I’m an experienced guitarist and I’m here to guide you through the best guitar pedals for beginners. This is the only guide you need to sound professional and stand out from the pack – and in no time! No trial and error to find the right tools needed.
If you’re a beginner to the world of guitar, then you may just be becoming aware of effects pedals. These little things are a really exciting area to explore. They will boost your creativity and open up a whole world of new sounds that you simply cannot get from just your guitar alone.
When you’re just getting started, it can be a little bit overwhelming. You have so many options of guitar pedals to choose from, and you read review after review and can’t decide what you want.
From my own experience (having been in your shoes at one time), I’ve narrowed this down to make the process simpler for you. I’ve built a killer pedalboard over the years and know exactly what you need.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on them, then here’s a quick guide and I’ll explain more in the full article down below:
|Distortion||Boss DS-1 Distortion|
|Reverb||Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb|
|Delay/Echo||MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay|
|Chorus||Electro-Harmonix Small Clone Chorus|
|Phaser||Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser|
|Wah Wah||Dunlop Cry Baby Wah|
I remember when I was a beginner just how excited I was to receive my first guitar pedal (a delay pedal). Suddenly I wasn’t limited to the default sounds of my instrument. I had a lot of fun making really trippy, spacey echos (I could even make it sound like more than one guitarist was playing at the same time!) and doing things that weren’t possible before.
This started an obsession and was the spark that lead to me recording my first album. These days, I wouldn’t even consider playing without them! They’re an incredible creative tool, whether in your bedroom in your pyjamas or on-stage in wild rockstar clothes, and loads of fun. This inspires you to keep picking up your guitar and getting better and better.
Here’s my full guide to the 6 best guitar pedals for beginners, sorted by category/type of effect. There will be some extra things that you absolutely need to get to even get your pedals to make sound, so don’t miss that, plus some cool little tricks and tips for your pedals. And if that’s not enough, you’ll find some sweet alternative pedal options in there as well…
The 6 Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners – Secret Tips from an Experienced Guitarist!
Oh yeah, everyone needs one of these things! This would have been the first guitar pedal I would have bought if my amp didn’t already have it built-in.
Even if your amp does have it built-in, a pedal version of distortion is going to sound so so so much better.
This category can get a bit confusing because there are different words to describe the different sounds you can get. They all break up the signal of your guitar and make it sound aggressive and more “rock”, but there are 3 main categories of pedal to look for:
- distortion – the sound of metal and hard rock. Thick and heavy, crunchy and in-your-face. E.g. Metallica, Nirvana, Foo Fighters
- overdrive – a lighter version of distortion, more like the sound of an amp cranked really loud (but without needing to crank your amp). Very tasteful and versatile. Used in most styles of music. E.g. Pink Floyd, The Strokes, Led Zeppelin
- fuzz – my personal favourite! A crazier form of distortion that sounds like the name suggests – it’s really fuzzy and buzzy. Used in more psychedelic rock, garage rock, indie/alternative styles, and also very prominent in heavier styles like doom metal and stoner rock. E.g. Queens of the Stone Age, Jimi Hendrix, The White Stripes, The Smashing Pumpkins, Electric Wizard
Distortion – Boss DS-1 Distortion
This little beast will have you melting faces, and yet it’s super affordable! The Boss DS-1 Distortion is iconic, having been used by Kurt Cobain in Nirvana and by countless other bands.
This is one of the greatest guitar pedals for beginners that are getting into distorted tones, but clearly it’s not just for beginners either when you look at all the famous DS-1 fans.
I have a bandmate that swears by this pedal and he’s been able to unlock so many different vibes with it. From my experience playing through his pedalboard, you can get really heavy, crushing distortion and you can also dial it back for a bit more of a crunchy texture to your tone.
Fantastic pedal, so start here.Check Current Price!
OTHER DISTORTION TO CONSIDER
- ProCo Rat – another famous distortion option used everywhere from Radiohead to Pink Floyd to Metallica – can get some pretty aggressive distortion sounds, even bordering on fuzz at times, so it’s a great choice as well
Overdrive – Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
Yes, another Boss pedal! Boss are a really popular, yet super underrated brand. They’re affordable, but the price tag shouldn’t fool you – they’re GREAT quality.
