The Basics

A very important part of a musicians sound are the effects (FX) they have available to them to embellish their sound. Certain effects are crucial to achieve the sounds associated with various genres of music. Heavy metal guitarists would lose all of their power without distortion and the wah wah pedal would be indispensable to a funk guitarist. Listen to the samples below to hear the most used effects by guitarists all over the world.

Chorus

A chorus effect pedal uses its technology to take the guitar signal and add a slightly delayed and different pitched version of itself on top. This creates a smooth shimmery sound, similar to when two different guitarists are playing the same riff together.

Phaser

Phasing is another sweeping effect but is different to flange. This effect filters a signal by putting peaks and troughs throughout the frequency spectrum. This is modulated over time affecting the position of the peaks and troughs. For this reason you get a sweeping effect.

Flanger

A flanger pedal uses two identical signals with one delayed by a small and gradually changing time period. The result is a sweeping filter effect that can be adjusted to your requirement.

Tremelo

Tremolo is created when a signal ducks in and out at a determined rate. It is a similar effect to using the tremolo arm on a guitar but rather than dropping the pitch, the volume is affected. The factors that can be changed are the speed and the volume of the drops in the signal.

Reverb

Natural reverb is created when playing music in different buildings, rooms or areas. For example large spaces create a deep echoey effect as the original sound is reflected many times across the room. The sound decays as things in the room absorb it. This effect is now created digitally. There are different versions such as Room, Chamber, Spring and Plate. Spring and plate reverbs mimic the effect of a sound been reverberated through metal springs or plates. The example in the audio clip is a hall reverb.

Delay

There are many different kinds of delay but it is typically an echo of whatever is being played. The speed of the delay can be adjusted and there are even tap delays available so that you can set it to the same tempo of your drummer or backing track. Other factors that can usually be adjusted are the feedback (how long the delay lasts) and Dry/Wet (how much delay is in the mix). Some different types of delay include Digital Delay, Stereo Delay, and Ping Pong Delay. A ping pong delay is when the signal bounces across the stereo field.

Overdrive

Overdrive was originally created by pushing tube amplifiers to high volumes, causing the signal to clip. This is now created by turning up the gain of the amplifier/pedal. The sound can also be mimicked digitally.

Whammy

Whammy is a pitch shift effect that is created using a pedal similar to a Wah Wah. The audio signal played through the pedal has it’s pitched altered digitally when you rock the pedal. This can be set to an octave or two higher or lower than the original signal. You can also set harmonies to play on top of what you play into the pedal.

Distortion

Distortion is essentially the same thing as Overdrive but the term is now commonly used when pushing gain/overdrive even further to a heavier, thicker distortion.

Wah Wah

Wah wah is created by altering the tone and frequencies of an audio signal. This can be done manually with a foot pedal that you rock up and down, or at a set rate using an auto-wah effect. This gives a talking effect, hence the name wah-wah.