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This is a controversial and thought-provoking statement, that may leave some gearheads and guitar pedal fans upset, but guitar pedals can indeed be bad.
The tone is in your fingers and not on the gear you use. This should be clear to most guitarists, and in fact, guitar pedals can only enhance the sound of your playing. However, they tend to be overused and can be detrimental not only to your sound but also to your playing. Let’s look at some of the reasons why guitar pedals can be bad.
Why guitar pedals are bad
There are some clear consequences of using guitar pedals constantly, and although they might not be apparent to you, they exist. Here are some of the reasons why guitar pedals can be bad:
- Mask up your mistakes
- Gives you the impression that you sound better than you actually do
- Prevents you from improving
- You spend more time searching for pedals than practicing
- You become dependent on guitar pedals
- Prevents you from mastering your instrument
- Using them constantly removes an element of surprise that is essential in music
Mask up your mistakes
Guitar pedals and sound modulation interfaces end up masking your own playing mistakes. What happens is that you become unaware of something you are doing wrong, or that can be improved. If you constantly play with guitar pedals, even when practicing this problem could be even more severe.
Let’s face it, guitar pedals sound great, and that gives you tons of tonal variety and allows you to create your own sound. But as you use them more and more, they start covering your mistakes. When you play with a clean sound, you can hear everything you are doing, and this is the only way to actually improve your guitar technique, phrasing, and ultimately your playing and natural tone.
This is one of the reasons you should avoid practicing with pedals. Since you will not be aware of some mistakes you are making, it will limit your ability to progress and become a better guitar player.
Gives you the impression that you sound better than you actually do
This is one of the consequences of masking your own tone with guitar pedals. You actually start feeling that you sound better with them than without them. It also can influence how you hear and judge yourself because the pedal has a great influence on how you sound.
This can be extremely damaging to your playing, because if you are not aware of how you sound how can you improve? This is why pedals should be used in moderation, and sporadically. Basing your whole tone on guitar pedals means that you do not have a unique tone. To find your tone you really need to practice with a clean amp, and develop your phrasing.
Prevents you from improving
Since guitar pedals can mask your sound, and lead you to think you sound better than you do, you don’t practice. When you don’t practice you stop improving, and when you stop improving you are not developing as a musician.
It creates a cascade effect of consequences that can seriously harm your progress.
You spend more time searching for pedals than practicing
This is another consequence of the extreme use of guitar pedals. Although they exist to give you some tonal differences and effects, you start to slowly base all of your tone on the pedals you have. Yes, there are pretty cool pedals with incredible sounds, but you know what is better than that? Practicing and developing your own tone.
Spending countless hours looking for the perfect pedal that will finally change the way you sound, is futile. Most of the times, your tone can be improved by using your fingers, and to actually start mastering your own instrument.
You become dependent on guitar pedals
If you use pedals every day you start to become dependent on them, and this will limit your ability to play guitar. You start to realize that unless you have a certain pedal you will not sound good, or it will not have your own sound.
Prevents you from mastering your instrument
There are useful pedals that are not essential. An example of this is a volume pedal. We all have a volume knob in our guitars why not start to use it. The same thing goes for the tone, and even overdrive pedals. If you have a good tube amp, why would you need 2 or 3 different overdrive pedals?
This makes you rely a lot on pedals and prevents you from mastering your own instrument and what you can do with it. With a simple electric guitar and an amp, there are thousands of different sounds that you can create.
No more surprise
Music needs surprises, it needs something unexpected. Sometimes that is a certain pedal, with a different tone, or a completely different chord. However, if you use guitar pedals constantly, the element of surprise in that effect vanishes. You have to know how to use it to your advantage.
Guitar pedals obviously have their own advantages, but there are clear drawbacks to using them all the time. It creates a negative feedback loop that guitarists should avoid at all costs. It will spiral down, and you will end up owning 30 different pedals without even improving your own playing that much.
Remember that playing guitar is about having fun, and improving yourself. Pedals certainly have their place in guitarists’ lives but they are not at the center stage. If you are still keen on having a lot of pedals, consider getting some used guitar pedals.
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.