Table of Contents
Guitar pedals are one of the essential guitar accessories every guitar player talks about, but when it comes to deciding whether or not to have guitar pedals, many guitar players wonder – are guitar pedals worth it?
In this guide, we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of guitar pedals and whether or not you should consider them.
Should you consider using guitar pedals?
Whether you are a beginner guitar player or you are experienced, guitar pedals are something you should definitely consider. Even if you do not plan to use them regularly, guitar pedals can be a way to boost your creativity and allow you to get different tones and sounds that would otherwise be impossible to achieve.
Advantages of guitar pedals
1. It makes your life easier
One of the greatest advantages of guitar pedals is that they make your life as a guitar player easier. At the touch of a few pedals, you can completely change how your guitar sounds and produce tons of different effects and tones without ever taking your hands off your instrument.
They can also be used to mask certain imperfections in your playing and improve the sound of your instrument. For example, if you have a hard time controlling how you are picking the strings, you can use a compressor pedal to make every string sound with the same intensity.
2. Some sounds can only be achieved with guitar pedals
The truth is that some of the most iconic guitar sounds you hear on records can only be achieved using guitar pedals. If you really want to mimic the sound and tone of a specific song or a certain solo, you will be forced to use guitar pedals to achieve it.
3. It makes you a more versatile guitar player
Believe it or not, guitar pedals can actually make you a more versatile player because you will have a lot more sounds and tones under your belt. With just a handful of pedals, you will be able to create different chords and melodies, from mellow chorus guitar chords to aggressive and overdriven guitar solos.
4. Guitar pedals can be combined
An often overlooked aspect of guitar pedals is that they can be combined to produce incredible sounds and tones. When you add certain effects on top of each other, you create different layers of complexity in your guitar signal, which, when applied properly, can make you stand out as a unique guitar player.
5. Portable and lightweight
Another advantage of guitar pedals is that they are lightweight and portable, making them easy to transport from one place to another. Whether you are practicing and going to a few gigs or constantly on the road playing live, guitar pedals will be easy to carry and set up from one place to another.
6. It makes you more creative
Overall, guitar pedals can also make you a much more creative player because tweaking and playing around with all these new sounds and effects will give you tons of new ideas for songs or solos. This is a great way to get inspired and create some amazing unique songs.
Disadvantages of guitar pedals
While there are plenty of advantages to using guitar pedals, there are also some drawbacks that are often ignored.
1. They need power to work
Yes, guitar pedals need to be powered, and if you are just using batteries to power them and you’re using multiple pedals, it can be a headache and an expensive one. Constantly replacing the batteries on guitar pedals can be frustrating, and it gives you another thing to worry about when preparing your guitar setup. The best way to avoid this disadvantage is to get a power supply for pedals that you can plug in and power all of your pedals at once without using batteries.
2. It can be difficult choosing the right pedal
Today there are so many pedals available for the same effects that it can be difficult to choose the right one. From vintage versions to standard pedals like Boss and even some boutique guitar pedals, the choice is so vast that you may feel lost choosing the right one.
3. You may lose yourself on the pedals and stop focusing on the most important thing
While this issue is often ignored by guitar players, there is a certain risk of getting into the guitar pedal gas syndrome. Yes, these are the type of guitarists that have given up learnings and improving and are now solely focused on the coolest pedals available and the stompboxes they have. You want to avoid this at all costs.
4. You start being dependent on guitar pedals
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of guitar pedals for any guitar player is the risk of becoming dependent on them. With some effects at the touch of your feet, you may start using pedals in a way that compromises your playing ability. You might not be encouraged, or excited to learn new and difficult guitar techniques, because you can just press a pedal and improve the way you sound. This remains the main reason why guitar pedals can sometimes be bad.
5. They’re expensive
Back in the 80s and 90s, when guitar pedals first entered the scene, they were relatively accessible, but today the prices are just way beyond comprehension. Any standard guitar pedal will set you back $100 at least, with some of the high-end models costing upwards of $200.
When you consider having 10 or even 15 different guitar pedals, we’re talking a lot of money just for pedals.
Should a beginner guitarist get a pedal?
As a beginner, you can get yourself one or two guitar pedals to experiment with, but this should not be your main concern. You should be focused on learning as much as possible and progressing as a guitarist instead of focusing too much time and energy on pedals. Remember that when learning how to play the guitar mastering certain techniques is what really takes time and effort, and guitar pedals can be used just as an add-on to your rig.
