Stomp the Essentials when building your pedalboard

Stomp the Essentials, 10 Guitar Pedals you should consider when building your pedalboard

Stomp the Essentials 

There is no question in my mind that the thought of building your first pedalboard can be a little daunting to say the least, what goes where and which pedals should I be using, I mean there are literally hundreds of pedals out there… making it even easier to end up wasting your money on pedals you don’t necessarily need.


So, with that said, we here at MiTech Direct decided to put together a list of 10 essentials guitar pedals that have become an important part of almost every electric guitarist’s pedalboard in an effort to help take some of the guesswork out of building your first pedalboard.


1. Tuner Pedals

TC Electronic PolyTune 3 

Leading the charge onto your pedalboard is the humble Guitar Tuner pedal. Arguably one of if not the most important pedals on any professional pedalboard and the reasoning is twofold, it allows you to tune your guitar without having to stop and reach for completely separate guitar tuner but also serves as a single cut-off point for your signal chain. 


Don’t get me wrong, there are loads of “Tuning solutions” available, from phone apps to great standalone tuners, but none of these replace having an actual tuner pedal on your pedalboard, believe me.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: TC Electronic PolyTune 3

Best bits:

·         Highly accurate

·         Polyphonic tuning

·         Switchable buffer

We Suggest: D'Addario NS Micro Tuner

Best bits:

·         Tiny dimensions

·         Affordable

·         Always on your guitar


On a Budget: Korg Pitchblack Advance

Best bits:

·         60-hour battery life

·         Great visibility

·         Noise-free power sharing with other pedals


Now that you have a working signal and you can stay in tune, what next?

2. Volume Pedals

Volume Pedals 

From here you need to ensure that you have total control of your signal and that means being able to control the volume of the signal you are sending in and receiving back out of your rig.


A volume pedal is a volume pedal? Well, if by that you mean that they should all be able to provide a simple way to control your volume, not only to cut off your signal but also to create certain swelling effects then to a certain degree, yes… That said though, some volume pedal manufacturers even include additional feature. These could include: Allow multiple inputs, An output specifically for a tuner or even a stereo pan.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: Boss FV-500H

Best Bits:

·         Durable

·         Aluminium and rubber

·         High-quality

We Suggest: Ernie Ball VP Jr.

Best Bits:

·         Works like a charm

·         Sturdy

·         Your foot won’t slide off

On a Budget: Dunlop DVP4

Best Bits:

·         User-friendly

·         Small and sturdy

·         Excellent sound quality


So now you are tuned up, you have control over your volume, where to from here?


3. Wah Pedals

Wah Pedals 

Brought to the world’s attention by the late great Jimi Hendrix, the Wah pedal is a mainstay on pretty much every guitar pedalboard in the world.


Season to taste as the Wah can be overused quickly, (unless that’s the sound you are going for) but rest assured a well-placed Wah can really add to your sound. From a sweeping “Waaah” to the more obvious R rated “Bow Chicki Wow Wow” mostly found in funk tunes when used correctly, this pedal offers a wide range of tonal options and should be a fixture on your pedalboard for additional tonal stroked while you are playing.


These days there are many digital options available but in truth, nothing really beats the traditional wah pedal.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: Dunlop GCB95 Crybaby

Best Bits:

·         Optional AC Adapter or 9-Volt Battery

·         Hot Potz Potentiometer boasts a 100K Ohms

·         Solid Construction

We Suggest: VOX V845 Classic Wah

Best Bits:

·         Solid yet lightweight die-cast aluminum housing

·         Same legendary Wah-Wah tone in a new sturdier design

·         Affordable

On a Budget: Behringer Hellbabe

Best Bits:

·         Excellent Sound Quality

·         Responsive

·         Versatile


“Bow Chicki Wow Wow”, Check… and then?


4. Overdrive Pedals

Overdrive Pedals 

In the past, guitarists used to have to crank their amplifiers to 11 in order to get that gritty tone they are after, not any more… While cranking your amp is a must to get the best possible tone out of the amplifier, today we can just stomp on a good overdrive pedal and the result is incredible.


So, while your amplifier is bleeding at 9.99 the overdrive pedal essentially acts like an on and off switch for your own off the charts “11” knob, next stop “Grunge City”. It’s great for lead situations as well as Blues.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: Ibanez TS-808

Best Bits:

·         Classic Tube Screamer tones

·         Superb for boosting already distorted amps

We Suggest: Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

Best Bits:

·         A classic low-gain drive

·         Ideal for boosting overdrive amps

·         Perfect for blues, especially single-coil players

On a Budget: Boss SD-1

Best Bits:

·         Decent, cost-effective blues and rock tones.

·         Solid build quality


Now your number 11 switch is in place, what next?

5. Distortion Pedals


Ok ok so what’s the deal, isn’t a distortion pedal just another version of an overdrive pedal? Some might argue that there’s not much difference, but the truth is there are many differences. While an overdrive is designed to simply boost the signal without boosting volume, a distortion pedal is designed to purposefully clip the waveform of a guitar's signal.


Sometimes the two will be pushed into a single pedal, but this is not the norm.


