As a guitarist, building your first pedalboard is an exciting journey that allows you to shape your tone and unleash your creativity. However, with countless options available, choosing the right pedals can be overwhelming, especially for beginners. Fear not! In this article, we will guide you through the process by highlighting the most essential guitar pedals that every guitarist should consider for their first pedalboard. Whether you're a blues enthusiast, a rock lover, or an aspiring shredder, these pedals will lay a solid foundation for your sound and pave the way for endless sonic possibilities. So, let's dive in and discover the 5 pedals every guitarist should own that will take your guitar playing to new heights!
WHAT ARE THE 5 ESSENTIAL PEDALS?
Ensuring your guitar is in tune is an absolute necessity that no combination of guitar pedals can compensate for. Even the most skillful guitarist in the world would sound lackluster if they played out of tune throughout a performance. It doesn't take a tone-deaf audience to notice when you're out of tune with the rest of the band, especially if you're playing alongside a keyboard that can detect even the slightest deviations in pitch. Playing out of tune is a grave offense for any guitarist in a band, but fortunately, it's an issue that can be easily rectified. The first pedal you should have on your board is a tuner – it's an indispensable starting point. Spare yourself the humiliation of playing out of tune live by investing in a tuner. There are plenty to choose from so you should easily be able to find one that fits nicely on your board. High-quality tuners often come with additional features like switchable buffers and power outputs, making them even more valuable. Typically, the tuner is placed at the beginning of the pedal chain, ensuring accurate tuning from the get-go. Being placed first in the chain eliminates unwanted noise and ensures absolute tuning accuracy.
When starting out, compression is often overlooked and considered less of an essential, but its actually a great choice to include on your gigging pedalboard. The effect of compression on your tone is usually to squash or flatten the overall tone, so it brings the highs and lows closer to the middle which actually brings clarity to your mix and helps you to cut through the noise, useful on both clean and crunch tones. Country players have made this effect incredibly important to have on your board. This pedal would allow the player to vary their clean tone and change the style of playing, where finger-picking and chickin-pickin playing is conducive to this sound. Most people consider compressors to be their “lightest” gain stage and as such will run a compressor pretty early in their chain, often before the overdrive.
Including an overdrive pedal in your setup can be a game-changer for guitarists. Even if your amplifier boasts a built-in overdrive or lead channel, incorporating a separate overdrive pedal onto your pedalboard remains a smart move (as you can combine amp and pedal overdrive for diverse levels of gain). Regardless of your preferred genre, overdrive serves as a fantastic embellishment that every guitarist should have to infuse their tone with grit. The versatility of a single overdrive pedal is astounding, allowing you to achieve anything from a subtle crunch when you dig into notes to a crushing, full-blown metal guitar tone.
The Stone Deaf Effects Warp Drive pedal is an exceptional choice, not only for delivering tones ranging from vintage overdrive right the way through to high gain, modern metal, but for its absolute control over the tonal EQ with its built in 5 band parametric EQ - it also has a built-in studio quality noise gate to kill any unwanted hum, hiss and practically any other noise you don't want coming from your guitar!
Drive pedals are typically placed after your tuner pedal but feel free to experiment with its placement in relation to other gain-related pedals to find the optimal arrangement for your ears.
Modulation pedals are by far the most varying type of pedal, with countless types of modulation effects to choose from. The common effects on pedalboards are chorus, flanger, phaser, vibrato, tremolo, univibe, and rotary. A modulation pedal changes the landscape of your tone continuously. Modulation effects are commonly used by lead players to allow their lead playing to pop. The best example of this with a famous player is probably Jimi Hendrix with the phaser, in particular the tone of his playing on “Machine Gun” is boosted with the phaser/uni-vibe effect, allowing his playing to stand out amongst the other players in the band.
REVERB / DELAY
Some amplifiers will come with built in reverb, either through digital emulation or an actual spring tank. If not, then reverb is an essential part of your arsenal to mimic the normal guitar tones of your favourite guitar players. Most players that want to smooth out and widen the endings to phrases on guitar will use a reverb pedal to accomplish this. It is however important to note that reverb pedals are way more versatile than just this effect, and are a more fun pedal to use if you want to get more experimental. There are plenty of alternate settings on reverb pedals, such as room, shimmer, hall and others. Equally, if you have reverb built into your amp, you should go to the next stage of time based effects and select a delay pedal. Delay gives you an echo effect that is deeper and more expansive than reverb. You can also get combined reverb and delay pedals which give you both effects in a single pedal. Normally you would connect time based effects to the effects loop of an amplifier if you have one built in. If not you can run them at the end of your pedal chain.
In conclusion, while the options may seem overwhelming, focusing on essential pedals can provide a solid foundation for your sound. The five pedals every guitarist should consider for their first pedalboard are a tuner, compression, overdrive, modulation and reverb/delay. A tuner ensures accurate tuning, while compression enhances clarity and helps you cut through the mix. An overdrive pedal adds versatility and grit to your tone, and modulation pedals offer a wide range of effects to make your playing stand out. Finally, reverb/delay pedals add depth and ambience to your sound. By incorporating these essential pedals, you can take your guitar playing to new heights and explore endless sonic possibilities.
If you want to learn more about the ORDER of the pedals in your board and how that can have a huge impact on your sound, check out our "Perfect Guitar Pedal Order" blog.
Now that you know the 5 essential pedals to buy, pick up some new toys and have some fun playing!