Effects are very important features in the sound of any guitarist – beginner, intermediate or advanced. An effect pedal enhances the sound of your guitar by creating some special effects through audio processing. They polish your sound, get rid of unwanted noises and generally improve your guitar tone. Effects come in the form of small foot pedals with switches, knobs and buttons and are placed on the floor for ease of access and comfortability; it’s easier to just kick a button or flick a switch with your feet while holding your guitar than to carry the pedal from wherever it is and start turning on and off your settings with your hand. I think we can all agree on the fact that effect pedals are best operated by foot (not that it cannot be operated by hand though). There are a number of effects we have today for different purposes. Some of the most commonly used ones are:
- Overdrive pedal
- Delay pedal
- Tuner pedal
- Phaser pedal
- Distortion pedal
- Wah pedal
- Volume pedal
- Fuzz pedal
- Looper pedal
- Acoustic pedal
- Reverb pedal
- Noise Gate pedal
- Flanger pedal.
- Tremolo pedal
- Octave pedal
- Chorus pedal
Before you buy a pedal, you should consider the type or genre of music you want to play, this will influence the kind of tone you want to hear or expect from an effect pedal. You should also consider your budget or how much you’re willing to spend on a pedal and/or a pedal board.
A pedalboard is simply a flat panel or board for “housing” your effect pedals, usually made of metal or wood. It comes with power cables that supply power to the effect pedals. The pedals are mounted on the pedal board in such a way that the entire pedalboard can be moved from place to place without having to disassemble the pedals one after the other before they can be moved around. Pedalboards have sizes, a standard pedalboard can contain as much as 3-12 pedals (depending on the size), but any board that would contain more than 12 effect pedals may be difficult to find and may require a specially customized order to purchase.
It is always exciting when trying out pedals especially as a beginner guitarist, so much to choose from, different sounds, feels and textures. Actually, pedals can be very addictive; when you buy one, you’d want to go for another, and another, and another. But note that only the most essential, budget-friendly and less complex pedals should top your priority list of buying a pedal as a beginner guitarist.
Before you choose a pedalboard size, take into consideration how many pedals you wish to own or have in the future; there would be no need getting a large pedalboard that can contain as much as 12 pedals when all you need is a pedalboard for only 6 pedals. In the same vein, it would be a waste to buy a pedalboard built for 6 pedals when you know you would acquire more pedals. If you are unsure of the number of pedals you may end up owning, I’ll recommend a customized extendable pedalboard that helps you add more board to the already existing one, thereby creating more space and making your pedalboard large enough to accommodate more pedals.
As a beginner guitarist, be careful not to fall into the trap of the ‘effect pedal addiction’. If you do, it may be difficult to come out of. I have met quite a number of guitarists that cannot play a decent solo without their effects pedals. As awesome as an effect pedal is, this is the downside to it. When you get too attached to using effects and you’re required to play without them, the underbelly of your flaws and inabilities are suddenly exposed in a not-so-good way. As a beginner, I’ll advice to learn to play without effects, if you would have need for any, let it be about 1 or 2 pedals with a maximum of 3. When you’ve successfully climbed up the ladder of mastery, then you can experiment with as much effects as you want.
Pedalboards are powered to run either by batteries or by a direct source of power supply. Most pedalboards that use electric power supply to function also use batteries in the case of power outage but the pedalboards that are powered by batteries (preferably 9V batteries: they last longer and are much cheaper) solely rely on batteries to run. The disadvantage of the battery-powered pedalboard is that you do not predict when the batteries would run out, and it will be beyond embarrassing if that happens right in the middle of a show.
If you have quite a number of pedals, you should arrange them in a way that would be most convenient for you to work with them and in a way that your sound would be balanced. It is advisable for the chain to start with a tuner pedal (if you have one), followed by pedals that would help you modify the tone of your guitar (like the wah, distortion and overdrive pedals), followed by the volume pedal (which can either be at the beginning or the end). Next up should be pedals that alter the sound of your guitar (like the phraser pedal or chorus pedal), then you should have the delay and reverb pedals (these are time-based pedals that give a fuller sound to your tone). Looper pedals should be the last so that everything in the chain can be looped.
There is actually no hard and fast rule to setting up your pedalboard, the “ideal” arrangement you may get on the internet may not be what is best for you, the only way to find out is to keep experimenting and rearranging until you get your perfect sound. The whole idea is to work with a sound that works for you.
Cables also play an important role in helping your effects sound great! Don’t just lay your hands on anyone you can find just because it is cheap. Make your research and buy quality cables based on recommendations.
For your pedals/board to last long, ensure you always put it in a carrying bag/case when not in use to protect it from dust, moist and dirt. If you are a travelling musician, a hard-shell case is recommended for you to prevent your equipment from bumping into things and people and to save the tunings on your pedals. Give your pedalboard a clean wiring, keep the cables as much as you can out of sight and out of reach, it makes you look tidy and professional.
The world of pedals is a really interesting one and the only person that can take you through it is yourself, so take your time, experiment, and find out exactly what works for you. Happy playing! What pedals do you have? Which ones do you use? What does your set up look like? Please leave suggestions and comments down below.