Historically overdrive has more of a blues application and distortion can be found on the likes of rock and heavy metal tubes. There are literally hundreds of distortion pedals on the market today so it’s not a simple choice, but some honorable mentions should go to the following:


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: Boss DS1 Distortion

Best Bits:

·         Classic distortion sounds

·         Affordable

We Suggest: Blackstar LT DIST Distortion Pedal

Best Bits:

·         Plenty of gain

·         Unique distortion character

·         Useful ISF control

On a Budget: Behringer Distortion Pedal

Best Bits:

·         Affordable

·         A solid beginner’s replacement for the infamous "Boss Metal Zone" pedal


Now that you can go full Slipknot at the stomp of a pedal, what is next?


6. Chorus Pedals

Chorus Pedal 

Similar to wah pedals, the chorus pedal, if used “inappropriately” can quickly turn into a really bad sound so use it sparingly. However, these pedals are a great addition to any pedal board, just don’t overdo it.

Chorus pedals can add a depth and fullness to your sound that you can’t quite achieve with reverb. If done correctly, it’s kinda like having three guitarists playing the same part. That “wall of sound” can have a powerful effect unless it is overdone.

Think of it as the creator of three-dimensional guitar tone.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: TC Electronic Corona

Best Bits:

·         TonePrint feature

·         Versatile

We Suggest: Boss CH-1

Best Bits:

·         Classic Boss quality in both sound and build.

·         Great functionality with Level, EQ, Rate and Depth knobs

·         Mono/Stereo output for multi-amp splitting

On a Budget: Electro Harmonix Neo Clone

Best Bits:

·         Authentic sound

·         Low price

·         Compact size



Ok so you have built that proverbial wall of sound, Mr. Trump would be proud of you. Where to next?


7. Delay or Reverb Pedals


Delay and reverb pedals can become a guitarist's best friend. Whereas a delay pedal will repeat the notes or sounds being played at a preset interval, a reverb pedal mimics the guitar being played in different acoustic environments (big room, small room, concert hall, etc.).


These pedals can be used to either support your sound (so you don’t sound so “flat”) or as a creative tool in itself. The band U2 has killed this pedal in my personal opinion but for everybody who disagrees, “The Edge” is a perfect example of how to creatively use a delay pedal.


As far as pedals go, a delay/reverb pedal is pretty much a must-have.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: Boss RV-6 Digital Reverb

Best Bits:

·         Easy to carry and ready to be used with slight tuning

·         Powerful and versatile

·         Top-grade sound effects

We Suggest: Digitech Polara Reverberation EQ

Best Bits:

·         Easy to master and tune

·         A wide range of high-end sound effects

·         Beautifully designed and made from high-quality materials

On a Budget: Behringer Reverb Machine

Best Bits:

·         The reverb modeler is seen to produce top quality music with minimal use of foot

·         The use of real sound modeling along with the state-of-the-art DSP technology has been able to astute with real acoustic environments

·         The justified use of mix, decay, time, type, tone and trails allow for awesome shaping of sound


Now that you have delayed the inevitable, what’s next?


8. Looper Pedals

Looper Pedal 

Looper pedals share the same characteristics of a delay pedal, which is why you will often see the two paired together. Looper pedals basically allow you to create layers of repeating sounds that you have recorded. Think Ed Sheeran, solo on stage and then think Lopper pedal.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: DigiTech JMSXT JamMan Stereo Sampler

Best Bits:

·         200 memory slots for loops

·         Up to 16 hours of recording time if you use an SD card in the expansion slot

·         Manage your loops with JamManager XT on your computer

We Suggest: BOSS RC-30

Best Bits:

·         3 hours built-in storage

On a Budget: TC Electronic Guitar Ditto

Best Bits:

·         Simple and uncomplicated to use

·         Compact size takes up less room on your pedalboard


Ok so you are in the loop…


9. Compressor/EQ Guitar Pedals


If you’re a dynamic guitarist (Playing Loud and Soft notes effortlessly) and with practice, you really should be, a compressor pedal is a must.

Although it works different, a compressor is like an automatic volume control: it equalizes your loud and soft playing so that they have the same volume. Your volume doesn’t actually change, the effect just narrows your dynamic range. You can control how much it narrows or “compresses” this range with just about every pedal.

Compressors are probably one of the most under-appreciated pedals but can have a huge effect on your overall sound.


What are my options:


The Gold Standard: Wampler Ego Compressor

Best Bits:

·         Versatile tones via blend knob

·         Solid build

·         Useful tone knob

We Suggest: Boss CP-1X Compressor

Best Bits:

·         Transparent multi-band compression

·         Easy to use

·         Handy visual indicator

On a Budget: Joyo JF-10 Compressor

Best Bits:

·         Very affordable

·         Passable sound quality – comparable to the Boss CS-3

·         Easy to use


All compressed with someplace to go?


10. Other Specialty Guitar Pedals


There are so many different “other” pedals out there that I could go on for days… Modulation pedals, fuzz pedals, phaser pedals, flanger pedals etc. This would be the “Flavour” you add to your sound. Test out what kind of sound you want to have and then build your pedal board around that signature sound.


So, with that, I hope we have taken at least some of the guesswork out of building a pedalboard for you. The one thing to keep in mind though is that no amount of pedals will make you a better guitarist… only practice will do that. But with practice and a well thought out pedalboard, you should be ripping up the stage in no time.


If you have any further questions regarding building a killer pedalboard or even just need advice on anything relating to your musical needs, feel free to contact a MiTech Support specialist as they are always happy to help.



Until next time, Live Loud. 

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