My recent article about essential guitar effects for future rock stars covered all of the bases for starting in the world of rock and roll. The biggest rock starts don't stop there, though! They continued to push the envelope with bigger and more dramatic effects in their songs. You want the best Jimi Hendrix could get? You want to learn something from The Police? Then here you go, friend - here are the three advanced guitar effects pedals used by the biggest names in music!
Wah Wah Wah - All The Way To Awesome
A lot of guitarists won't talk about this guitar effect today, even though everybody still uses it. Why, you ask? Because it's either their secret weapon - or they are afraid they will get stuck in the 1970's!
The reason for that is because the wah effect, as it is known, was an absolute staple of funk, psychedelic, and rock music in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Wah is essentially a sound filter that works similar to your mouth. In the effects pedal's open position, it sounds like a mouth wide open, letting the full spectrum of frequencies through. In the opposite position, it sounds like a person humming with their mouth closed - muted and muffled.
Why would anyone want to muffle their sound? Because moving between muffled and wide-open sounds awesome! Jimi Hendix was one of the first guitarists to use it widely. He was so masterful at using the wah pedal that, combined with his ingenious guitar playing, he could make the guitar sound like it was talking! You can hear his most famous use of the wah guitar effects pedal in his song "Voodoo Chile", especially in the song's incredible opening notes.
After Jimi, though, the use of wah went into a decline. Musicians quickly found that they could create a unique chucking sound by sweeping back and forth very quickly, and this became a staple of 1970's funk. Look no further than the Shaft theme song, or most local porn soundtracks, to get a sense of this sound. Nowadays, most guitarists still use wah guitar effects pedals, but mostly in slow sweeping actions, creating more drama in their tone.
Chorus Will Take You On A Boat...
If you want to move to the 1980's, though, the guitar effects pedal you simply can't do without is called "chorus". Like the name implies, a chorus pedal takes the original guitar sound and adds it back on itself at a slight delay. The effect is a ringing, watery tone that has a slightly other-worldly feel. It's been used by artists from Metallica to the Human League, but is most famously part of the classic Police sound.
There are a lot of great chorus guitar pedals out on the market, and getting one with the most flexible options will help you sound like any one of your favorite musical idols. One of the best choices is from the Boss line of chorus pedals, which lets you adjust the depth and tone of the chorus sound in ways many others can't.
...While Flanging Will Take You On A Jet Plane!
However, if you want a cool guitar effect that is both timeless and breath-taking, look no further than flanging. In a flanging effects pedal, the original sound is added back on itself, but, unlike chorusing, the time delay between the two signals varies. This causes a sweeping effect across the sound, kind of like a jet flying over head. Like a jet, it sounds best whenever there is a very sonically rich song, with a lot of higher-end tones like cymbals and guitar solos.
The story behind the name flanging is itself fascinating - it originally came from the Beatles! One of the studio engineers had developed a technique for automatically layering vocals. When John Lennon asked their producer how it worked, the producer responded with a silly explanation: "Now listen, it's very simple: we take the original image and we split it through a double-bifurcated sploshing flange with double negative feedback." Whenever Lennon wanted the effect again, he asked for "the flanging effect!"
So if you're looking for just a little more punch in your mix, or want to take your song to the next level, take these three guitar effects pedals for a ride!