A completely non-intimidating guide to creating a tone you love!
The world of pedalboards and gear can feel like a lot if you are just starting out.
Let me walk you through it all here!
I made this page as a place to show you what pedals and gear I recommend because I've gotten some questions about my pedalboard and asking for recommendations! I also made this a little different from other gear guides because I know personally that when I started getting into gear, having someone break things down into normal terms was super helpful (thank you husband!).
How I learn what pedals I want to try:
Shopping for pedals can feel like a lot. There's a million out there so how do you know what's best for you?! Here are my favorite places to find new pedals that I want to try:
Their blog is awesome and has so many good recommendations that are always spot on. A lot of their bigger products have amazing demos and it's also very unbiased!
Most guitarists will have a pic of their pedalboard somewhere (cause pedal board pics are like so cool ;) ). Definitely pay attention to any videos they post that you like the tone and see what created that sound.
I love watching the demos on pedal company's sites and from YouTube. Usually your favorite guitarist will also probably have a video talking about their gear!
Guitarists playing out
It can feel intimidating to go up to someone after their show to tell them they sounded awesome and learn more about how they create their tone. But It’s so worth it and may make their day! I almost always go meet to guitarist of any local band I see playing out if I like how they sound!
Note: You may see I have a lot of Fenders! That’s because 1) I love Fenders (woo!) and 2) I happen to have chosen them so far in my life! If you are looking for another type, I highly recommend Iconic Guitars (they are absolutely amazing with the nicest team imaginable!) and Veritas Guitars.
Others I love!: For the newer guitarist, I love Breedlove and Recording King. I also love Martins if you are looking to invest a bit more!
Amps + Accessories
Before you get into any effects, a good amp is the BIGGEST factor in having good tone. Invest in this first! Different amps will make your pedals sound completely different and will make or break your tone. These are just the ones I have, but there's a ton of awesome amps out there!
Guitar Pedals I adore
Only my favs here! I've sorted them by effect type to make it simple. Starting out, what you need depends on the style you play. If you don't want to go the pedalboard route, I think the Boss ME- 80 Multi Effects unit is a great option. It has all the effects you'll ever need and sounds great (a good amp is important!)! My dad has used one of these for years and his tone is always awesome! You could also try the Line 6 M9 as well for a great multi effects unit.
Spacey- Open- Vibey
Vintage rock- crunchy- cranked
Other awesome pedals I love!
(Not so technical ) Pedalboard Dictionary
I wanted to break down effects in my own words for you who are starting to get into pedalboards. When I first started, what really helped me understand and learn about pedals was talking to people. Some words used to describe effects and tone are kinda another language and sometimes aren't the most intuitive! I wanted to break a few common ones down for you in case you are in this boat!
Most common pedal types:
Reverb: Have you ever sang in a concrete stairwell and noticed how different the sound is in there (this is one of my fav things about apartment life)? Well that's the sound reverb puts on things. It makes your guitar feel space-y and echo-y and like it's somewhere like a church cathedral, on the moon, or in an ocean documentary.
Delay: Delay literally repeats the notes you play. If you time it right you can sound like you're playing really fast and if you mess up, you will keep being reminded of it! Tap tempo delay is nice because you can tap in the BPM of the song so everything is synced up.
Overdrive: Overdrive gives your guitar the sound of turning up your amp to the point that your amp can't even handle all your sick tones and starts sounding a lil bit fuzzy. The benefit of having a pedal to do this is that you won't give anyone permanent threshold damage (which is my fear!!) and you can control how much this happens. It's street name is OD so be relieved everyone is not indeed referencing drugs!
Distortion: This is a word commonly paired with overdrive. But it's different! This actually alters your sound to make it feel fuzzy/ growly. When I think of distortion I think of 80's rock gods shredding! But it's also used in a lot of other settings as well. Here's a good article for more on this.
Compression: This effect makes you sound so fresh and so clean (clean!). It basically squeezes your sound together to clean everything up by bringing up the volume of notes you play quietly and lowering the volume of notes you might be hitting too aggressively. This pedal is considered the most essential by a lot of guitarists.
Chorus: This effect is well named in that it literally makes your guitar into it's own tiny choir. It works by cloning your note, slightly detuning or modulating one of them and adding a little delay to it. This makes for a big full sound and it was a staple effect used in 80s guitar!
Flange: Like a chorus but more dramatic and less delay-y. You'll recognize it because it creates a woosh-y noise that sounds like its moving up and down. You may have heard it songs from Van Halen, Cindy Lauper, or The 1975. This is one of those effects I always want to use more than I should because it's too much fun!
Tremelo: Want to add that twangy vibrato to make your guitar sound like the wild wild west? Get yo self a tremelo!
Other helpful tidbits:
How to set up and order your signal chain guide by Strymon here
My starter pedal guide here
Temple's pedalboard planner here