Guitarists seem to have a guitar pedal for every desired sound or function. There are even vintage guitar pedal collectors that swear by the importance of guitar pedals. This led me to truly figure out whether guitar pedals are worth it.
Are guitar pedals worth it? Guitarist pedals are worth it for a guitarist that is after a desired tone or sound. Often, that tone can only be achieved by using pedals. Pedals like a looper pedal are also great for practicing and can help a guitarist learn how to stay in time and create their own backing tracks.
Continue reading to find out what guitar pedals are used for, if they are worth it, the pedals that all guitarists should have, and finally if pedals will make you sound better.
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What Are Guitar Pedals Used For?
Guitar pedals are used to change the sound of your guitar. It can be a drastic change or a subtle change depending on the kind of pedal and the settings you are using. Guitar pedals can instantly change the guitars tone at the click of a button, which is why many performing guitarists have pedal boards in front of them while they play.
Different pedals emit different outputs. Some pedals help you tune your guitar, others add effects like distortion and overdrive to the guitar. Different pedals are used for different songs, which is why many guitarists end up with many.
Are Guitar Pedals Worth it?
Guitar pedals are worth it because they help guitarists reach a desired tone without having to spend large sums of money. Guitar pedals can change the way a guitarist practices and take their creativity to a different level, especially with a looper and wah pedal.
Sometimes a tone or sound can be achieved just by adjusting settings on the amp. If that is the case and you do not mind a non-instantaneous tone change that pedals offer, then a pedal is not worth it for that case.
For other cases, pedals become necessary and worth it. BOSS has a great selection of pedals that do not break the bank and provide a ton of value to your sound. Drive sounds via pedals are especially worth it. With the click of a button, your tone instantly changes. This is a great perk for a performing guitarist; no need to adjust amp settings to get you closer to the tone a pedal can get you to instantly.
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For the price of $50-$120, pedals are especially worth it. Many guitarists spend thousands on guitars but hesitate on a $89 pedal. What they do not realize is that many cheaper guitars can perform like higher end models, if given the proper pedals.
I tested this by buying a Squier and hooked it up with an Ibanez Tube Screamer. I then used my higher end Fender American Stratocaster but only used the amp settings and no pedals. Aiming for the SRV tone, guess which setup got me closer to that tone, the Squier. Pedals like the Tube Screamer are simply better than amp settings when aiming for SRV’s tone which makes this pedal the most valuable pedal of mine and extremely worth it.
3 Pedals Every Guitarist Must Have
Pedals are not absolutely necessary, especially if funds are tight. Amps have a lot of effects these days and many sounds can be achieved just with an amp. That being said, if you have the funds, I highly recommend the below 3 pedals that every guitarist should have to have more fun playing and achieve new tones.
- Looper Pedal: BOSS RC-1 Loop Station
- Overdrive Pedal: Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Wah Pedal: Cry Baby Standard Wah
Let’s look into each of these pedals to see why you should have them if you currently do not.
1. Looper Pedal: BOSS RC-1 Loop Station
Every guitarist, especially a beginner guitarist should have a looper pedal. Looper pedals are a great tool to practice learning simple chord progressions and strumming patterns. You can record your chord progression and then practice soloing over that progression. In doing so, you will get better timing as well as more consistent and in tune with your guitar playing.
Practice sessions begin to sound fuller and more engaging. And it makes playing in your bedroom alone not so boring as now you’re basically playing in a two piece band.
A looper pedal I recommend is the Boss RC-1 Loop Station which you can find on Amazon here for $139.
2. Overdrive Pedal: Ibanez Tube Screamer
Second on the list is the Ibanez Tube Screamer. A versatile and clear overdrive pedal that most blues and rock guitarists swear by.
The Ibanez Tube Screamer is THE pedal for achieving an optimal blues tone.
Gain effects are often some of the first pedals that beginners want because players of all styles typically use some form of gain effect. An overdrive pedal like the Ibanez Tube Screamer is the most versatile of the gain effect family.
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The Tube Screamer emulates the sound of an amp being cranked up to 10 without having to actually do it with your amp.
Blues legends like Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer (legend in the making) use this exact pedal extremely often. SRV basically used this pedal in every show to achieve his versatile and driven tone. In every ‘how to sound like SRV’ video on Youtube they recommend this pedal. This is by far my favorite pedal I own.
You can get this pedal on Amazon here for $99!
3. Wah Pedal: Cry Baby Standard Wah
Wah pedals are the most fun type of pedal there is. This is one of those effects that are almost impossible to recreate via an amp, in terms of controlling with your foot.
Used by Hendrix in a plethora of songs and SRV in his cover of Voodoo Child, this pedal adds flare and variety to your playing. Funk riffs become funkier and blues progressions more unique.
Consider adding this to your pedal repertoire and let the creativity juices flow.
You can find this pedal on Amazon here for $99.
Do Pedals Make You Sound Better?
Pedals will not automatically make you sound better, although with proper playing, they can enhance your tone to the desired sound. This tone brought on by the pedals can sound better than the tone without the pedal, making the guitar output sound better.
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Of course, it is in your actual playing that will determine how good you sound. No pedal will replace the practice needed to become a better sounding guitarist.
An example is with a song like Who Did You Think I Was. Without the overdrive pedal, the sound would be slightly flat and unassuming. It would not have the push that it has with the pedal, thus making it sound better.
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