What are guitar pedals & how do you use them? (by Oli Braithwaite)

Guitar pedals are an essential, fun and unavoidably addictive part of any electric guitarist’s gear (they’re so shiny).

In this guide you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started on your sound-sculpting journey.

many guitar pedals

What are guitar pedals?

guitar pedals amp and guitar

Guitar pedals or effect pedals are also called effect units or stomp boxes. They are used to alter the sound your electric guitar makes in a specific and controlled way.

Examples of guitar effects pedals include delay, wah, tremolo, chorus, distortion and fuzz.

Choosing your first guitar pedal

Guitar pedals in a chain with amp and electric guitar on a stand

Before explaining how to use guitar pedals, it’s worth pausing for a recommendation on which one is a good first pedal for beginners.

There are several guitar pedals to choose from but if you don’t know where to start, we recommend a distortion pedal.

Distortion pedals are a safe option, allowing you to switch between a clean sound and a distorted one using your feet. They’re fun and intuitive to use, which is why they’re our recommendation.

Further down in the article we give you an overview of the common types of guitar pedal where you can hear this pedal in action.

How to use guitar pedals

Guitar pedal close up showing how to power it on

1. Power up your guitar pedal

Most guitar pedals have two power options.

For portability, you can use a 9-volt battery to power it up or you can directly connect it to an outlet using an AC adapter.

Electric guitar connected to an amp by a jack to jack chord

2. Connect it to your guitar and amp

Run one 6mm cable from your guitar to the input jack on your guitar pedal then another from the output jack on your pedal to the input of your amplifier.

Guitar pedal connected to guitar

3. Turn your guitar amplifier on

Make sure that all the cables are connected properly before turning your amp on.

If you turn on your amp first then connect the cables, you risk damaging your amp because very loud popping noises often happen when plugging in.

guitar pedal knobs to set to default

4. Set your guitar pedal’s knobs to the default settings

This is usually at zero point. Test that your guitar pedal is on by engaging the foot pedal.

guitar pedals showing how you can change the settings with their knobs

5. Adjust each knob to determine its effect on your guitar sound

For a more detailed explanation of how this works specific to the guitar pedal you’ve chosen, consult the user manual included with your purchase or look for a video guide on YouTube.

Here are a few of Amazon’s most recommended guitar pedals. Link

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