Essential Guitar Pedals for Beginners

Essential Guitar Pedals for Beginners - What Pedals Should I Buy First?

When building your first pedalboard, many questions might arise, but most frequently, "What pedals should I buy first?." With the many sonic possibilities and options, it is an exciting yet often overwhelming journey for any beginner guitar player. Knowing where to start can seem daunting with each pedal offering a unique way to shape your sound.

From the grittiness of distortion to the possibilities of reverb, guitar pedals open up a world of creative expression. Selecting the right pedals will not only enhance your sound but also encourage your growth as a musician.

In this article, we are going to show you the essential guitar pedals for beginners so that you can kickstart your journey to achieving the perfect tone.

In a hurry? Check out our quick guide with the best guitar pedals for beginners available on our website:

Pedal Type

Our Recommendation for Beginners

Price

Overdrive

Cusack Music Screamer Pedal V3

$185.00

Distortion/Fuzz

Humanoid FX Goblin Pedal

$110.00

Reverb

Mojo Hand FX Dewdrop

$149.00

Delay

Cusack Music Tap-a-Delay

$195.00

Chorus

Mojo Hand FX Swim Team

$159.00

Phaser

Mojo Hand FX Mr O Pedal

$159.00

Flanger

OBNE Flat Light

$209.00

Tremolo

Mojo Hand FX RVT

$149.00

Compressor

Ground Control Audio Serpens

$189.00

Octave

Dirty Haggard Gatekeeper

$190.00

Essential Guitar Pedals for Beginners - Building Your First Pedalboard Step-by-Step

Truth is, there is no single answer to what guitar pedal you should buy first. This will depend on a lot of variables: your playing style, which music genres you like to play, and, most importantly, your tone preferences.

Despite that, if you're a complete beginner, there are a few guidelines you can follow. Below, we divided the best types of guitar pedals into different categories to help you find the next perfect addition to your setup.

1. Overdrive and Distortion/Fuzz

If there's one pedal that all pedalboards should have, that is an overdrive or distortion/fuzz unit.

Overdrive and distortion/fuzz are probably the most popular types of guitar pedals. These effects are synonymous with the instrument and have long defined the sound of rock and roll. With an overdrive/distortion pedal, you will be able to venture into the world of power chords and solos with more excitement.

We grouped these two types of pedals because they serve a similar purpose: adding some grit to your sound. However, they each have their intricacies, and the best choice will depend on your playing style and tone preferences.

 

Cusack Music Screamer Pedal V3 - Most Versatile Overdrive Pedal for Beginners

The Cusack Music Screamer Pedal V3 is our top recommendation for an overdrive pedal for beginners, as it's a TS-style OD with twice the gain, allowing for lots of versatility.

Overdrive pedals usually emulate the sound of a tube amp as it approaches break up, but more conveniently: they can offer the same experience without you having to crank the volume of your amplifier. Overdrive pedals are versatile and work well across multiple genres, thanks to the amount of tone control they offer and the different models we can find in the market.

Check our complete selection of overdrive pedals.

Humanoid FX Goblin Pedal - Overdrive, Fuzz, and Distortion in One Pedal

The Goblin Tone Distorter combines overdrive, fuzz, and distortion in one pedal for a surprisingly low price. A great option for those on a budget yet not willing to give up versatility.

Distortion and fuzz are the grittier, more aggressive brothers of the overdrive. While not as transparent/versatile as OD, these pedals are a superb choice for any genre, but particularly for heavier playing styles.

Check our complete selection of distortion pedals.

Check our complete selection of fuzz pedals.

2. Reverb

After you have some type of overdrive/distortion pedal, it's time to venture into the world of time-based effects with a reverb pedal. Once again there are so many possibilities to explore with these types of effects: they allow everything from giving a subtle boost to your solos to creating ethereal landscapes.

Mojo Hand FX Dewdrop - A Simple Yet Powerful Spring Reverb

If you're after a vintage tone or simply looking to give your sound more body as a beginner, the Dewdrop by Mojo Hand FX is an excellent option.

Reverb plays an important role in music, recreating the echoes of sound in different settings to enhance the richness of your guitar tone. Whether you're playing in a room, a hall, or any other space, reverberation adds a sense of depth and atmosphere to your sound. By using a reverb pedal you can achieve everything from subtle ambience to dreamy landscapes.

Check out all the reverb pedals available on our website!

3. Delay

A delay pedal is always a great addition to your setup. A versatile and powerful tool, this type of effect is capable of producing subtle echoes to complex, dreamy soundscapes. Delays are somewhat similar to reverbs as they're both time-based effects.

Cusack Music Tap-a-Delay - A Versatile Delay for First-Timers

If you opt for a delay, the Cusack Music Tap-a-Delay offers excellent value for the price and is an excellent versatile option that allows for endless experimentation.

A delay pedal records the input signal of your guitar and plays it back after a specified amount of time, creating an echo effect. You can control various parameters such as the delay time, feedback (the number of repeats), and mix level (the balance between the dry and wet signal).

Check our complete selection of delay pedals!

4. Chorus

If you're starting to venture into the world of modulation effects, a chorus pedal is always a great addition to your setup, as it's an effect that can add lots of depth to your tone.

Mojo Hand FX Swim Team - Chorus/Flanger in One Pedal

The Mojo Hand FX Swim Team is an obvious option if you're a beginner looking for versatility, as it combines two types of modulation in one pedal: chorus and flanger.

