How to Personalize Your Sound with Stompboxes
One of the best ways to expand and personalize your guitar’s sound is to use effects pedals. These nifty devices electronically alter the sounds your guitar makes, and are used by the vast majority of professional guitarists, bassists and electric keyboardists. In this article, we will focus on pedals for your guitar.
What Is an Effects Pedal, and How Does It Work?
Effects units are electronic devices that electronically alter sounds made by your guitar. Sometimes these effects units are built into the guitar; sometimes they are mounted on racks. They are also frequently built into guitar amplifiers. But the most commonly used units are pedals. These units, also called “stompboxes,” are preferred because of their versatility and ease of use. They are small boxes that are positioned on the floor or within a pedalboard.
When a signal from your guitar hits the effects pedal, it uses its electronics to alter the sound on its way to the amplifier. These boxes can subtly color the sound, or alter it into a roar, a scream, or a multitude of other tones.
Common Effects Pedals
Distortion Pedals – Distortion pedals create a “warm,” “fuzzy,” or gritty” sound by re-shaping the audio signal’s wave form. Overdrive effects pedals and fuzz boxes fall into this category as well. Fuzz boxes are also extremely popular with bass players.
Dynamics Pedals – As the name implies, these types of effects pedals modify the volume of an instrument. These were the first types of pedals made available to guitarists. Boost pedals are widely used by rhythm guitarists who want to quickly switch to a lead guitar solo to boost that solo’s volume. Compressors compress the sound, making the loud signals quieter and the quiet signals louder, equalizing the volume. “Noise gates” are used to cut hiss, hum, and static below a chosen level.
Filter Pedals – Talk Boxes allow you to vocalize your guitar’s sound, in a way made popular by Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way” and Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel like We Do.” Equalizers act much in the way that stereo component equalizers do, although they usually offer much more control. The popular wah wah pedal creates vowel-like sounds by altering the frequency spectrum produced by your guitar. It is operated by a foot treadle that opens and closes a potentiometer.
Modulation Pedals – These pedals affect the parameters making up the audio signal to create new sounds. Chorus pedals create the sound of multiple guitars playing at once. Flangers create a “spaceship” or “jet airplane” sound. Phasers create a rippling sound. Ring modulators create a metallic sound popular with hard rock guitarists. Tremolo and vibrato pedals are useful for guitarists who want to vary the pitch or volume of a note or chord.
Time-based Pedals – These pedals delay the signal or add echo effects. Delay/echo pedals duplicate the signal from the guitar to the amplifier to create an echo effect. A looper pedal can be used to loop the same live or pre-recorded passage.
Make your sound your own
These effects pedals can be arranged in series to manage your effects. Check out what is available at your local music store and pick a set that will make your sound unique.