Guitar Pedals Explained for Beginners

A guitar by itself can produce beautiful sounds, but if you want to add even more definition and character, then you might want to add guitar pedals to your sound equipment. If you’re still new to everything, it can be overwhelming. To break it down, just how guitars can have different timbres, the same goes for pedals. It can modulate and create dimensions to the overall sound quality - offering a lot of different effects and combinations to explore. 

guitar pedal

What does a guitar pedal look like? 

A guitar pedal (also known as a stompbox) is a simple accompaniment instrument placed under the foot. The guitarist steps on it rhythmically while playing to enhance the sound. Certain pedals have the ability to transform and shape the tone to make the sound different and unique. 

How guitar effect pedals are used

Most guitar pedals don’t come with a power supply. If you are going to purchase your first guitar pedal, make sure to buy a 9-volt power supply. You'll also need patch cables to connect your pedals together. 

For the initial set up, plug your ¼ inch guitar lead into the pedal, then plug another lead from the pedal to the amp. The signal travels from the amp to the pedal and then to the guitar. 

guitar player perfomring

A signal chain is very important because every change in the order affects the sound. Now turn your pedal on (stomp on the switch). If you’re playing a riff, you would need to turn your pedal on at the right moment. The function depends on what type of pedal you’re using. 

Kinds of guitar pedals

Guitarists in different genres use different pedals. Each guitar pedal has its own function and unique element of sound. 


The sound of a guitar can start to break up if the volume on the amp is cranked too high. The overdrive pedal picks up where the boost pedal leaves off and simulates the effect in varying degrees of intensified sounds. The progressive compression and distortion intensity is based on incoming volume. If you want to produce sounds like Arctic Monkeys, Metalica and Slipknot, get an overdrive. 

arctic monkeysDistortion

Distortion comes in a wide variety of styles. Distortions are the spice of the music. Typical distortion pedals use some kind of transistor to push incoming signals to the dipping point. If you need the high gain and are aiming for metal, this is the perfect pedal for you. 

Reverb pedals

Reverb pedals create a sense of gap around the sound. This is the trailing sound after a loud noise. All genres of music use reverb in some form. The effects of reverb are synthetic. Some reverb types like springs and plates emulate classic analog.  There are common controls you’ll find in reverb pedals, which is anywhere from a single level control to a wide selection of digital settings that allow you to create your ideal reverb sound. 


Guitar compressors are similar to the compressors you see in studios. Compression pedals vary from simple one-knob with fixed settings to sophisticated studio-style compressors with release, ratio, threshold and volume controls.  

guitar compressor

Delay pedals

Delay pedals replicate any sound you make from the guitar. It takes the original sound from incoming signal and repeats it. Delay effects are common to any kind of modern music, from short slap-back delay to long delays mostly used by blues-rock guitarists. Delay types are based on digital algorithms used to create the effect. To give you an idea what a delay pedal sounds like, it can be heard in the intro to Guns N Roses.

Looper pedals

Looper pedals record and loop while you’re playing. It starts recording when you step on the footswitch. This requires hitting the switch to start the loop, and then when you want to end the loop, you must step on it a second time.

These are just some of the types of guitar pedals you can purchase and there are so many varieties out there in the market. Here are some of our favorite guitar pedals that you can choose from. 

guitar pedal