We all have our preferences but let’s admit it, most of us wish to have the coolest things available. That includes cool guitar effects and pedals that make them. And while it is great to have modern and unique sounds, oftentimes we forget about the basic clean tones and beautiful melodies they create.
That’s why some “basic” guitar pedals get overlooked when they shouldn’t. Here is a list of 4 important guitar pedals that should be used much more than they are and why.
1. Volume pedals
This is a piece of equipment whose name leaves no room for doubt - it is used to control the volume at which you are going to play. In the simplest case, we'll plug it in between the guitar and the amp or into the amp's effects loop.
The first setup allows you to control your volume while playing, at any time. The second is more versatile in that it offers two volume control points, one on the guitar before the preamp, the other on the pedal, after the preamp, and before the power amp. The result is not the same depending on whether one or the other volume is lowered: by reducing the volume of the instrument by three-quarters we obtain a clear sound even on the saturated channel because we do 'not send a strong enough signal to the preamp; by doing the same thing on an insert volume pedal, you lower the level of the signal going into the power amp, leaving the preamp running at full capacity, resulting in a very saturated sound at low volumes.
Another advantage is that your pedal can act as a noise gate if you bring it back when not playing. Be careful, however, some amps see their sound perverted by inserting a volume pedal, do not insist in this case.
The life of a sound is played out in three stages: attack, resonance, and decay.
By reducing the compressor's level when it is too powerful (attack), and by inflating it when it is too weak (decay), keeps the signal at an almost constant volume until it stops. So we can talk about sound leveling, but be careful, this does not mean that a compressor increases the sustain of your instrument. Your note always has the same duration, it's just louder for longer.
This confusion is mainly due to the fact that very often we couple a distortion with the compressor, the work of the latter favoring feedback on the note itself (like Santana or Gary Moore) and not on its harmonics, and there we can speak of an increase in sustain generated by the conjunction of the two pedals.
Equalizing a sound involves increasing or decreasing the level of a frequency or a group of frequencies (band) centered around one of them.
The Baxendall type equalization is the most common: it has three settings: bass, midrange, and treble, lowering the said frequencies in the first half of their stroke, amplifying them in the second. Some devices only have two (Orange amps or Fender Vibroverb normal channel) others have four, separating low and high mids to further refine the intervention on these particularly strategic frequencies for the guitar. On many older amps, the EQ settings are very interactive, opening the door to subtle adjustments.
The graphic equalizer works roughly on the same principle as the previous one except that it segments your sound into narrower frequency bands that are therefore more focused and more numerous. Each band is assigned a linear potentiometer with a zero point in the middle, notched. We will therefore be able to increase or reduce the level of each band by plus or minus n decibels (between 10 and 15 dB most often). This allows for more precise action but can also be confusing if the number of bands is too high. Five to seven well-stepped bands of around 80 Hz to some 6 kHz can be considered sufficient to equalize a guitar sound.
4. Clean boost
It is akin to a preamp gain stage, which is why some devices adopt, wrongly but with some reason, the name of preamp. To clarify, let's say that a booster will allow you via a switch to considerably increase the signal level of your guitar. The only setting available on this type of circuit is the boost level, the adjustment being done by trim-pot and battery power. The same circuit with volume and tone control can claim the name of a preamp.
These devices can be embedded in a guitar (Jackson preamp), in a volume pedal (Dunlop GCB-81) or themselves constitute a pedal (MXR Micro amp). In the latter case, they can integrate a 12AX7 lamp (Tubeworks Blues Driver). However, sometimes it is difficult to know what you are dealing with: choose what suits your needs and trust your ears.