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Tips for Buying Guitar Effects Pedals

Friday, October 07, 2011
Any trip to the local music store can be very intimidating, as you look at the dozens of guitar pedals available.  Many of them with unhelpful, non-descriptive names like “Electric Mistress”, “Metal Zone” and “Green Rhino”.  (Who thinks up these crazy names?!)  It can be hard to pick out the pedal that is right for you.  Which is the best pedal for you?  How much should you spend?

[caption id="attachment_1562" align="aligncenter" width="491" caption="Steve's Pedal Board"]Guitar Pedal Board[/caption]

Here are some helpful tips for you as you consider buying your next effects pedal.

1) Bring Your Guitar to Try Out the Pedals.  Different guitars can sound very different with effects. A Les Paul running through a particular distortion pedal is going to sound very different from a Strat running through the same pedal. If possible, bring your own guitar to try out effects pedals.  Or, at least, pick a guitar out from the music store that is as close to yours as possible.

2) Buy One Pedal at a Time.  Pedals interact with each other in many ways and even one single pedal can have numerous parameters that change the sound.  In order to minimize the inevitable confusion it is best to get familiar with guitar effects pedals one at a time.  Avoid buying several pedals at once.  Buy one pedal at a time, take it home and get familiar with how it works and what kinds of sounds you can get from it with your guitar.  Only then, once you are very familiar with the sounds possible from your current pedal, will you be ready to purchase the next one.

3) Avoid Cheap Pedals.  I use the word “cheap” in the sense of poor quality at rock-bottom bargain prices.  Avoid the very lowest price range of guitar effects pedals.  These types of inexpensive, cheap pedals are usually poorly made. They change the overall tone of your guitar and tend to be very noisy.  So, if you see a distortion pedal for $20, do yourself a favor and don’t even bother trying it out.

4) Don’t Purchase More Pedal Than You Need.  It can be very enticing to buy the latest, most expensive, modified boutique pedal that you just read about, but avoid buying more pedal than you need.  Think of guitar pedals like tools in your garage in this regard.  You definitely don’t want to buy the cheapest ones out there but you also probably don’t need to spend $500 in order to get a good quality wrench.

5) Always listen to the pedal you are considering purchasing.  Don’t buy a pedal because of what you’ve “read” - buy a pedal because of what you “hear”.  There have been many times that I have read something about this or that particular pedal being the “holy grail” of sound only to sit down with one in the music store and think “What’s the bid deal? I don’t even like the sound I get through this.”

Pedals can add a wonderful palette of sounds to your playing and are well worth the time and expense to get familiar with them.    Have fun building your unique sound with guitar effects!

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