What are Guitar Effects Pedals?

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What are Guitar Effects Pedals?

Effects pedals aren't limited to electric guitars alone. Electro acoustic guitar players can also use a variety of effects pedals to experiment with different sounds and expand the capabilities of their instrument. While it is true that most pedals are manufactured with solid body electric guitars in mind, there are still a lot of pedals you can use with an electro acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar.

About Guitar Effects Pedals

Guitar effects pedals essentially alter the sound signal coming from an electric instrument and imbue it with certain effects. These effects can range from heavy distortion and echo to chorus and wah-wah effects. Most effects pedals have to be pressed down with the feet for the effect to kick in, hence the pedal in the name.

Guitar pedals didn't reach mass popularity until the 1960s when artists such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, etc. experimented with new sounds, pushing the limits of what could be accomplished with guitars. The availability of affordable guitar effects pedals, made possible by advances in transistor and vacuum tube technology, was instrumental in pioneering rock music in the 1960s and thereafter.

Today, there are effects pedals available to accomplish virtually any sound imaginable and turn the humble guitar into a truly versatile instrument.

Using Effects Pedals for Electro-Acoustic Guitars

The sound signal coming from an electric guitar is fed into an effect pedal, which in turn feeds it into the amplifier or loudspeaker. The effect pedal modifies the sound signal and colours it with the appropriate effect. Multiple effect pedals can be combined in numerous permutations and combinations to yield different effects. For instance, distortion or overdrive pedals are usually used with chorus or reverb pedals to create a richer, warmer sound.

Buying Effects Pedals for Electro-Acoustic Guitars

Buying pedals for electro acoustic guitars is a markedly different experience than buying pedals for a solid-body electric guitar. The different construction of the electro-acoustic guitar gives it a warmer, more organic natural tone, which doesn't work well with a majority of effects units. Effects such as heavy distortion cannot be reproduced with complete accuracy with electro-acoustic guitars because of the feedback from the hollow body construction. Further, electro-acoustic guitars are usually used in genres like funk and blues which require different kinds of effects than say hard rock or heavy metal.

Different Types of Electro Acoustic Guitar Effects Pedals

Based on the effect, electro-acoustic guitar effects pedals can be classified as under:

Gain

These types of effects increase or decrease the volume of the signal coming from the guitar. Gain effects are usually used in rock music to achieve a rougher, heavier sound. Ex: distortion, compression, etc.

Ambience

Ambience effects pedals act on a guitar signal and imbue it with environmental or ambience effects. Reverb and echo are two popular varieties of ambience effect pedals.

Tone Based

Tone based effects pedals alter the treble or bass of a guitar signal and give it more colour. Wah-wah is one popular tone based effect.

Modulation

Modulation effect pedals can alter the guitar signal to accomplish a variety of things, from making a guitar sound like a sci-fi instrument or creating a wall of sound. Flanger, chorus, vibrato and phase shifter are popular modulation effects pedals.

Overview of Effect Pedals for Electro Acoustic Guitar

Theoretically, any effect pedal can be combined with an electro-acoustic guitar. Practically, only a few effect pedals that complement the warm, rich tone of the electro-acoustic guitar work well with it. Pedals that might work well for a heavy metal axe, for instance, fall flat when used with electro-acoustic guitars.

A brief rundown of popular effect pedals for semi-acoustic guitars can be seen below:

Wah-Wah

The wah-wah pedal amplifies or contracts a specific band of frequencies in the sound signal. This can make the sound 'pop' and render it thicker or thinner than normal, depending on the settings. Wah-wah pedals are usually used in blues and rock music and were especially popular in the 1960s. Jimi Hendrix's famous sound in 'Machinegun' was made possible through wah-wah pedals.

Distortion or Overdrive

A distortion pedal distorts the sound signal and makes it sound rougher or thicker. Depending on the type and settings of the distortion pedal, anything from a thick, crunchy 60s tube-amp overdrive to loud heavy-metal screech can be achieved. When used with electro-acoustic guitars, distortion pedals are usually turned low to enable the guitar's natural tone to shine through.

Chorus

A modulation type pedal, chorus replicates the sound signal, albeit with a small delay. Think of it as a clone of the guitar, but with a time lapse. Chorus effects are popular with funk and psychedelic artists and usually used in combination with distortion effect pedals.

Reverb

Reverb is a popular ambience type effect pedal that produces an echo of the sound. Reverb is generally used to add depth to the sound and imbue it with some ambient character. Reverb is difficult to use in real-world venues as they usually have some echo-producing properties of their own. 'Voodoo Child' by Jimi Hendrix used reverb in combination with wah-wah pedals. Many guitar amps also include in-built reverb effects.

Flanger

An effect similar to wah-wah, flanger pedal slows down and reproduces the sound signal, resulting in a futuristic, wave-like effect. Flanger is widely used in funk music.

Phaser or Phase Shifter

A phaser produces an effect somewhere between chorus and flanger. The sound signal is delayed and inverted, creating a thick groovy sound.

Compressor

A compressor isn't an effect as such, but is a crucial part of any guitar setup. The compressor reduces the strength of the sound signal before it is delivered into the loudspeaker. This makes it possible to control the volume of the sound and block any unexpected, loud noises.

Delay

A delay is exactly what it sounds like - an effect pedal that produces a replication of the sound with some slight delay. Delay effects have been used with rock and blues music since the 1960s and were one of the earliest commercial pedals. Delay pedals are especially popular with electro-acoustic guitars.

Equalisation

Equalisation or EQ effect pedals can be used to carefully sculpt the sound signal to emphasise certain frequencies. It is possible to emphasise lower frequencies to focus on the bass, or higher frequencies to focus on treble sounds produced by lower strings.

Multi-Effect Pedals for Electro-Acoustic Guitars

Instead of buying multiple effect pedals, it is now possible to buy a single unit that combines several effects into an easy to use box. Multi-effect pedals can include a wide variety of effects, ranging from distortion and chorus to wah-wah and reverb. Multi-effect pedals may have one or multiple pedals (such as Boss ME-50). They are usually digital, unlike the analogue mechanism still in use in many standalone pedals today. Since they combine multiple effects in a single unit, multi-effect pedals are cheaper and more convenient, especially for beginner buyers

Conclusion

Effects pedals can expand the capabilities of an electro-acoustic guitar and give it a range of versatile sounds, from warm blues to overdriven funk. Effects pedals can be combined together to create an almost limitless library of sounds although electro-acoustic guitars tend to work better with effects that complement its rich, organic tone. eBay is an excellent marketplace to buy effects pedals at affordable prices.

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