A chorus pedal works by generating several copies of your audio signal, each one with a slight difference in pitch and timing. It sounds as if several guitars are playing the same part, at the same time. However, this effect is so versatile and can be used in many different ways.


Explore our complete selection of chorus pedals!

5. Phaser

Another beloved effect among guitar players, the phaser first appeared in the 1970s and is employed in different music styles to create psychedelic and "warbly" textures.

Mojo Hand FX Mr O Pedal - A Simple, Yet Powerful Phaser Option

The MR O, by Mojo Hand FX, aims to recreate the classic phaser sound of the 1970s and is an excellent option for beginners.

Simply put, a phaser guitar pedal creates a "sweeping" effect by splitting the guitar signal and shifting the phase accordingly. The phaser was used by guitar players such as Van Halen to spice up solos but is also frequently heard in psychedelic rock (Example: Tame Impala, Mac Demarco).

Check out our complete selection of phaser pedals!

6. Flanger

The flanger is divisive among guitar players, yet you may instantly fall in love with the effect. Flanger can produce a distinctive, jet-like sweeping sound that is very unique.

OBNE Flat Light - A Distinctive Flanger Pedal With Lots of Experimentation Possibilities

The OBNE Flat Light is a unique flanger pedal. The cool thing about this unit is that it has several different parameters, allowing for beginners to explore many tone possibilities.

A flanger guitar pedal duplicates the guitar signal and delays one of the copies by a very small amount of time. This delayed signal is mixed back with the original, which creates the characteristic swirling. The effect was very popular in the 1980s and can be adopted by any playing style.

Here is our complete selection of flanger pedals!

Tip: If you want to learn everything about modulation, make sure to check our guide!

7. Tremolo

The tremolo is a staple of the vintage guitar tone. Made popular by surf music in the 1960s, we recommend this effect to beginner guitarists looking to spice up their chord progressions.

Mojo Hand FX RVT - Vintage-Sounding Tremolo, Reverb, and Vibrato in One Unit

We recommend the Mojo Hand FX RVT for beginners due to the unit's versatility: it combines three vintage-sounding effects: tremolo, reverb, and vibrato.

The tremolo works by modulating the volume of your guitar's audio signal. It is as if someone was constantly turning the volume up and down. A very famous song that uses the tremolo effect is Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day.

Check out our complete selection of tremolo pedals!

8. Compressor

The compressor is a subtle effect, but it can completely change the way you play the guitar. It allows for more controlled dynamics and a studio-like sound.

Ground Control Audio Serpens - A Powerful Compressor for Your First Pedalboard

The Serpens, by Ground Control Audio, is a simple yet powerful LED-LDR optical compressor. It will be an amazing addition if you're looking for that last unit to complete your pedalboard.

Compressor guitar pedals even out the dynamic range of your playing by boosting softer signals and attenuating louder ones. This results in a more consistent sound with enhanced sustain, making it an essential tool for achieving clarity and balance in both clean and distorted tones.

Check out our complete selection of compressor pedals!

9. Octave

Octave guitar pedals can drop your tone a few semitones to full octaves with the push of a button. These units cater to a very specific crowd, but it's possible that you, as a beginner, would like to explore the effect.

Dirty Haggard Gatekeeper - A Pedal that Combines Octave and Fuzz Effects

Our recommendation for an octave guitar pedal for beginners is the Dirty Haggard Gatekeeper, as it combines an octave and a fuzz in the same unit

Octave guitar pedals can add depth and richness to your sound by generating tones an octave above or below your original signal. This creates a fuller, harmonically complex sound, perfect for experimentation or heavier music styles such as metal.


Check out our complete selection of octave pedals!

What Pedals Should I Buy First?

There is no set of rules as to which pedal you should buy first, but we recommend you use the list we laid out as a guideline to what order you should buy each effect for your pedalboard as a beginner. These are:

  • Overdrive or distortion
  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Chorus
  • Phaser
  • Flanger
  • Tremolo
  • Compressor
  • Octave

  • Remember, if you feel like getting a chorus first would suit your playing style better than opting for an overdrive, then, by all means, do that! There are no hard rules in music.

    Bonus Tips When Building Your First Pedalboard

    Consider your Favorite Music Genres and Playing Style

    This one is pretty obvious but do make sure to take your favorite music genres and playing style into consideration. The best pedal for playing rock n roll isn't always the ultimate choice when playing metal, for example.

    One related point that is often overlooked by beginners is that each pedal has a certain feel to it that will affect your playing style.

    Think About your Existing Gear (Guitar, Amplifier)

    Think about how a particular pedal would work alongside your existing gear. For example, some overdrive pedals will shine when paired with single-coil pickups, while others, particularly the high-gain ones, sound amazing alongside a humbucker-equipped guitar.

    Another important piece of gear in your signal chain is your amp. Whether you have a physical unit or use an audio plugin, guitar pedals behave differently depending on the style of amplifier you're using.

    Try Virtual Pedal Emulations

    If you have an audio interface and can connect your guitar to your computer, many audio plugins across the board aim to recreate famous pedals. These emulations are pretty faithful and can be a useful tool before you make the call to buy a physical unit.

    The great part is that most of these audio plugins offer some sort of free trial, so you won't have to spend a dime. For example, the Amplitube Custom Shop software offers emulations of famous pedals such as the TS9 overdrive and the Fuzz Face.

    Conclusion

    These are the best guitar pedals for beginners. If you're in the market for your first effect unit, remember to research extensively before making a decision. We have lots of pedals available on our website that are perfect for first-timers!

    Bonus: Use the code IASN10 at checkout for an extra 10% discount!

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