5 Tips for Buying Guitar Effects PedalsWritten by Marc-Andre Seguin
Some bands and famous guitarists always seem to have a sound that is quite often recognizable within the first few bars of a solo or even a song. As an instructor I get asked by students all the time, “what do you use to get that sound”?
Of course, everyone has a favourite genre they play in most of the time and certain types of music always have their own kind of sound as well, but you might ask, “What’s that personal sound that player’s got going on”? You might like that sound but just can’t seem to get it no matter how you tweak things. Well, personal style and technique aside, most guys have a pedal or several that they use for certain songs or parts of songs, because really, you’ve got to switch it up once and awhile or it can get pretty monotonous.
First of all, if you are in the market for a new pedal, just don’t go and buy the first thing you see on the internet or the store shelf without trying it out, especially just because so and so plays through one.
Do a little research online first. What are other people saying? (Take it with a grain of salt though and make up your own mind.) Listen to some demos online but be very wary of this because it probably won’t sound like that going through your amp. Use this type of research just to give you a ballpark feel for the sound.
Take it home and play with it through your own amp and guitar!
Say you want to buy a fuzz pedal of some kind. There are many to choose from, so don’t just take one home to try but take two or three and give them all the exact same treatment through your amp. Don’t put anything else between the pedal and your amp. Always set the amp to the same parameters for each demo so that you have an even playing field for all pedals to base your decision on. This is also a great way to see if one pedal brings out more bass or more mids and so on. In the end you may find that your usual amp settings won’t work for this type of pedal and you may have to crank the bass down a bit (once you’ve made your decision), so keep the demoing fair and the settings fairly neutral.
Maybe you have a little experience with pedals and you’ve been eyeing up that boutique type pedal that your buddy mentioned.
Or “I can’t afford that but I don’t want to sound like the Chipmunks either”.
Either way you are in luck because there are a lot of great pedals out there in all different price ranges.
You can even get all-in-one pedals. Some of them sound pretty damned good too and are sturdily constructed, but before we fall deep into the cracks of consumerism here, remember you only wanted probably the one sound anyway, and this is the section on budget.
Keep it real and keep it focused.
Decide your budget before looking around. Some of those pedals look pretty slick in the magazines.
Closely related to budget considerations is durability. Do you travel a lot with your rig? Will it be a stand-alone pedal or slotted into your pedal board?
You certainly don’t want to pull a new pedal out of the box and see a flimsy plastic toy. After all, you’re going to be using your foot on this thing.
A good solid pedal is best, but really, you should never jump on the things anyway, but to me a pedal has just got to feel solid.
It’s about workmanship and quality. After all this is your sound.
Should I consider buying a pedal online? How do I demo that one at home?
Well, you do just that. It will arrive in the mail and then you demo it. Any good online store is going to give you at least a 30-day chance to try it out and return it in the same condition if it’s defective or is just not your sound. You still have to demo it and get the feel of the thing. Just be very careful with it.
Buying a new pedal can really propel you into some different stuff, but reread Tip # 2 (budget). Money isn’t going to blow out your creativity blockage.
What I’m saying here is if you find yourself really getting into the new space created by the new pedal you are demoing, then chances are this one’s working for you, but just don’t by one because you’re in a funk.
The End of Tips
Thanks very much for reading this article and looking at a few tips on buying guitar effects pedals.
Pedals are a great edition to anyone’s rig, but remember there is no miracle cure or magic potion that comes packaged with a pedal. Truly good tone and sound comes from the fingers.
Good luck in your search!
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.