Every beginner guitarist will be overwhelmed when setting up their first pedalboard. There is a myriad of options out there, from wah-wah to tuner to reverb and more! When you’re just starting out, don’t worry about collecting every single effect pedal available. Instead, you can slowly build up your ideal pedalboard over time as you get to know your instrument better. But any guitarist will need some of the basic effect pedals to get the most out of your playing.
Here are the 6 best effects pedals for beginner guitarists to get you started!
What are effects pedals?
Before we dive into what effects pedals you should get, let’s first get a thorough understanding of what these pedals are. Guitar effects pedals are also known as stomp boxes, as guitarists need to “stomp” on them to create the desired effect.
Effects pedals are tools to help vary guitar playing and to layer “effects” on the organic guitar sound. Depending on your pedal, you can mess with the volume, time, tone, frequency, and more. Effects pedals can also distort the sound, create echoes, or emulate different sounds to make the guitar sound almost unrecognizable!
Effects pedals are placed between the guitar and the amplifier, and it works by modifying the input sound in some way before it comes out of the amplifier.
Best effects pedals for beginner guitarists
What effects pedals you get for your pedalboard will differ depending on each guitarist. But as a base, every beginner guitarist should get the following effects pedals:
The Boss Chromatic Tuner is one of the most popular tuner pedals on the market.
A tuner may not be the most exciting effect pedal out there, but it is a necessary tool in every guitarist’s arsenal. A tuner won’t affect the overall sound, but it can fix issues you may have in your pitch and will make adjusting your tuning a quick and easy task. When you are simply practicing in your room, you may not have much need for the tuner, as you can easily stop your playing and fix the pitch fluctuation by tuning your strings. However, in the middle of a gig, the tuner will be your saving grace.
Why you need a tuner pedal
You may think you can use a clip on tuner with the same effect, but tuner pedals are definitely worth it! The tuner effectively shuts off the connection between your guitar and the amp, so the audience doesn’t have to listen to you retune your guitar. The tuner will have a display that shows how out of tune you are without having to listen to the pitch by ear. And you can easily fix the pitch fluctuation without distracting the audience!
The EarthQuaker Devices Special Cranker Overdrive Pedal is an awesome overdrive that comes at an affordable price!
An overdrive pedal is a type of distortion pedal that will add a lot of grit to your playing. This pedal was created to emulate the sound of the cranked tube amp, so it’s the most natural-sounding distortion pedal. It will normally start off with a clean sound when you play softly, but the harder you play, the grittier the sound will become.
As you play harder, you’ll notice the signal distorting and breaking up, creating that iconic tube amp sound.
Why you need an overdrive pedal
Overdrive pedals are typically one of the first pedals guitarists buy. They are a great addition to your pedalboard as they can give your tone a bit of color without getting too intense or distorted. This pedal gives you some control over the amount of distortion you would like in the mix as you can turn it on and off and play hard to distort more.
The ProCo RAT is a classic pedal that delivers a simple yet effective distortion.
A distortion pedal is one level up from an overdrive pedal. These pedals distort the sound to the point where your guitar will sound pretty much unrecognizable. This pedal will make the sound a lot heavier and darker, adding more saturation to your playing. This synthetic saturation will easily cut through other noise in the room to make a guitar solo stand out.
Why you need a distortion pedal
A distortion pedal is a must-have, especially if you plan to jam out to heavier styles of music, such as metal or hard rock. But even if that is not your genre, having a distortion pedal can really add a lot of flavor to your playing and allow for much more experimentation. There is a vast range of intensity when it comes to distortion pedals, so this pedal is a great addition to add a little spice to your music.
Reverb is a natural phenomenon that occurs when sound bounces off the walls in a large room. You may get natural reverb if you play in a large concert hall with amazing acoustics, but in most cases, guitarists will need to synthetically create this sound using a reverb pedal. The reverb effect pedal adds a lot of depth to your playing and can mimic many different large open rooms.
Why you need a reverb pedal
Reverb takes what can be a dry tone and turns it into a sound with a lot of flavor and color. Many guitarists won’t be playing at a concert hall or auditorium. Most of the time, you’re more likely to play in a bar, a cramped music studio, or a practice room. By using the reverb pedal, you will give your guitar a full sound that makes it sound as though it is being played in a large arena, church, or auditorium, giving it some much-needed ambiance.
The TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay Pedal is one of the best delay pedals on the market, with innovative technology and settings. I also have a full review of this pedal, so be sure to check that out!
Delay pedals are similar to reverb pedals, but delay has a different end result. A delay pedal records and replays a signal at a delayed time. When the delayed sound is played back with the live signal, it creates an almost echo-like effect. However, unlike a natural echo, a delay pedal gives you the option to control the duration, volume, and intensity of the repeat. You can also control how many repetitions you’d like to be played.
Why you need a delay pedal
A delay pedal is a versatile addition to a pedalboard. It can create a lot of ambiance to your sound while also spicing up any rhythmic sections. As a lot of popular songs nowadays use some sort of delay, a pedal can come in useful if you plan on playing any covers of songs. On a more general note, a delay pedal can also make your guitar sound a lot bigger.
The MXR Phase 95 is a classic phaser pedal that is simple but delivers a good-quality sound effect.
Modulation pedals are effects pedals that add texture by modifying the sound in some manner. The most popular types of modulation pedals are flanger, phaser, chorus, tremolo, and vibrato.
A phaser pedal has that classic 60s psychedelic sound and almost sounds as though it is underwater. This pedal modulates, or modifies, the phase before it mixes with the original signal. Flangers are very similar to phasers, but they modulate using a delay instead of modulating the phase. Both chorus and vibrato pedals modulate the pitch and mix it with the original signal. However, these two pedals differ because a chorus doubles the source signal to create a richer sound. On the other hand, a vibrato pedal manipulates and bends the pitch to go up and down continuously.
Why you need a modulation pedal
Modulation pedals can add a lot of texture and color to any riff by manipulating the signal in some way. They are an excellent way for a beginner guitarist to experiment with sound. And while they may not be the first pedal that you purchase, they should be one of the first ones you add to your pedalboard before you begin experimenting with even kookier sounds!
As for what kind of modulation pedal you should get, that depends on you! Try out the different modulation pedals and go for one that best fits the sound you are going for.
Other guitar effects pedals
These six pedals are only the beginning. As you get to know your guitar and your sound better, you may want to start experimenting with other pedals. Other popular pedals include wah-wah, vibrato, and pitch shifter.
Check out my extensive guide on the different types of pedals if you’d like to learn more!
What order should your pedals go in?
To get the most out of your effects pedals, you should put your pedals on your pedalboard in a specific order. By putting them in the correct order, you can avoid muddying the sound or rendering certain effects useless. Though you can definitely experiment with how you order your effects pedals, as a general rule, you should put them in the following order:
- Overdrive/distortion/fuzz (distortion pedals)
- Phaser/chorus/vibrato (modulation pedals)
For more on this topic, check out my article on what order your pedals should go in.
The above 6 effects pedals are a great starting point to building your pedalboard. As you play your guitar and develop your sound, you will start adding more pedals or maybe even subtracting ones you’ve already bought. Effects pedals can change the way you play your guitar, and even the order you put your pedals in your pedalboard can make a difference.
If you have any further questions about pedals, let me know! I’m happy to answer any questions you may have.