Are Guitar Pedals Necessary?

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Many guitarists use guitar pedals to add special effects pedals for the special sound effects they add to play. As they don’t come cheap, you might be wondering if they are really necessary for your guitar playing.

The short answer? No, guitar pedals are not necessary. While they can add more variety and richness to your playing, you can get by perfectly well without them. That being said, some effect pedals are so beneficial that you should seriously consider getting them.

There are various benefits of using guitar pedals and they will be discussed in this piece. Also, the more important effect pedals will be discussed.

Are Guitar Pedals Necessary?

Effect units or effect pedals are electronic devices that alter the sound of musical instruments or other audio sources using audio signal processing. There are effect pedals for various instruments like guitars and bass.

Guitar Pedals are a series of accompanying instruments that are used in conjunction with guitars to get a more complete musical experience.

For owners of electric guitars, using an amplifier is often enough to get many special effects. However, even that might not be enough as dedicated guitar pedals have far more variety of effects you can use. This is not to talk about the inadequacies of acoustic guitars when it comes to these effects. However, you can use guitar pedals with any type of guitar, be it classical, acoustic or electric.

With acoustic guitar, there is more need for these special effects especially if you want to go for certain genres of music. Many things could influence the necessity of getting guitar pedals. On the basic level, it is not necessary like, say, an amplifier for your electric guitar.

Benefits Of Using Guitar Pedals

Of course, there are many main benefits of using guitar pedals. After all, they wouldn’t be so popular otherwise. Some of these benefits are:

  • They allow you more control over your sound: It remains to be said that there are many sound effects that you can’t get from playing one instrument alone. Using effect pedals will allow you to explore the widely vast musical terrain. You will be able to get the exact sound you are looking for.
  • They give more room for creativity and dynamism: Again, guitar pedals allow you to shift away from conventional sounds. By fine-tuning many effects like distortion and pitch, it allows you to create many unique sounds. Also, if you are playing for a crowd guitar pedals allow you to bring them into the feel by livening up the play.
  • They make playing more fun: When you have mastered using effect pedals with your guitar, it is hard to turn back. Both your sound results and the playing itself becomes extremely enjoyable.
  • Effect pedals make you understand music better: The last point in favour of using effect pedals is that their use makes you understand the art of playing. By mastering the numerous effects of guitar pedals, you have a fuller grasp of the workings of your guitar and music in general.

These are the main reasons you should consider getting guitar pedals. All of them have to be considered so you won’t regret getting or not getting the guitar pedals.

Cons

It has been seen that guitar pedals are very useful for guitar players. However, getting guitar pedals isn’t without its downsides as there are a few factors you should also know before making the big decision. Some of these are:

  • They are costly: To start with, guitar pedals don’t come cheap. The average guitar pedals set for beginners cost between $200-300 while additional pedals will set you back by 50 to 100 dollars. This might prove to be too costly, especially if you don’t make any more from playing.
  • It is easy to be “addicted: This is the reason beginners aren’t advised to use guitar pedals as it is very easy to get too used to them. This can lead to incessant mistakes when such a person plays the guitar without effect pedals.
  • They are additional complications with setting up: Guitar pedals need to be set up from scratch every time you want to play. This is especially relevant if you are playing at shows. If you just play in the comfort of your home, it is less of a concern.

Looking at this, the biggest mark against getting guitar pedals seems to be the cost. If you can get one at a price that doesn’t help your pocket, you should always consider it.

Best Guitar Effects To Have

There are many different categories of effects you can use with your guitar pedals, and they all have specific niches. Some are more fitting for slow, classical play while some work better with rock music. Each effect has a different way of coming up and you’ll often need different pedals for each type unless you can get a full set.

Dynamics Effects

These effects are used to modify the volume and amplitude of a sound. Typical include boost or volume pedals that boost the volume of the guitar by raising the amplitude of the sound and also preventing loss of signal. Compressors, on the other hand, make loud sounds quieter and quiet sounds louder by compressing the dynamic range of the audio signal.

Filter Effects

These effects alter the frequency of the audio signal by boosting or weakening certain frequencies. The most common filter effect is the equalizer, which is a set of linear filters that appropriately strengthen or weaken frequency regions. Also, there is the talk box which takes sound from the guitar to the mouth of a performer via a tube, creating a modified sound picked up by the microphone.  Another filter effect is the wah-wah and auto-wah effects used by funk and rock guitarists.

Modulation

These effects alter and mix the signal strength from the guitar. It includes chorus pedals which mimic the effect naturally gotten from choir orchestras and choruses. There are also the flanger, phaser, ring modulator, tremolo and vibrato effects.

Time-based

As the name suggests, these effects influence the audio signal by delaying the sound signal to create reverb, echoes or loops. The most common effects are delay and echo.

Pitch/Frequency

Pitch effects alter the pitch by changing the frequency of a sound wave or by adding new harmonies. Most popular are pitch shifters and harmonizers.

Distortion Effects

If you are familiar with rock music, you would know this effect. It is the same category with overdrive and fuzz effects. These effects add a “fuzz” or warm sound to an audio signal by distorting the shape of its waveform, creating warm sounds by adding harmonics and creating fuzzy sounds by adding inharmonic overtones.

A fuzz pedal or fuzzbox is a typical example of a guitar pedal that uses this effect.

Feedback

These effects create a feedback loop by microphone or guitar pickup picking up an amplified sound and running it back through the guitar amplifier. The effect usually brings out a high-pitched sound.

Considerations

There are several factors to consider that will influence how much you will need effect pedals.

These are:

  • The genre you play: Some genres of music have more need for effect pedals than others. For example, players of rock and jazz music need more tones and effects than players of classical. The latter, therefore, have more need for effect pedals.
  • Financial implications: You must consider the cost-benefit effects of getting guitar pedals. If, for example, you only want to play the guitar for fun once in a while, you might not hold effect pedals as important. A person who plays and makes money from playing their guitar should always consider getting guitar pedals as an investment as it is likely to bring in returns.
  • Skill level: If you are a beginner with guitar, you certainly don’t need effect pedals. Without grasping the guitar itself, you won’t get the intricacies of using effect pedals to supplement the sound. While practising on your own in the journey to proficiency, there is just no need for guitar pedals.
  • Where and how you play: This point slightly overlaps with the previous points too. If you just play a few songs at home, you most likely don’t need guitar pedals. Alternatively, if you play in a band or at shows, it is best to have effect pedals to make the best impression.
  • Your guitar type: As mentioned earlier, guitar pedals are more necessary for players of acoustic guitars who need special effects than for owners of electric guitars. This is because many of these effects can be gotten with amplifiers.

Looking at these four points, you can decide whether you need guitar pedals for your guitar or not. However, they are not gospel. Even if you are a beginner who only plays at home, you might as well get one if you enjoy it so much.

Conclusion

Guitar Pedals can help you in your musical journey by ensuring that you get exactly the sound you are going for. While many would consider them crucial, they are by no means a necessity. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide if it is worth splashing the extra cash.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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