The sounds of the electric guitar are an art form in their own right and have come to dominate the music industry, but it could not have done this on its own. Alongside the guitar, external pieces of equipment have been invented and developed called Guitar Effects Pedals. These Guitar Pedals alter the sound, tone or pitch of the guitar giving the artist his unique sound or identifying a music genre.
The range of Effects Pedals used by electric guitars is huge, so only the most common ones used will be discussed here.
One group of very popular Effects Pedals is the distortion type of effects. These effects are produced by distortion pedals, which “flatten” the top and bottom of the signal from the guitar. Distortion effects can be sub-divided into four main groups: overdrive, crunch, hi-gain and fuzz. You can often recognize the artist or style of music by the effect used.
This is where a pedal pressed down or let up to adjust the level of the volume. The guitarist uses this pedal during a performance to adjust the volume or to fade in and out. This is useful during a performance to lower the guitar volume down to allow the vocals to be heard.
The other pedals that also fall into this group are the Tremolo and Compressor pedals.
Delay or echo, looping, and reverberation.
The delay or echo pedal, copies the incoming signal from the guitar, delays it slightly and repeats it either once for a “slap” effect or many times for an “echo” effect. Looping is when a passage is copied and then played back, accompanying that passage as it is played. Reverb is the persistence of a sound after the original sound has gone. It is in effect a large and extended number of echoes.
Modulation type effects include a number of devices, the vibrato pedal, the phase shifter and the flanger. A vibrato pedal creates its sound by synchronizing a standard speaker’s volume oscillation, frequency-specific volume oscillation, vibrato, phase shifting and chorusing. A phase shifter pedal creates a “whooshing” noise, something similar to a Jet plane. A Flanger pedal makes the sound of a tape slowing down and then speeding up again, as if someone held something against the flange and let go again.
If you are seriously interested in Guitar Pedals and would like to know more, including how to sound like your favourite guitarist or a classic song, then I would recommend “Guitar Effects Pedals” by Dave Hunter. An experienced guitar player, Dave Hunter offers insight from the top builders and tips on how to get the most from each pedal. He also dissects chains used by top guitarists in creating memorable recordings. The accompanying CD features standard as well as unusual sounds from a wide range of Guitar Pedals, as well as classic combinations used by the guitar greats.