5 Effects Pedals to Buy First (Best Beginner Guitar Pedals)

If you’re new to the world of effects pedals then it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and have no idea where to start and which effects you’ll get the most use out of. I’ve carefully compiled this list of effects which I think are best to buy first. My selections are based on versatility, value for money and easy of use primarily.

Best Effects Pedals to Buy First

  1. Overdrive/ Distortion e.g. Boss OS-2
  2. Delay e.g. TC Electronic Flashback 2
  3. Reverb e/g/ MXR M300 Reverb
  4. Compressor e.g. Keeley Compressor Plus
  5. Modulation e.g. Boss MD-200

These are all pedals that I have a lot of experience using. I have tried a lot of effects over the years and these are the ones I’d highly recommend if you’re just getting started. Some of the pedals are fairly expensive, so I have also listed some excellent budget alternatives as well.

If you’re completely new to effects pedals then I’d highly recommend checking out these two articles first:

1. Overdrive/ Distortion Pedal

Overdrive and distortion pedals are the most common type of effect that beginners start with. They have several uses including:

  • Allowing you to easily change from clean to driven tones
  • To boost the volume and drive for solos
  • To switch between lead and rhythm tones

Pretty much every blues, rock and metal guitarist will have some form of overdrive or distortion pedal in their rig. Personally, I couldn’t be without a drive pedal and it’s by far the most utilised type of pedal in my collection.

Check out my complete guide to using a distortion pedal to learn more.

Best Pedal: Boss OS-2 Distortion Overdrive

This is one of the first pedals I ever bought and I still use it all the time. What I love about this pedal is that it’s great value for money, and allows you to go from a nice crunchy overdrive all the way to full-blown distortion with the turn of a single control. It saves the need to have separate distortion and overdrive pedals which take up space and add extra cost, so for beginners I really do think it’s perfect.

Check out the Boss OS-2 Distortion Overdrive on Amazon

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2. Delay Pedal

The second effect that I think is essential for pretty much every guitarist is delay. Delay pedals allow you to take your original note and then play it back repeatedly. You can control how long these repeats last, how loud they are and how long it takes for the repeats to kick in.

The delay pedal can be set up in a way that results in a very subtle effect that provides depth and sustain, or it can be used to create dramatic repeats. Delay is used in pretty much every genre of music and is a staple in most guitarists rigs.

The reason why I’ve listed delay higher up than reverb on this list is because it is possible to set a delay pedal up in a way that makes it sound similar (albeit not identical) to reverb, so if you only are able to purchase one, I’d personally go with delay as it’s a bit more versatile.

Check out my complete guide to using a delay pedal for more info.

Best Pedal: TC Electronic Flashback 2

The ultimate delay pedal in my opinion is the TC Electronic Flashback 2. You can achieve every type of delay effect you could possibly want with this pedal, yet it still remains nice and easy to actually operate (far easier than many overly complex delay pedals on the market).

Check out the TC Electronic Flashback 2 on Amazon

Image links to Amazon

Budget Option: Tone City Tape Delay Machine

The Flashback 2 is a pretty expensive pedal, so if you’re looking for something a bit more wallet-friendly, I suggest the Tone City Tape Delay Machine. Although it doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as the Flashback, you can still achieve loads of different types of delay effects, and it is incredibly easy to operate.

Check out the Tony City Tape Delay Machine on Amazon

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3. Reverb Pedal

Think about the sound you’d get if you were to shout in a huge empty hall. That’s reverb. Reverb pedals add depth and life to your guitar’s tone and are used in pretty much every genre of music and pretty much every song. 

Some amplifiers have a built-in reverb effect, in which case you won’t need to go out and get a reverb pedal straight away (hence the lower place on this list), however I’d highly recommend investing in one if your amp doesn’t feature this effect.

Best Pedal: MXR M300 Reverb

Okay so this pedal is pricey, but in my opinion it’s an incredible pedal and if you want the best, you should seriously consider this one. Again, it’s nice and easy to use but gives you access to every type of reverb you need and sounds amazing.

Check out the MXR M300 Reverb on Amazon

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Budget Option: TC Electronic Skysurfer

I understand that the M300 is going to be outside a lot of people’s budgets, so the cheaper alternative that I’d suggest in this case is the TC Electronic Skysurfer. It doesn’t feature as many types of reverb, but it does have the main ones you’ll likely be using and it’s very easy to operate. It also comes in at a very reasonable price point for such a nice sounding pedal.

Check out the TC Electronic Skysurfer on Amazon

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4. Compressor Pedal

Compressor pedals have two main effects:

  • Increasing sustain
  • Creating a smoother tone

Compressor pedals even out the sound by decreasing the volume of strings that are plucked more aggressively. This creates a smoother and more professional sound. It doesn’t work miracles, but it does definitely help your playing sound better. 

Most guitarists will use a compression pedal to achieve a more polished tone with better sustain, and they can be utilised in any genre of music so they easily make it on this list of the best pedals to start out with.

Check out my complete guide to compressor pedals to learn more.

Best Pedal: Keeley Compressor Plus

Without a doubt the best compression pedal that I’d tried is the Keeley Compressor Plus. It’s a simple pedal which doesn’t feature a tonne of complicated controls, but it just does the job you need it to perfectly.

Check out the Keeley Compressor Plus on Amazon

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Budget Option: TC Electronic Forcefield

TC Electronic have made the list here again with their Forcefield compressor pedal. Again it’s ridiculously inexpensive and easy to operate, making it the ideal option for budget-conscious guitarists looking to build out their pedal collection.

Check out the TC Electronic Forcefield on Amazon

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5. Modulation Pedal

The final type of effect I think that beginners should start with is modulation. Although I wouldn’t consider modulation effects absolutely essential for everyone, I do think they are very useful if you are trying to replicate certain tones.

The category of modulation effects is made up of the following main types:

  • Phaser: creates a wavy-effect which is used in most Van Halen songs
  • Flanger: creates a whooshing effect e.g. in Heart’s Barracuda
  • Chorus: makes it sound like multiple guitars are playing simultaneously
  • Tremolo: creates changes in volume
  • Vibrato: creates changes in pitch

Check out this video demonstrating the different types of modulation effects.

You have the choice here of going with a modulation pedal that produces just one of the effects listed above, or a multi-modulation pedal which allows you to utilise all of them.

If your budget stretches to it, I would advise going with a multi-modulation effect pedal as it will work out more cost effective than buying multiple types of modulation effects in the future. However, if you know you’ll only use one or two modulation effects then just go with a single-effect pedal.

Best Pedal: Boss MD-200

The Boss MD-200 is one the best value multi-modulation effects pedals on the market. Admittedly, it can be a bit intimidating to use at first and will take some time to get used to, however it will give you access to the following effects: flanger, phaser, vibrato, tremolo, chorus and 7 other modulation effects.

Check out the Boss MD-200 on Amazon

Image links to Amazon

Make sure you check out my complete guide to using effects pedals to make sure you get off on the right foot


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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