The Boss BD-2 Blues Driver isn’t just for blues (although you absolutely CAN shred some blues with it). You’ll find this pedal being used by guitarists in all genres because it has so many different vibes you can unlock.
In fact, I use this pedal to make shoegaze, which should tell you just how versatile it is.
It gets you some nice crunchy guitar chords, and also some scorching sounds for guitar solos and leads.
This was one of the first pedals I ever got and I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it. I’ve now featured it on 5 albums and love what it brings to the table.Check Current Price!
OTHER OVERDRIVE TO CONSIDER
- Ibanez Tube Screamer – really famous overdrive pedal (perhaps the most famous) – popularised by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Won’t give you crazy distortion like the others, but great for adding some crunch to your sound or getting bluesy tones
Fuzz – Boss FZ-5 Fuzz
Yep, that’s exactly right – another Boss pedal! Get used to seeing their name on this list because Boss are awesome. They’re great guitar pedals for beginners and also experienced players. I’ve been playing for over 10 years now and swear by Boss.
The Boss FZ-5 Fuzz is SUPER underrated and I can’t figure out why it’s so overlooked. The amount of gnarly fuzz tones you can pull out of this thing makes it an indispensable pedal for me.
It has a 3-way switch that allows you to get 3 different iconic fuzz tones. It emulates the Dunlop Fuzz Face, the Maestro Fuzz Tone, and the Roger Mayer Octavia. These are all vintage fuzzes from the 60s that were heard on so many classic records.
The originals cost an absolutely staggering amount (the Maestro Fuzz Tone has been known to sell for over the $1000 mark), but they’re 3 of the best fuzz tones you’ll ever hear. You get them ALL in this affordable little beast.
They all sound very different from each other too. You can get really fizzy, splatty, velcro-ripping, torn speaker fuzz tones, and then flip a switch and get really beefy, skull-crushing sonic booms.
This pedal is SO much fun to play through a cranked-up amp too! As soon as you click it on, it’s like a tornado hitting and the pedal even pushes you into getting some incredible, screaming feedback sounds like Jimi Hendrix. It just puts a smile on your face.
Check this pedal out. You won’t be disappointed.Check Current Price!
OTHER FUZZES TO CONSIDER
Fuzz is a favourite of mine in particular, and I think you’ll get hooked on this effect. If you want to go deeper with it (and get even higher quality fuzz sounds), then check these out:
- Dunlop Fuzz Face – made famous by Jimi Hendrix – gets some really textured, gritty tones
- Electro-Harmonix Big Muff – used a lot in grunge and 90s rock, e.g. The Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr. – really thick and saturated fuzz tone, and very different from the Fuzz Face
- Z.Vex Fuzz Factory – a little bit newer to the game than the others, but a mindblowing pedal! Great for garage rock and modern psychedelic rock – gets really crazy, off-the-wall fuzz sounds
Reverb is an incredibly cool effect, and I would never ever ever play without it. When you get one and you click it off you’ll wonder how you ever played without it.
A guitar without reverb just sounds lifeless and unnatural, so if you want to sound professional then this is the pedal for you.
For anyone that doesn’t know, reverb makes your guitar sound like you’re playing in a physical space, e.g. in a huge church cathedral, or even in outer space.
You really get lost in the music when you’re playing through a good quality reverb pedal. It sparks your imagination, and you can practically SEE the sound. You will create much more interesting music when you’re in that headspace.
Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb
My personal favourite that I still use to this day is the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb. It has a 3-way switch that allows you to imitate different spaces and they’re all really evocative! That feature alone makes this one of the best value deals on reverb guitar pedals for beginners.
My favourite setting is Hall, which sounds lush and beautiful. It’s like you’re playing in some really majestic place. Heavenly.
The Spring setting is also killer for making surf rock music. Spring reverb was used all over 1960s surf rock, and it has a classic wet and drippy sound, like those oceanic surf waves. Your guitar sounds really lively with this setting. Great for indie rock.
