Ever since the advent of electric instruments, guitarists have been experimenting with ways of using effects to expand their range.
In this article, we’ve rounded up the different 5 types of guitar pedals for jazz and highlighted some specific favourites – as well as a surprise bonus at the end.
From early 70s fusion to contemporary jazz, guitar effect pedals have had a big impact the tone and range of many jazz guitarists.
Travelling with at least two effect pedals is very common, with reverb, delay, chorus, compression and octave pedals among the most popular.
These effects provide character and depth to a traditionally mellow and clean sound, allowing a whole bunch of personality to come through.
A jazz guitarist will often use a variety of effects, from distortion and delay to more unusual effects like ring modulators.
So let’s have a look at the different types of guitar pedals, then a list of the top brands and models to consider.
Types of Guitar Effects Pedals
There are several different categories of pedals, all of which will alter your guitar tone in different ways.
But each of these categories contains countless unique pedals which can vary wildly. The following are five broad categories which we’ll look at in this article:
- Overdrive & distortion pedal
- Fuzz pedal
- Filter pedal
- Chorus pedal
- Delay pedal
Overdrive Pedal and Distortion Pedal
Rock, blues, and metal, for example, are all known for their use of distortion and overdrive. However, an over drive pedal does not necessarily have to result in a pure-rock sound.
Jazz guitarists can make use of subtle overdrive to give warmth and low-end to their tone.
Distortion is occasionally used to enhance and help guitarists sound stand out in a mix by adding a touch of extra grit and bite.
This pedal adds clipping stages to the signal, driving it to maximum intensity and creating harmonic overtones that complement the fundamental note.
However, distortion should be used with care, as high amounts of distortion can create a lack of note definition!
From the 1960s onwards, distortion and overdrive have been used to great success in rock music.
The Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer and the Fulltone OCD are two well-known overdrive pedals, the former of which was used by legendary guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn.
The BOSS DS-1 and the ProCo RAT are two well-known distortion pedals that have been used by a wide range of artists, including Radiohead, Sonic Youth, and Metallica.
To add a lot of sustain to your sound, use a fuzz pedal, which cuts audio signals and generates a thick, dirty sound.
This pedal is great in some cases, but it filters out many mid-range frequencies, which makes it easy to get lost in the mix. Therefore, it’s not necessarily great for solos, especially when not paired with anything else.
These pedals essentially filter the frequencies being played, removing either the lower or higher frequencies.
A wah pedal is the most common type of filter pedal, and it allows the player to switch between high and low frequencies by rocking the pedal back and forth.
Jimi Hendrix was an avid user of this pedal, most notably on ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’.
Modulation effects provide subtle texture to clean tones, which, in the case of a chorus pedal, can create the impression of two independent guitar impulses.
A chorus pedal gives the illusion of several instruments by doubling an audio output that is just a few milliseconds out of sync.
The chorus effect was prominent in 1980s synth music, but it can also be found in everything from grunge (as in Nirvana’s “Come As You Are”) to jazz (as in Mike Stern’s characteristic sound).
Furthermore, the chorus adds a lush and rich sound to the guitar sound.
Chorus is great for adding depth, richness, and ambiance to your tone. It is often confused with vibrato, which can be used to add a wobble-like quality.
A delay pedal records the notes you play and then replays them at time intervals you set on the pedal.
Delay pedals come in a variety of flavours, from analog delay (like the Electro-Harmonix Memory Man) to digital delay (like the Boss DD-7), to emulated tape echo (like the Boss DD-1 or the JHS Lucky Cat).
The starting lines of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” are an excellent example of a delay pedal in action.
A reverb pedal works similarly to a delay pedal in that it stimulates the echoing sound of a large room.
In conclusion, a delay creates the illusion of two guitar signals, resulting in a richer tone.
It can also be utilised to add ambiance to your performance by creating the impression of a larger room, and layering up your sound.
5 Best Guitar Pedals to Try
So we’ve looked at the different types of pedals, but what about specific brands and models?
Here are 5 of our top picks…
M169 Carbon Copy
Guitarists of many genres are familiar with the M160 Carbon Copy analog delay effect pedal and jazz guitarists will like the warmth of the M169 Carbon Copy’s delay sound.
Including a Carbon Copy pedal in your setup will give your sound a sense of space reminiscent of playing in a concert hall.
Every note you play with this pedal will sound as if it is expanding to take the volume it requires.
It will sound much more significant if you play in smaller places.
Boss DD-7 Delay
The Boss DD-7 is a guitar effects pedal that creates a temporal delay on the sound of the electric guitar.
The delay produces a reverberating sound and is a recording of the notes being played back.
On the pedalboard of certain electric guitarists, two of these pedals will be directly next to each other.
One is tuned for a lengthy delay for typical soloing, while the other is set for a shorter, slap-back delay for a more subtle, rhythmic sound.
MXR Phase 90
This Jim Dunlop-designed MXR phaser pedal produces a basic, uncomplicated guitar sound modification and is one of the oldest pedals still very much in production.
The design is minimal, with merely a knob to set the phase frequency, a red light to signify that it is operational, and a pedal button.
The Whammy is a pitch shift pedal that allows you to ‘bounce’ your playing up and down in pitch.
It allows you to be very controlled, or very dramatic with these shifts, using a momentary switch and customisable rise and fall time. It uses a foot switch that allows you to control it.
Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
The Boss CH-1 can add a touch of modernity to your jazz sound by producing highly prevalent sounds in 1980s music.
When performed with a CH-1, fast jazz lines and chord changes provide a melancholy organ-like sound.
The Super Chorus pedal allows you to fine-tune the effect’s tempo, depth, and tone.
By properly setting the knobs, you may achieve the rich and warm sound you desire.
It’s a strong contender for the most incredible chorus pedal on the market, especially considering its price.
Furthermore, the CH-1 is adaptable and can be utilised to play a variety of musical styles, making it an excellent addition to your pedalboard!
Bonus: Strymon Iridium
Is it a pedal? Is it an amp? Is it something else entirely? Well, the folks over at Strymon describe the Iridium as an amp and a cab in a room in a pedal.
Whatever the label, the basic idea is that the iridium sits at the end of your signal chain and takes care of all the tonal sculpting you’d usually do on your amplifier.
You feed your signal into a recording interface, some monitors, or a larger “in-house” sound system, and even though there are no amps in the vicinity, your sound will have that full-bodied, rich character we associate with the iconic tube amps of yesteryear.
You can check out full review of the Strymon Iridium here.
It’s a matter of personal taste when it comes to choosing the best effects pedals for your guitar.
What style of jazz do you prefer? What is your budget? To accommodate your playing styles, how flexible does the jazz guitar pedal need to be?
If you can answer all of these, finding the correct effects pedals for your signal chain will be much easier.
But don’t be fooled: whilst these examples may sound very eccentric, when used right, effects pedals can give a great subtle lift to your tone.
More importantly, they’re a lot of fun to play with.
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