Do you Really Need Guitar Pedals? Here’s the Answer

If you’re new to electric guitars, then you’ve probably pedals being mentioned and are wondering if you actually need them?

So there isn’t an exact answer to whether you need guitar pedals or not. It’s true that you don’t always need them, but there are definitely situations where you may find them really helpful. Here are some things to consider, we’ll go through each of them in a bit more detail in this article. 

How to Decide if You Need Guitar Pedals
  • Think about the type of songs you’re playing
  • Decide on the tone you want
  • Consider what features your amp has and doesn’t have
  • Your experience level

What are Guitar Pedals?

Let’s first start by going through exactly what guitar pedals are. If you already know a bit about them, then feel free to skip ahead to the next section. 

So guitar pedals are designed to alter the tone of your guitar in some way. There are loads of different types available, and we’ll go through these in detail later on. They come in the form of small metal boxes that sit on the floor and can be turned on and off using your feet of course. 

Advantages of Guitar Pedals 
  • They can be turned on and off easily throughout a song allowing you to have multiple tones within the same song. 
  • Pedals are easy to operate and setup. 
  • They give you a range of effects that most amps can’t. 

What Type of Songs are You Playing?

One of the main things you should think about when deciding if you need pedals or not, is the type of songs you’re playing. One of the main advantages of pedals is that they can be turned on and off during a performance, and hence give you different tones and effects within the same song without having to fiddle with your amp part way through. 

Now this is really helpful if you’re playing a song that requires multiple tones and effects. For example, the verse may be pretty clean sounding, whilst you want some distortion in the chorus and a volume boost on a solo. If you want all of this on one guitar in the same song, then using pedals is the best way to do this. 

What Sound Do You Want to Achieve?

Leading on from the types of songs you want to play, your need for guitar pedals will also depend on the sound you’re trying to achieve. Pedals allow you to achieve multiple effects, including but definitely not limited to:

  • Volume boost
  • Distortion
  • Delay
  • Reverb
  • EQ
  • Fuzz
  • Modulation effects

If you’re trying to achieve a particular tone, or imitate the sound of a famous guitarist, then you may need pedals to be able to get the precise tone that you’re after. 

What Type of Amp Are You Using?

One of the main reasons why you might need guitar pedals, is because you want to achieve a particular sound that requires multiple effects that can’t be found on your amp. 

Most amps have controls built in which alter bass, mids, treble, gain and other features, however, they usually aren’t loaded with effects. So if you want to achieve a certain tone, then effects pedals are a great way to make up for this and help compliment your amp. 

Are You a Beginner?

Now if you’re a beginner, then the chances are that you’ll need guitar pedals less than a more experienced player. This is definitely not a hard and fast role though. 

Think again about what you’re trying to achieve when you’re playing guitar. If you’re just starting out and are mostly just practising on your own and are not yet looking to perform, then you won’t usually need guitar pedals. But if you’re performing live and need different effects and tones within the same performance, then you’ll need some pedals. 

What are the Most Important Guitar Pedals?

Okay, so if you’ve decided that you want to take the plunge and get your first guitar pedal, which one should you get? Here’s a quick guide to pedal effects to get you started.

Distortion Pedals

Distortion pedals are one of the most popular amongst guitarists. They do what they say on the tin and add the classic distortion and sustain. They’re commonly used by guitarists looking to get a hard rock or metal tone. If you want a distortion pedal option, then the Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion Compact pedal is a great option. 

Overdrive Pedals

Overdrive and distortion pedals are often confused, but there is a difference. Overdrive pedals aim to imitate the sound you would get if you turned up a valve amp as high as it can go. If you play the strings lightly, you won’t get as much gain, but if you play heavier then the gain will crank up. Overdrive pedals are best suited to blues and country than hard rock or metal. The Ibanez Tubescreamer TS9 is one of the most popular overdrive pedals and is used by famous guitarists like Alex Turner and Noel Gallagher. 

Reverb Pedals

Reverb pedals give an echo effect to your tone. They’re really useful if you want to add some more depth to your sound without adding gain and they’re hugely popular in loads of different genres. The MXR M300 reverb pedal is a great option if you’re looking for this kind of effect. 

Delay Pedals

Delay pedals are pretty self-explanatory. They take a note or chord and play it back repeatedly. You can change the parameters like the number of repeats, rate of repeats and volume on most basic delay pedals. The Boss DD-7 Digital Delay Pedal is a solid option in this category. 

Fuzz Pedals

Fuzz, distortion and overdrive pedals are all often confused with each other. Fuzz pedals are more similar to distortion than overdrive pedals, however the sound is very unique, you get a kind of fizzy and noisy tone. Jimi Hendrix famously used a fuzz pedal along with other guitarists like Billy Corgan and Keith Richards. The Electro-Harmonix Op Amp Big Muff is a popular choice in this category. 

Boost Pedals

Boost pedals are best used when you need that extra help in lead guitar performances, for example when you’re soloing. They give you a volume increase without having to use distortion. The XOTIC AC Booster Pedal is a great option if you’re looking for this kind of effect. 

Tuner Pedals

A tuner pedal is a great option for tuning your guitar properly and accurately. They aren’t an essential pedal, of course there are other ways to tune your guitar, but they can be really helpful if you are trying to tune your guitar before a live performance or if you struggle to hear the pitch if you’re a beginner. If you’re after a good tuner pedal, then take a look at the TC Electronic PolyTune 3

EQ Pedals

EQ effects are normally found on a lot of amps, but there are definite advantages to pedals. EQ stands for equaliser, and controls the frequency of sound you hear when you play using the pedal. It allows you to control the bass, mids and treble of your tone to help you create the perfect sound. The Boss GE-7 is a great EQ pedal option. 

Modulation Effects Pedals

Modulation is an umbrella term for multiple effects. These include tremelo (increasing and decreasing volume rapidly), phaser (adds a whooshing sound) and chorus (sounds like multiple guitars are playing at once). The TC Electronic Corona is a good chorus pedal, whils the Boss TR-2 is a good tremelo pedal and the TC Electronic Helix is a good phaser pedal option. 

Wah Pedals

The final pedal on this list, is the wah pedal. They create a very specific sound that is hard to describe without using the word wah! They’ve famously been used by Hendrix, Zakk Wylde, Joe Satrini, Tom Morello, Bob Marley and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Vox V845 Wah is a great option that doesn’t cost a tonne either!


So that’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post helpful, here are some other articles you might find useful. 


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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