need a large pedal board if you only have a few pedals. A pedal board is a great way to keep your pedals organized and easy to transport from gig to gig. Here are some links you should check out:Gator Cases Pedal Boards & Stands
Gator Cases Aluminum Pedal Board