By: Anthony Krueger
So, you finally broke down and bought an electric guitar, and now you want to know what else you can do aside from the traditional, clean sound. I am sure that the reason you purchased your electric guitar was not to practice chords; instead, your intention is to rip out some crazy distorted riffs with reverb that makes your grandmother cringe. Creating different effects to the sound waves were the main reason I purchased my Fender American Stratocaster (that and the fact that the guitar is beautiful).
In order to understand how the different kinds of pedals work, you need to have a basic understanding of sound waves. So, here is your official crash course in sound waves 101. A clean guitar sound creates a wave that looks similar to a sine wave (figure to the right). An effect pedal basically takes that signal and rearranges it to create a new sound (or a new wave pattern). Currently, there are five main pedals in circulation:
Distortion Pedal – In plain English, the distortion pedal takes the sound and “roughs it up,” giving it an edge. However, if you are interested in every little detail and how something works, the long explanation is that the distortion pedal takes the original sound wave and squares off the rounded edges, creating a more jagged and linear wave (hence the “rough” sound). So, instead of smooth, rounded curves, the peaks and valleys are more squared off and uneven. Luckily for you, most electric guitar amplifiers include a nifty distortion pedal built in. Add Inserts
Reverb Pedal – The reverb pedal receives the signal from the electric guitar and creates an echo effect. Basically, the pedal simulates a three–dimensional environment in which your sound waves flourish. A reverb pedal is great for re-creating a larger room, making your sound resonate larger than life. Add Inserts
Delay Pedal – Like a reverb pedal, the delay pedal simulates a 3–D environment, also creating an echo sound. The main difference between the two pedals is what the name of the delay pedal implies – a delay in reverb. However, the echo effect with a delay pedal is not the same as with a reverb pedal. In fact, the delay pedal does not produce a true echo, where the sound changes as it comes back; instead, the sound is an exact replica of whatever original note is being produced. This pedal is a great accessory for any lead electric guitarist. Add Inserts
Compression Pedal – Most guitarists have heard of the compression pedal, but not too many actually know the simple meaning of its effect. This pedal basically takes the sound’s intensity and reverses it. Hence, the quiet sound becomes loud, or the loud sound becomes quiet. This effect is perfect for tapping because the nature of tapping notes is to remain much quieter than strumming or plucking a note.Add Inserts
Overdrive Pedal – The overdrive pedal smooths out the sine wave, distorting it slightly. Think of this effect as a lighter version of a distortion pedal that sounds more like a blues distortion than rock. If you are looking to distort your electric guitar a little, but still covet clear notes, this pedal is for you. Add Inserts