There comes a point in time in the career of a guitarist when a guitar and amp just aren't able to give them the sound they need, no matter how hard they try. This is where an effects pedal can come in.
The market for effects pedals is wider and varied, and for a beginner in the field, knowing which pedal to buy can be extremely daunting. Firstly, the guitarist must consider what effect they are trying to achieve and how they would like to achieve it. Once they have a basic idea in mind, consideration must also be given to the budget since effects pedals can vary greatly in price. Follow the guide below to decide how to buy the right effects pedal.
What Does an Effects Pedal Do?
Essentially, an effects pedal is used to alter the sound of a guitar in such a way that normal usage would be unable to achieve. For some guitarists, this gives an edge to their music.
Some effects pedals allow for subtle changes in the sound of the music, which can be both useful and frustrating to the user. With time and practice, and sometimes a bit of help from online reviewers who have used the product before, any effects pedal can add a signature tone to music.
Effects pedals of various types are popular throughout music. Many famous guitarists, from Jimi Hendrix to U2 and more, have used and continue to use effects pedals in their music.
Types of Effect Pedals
Effects pedals can be single (analogue) or multi effect (digital) in type. The choice is mostly down to the individual. Digital pedals are generally cheaper for several reasons; a serious guitarist will need to purchase less of them, they cost less to run, take up less space and give more creative options. However, single effect pedals are more reliable and have superior sound quality. But mostly the choice is a personal one.
Overdrive and Distortion Pedals
Overdrive and distortion pedals are easily the most popular type of effect in music. Some amplifiers have distortion built-in, but many do not, and some guitarists prefer the flexibility of a separate unit. Distortion can vary from rough to smooth and anything in between, and in certain genres of music (heavy metal or punk for example), it is essential to have an overdrive or distortion pedal.
Distortion works by emitting a sound wave at the same frequency as the guitar, which causes the two to blend, and a dial on the pedal adjusts how much distortion is required. An overdrive or distortion pedal will adjust the volume of the sound, the type of frequency (high or low), and the amount of distortion.
Phasing and Flanging Pedals
This type of effects pedal gives the guitar a richer sound, which is achieved by the phaser splitting the sound signal from the guitar in two. Then the two sounds are shifted out of phase with each other by changing the speed, a technique called phase shifting, which is the basis of phasing and flanging. Controls on a phaser or flanger pedals set the delay time, the depth of the sound split, the speed of the split, and the amount of feedback given.
These are essential if using more than one type of pedal or when recording as they cut out any background noise. Noise Pedals also have a release time control, which allows the user to control how quickly the note (and the sound) fades.
These effects are created through phase shifting, which delays and changes pitch. This gives the illusion of there being several instruments present when in reality there is only one being used. Controls on a chorus pedal vary the intensity of the shift, control the width of the sweep, and boost the treble tone.
Delay and Sampling Pedals
As the name suggests, delay pedals create a digital delay. This can be used to create an echo, and the volume and pitch of the echo can be controlled. Some delay pedals can also hold the sound of the echo and repeat it back later in the music. Delay pedals are very versatile and can do several things; change the volume of the delay, set whether the echo is to be repeated, adjust the speed of the repeat sound and how pronounced the repeat echo is.
Compressor and Limiter Pedals
These are used to control the volume of the sound to avoid damage to human hearing or equipment. This is done by compressing the sound, so a maximum volume threshold is set and not exceeded. In musical situations where instruments of different volume are being used, this effect reduces that difference without distorting the sound and is often used in rhythm music. Common controls on compressor pedals sustain the control, how long the sound is compressed for, and the balance in volume.
When considering what type of effects pedal to buy, always think about the cost and how much to spend based on that budget, and what effects pedal would suit what the user is trying to achieve.
Tips for Buying Effects Pedals
Buying an effects pedal, particularly if it's for the first time, can be very daunting. Many effects pedal have names that do not correspond in any form to a description of what they actually do, so it is good practice to carry out some research beforehand. Bear in mind the tips below when considering which effects pedal to buy.
Try Both Guitar and Pedal Together
Different guitars will sound very different with effects pedals, so if possible, before making an online purchase, test the guitar with the desired pedal either in a shop or with someone who already owns it. If this is not possible, carry out plenty of online research into compatibility between the two.
Only Buy One Pedal at a Time
Pedals interact with each other as well as with the guitar, so to try and minimise any possible confusion, focus on carrying out research and purchasing one pedal at a time. Get to know one pedal, the effects it has, and how it works with the guitar before buying any more. There is much to learn from just one pedal on its own, so even experienced guitarists focus on mastering one before looking to buy another. Some effects pedals take months or even years to master fully.
Avoid Poor-Quality Pedals
The guitar in use will be thankful! Inexpensive, cheaply made pedals will not offer anything towards improving the sound of the guitar and should be avoided. Always aim for the best-quality pedal in the budget range. This is where preliminary research is very important; should a high-quality pedal be available at a rock-bottom price, a buyer who has done their research will know and will save themselves money with such a purchase.
Don't Buy Beyond the Need
It can be very tempting to buy the latest expensive top-level designer pedal with all the bells and whistles, but if all it is going to be used for is for playing guitar in the garage, it would be a waste of money. There are excellent-quality pedals out there at every skill level of a guitarist, so concentrate on finding one that suits the individual circumstances best.
Where to Find Effects Pedals on eBay
In order to purchase effects pedals on eBay, firstly head to the homepage. From here, using the links on the left-hand side of the page, select All Categories and then musical instruments from the options. This will then load the musical instruments section of the site. From here, under the heading of Pro Audio equipment, select Signal Processors and Effects. The listings can be narrowed further through selecting the type of pedal, the effect or enhancement required, the brand name, or further options.
Alternatively, use the search engine on the eBay homepage to look for listings with desired characteristics or search terms.
Going into the world of guitar effects can be daunting, frustrating, and bewildering to the inexperienced user. By doing sufficient research, practice, and a bit of experimentation with the desired effect, the process of learning to use one can be much simpler and give a great end result. Always focus on individual circumstances as this will be the greatest influence on the choice of effects pedal.