Quick Guide to Guitar Effect Pedals

They range from the simple to, let’s face it, the wierd and exotic but at some stage in our guitar playing lives we all try them out.  So to help we have written this quick guide to guitar effects pedals.

When starting out playing the guitar we all like to experiment with the sound that we create.  Initially it is adding a little bit of distortion or perhaps a smidgeon of reverb.  We might be feeling a little bit spicy so we then throw in a little bit of phasing, perhaps a bit of flange then we mix it all up with an octavia.  Now if you are wondering what the hell we are on about please read on as we introduce the world of guitar effects.

First up the distortion pedal.

Distortion pedelThe distortion pedal is perhaps the most familiar effect pedal and one that most of us will use at some stage.  The production of a distorted sound wave is actually an interesting topic in its own right, but one that cannot be covered in this brief article.  However, in simple terms, a distorted sound can be produced on an amp by turning up the volume or gain.  The distorted sound occurs when the sound wave becomes clipped.  Clipping is when the original signal is outside of the threshold of the equipment being used to create the sound.  This results in the wave signal being clipped resulting in the distorted sound.  The clipping can be hard or soft and results in either a rougher sounding distortion in the case of hard clipping or warmer more mellow sounding distortion for soft clipping.  The distortion effect pedal replicates this clipping typically using transistors.  Hard or soft clipping can be designed into the pedal and gives rise to effectively three types of distortion pedal the straight “distortion” the “overdrive and the “Fuzz”.  A straight distortion pedal produces approximately the same level of  distortion at any volume and its sound alterations are much more pronounced and intense.  The overdrive effect produces a much milder form of distortion which produces warm overdriven tones at low volumes with the distorion getting harsher as the volume increases.  A fuzzbox alters a sound wave until it is nearly a square wave, an example of hard clipping, producing a rougher more harsh distorted sound.  All three forms of distortion can be found in an effect pedal.  The best way of deciding which is best for you is to try out a selection of pedals before buying.

To check out a pretty comprehensive range of Distortion pedals at really competitive prices go to Gear 4 Music.

Flange PedalWhenever I mention my flanger pedal to my children I am instantly met with a chorus of juvenile giggling, I can’t say that I understand why!!!  But apart from the hilarious name what does a flanger effect do?  Flanging is an audio effect created by mixing two identical signals together with one signal delayed by a small and gradually changing time period usually smaller than 20 milliseconds.  Interestingly the effect gets its rather exotic name from the way it was originally created.  The effect was created by the signal being recorded on two tape machines.  The output from these two machines was then recorded onto a third tape machine.  In this form minute differences between the playback speeds of the two tape machines would create a phasing effect when the signals were combined on the third tape machine.  The flange effect was created when an engineer placed their finger on the flange or rim of the tape reel on one of the tape machines thus slowing it down creating greater differences in the playback speeds between the two tape machines.  When they removed their finger the tape would speed-up creating a sweeping sound as the signal moved up and down the frequency spectrum.  Fortunately for us this effect can now be replicated digitally allowing it to be re-created in an effects pedal.  If you want to hear some examples of classic recordings featuring the flange pedal you could do worse than listen to Bold as Love from the Axis: Bold As Love album by the Jimi Hendrix experience.  The range of flanger pedals on sale is huge and as always, our recommendation is to try before you buy.

To check out a pretty comprehensive range of Flange pedals at really competitive prices go to Gear 4 Music.

Phaser pedalNext up the Phaser pedal which is again a rather exotic name for a great guitar effect.  The phasing effect is created by splitting an audio signal into two paths.  One path treats the signal with an all-pass filter, which preserves the amplitude of the original signal and alters the phase. The amount of change in phase depends on the frequency.  When signals from the two paths are mixed, the frequencies that are out of phase will cancel each other out, creating the phaser’s characteristic notches. Changing the mix ratio changes the depth of the notches; the deepest notches occur when the mix ratio is 50%.  Now this all sounds rather complicated but the effect is commonly used by guitarists including Brian May who used a lot of phasing in the 1970s.  If you are looking for an example of the kind of sound produced by a phaser pedal then listen to the song Sheer Heart Attack from the Sheer Heart Attack album by Queen or Eddie Van Halen used it a lot in his early work which can be heard on Eruption or Atomic Punk both from the debut album Van Halen by Van Halen.

To check out a pretty comprehensive range of Phaser pedals at really competitive prices go to Gear 4 Music.

Next time we will look at Wah Wah, Octavia, and Compression pedals.

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