Although it seems like fun and games, getting a good tone is not exactly the easiest task. You'll first need to know what you're looking for, what styles of music you'll be playing, and how your new pedals will interact with your other gear and the tone of your bandmates. At the same time, you'll need to be thinking of practical issues and whether you'll be able to keep up with the number of pedals that you want to acquire.
But all these issues aside, crafting your tone and building your pedalboard fills you with excitement and joy. (No matter how difficult it might be in some moments.) So if you really decided to go down this path and not just buying the amp modeler or a multi-FX unit, we've come up with the list of top 5 must-have guitar pedals.
While it's definitely the most boring piece of gear that you'll ever own, the volume pedal is a must if you want to take it to the next level. Especially if you're playing in a band with 5 or more members and where the dynamics are of great importance. And once you start using it, you won't be able to go a day without it.
While it seems like a simple product, there are a few things to consider when buying a volume pedal. There are low impedance pedals that go later in the signal chain, after the distortion. This way, you control the overall output volume, like a master volume on an amp. High impedance volume pedals go earlier in the signal chain and this way it basically does the same thing a volume pot would do.
Okay, here's another one that might seem boring at first, but is actually essential if you want to make your tone "thicker." Compressor pedals take care of your dynamics. They turn up the volume of quiet pars and turn down the volume of louder parts. This way, you get more control over your tone and don't need to worry about suddenly popping out in the mix. What's more, it also adds some sustain to your tone as sort of a "byproduct."
It's not unusual to see guitar players use a compressor for both lead and rhythm parts, both in clean or distorted situations.
While most of the young enthusiastic guitar players are fixated on getting a high gain classic distortion, we would always recommend a good overdrive over it. Overdrive is, in fact, a type of distortion, but the tone is always "calmer" and softer thanks to the different type of clipping.
Not to bore you with all the details, but overdrive always comes in handy, no matter the genre that you're playing. Whether it's jazz or blues-rock, or even heavy metal, you'll always find a use for it. Besides, if you need to get that high gain tone, try and use the overdrive to push your tube amp over its limits.
A great option would by an Ibanez Tube Screamer or any of its copies. Of course, there are many other overdrive pedals out there worth checking out and it's best if you go out and try them yourself.
Of course, whatever music that you're playing, in most cases you wouldn't want to sound too dry. So to add a bit of "wetness" to your tone, you would need something like an echo or a delay pedal. With repeated tones that gradually decade, you'll get the illusion of playing in a larger room, ultimately giving your tone some life and an impression of spaciousness.
There are many different delay pedals out there, some of which give you more control over the effect by adding more delay time (distance between two repeats), more feedback (more repeats) or even equalizers for the repeated tones. Some even prefer analog delays which are considered to have "organic" and "warmer" tone. However, these pedals tend to be more expensive.
But whatever type of delay you decide to get, you won't ever regret it.
Okay, we know that this is another boring pedal on the list. But you do need to stay in tune, right? Pulling the cable out and plugging into a tuner that's not in your signal chain every few songs will be a party-breaker. Getting a good tuner pedal with a visible display and that mutes your signal will certainly speed things up and make everything easier for live gigs.
There are many tuner pedals to choose from and each has a different type of display. You'll need to see what suits your needs and what will make your time on the stage more pleasurable. After all, if you're out of tune, nobody will stand listening to you play. Not just the audience but your bandmates as well.