Guitar Pedals

guitar pedals

For those of you who are just starting out playing guitar, or the more advanced who are looking to add some extra oomph to your music, guitar pedals can be a really great accessory.

For those of you who have never heard of them before, a guitar pedal is basically a box with a foot operated lever on top of it. You hook them up between your guitar and sound system with a standard cable. When turned on, they will apply some kind of effect to your guitar's sound.

There is a massive variety of different effects you can apply by turning this on and off. Some guitar pedals come with a few other settings you can adjust with little knobs (just make sure you do this well in advance or you'll end up looking like a complete amateur).

Others are manipulated by how far down you press the pedal, much like pressing the accelerator on a car. One pedal might have a number of distinct effects that it can apply, or it might be dedicated solely to producing one effect.

What are the main benefits of guitar pedals?

  • Pedals leave your hands free to keep playing. They're quite big, so you don't need to be particularly careful when turning them on or off. Just stomp downwards and you're good to go.​
  • There are dozens of different effects you can apply to your guitar, either one at a time or combined together. This really helps in a lot of ways. If you're just learning to play guitar, and really want to get that god-of-metal feeling, there aren't many ways of doing it that are better than finding a distortion pedal, slamming down on it and posing afterwards.​
  • They're also really good for writing music and playing gigs. Being able to freely mess around with your sound without having to spend ages messing about with computers and complicated software can really help to open up your creativity and try out new things without sinking a lot of time into something that you don't like after all's said and done.​
  • For a travelling musician, their small size and lightweight makes guitar pedals an easy addition to any set up, as it won't require yet another pair of hands to help you carry. If you pick your pedals carefully, you can fit them into a normal case or bag without any hassle.​

Characteristics of good guitar pedals

Durability

They aren't known as 'stompboxes' for no reason. Your pedals might be able to turn it up past 11, but if they fall apart before the end of a couple of years, there's no point in wasting your money. In practice, you might be able to be gentle with your pedals, but they're going to get a bit more than that during a gig. They'll get bashed around going from place to place, and if you're anything like me then you're going to be tempted to hammer the hell out of them every chance you get. Be a proper rockstar and stick to the strong stuff.

Good grip

This is easy to overlook, but with the amount of water, booze and things you'd rather not touch that end up getting spilled on stage, you'll be much happier if your guitar pedal doesn't suddenly slide off into the crowd when you try to use it. All good pedals come with a high quality base that will stop this from happening. Even the best sound effects won't do you much good if they can't be turned on and off properly. It's really embarrassing when you end up doing an impression of granny getting out of the bath. There is literally no way you will ever look cool again to the crowd that saw you faceplant.

Input / Output location

Unfortunately, not all guitar pedals were designed with this in mind. When you plug your pedals in, you might discover later that you can't actually fit them all together. It's not uncommon to buy a number of pedals then end up having to (very carefully!) modify because they wouldn't fit together. There's nothing more frustrating than buying the 'perfect' pedal, only to find out that it's basically useless when you try to combine it with your others, simply because there's a bit too much plastic on one side.

Ease of use

If you've never been on stage before, let me tell you now that it's not the easiest place to see things from. Smoke, glaring lights or absolute darkness can wreck your night when you discover you have no idea what's going on with your pedals because you can't see them properly. Any displays should be easy to see. Likewise, the last thing you want to deal with is having a stiff hinge blow your big moment because you couldn't turn off the distortion on an intricate piece.

Power supply

Most pedals have a 9v battery, and others can also be plugged in. If you only have one pedal, this won't matter, but if you have multiple pedals it's a good idea to make sure they don't have differences between AC and DC supply. Some pedals will need a screwdriver to remove the battery, which is not something you'll want to be worrying about come gig time. Make sure you always have enough juice to last you through your entire set, but if you do have to swap out batteries between songs, you look pretty silly if you have to ask around for a screwdriver.

Guitar pedal reviews on Zingstruments

Here's all our guitar pedal reviews on Zingstruments.

Starting out:

Pedals for specific genres / styles:

More pedal reviews: