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Electric Guitar Pedals & Effects

Electric Guitar Pedals quickly become an addiction you cannot quash. Once you have sampled your first slice of sonic sculpting be it overdrive, reverb, delay, or anything else, it is hard to go back to a regular guitar sound. The pure scope of pedals available means that getting a unique tone all your own is relatively simple, as well as being able to emulate the sounds of your guitar heroes whether classic or modern.

The earliest usage of electric guitar effects came in the 1940s when recording engineers began experimenting with reel-to-reel tape machines to create echoes and otherworldly sounds. The very first commercial effects unit was a tremolo unit by DeArmond, but at this early stage, guitar effects were expensive and impractical, which led to the inclusion of effects pre-built into amplifiers, such as the reverb, tremolo and vibrato effects built into early Gibson and Fender amplifiers.


With the advent of the electric transistor, we got the electric guitar pedal in the stompbox form we know and love today. Taking effects that were once only available in the realm of the studio and making them available to guitarists to manipulate onstage and in the practice room resulted in an explosion of sounds in popular music. Jimi Hendrix was an avid user of stompboxes, particularly fuzz, octave, and uni-vibe effects which were propelled into the general public's collective conscious through hits like Purple Haze.


Nowadays you can get a whole host of guitar effects including chorus, pitch shifters, distortion, phaser, flanger and many more without breaking the bank. Multi-effects units provide a great all-in-one solution for the guitarists who wants a whole bunch of different effects or wants to try them out before committing to stompboxes and the wealth of sounds on offer in the modern age of music is simply incredible, as well as the clarity and fidelity of sound on offer even from tiny stompboxes.


Big name manufacturers such as Jim Dunlop, Fender, Danelectro, and Electro Harmonix are all available at Dawsons Music and if you have any trouble choosing, check out our buying guides here.


Frequently Asked Questions


What is the best pedal for beginners?

We would recommend a cheap multi-effects unit for fresh players. The reason is it gives you access to the most popular effects so you can find out which you will utilise best, rather than buying individual effects which can add up. Most multi-effect units come loaded with presets which are great for helping you find your sound. You can also build your own presets, stacking various effects to get the sound you want, great for sonic experimentation!


What is the difference between distortion and overdrive?

Although often confused for one another distortion and overdrive are quite different in the way they achieve their sound, even if the results can be quite similar. Overdrive is the sound of a valve amp being turned up to the max, resulting in what is called ‘breakup’ or ‘soft-clipping.’ Overdrive is dynamic which means that if you play softly, you will not distort your sound, but when you dig in with your pick or strum harder, the sound starts to break up, resulting in a smooth sound with more sustain than your regular clean tone. Overdrive is far more subtle than distortion, so think ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ by The Who if you want a classic example of an overdriven guitar sound.


Distortion on the other hand is far less subtle and will completely change your guitar tone. This is known as ‘hard clipping.’ It is the classic dirty guitar sound you will have heard on countless records and is a result of harmonic saturation, resulting in a tone that has increased sustain. It is not as reactive to your playing dynamics as overdrive and at loud volumes will result in feedback from your amplifier, which depending on the context can be exactly what you want. Distortion has many uses, but you will primarily find it in heavier styles of music, think ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana as a fitting example of distorted guitar tone.


You can check out more info on the best distortion pedals here.


How do I power my guitar pedals?

If you are planning to run multiple guitar pedals, then you are going to want to get a pedal power supply. These come in individual units with multiple power outputs, allowing you to run a whole bunch of pedals by only plugging into one power socket.


Check out our range of guitar pedal power supplies here.


What is the difference between reverb and delay?

Reverb and Delay are two of the most common effects you will find in all types of musical instrument, not just in guitar effect pedals. These two effects are used on virtually all instruments both in a live setting and in the studio and are the darling of engineers and producers the world over.


Reverb in its purest form reverb creates the illusion of space for your instrument to occupy. It simulates the sound of your instrument in a room, a church, a hall, whatever or wherever it may be. There are also spring and plate reverbs, which are artificial reverbs that create a sound by sending vibrations along a metal spring or plate then capturing that tone and playing it back instantaneously. You will often find spring reverbs in amplifiers as they are small and easy to manufacture.


Delay takes your input and repeats it, which gives the effect of more notes being played. You can set the number of repeats you want and the amount of time it takes before the note repeats again, which when combined with fast picking can resulting in some amazing sounds. Like reverb, delay can often lend a sense of space to a sound but unlike its counterpart, delay simply repeats your own playing back to you. There are various forms of delay that add effects to your input, for example, tape delay which replicates reel-to-reel tape machines, modulated delay that adds some subtle changes in pitch and ping pong delay which utilises stereo to bounce delays left and right.

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