Flerb is the last setting and it’s a really interesting one. It combines reverb with a flanger (a different effect that makes your guitar sound kind of like a jet taking off). This is a really fun one to play through, and I think it has a lot of potential to make some great guitar tones. Real sci-fi outer space vibes.
The Holy Grail can get some pretty weird, unconventional sounds, and also sounds really beautiful too. My favourite reverb!Check Current Price!
OTHER REVERB TO CONSIDER
- Strymon Big Sky – fair warning, this pedal is NOT cheap, but it’s considered one of the absolute best reverb pedals you could possibly get. One of my old bandmates had one of these and was hopelessly OBSESSED with it. It has endless options and possibilities to explore. If you’re serious about reverb then you want this one.
Now this one is amazing, and probably the one you’ll be most in awe of when you get one. I was insanely excited to try this effect out when I was getting started! This is easily one of the funnest guitar pedals for beginners.
Delay is another word for echo, so it basically makes “copies” of whatever you’re playing. You can adjust how many copies it makes (how long you want it to repeat for) and how long it takes until you hear the copies start playing back.
With just these two knobs, you can do some wild things.
- you can make it sound like there’s another guitar playing at the same time (great for making you look way more awesome at guitar than you are!)
- or you can use it in a more ambient way (similar to reverb) where you add depth to the sound
Another underrated benefit of playing with a delay pedal is that it will improve your rhythm and timing. The echo will stay at the same tempo, so if you slow down or speed up then you’ll know straight away. Little things like this will make you a better guitar player, and your practice sessions will be a lot more fun with it too!
I love delay and use it all the time for making dreamy, psychedelic sounds. You will get this pedal and get absolutely lost in the sound – it’s incredibly addictive!
Analog Delay – MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay
A great delay pedal for beginners is the MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay. This is a really popular one and it’s for a very good reason.
I love this pedal because it’s an analog delay, which means that it sounds more vintage and natural.
It imitates old delay units from the 60s and 70s where they actually got the echos by playing onto tape. The tape would warble and have all these beautiful little imperfections.
Everyone associates those little imperfections with being super nostalgic and warm (like an old film, or childhood videos that were recorded onto VHS). Because of that, this is great for adding an extra layer of emotion to what you’re playing.
The Mod switch on this pedal is really cool and it sets it apart from other delay pedals. It adds a chorus effect (I’ll be talking about chorus in just a second!) which even further enhances that vintage, tape delay sound.
It’s a fantastic delay pedal for ambient textures too, and for all these reasons it’s one of the best guitar pedals for beginners.Check Current Price!
Digital Delay – Boss DD-8 Digital Delay
Another style of delay is the opposite of analog – and that’s digital.
Digital will perfectly copy the signal, without any of those imperfections. This is a good choice if you want it to be more crisp and have a certain sparkle to it.
The Boss DD-8 Digital Delay (at it again with the Boss!) is a hugely popular choice for this effect, and it has a lot of different settings in it for endless variety.
Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine was famous for using this pedal to get some chaotic sounds (in fact, he uses two of them!).
For maximum fun, I’d recommend getting both.
There will be times where you want analog delay, and times where you want digital delay, depending on what you’re playing/writing. It makes sense to have them both at your disposal.Check Current Price!
OTHER DELAY TO CONSIDER
- EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run – this one is awesome! It combines a reverb and delay together in one convenient pedal. A bandmate of mine gets some mind-boggling sounds out of this little thing. I’m always having a great time getting ambient sounds with it when I play through his pedalboard. A fantastic option if you want some extra knobs to experiment with and a tap tempo.
Chorus is an insanely popular effect these days! It’s the sound that you’ll hear all over lo-fi indie rock, bedroom guitarist stuff, such as Mac DeMarco, Ariel Pink and Connan Mockasin. Neo-soul uses it a lot. Kurt Cobain was also a fan of using it in Nirvana (the riff in Come As You Are is a great example).
