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What are Some Guitar Effects?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

After venturing into the world of the electric guitar, you may be finding yourself wondering what kind of guitar effects to add to your arsenal. There are certainly enough varieties out there, and each one offers new sounds that can add depth and flare to your playing. So to choose which ones are right for you, first ask yourself whether you want to buy individual effects or if you want to buy an effects processor that has many different effects built into one board.

Buying the right guitar effects can enhance your playing immensely, but conversely, the wrong ones can add little depth or simply more frustration. If you are looking for a guitar effects processor, you are looking for ease of use and preset modes to get you playing without a lot of hassle. Individual guitar effects – also known as stomp boxes – give you versatility to customize your sound and nearly infinite adjustments, but the overall investment might cost you some more bucks than an effects processor. Choose which one is right for you before worrying about which guitar effects you might need.

A guitar.
A guitar.

The most common guitar effects are distortion and overdrive pedals. They are a staple for any guitar player and should be the first guitar effects you add to your arsenal. Be sure to try out several different ones to get the tone you want. If you are unsure where to begin, try Boss Corporation’s offerings. They are tough guitar effects with professional tone. Visual Sound’s Jekyll and Hyde pedal is a great option for players who want both distortion and overdrive in one very adjustable pedal.

An electric guitar.
An electric guitar.

Beyond distortion units, perhaps the most popular guitar effects are wah-wah pedals. However, consider holding off on the purchase of a wah-wah pedal if you are a beginner player, since it takes a fair amount of coordination to use a wah-wah pedal effectively. Instead, invest in a delay pedal. These guitar effects typically come in two varieties: digital or analog. Analog delays tend to have a warmer sound, but digital delays tend to be more versatile. If you are determined to master the wah-wah pedal instead, try out Dunlop’s Crybaby, a Vox Auto Wah, or any variety of Snarling Dogs Wah.

Some guitar amplifiers have built-in effects.
Some guitar amplifiers have built-in effects.

A graphic equalizer guitar effects pedal can be one of the most useful pedals for a guitarist looking to boost volume or change tone at the flip of a switch. Boss and MXR make excellent equalizer pedals worth testing out. Phaser, chorus, tremolo, and flanger pedals all add interesting and sometimes psychedelic sounds to the guitar tone; try Ibanez phasers, Visual Sound chorus, Voodoo Lab tremolo, and Line 6 flangers for some great options and versatility.

While the guitar effects pedals listed here are a great start, there are many other options out there, ranging from the simple one-trick pedals to extremely complex synthesizers like the Electro-Harmonix micro synthesizer. It is best to decide what kind of playing you enjoy most, then find out what artists in that genre use for their guitar effects pedals. And be sure to sample many different brands, as each guitar effects pedal is slightly different from others.

Discussion Comments


@Soulfox -- I don't want to knock modeling amps because the higher end ones are actually very good. Still, they are called modeling amps because they replicate things and the copy will never sound quite like the real thing.

Want the sound of a certain vintage, tube amplifier or an effect you like so much? You might get close to that sound with a modeling amp, but you'll never replicate it exactly.

A lot of guitarists might find that getting close to that exact sound they want is good enough and there is nothing wrong with holding that opinion. Still, there are other musicians who won't be satisfied with how a modeling amp sounds compared to the genuine article.

It's a matter of personal preference, of course, but anyone making gear choices needs to spend some time listening and comparing a modeling amp to the real thing.


Why bother with effects pedals anymore? You don't have to buy a bunch of individual effects or even effects processors anymore thanks to the advent of the modeling amp. A modeling amp is designed to both replicate the sound of classic amplifiers and give the guitarist easy access to more effects than he or she will ever need. The better amps are programmable, too, meaning a guitarist can modify preset effects or even create unique ones.

If you can have all of that in one package, why bother with separate effects? A good modeling amp may be expensive, but it is a money saver in the long run because it can replace a lot of effects pedals and the various amps a guitarist might need to achieve a certain sound.

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    • A guitar.
      By: coward_lion
      A guitar.
    • An electric guitar.
      By: mekcar
      An electric guitar.
    • Some guitar amplifiers have built-in effects.
      By: matt&stustock
      Some guitar amplifiers have built-in effects.