I don’t know about you guys, but put me in front of a loaded pedal board and I’m like a kid in a candy store.
There’s something exhilarating about the sheer range of sonic possibilities that guitar pedals offer; whether you’re refining and thickening your tone, or diving into the weird and wonderful world of avant-garde noise making.
Guitar pedals are incredible tools. But, sometimes, the sheer wealth of pedals on the market leads to option paralysis. To put it another way, there are so many choices out there, we end up not actually choosing any because we’re so overwhelmed by it all.
While mulling this problem over the other day, I had a thought. If I were restricted to owning only a handful of pedals, what would I choose? What – for me anyway – are the essential units that help me craft the guitar sound I like?
This ended up being a very illuminating exercise, and as I whittled down the options, it taught me a lot about what’s important to me when it comes to guitar tone.
Eventually, after much deliberation. I settled on three pedals for this minimalist pedal board. And, for the fun of it, I’m listing them and their reasons for inclusion below:
Probably a TU3, though there are other good options available. To some, a tuner seems like a boring choice. But, when it comes to live applications, having a quick way to both tune AND mute your guitar is essential. If you’re a gigging guitarist, this is one you really can’t live without.
I’m a Tube Screamer guy myself, though I’ve also got a soft spot for Boss’ Blues Driver. For me, nothing beats the sound of an overdrive pedal pushing an already cooking amp to greater levels of saturation. Plus, the mid-hump that pedals like the TS give is useful for cutting through the mix in live situations.
Personally, I love the sound of the MXR Carbon Copy. I’ve also gotten good results from cheaper micro pedals like the Mooer Ana Echo. There are two applications I find delay incredibly useful for. The first is to subtly thicken my rhythm guitar sound. The second is for full-on epicness during lead breaks. I’ve gone analogue here purely because I love that warm, dark sound they give.
So there we go. Those are my three essential pedal picks.
But now, I want to throw the floor open to you guys.
I want to hear what you’ve got on your pedal board, what you wish you had and what your favourite guitar pedals of all time are. Oh, and if you were stuck on a desert island with a guitar, amp, and three pedals, which three pedals would you choose and why?
As always, share your stories in the comments section below, and lets us know your thoughts on stomp boxes, expression pedals and everything in-between!
“I'm sick to death of people saying we've made 11 albums that sound exactly the same, In fact, we've made 12 albums that sound exactly the same.”
“I honestly believe that you have to be able to play the guitar hard if you want to be able to get the whole spectrum of tones out of it. Since I normally play so hard, when I start picking a bit softer my tone changes completely, and that's really useful sometimes for creating a more laid-back feel.”
As a young guitarist, I completely rejected any notion that music theory would help me in my journey. At the time, I justified this as a “punk rock/music is freedom” attitude to playing. If I learned my theory, I told myself, I’m just putting myself in a box. “[Insert guitar hero of the week] didn’t need theory, and they were a genius. Why do I?”