It gives your guitar that kind of wobbly, warbly, woozy sound that these bands have. It has a similar intention to what the analog delay does, and that’s to make your guitar sound less pristine with some more pleasant imperfections in it.
It has a really lush and shimmery quality. As weird as it sounds, it’s kind of like your guitar is turned into a thick, sticky liquid. It’s the maple syrup of guitar pedals.
What it does is that it makes copies of your guitar signal and make them just slightly out of tune (in a good way!). The combination of all these signals makes your guitar more dense and colourful. Like it’s been dipped in honey. Tasty.
Electro-Harmonix Small Clone Chorus
The Electro-Harmonix Small Clone Chorus is the one that Kurt Cobain used (the exact one heard on Come As You Are)! It has a really rich tone to it and it’s become a really popular choice for guitarists looking for a colourful guitar tone.
You can crank up the Rate knob and get some really crazy, out-of-tune sounds to add some chaos to your music, or back that knob right back down and get some lush layers of sound, the way modern indie bands do it.
This one is inspiring for songwriting and will make you write things you might not otherwise. I find that when I get that nice wobbly tone, it inspires different types of strumming patterns and rhythms. It’s really cool that you can use gear as inspiration to push your sound further into something more unique.
This will inspire you. One of the most killer guitar pedals for beginners interested in lo-fi guitar styles.Check Current Price!
OTHER CHORUS TO CONSIDER
- Boss CH-1 Super Chorus – good old Boss having us covered again. This one is a classic too, getting you some really rich, silky smooth, lush tones
If you’re after that Tame Impala sound, then look no further! Kevin Parker really revolutionised this pedal, and the music world in general, with his unique use of phaser.
Phaser is one of my favourite effects. It makes it sound like your guitar is soaring through the sky. It has a swooshy, swirling sound that works incredibly well for dreamy styles of music, like psychedelic rock, dream pop and shoegaze.
I can flick this pedal on and play for hours, just lost in the sound, head in the clouds.
Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser
By far, the best phaser pedal of all-time, in my opinion, is the Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser. This is the one that Kevin Parker used to bring Tame Impala to fame. And yes, yet another Electro-Harmonix pedal. You’ll very, very quickly discover that they’re an awesome brand that makes some of the best guitar pedals for beginners and experts alike.
There’s a lot of cheap phaser pedals out there that just sound tacky to my ears. Avoid them. This one is quality all-round.
It has a Colour switch, which adjusts how intense the effect is. Because of this, I almost always have it switched on, but with the Colour switch down to add a subtle texture to my guitar tone. This makes it jump out and swim around the mix without being an obvious phaser sound.
When I flick the Colour switch up, oh boy, we’re off and flying to the moon. I’m confident that I’ll use this pedal for the rest of my life.Check Current Price!
OTHER PHASERS TO CONSIDER
- don’t consider getting anything else, just get yourself a Small Stone! …or grab an MXR Phase 90, those are popular too (but a very different vibe)
6. Wah Wah
And finally, I couldn’t finish this list without mentioning one of the most iconic guitar sounds – the wah wah pedal.
This one was made super famous in the 1960s by Jimi Hendrix and still gets used today in a variety of styles. You’ll hear it all over things like funk and reggae, and then also in things like doom metal! This just shows how versatile this pedal is.
As the name suggests, it makes your guitar make a “wah wah” sound when you rock the pedal back and forth with your foot. It almost imitates the human voice and it will make you do the guitar face.
You can be really aggressive with the pedal and get really wild, fluttery sounds, or you can use it more subtly to add emphasis to certain notes that you’re phrasing.
This is a fantastic way of making your guitar playing come alive and add dynamics to your sound.
Dunlop Cry Baby Wah
I like the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah pedal. There are a lot of low-quality wah pedals out there that just sound cheap and obnoxious (and harsh when you push it all the way down). Those ones won’t inspire you to explore this awesome effect.
The Cry Baby is quality and has that iconic sound. It’s based on Jimi Hendrix’s wah pedal from the 1960s and will get you all of those great tones.