Essential guitar pedals you must have
Here are some of the essential guitar pedals to have:
- Volume pedal: A volume guitar pedal allows you to control the volume of your guitar without touching the volume knob or the amp. This is very useful for live gigs when you need to adjust the sound based on the other instruments. While this can avoid buying a volume pedal by simply mastering how to use the volume knob on your guitar, it can still be very useful, and pretty much every professional guitar player uses it.
- Wah-wah pedal: The wah-wah pedal is one of the most iconic guitar pedals out there, and it is used on countless records and songs. It can also be used for solos with overdrive which gives your guitar a tubular and distinct sound that stands out from the rest of the band. Some of the most popular wah-wah models are the Dunlop Cry Baby and the Vox V847.
- Distortion pedal: Distortion is absolutely essential, and while some amps already have a distortion channel, some guitar players prefer the distortion tone of pedals. There are hundreds of different distortion pedals to choose from. However, you should start with a Boss distortion pedal, and they are great quality pedals that will last a long time.
- Overdrive pedal: Overdrive pedals give you a boost, and while it is a distorted boost, an overdrive pedal is often used for soloing and makes your guitar stand out from the crowd. Once again, there are multiple overdrive pedals to choose from, but Boss usually has great-sounding pedals that are great.
- Chorus pedal: A chorus pedal is one of the most popular modular guitar effects, and it has been extensively used in many recordings and songs up until today.
- Delay pedal: A delay guitar pedal does exactly what it says, it makes your guitar sound delayed, and it is an excellent choice for solos or certain chords when you want them to ring for a long time.
- Reverb pedal: Reverb pedals are also a must for some guitar players because they are a defining aspect of your sound. Most amps nowadays come with a reverb setting, but there’s nothing like a spring reverb pedal that gives you an authentic reverb sound.
- Compressor pedal: Compressors are also extremely useful, especially in live settings, because they allow guitar players to control the dynamic sound of their instrument. With a compressor pedal, no matter how hard you hit the strings, the sound intensity will be the same, and this is great and can mask any mistakes during a live gig.
Guitar pedals FAQ
Do you need guitar pedals?
While it may seem like you need guitar pedals, the reality is that you don’t. As a guitar player, you should initially focus on developing your playing and learning all the techniques possible, and then you can start using pedals. The idea is that guitar pedals should complement your playing or not the other way around.
However, if you want to experiment with different sounds and get a creativity boost to compose songs, guitar pedals are a great way to expand your tone and sound horizons, and they will give you a lot more sounds to work with when creating songs.
Do guitarists still use pedals?
Yes, guitar players still use pedals because they are the most efficient way to get certain tones and sounds out of your instrument. Especially if you are playing in a live setting, guitar pedals are absolutely crucial to achieving every sound you want and transitioning from one song to another effortlessly.
Do you need a pedal if you have an amp?
Some guitar amps come with built-in effects that allow you to avoid buying guitar pedals. However, it is important to understand that most amps with built-in effects use digital effect modulators, which are not the same thing as analog guitar pedals. The quality of the sound and the effects is much better on analog pedals with circuits to alter or modify the guitar’s electric signal.
Can you play the electric guitar without a pedal?
Playing electric guitar does not require you to have any guitar pedals, and if you are just starting to learn how to play electric guitar or you are transitioning from acoustic or classic to electric, guitar pedals are the last thing you should worry about. Just focus on improving your playing and mastering the electric guitar first. Once you become comfortable playing an electric guitar, you can start adding pedals here and there to embellish your playing.
How to get guitar effects without pedals?
Believe it or not, there are specific ways to achieve effects on the guitar sound without using guitar pedals. While guitar pedals make it easier to control the tone of your guitar and the effect, there are certain effects, like the tremolo or distortion, that can be applied with your playing or your amp. However, it should be noted that specific modular effects like a chorus, delay, or flanger, for example, will not be achievable without using a guitar pedal.
Guitar pedals are a must-have for advanced guitar players, but they certainly can be less beneficial if you’re just learning or transitioning to electric guitar. They are a great way to get creative and compose new songs, but they can also hurt and hinder your progress as a musician if you become dependent on them. Make sure you choose the right pedals and add them slowly to your pedal board.
I have been playing guitar for the past 15 years, and my knowledge and passion for guitars prompted me to start Guitaresque to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks with other guitar players. The sole purpose of this website is to help and inspire guitar players worldwide, to improve their playing and their love for guitars.