• River Tucker

5 Essential Pedals Every Guitarist Needs

It’s far too easy to feel like a kid in a candy store when starting the quest to find your favourite guitar effects. But before you go and buy a bunch of tasty looking treats, it’s worthwhile to do some research into what you really need and what you will use long-term in your guitar setup.

Invariably, the pedals you choose will be dependent upon the genre of music you play. However, there are a number of other universal truths to consider. This buyer's guide will help you to find the right equipment for your musical journey and hopefully avoid adding unused gear to your bottom draw.


1. Tuners

Every guitar player needs a reliable tuner. Whether you’re a novice or have numerous years of professional experience under your belt, being able to precisely tune and intonate your instrument is essential, even for players who can tune to E Standard by ear.


For a number of years, the industry go-to has been the Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner. But for those wanting a smaller footprint the TC Electronic Polytune 3 Mini Polyphonic Tuner Pedal is another excellent choice. Along with its bigger brother, the TC Electric Polytune 3, these are the best tuners when it comes to quickly adjusting all your guitar strings, especially when you’re getting ready to smash your set on a darkened stage.


2. Kick it into overdrive

Whether you want to replicate the crisp clear tones of John Mayer, soar like Stevie Ray Vaughan or chug like James Hetfield, identifying the sound you want is key to finding the effects that will suit your playing style. Many famous guitarists have their equipment conveniently listed online, so make the most of the internet to locate the right gear for your dream rig.


Of course, you might not be able to justify purchasing the exact boutique pedals used by the greats. Luckily there are some excellent reproductions available these days. In this regard, you really cannot go past an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Pedal, which clones the legendary Klon Centaur OD pedal used by all the aforementioned musicians. While it has a markedly better price point, the added brightness and transparent nature of the EHX Soul Food make it just as versatile as the original.


If you’re looking to cut through the mix during solos or need to add some pleasing crunch to your overall tone, an overdrive like the Strymon Sunset Dual Overdrive Pedal or Fender Full Moon Distortion Pedal could be another excellent addition to your setup.


3. Equalization

Another pro tip is to match your pedals with your existing equipment. If for instance, your axe is a Fender Stratocaster, the pedals to look for will warm and enhance your midrange. If you’re lucky enough to own a Gibson LP, you may want to stick with true bypass pedals that use analog components to retain that distinctive Les Paul sound.


Consider also getting an equalizer to shape and enhance your overall tone, particularly as you start adding numerous effects to your signal path. The Behringer Graphic Equalizer Effects Pedal is a well-priced device that can be used in different applications throughout the studio, but especially for attenuating any unwanted frequencies that could muddy the mix.

4. Add more depth

Another good all-around effect to purchase is a reverb or delay pedal. In these categories, the standouts are the highly adaptable TC Electronic Hall Of Fame 2 Reverb Pedal and the TC Electronic Flashback 2 Delay Pedal for Electric Guitar. These amazing gadgets let you create anything from a genuine-sounding church or hall space to a dreamscape of cascading echoes.


TC Electronic has hit a home run with their Toneprint technology, which allows you to browse through a library of all your favourite guitarists and then select from their coolest signature sounds. You can even design your own tones and then wirelessly print them to your device. The Hall Of Fame 2 and Flashback 2 are the Swiss Army knives of effects pedals and will be valued additions to your rig no matter what style of music you play.


5. Multi-effects pedals

You could borrow pedals from your bandmates or musician friends or alternatively, you could use an IK Multimedia iRig 2 Guitar Interface to see what effects are worthwhile additions to your real-world setup. But be warned, the new iRig gear from IK Multimedia is so good that you just might decide to stick with these much lighter digital equivalents instead of a fully populated pedalboard.


Digital effects units have advanced significantly over recent years, making them clear contenders for achieving the guitar tones you require. Frontrunners in this field are the IK Multimedia iRig Stomp I/O USB Pedalboard Controller and Zoom G5n Guitar Multi-Effects Processor or for the solo singer-songwriter, the TC-Helicon Play Acoustic Vocal and Acoustic Guitar Pedal is another good choice. These multi-effects units can provide you with every guitar sound under the sun without breaking the bank.

There will undoubtedly be some trial and error while making your effects pedal selections. The trick is to not be deterred or become overwhelmed by the sheer number of pedals on offer.


You also need to take into account that there are numerous distinctive sounding versions of the same type of effects pedal, so it’s worth trying several out until you locate the perfect match. This is especially true for fuzz pedals, where there are literally thousands of different flavours available to choose from.


Keep in mind that no pedal will be perfect straight out of the box. Make sure you do some in-person evaluation first and take your time to dial in the sounds you’re seeking. The more hours you can spend trying out and tweaking different pedal combos before deciding on what makes it onto your pedalboard, the better guitar sounds you will produce.


About River Tucker

River Tucker is a multi-instrumentalist and music reviewer from Aotearoa, New Zealand. In 2002, River completed his postgraduate studies in contemporary music, web and graphic design and is currently working on some original material for his seventh studio release. River also enjoys restoring vintage vehicles and all-grain brewing tasty IPAs in his spare time.