It’s as solid as a brick too. I’ve dropped this thing a few times now and it keeps kicking on. It will probably outlive me!
It has a really pleasant tone and it feels particularly nice to manipulate with my foot compared to other wahs that I’ve tried. This allows you to get those exact subtle tonal nuances that you’re trying to achieve.Check Current Price!
OTHER WAH TO CONSIDER
An alternative option is the Vox Wah. This is the wah that Hendrix actually used. It’s also really high quality because it was in competition with the Cry Baby wah pedal when this effect first came out in the 1960s. They spurred each other on to make better and better quality wah pedals.
I’ve owned both and think they sound equally as good. I ended up upgrading to the Cry Baby because my Vox Wah was quite old and I wanted to try out a different sound. I think the Cry Baby just beats out the Vox Wah for me personally. It just feels a bit nicer to manipulate with my foot.
Pick either of them and you’ll be sweet!
Oh, and Don’t Forget to Grab These Things!
Alright, so you’ve gone through the list of guitar pedals for beginners and they’re being delivered to you as we speak. Not so fast though – you’ll need three other (boring, but necessary) things to get the fun started (and never stopping!):
1. 1/4 Inch Guitar Cable
You’ll need a second guitar lead because you’ll be plugging your guitar into your pedals now. The other lead will have to go out the other side of the pedal and into your amp.
2. Patch Cables
If you grab more than one pedal, then you’ll need these little mini-guitar cables to connect them all together.
3. Power Supply (with Daisy Chain)
Sure, you can just power your pedals with batteries – but you’ll run out of juice regularly. Don’t even consider playing live shows without a power supply. Pedals dying in the middle of a guitar solo in front of an audience is a nightmare!
For multiple pedals, you can power them with just one power supply (you DON’T need to buy separate power supplies for every pedal) by grabbing a cable known as a daisy chain. It’s a cable that has a string of power supplies for each pedal (pictured above).
P.S. Watch Out for Those Pesky Guitar Snobs
In your search for pedals, you may or may not have come across guitar snobs on the internet that look down on people for using heaps of guitar pedals.
Hopefully you haven’t come across them yet, but if you do/if you have – just ignore these people COMPLETELY. These internet guitar snobs never made it, so why would you take their advice? These people are insecure buzzkills.
Nothing is more important on your guitar journey than your own enjoyment. There is no right or wrong. And when I say there is no right or wrong – I mean it literally.
The golden rules I’ve learned over the years are:
- everyone has a (differing) opinion and it’s literally impossible for everyone to agree with each other – no opinion matters more to you more than your own though, so don’t bother with trying to please everyone, and don’t let anyone tell you that your personal opinion is wrong
- if it sounds good to you, then IT IS GOOD – it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t like something you’re doing if you’re into it and think it sounds good. Trust your gut. Make music for YOU.
Be innovative and go against the grain. I’ve got your back.
There are supposed “rules” about what order you put your pedals in, but people break these rules all the time and become the next big thing. They stand out by doing this.
This is something I’m passionate about because I run my pedals in pretty much the exact opposite order to what you’re “supposed to”. I LOVE the sound I get by doing this.
Have fun exploring and push people’s boundaries. The music world needs more bold, boundary-pushers.
And there are the 6 best guitar pedals for beginners! You can go way, way deeper with this, so I hope this unlocks a portal to you exploring a whole world of new sounds. These will get you jump-started on finding your own unique guitar sound.
The possibilities are literally endless, especially if you have all 6 types of pedal that were mentioned here.
The fun doesn’t stop there, because putting the pedals in different orders will get you all kinds of different sounds, e.g. the Tame Impala fuzz sound has a reverb pedal BEFORE the fuzz pedal.
Experiment and have fun – that’s what music is all about! If you’re just starting your guitar journey, then you want to make it as fun and inspirational as possible for yourself.
Let me know what pedals you’re grabbing in the comments down below! If you want any more clarity or details on anything I talked about in this article then also drop your questions down there and I’ll answer them for you. You can also reach me on email if you feel like doing that instead (or just sending me some hot guitar pedal tips!).