Why Every Guitarist Needs a Reverb and a Delay Pedal

There's nothing that can compete with a well-conceived pedalboard with good quality products on it. Some guitar players even spend years perfecting their signal chain and coming up with the best possible combinations and orders of pedals for their own needs. The process can be somewhat tiring, but if you're trying to build one yourself, there's no doubt that you'll have fun doing it.

Of course, in most cases, overdrives or distortions are the main parts of one's signal chain and all the other pedals are often there to add some color to the tone, make it sound fuller, or just help you control the overall dynamics. However, there's barely a good guitar tone without the use of at least some amount of ambient effects, like delay or reverb. Here, we will be explaining the importance of these two effects and why they are essential in an average pedalboard these days.


Delay, or an echo, is an effect that repeats what you just played in shorter bursts with a certain time in between the repeats. With its parameters, you can control the number of repeats, level, blend, and, in some cases, even the tone properties of repeats. Depending on the pedal, you can create very short delays of about 20-25 ms, up to very long times well over 800 ms.


Reverb is the effect similar to what you'd get playing in a large hall or a cathedral. Just like with the delay, there are repeats, but in reverberation, they're structured in such a way that you don't hear the individual repeats but the overall atmospheric effect with multiple reflections decaying according to the set parameters.

Why are they important?

Well, the main reason is pretty simple – no matter the other pedals that you're using, if there are no atmospheric effects like delay or reverb, your tone will sound dry. In fact, in most of the cases, the tone will be so dry that it won't be able to fit in with the standards of modern music. The dry tone is simply unpleasurable to listen to.

Yes, there are those older recordings or even specific genres, like some forms of hardcore punk, that work without these two effects. These things are always open for discussion, but if you're trying to have a solid tone for at least somewhat of a versatile repertoire, there's got to be at least some delay or reverb in there.

This is especially the case if you're a lead player. Some rhythm tones can be left dry and compressed, but if you're playing a lead section in any genre, the overall output will be pretty awkward if there's no reverb or delay included in there.

Try and take a listen to any of the famous lead guitar legends of the past few decades, both on the studio and live recordings. While the type and the amount of the effect will differ – with some preferring longer delays or just a touch of reverb – you will hardly find a good song with a completely dry solo guitar sound.

Like we said – if you're at least somewhat serious about your guitar playing and guitar tone, you should most certainly consider getting a delay or a reverb.

Should I use reverb or delay?

Generally speaking, it all depends on your tastes and preferences. Some prefer the drenched and completely atmospheric sounds of large halls that reverb can make, while others rely on the delays with longer or shorter repeats.

We could say that the reverb goes well with some of those older styles of music and clean or slightly overdriven tones of surf rock, old school rock 'n' roll, blues, or jazz.

The delay can be a solid effect for the more modern lead guitar tones and can fit in well with some higher gain tones. Of course, it is also very useful with clean tones, especially if you're playing individual notes and fill in the gaps that a dry tone might have.

At the end of the day, they both serve a similar function in making a great tone. It all usually comes down to a player's preferences and the style of music. There are no strict written rules and it's up to you to use them the way you want to while being aware of their overall importance and function.

Some guitarists also prefer to use both delay and reverb at the same time, but this setup would require some experimentation and additional tweaking.

Where do they go in the signal chain?

The general rule is that they go after all of the other effects, at the very end of the signal chain. If you're using both at the same time, we would recommend that you put reverb after the delay, although this is a very specific thing and depends on the player's preferences.

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