There are 3 very important aspects of your guitar playing. Phrasing, Time and Tone. In this article I will write about guitar effects. Guitar effects paly a major part of guitarist’s tone and therefor are very important component that needs to be taken into consideraton when developing your tone.
In today’s music we can’t even imagine guitar sound without effects. Effects are what gives a guitar its distinctive sound. The market is full of different types of effects, but also many variables within every type.
First of all, I would like to write about some of more popular types of effects.
- DISTORTION EFFECTS: Distortion effects basically flatten the amplitude of a guitar sound (cut the peaks of an amplitude) and add some harmonic or inharmonic overtones. In a distortion effect the results is a sharp sound, because the clipping is hard. In an overdrive effect, as a result of soft clipping, the sound is warmer and more tube like. Fuzz effect is another distinctive distortion effect, that almost completely flattens the amplitude, resulting in a very hard distortion.
- MODULATION EFFECTS: Modulation effects split the audio signal in two waves, modulate one wave and then blend it with unmodified wave. The modulated wave is changed so it can have a different pitch, time, frequency variation, vibrato… This types of effects are chorus, flanger, vibrato, phaser and such.
- DYNAMIC EFFECTS: Dynamic effects make a difference in volume of the amplitude. For example, a compressor effect makes quiet sound louder and loud sounds quieter, therefore it narrows the volume spectre. A boost effect boosts the volume of a guitar when needed (for example for solos). It can also be used when there is a signal loss because of the effect chain (see part 2). Gate effect works in a different way. It basically mutes the signal when the amplitude comes below a certain volume (threshold). It’s used mostly to avoid hum and hiss of a guitar during rests or between the songs.
- FILTER EFFECTS:
Filter effects boost or weaken different frequencies of a signal. Equalizer enables you to boost or weaken specific frequency regions of the frequency spectre. The region of frequencies you can change depends on how many bands (sliding knobs) the effect has.
Wah-wah pedal on the other hand, has a foot controller pedal that goes forward or backwards, with which you can change the frequency range that dominates. It produces a sound, similar to human voice.
- TIME BASED EFFECTS: Time based affects alter the feeling of time in audio signal. That means that it can delay of echo the sound, i.e. it creates a controlled number of repetitions of a signal, with desired volume and speed. Reverb on the other hand creates a sound as if it was played in a big room, or even cathedral.
Guitar effects come either as stomp-boxes, multi effects units, or rack mout units. Vast majority of them are controlled by a foot pedal. Stompbox effects are usually powered by 9V adapter, or 9V battery, while multi effects and especially rack units need higher voltage to function.
There is one more thing, that counts as pretty important lately, especially when it comes to stomp box effects. True bypass. The effects that have a true bypass circuit don’t interfere with the signal when they are off. That means that the signal doesn’t travel through effect circuit, but directly from in to out cables, that are plugged into effect. If the pedal isn’t true bypass, the signal and therefore sound might change (for worse or for better) while travelling through the circuit. But longer chain of true bypass effects might cause some problems, since those effects don’t have buffers (see part 2).
Lately there is a lot of fuss about whether the effect is true bypass or not, but we must not forget that guitar giants in the past didn’t bother about that and still had killer tones.
Article written by professional guitar teacher Nejc Vidmar from Slovenia.