PG Explains: Pedals/Effects
Add sonic complexity and creativity by exploring the world of guitar and bass effect pedals. Learn key facts and tips in our FAQ below.
What are guitar effects pedals?
Guitar effects pedals are devices that affect your guitar’s amplified sound by processing the signal through a circuit before sending it on to its final destination, whether that’s an amplifier, a computer workstation, or a PA. Effects pedal circuits are usually housed in small, metal boxes with control knobs and an on-off footswitch that’s activated by pressing down on it. They were popularized and continue to be designed for players to engage and disengage mid-song with their feet. Hence, the term “pedal.”
Do I need effects pedals?
That depends on your playing style, your guitar, and your amplifier. If you’re happy with the sound of your guitar going right into your amp, that’s great. But if you want to mix things up, experiment, and expand your sonic palette, you might want to try adding some pedals to your signal chain to see how they impact your sound.
What are the different types of pedals?
There are four major types of effects pedals: overdrive/distortion, time-based effects like delays, modulation (flanger, phasers, chorus, tremolo, vibrato), and filters. In addition, there are dynamic effects, like compressors, and simulators, which can mimic the qualities of amps or other guitars.
In what order should I hook up my pedals?
Although it’s a matter of personal taste and your sonic goals, the loose rule is that your signal chain should go like this: tuners and volume pedals, filter effects like wah, compression, distortion (including overdrive and fuzz), modulation, and time-based effects.
How do you keep pedals organized?
Once you have more than a few pedals, you’ll want to look into a pedalboard and power supply to keep your setup clean, stable, and safely powered. Here are some tips for pedal organizing.
Making a living doing the thing you love is great—in fact, it’s something that so many players aspire to. But it changes the relationship between player and instrument when the instrument is a source of work. How do they stay excited about their work? And how do they get excited when they’re in a lull? What keeps their creativity flowing? These are big questions, but our hosts are both having their own renaissances with their guitars. And—surprise!—it’s because they’ve both come into some new key pieces of gear.
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On this episode, Rhett and Zach discuss the relationship that they each have with the guitar at this point in their careers. Making a living doing the thing you love is great—in fact, it’s something that so many players aspire to. But it changes the relationship between player and instrument when the instrument is a source of work. How do they stay excited about their work? And how do they get excited when they’re in a lull? What keeps their creativity flowing? These are big questions, but our hosts are both having their own renaissances with their guitars. And—surprise!—it’s because they’ve both come into some new key pieces of gear.
Zach reports that he has been rippin’ totally sweet Metallica licks on his sick new ESP LTD Kirk Hammett Signature Series KH-602. He’s a longtime fan of the band—and has conveniently fallen back in love with Kill ’Em All and Ride the Lightning—and says he’s wanted a Hammett signature guitar for his entire guitar-playing life. When he saw this one at Nashville’s Guitars To Be Played, he fell in love with everything, from the skull and crossbones fret markers to the Floyd Rose. And you know what? The Floyd Rose isn’t hard to set up. This guitar, Zach says, is kickstarting his “love of the guitar again.”
Meanwhile, Rhett has been enjoying his new Soldano SLO-100head and matching 4x12 cabinet, even if he does keep the cab a few flights below his control room. He’s stoked about the story of Soldano, who he admires for being one of the early boutique amp builders, and has been playing this new 100-watter all week.When it’s time to dip a rig, it’s hard to find any faults. No spoilers, but it’s a nice one (and an easy gig load).And in the shill zone, Zach talks about the importance of running a brown box for owners of older amps and talks briefly about the difference between the Brown Box and a Variac.
PG Explains: Guitars & Strings
What are the different parts of acoustic and electric guitars?
All guitars have essentially the same structure and parts. There is the headstock, which includes tuning machines and the nut; the neck, which includes the fretboard and frets; and the body, which includes the saddle and bridge hardware. Additionally, electric guitars have pickups, volume and tone controls, a pickup selector, and an output jack. Acoustic guitars usually have a round sound hole in the middle of the body, where the pickups sit on an electric.
What are guitar strings and gauges?
Most electric and acoustic guitar strings are made of steel or nickel-wrapped steel, while classical guitars use nylon strings. Gauge refers to the thickness of a string. The higher the gauge, the thicker the string will be. Lower gauge strings sound brighter and lighter in general, while higher gauge strings sound darker and heavier.
How often do I have to change guitar strings?
The rule of thumb is to change strings after 100 hours of playing time. For many players, that will mean roughly three months of use. For others, it’ll be six months—or six weeks. Pay attention to how the new strings feel and sound. When they start losing that mojo and you don’t like the sound or feel, change them.
What are sound holes?
These are the holes carved in the top (and sometimes sides) of acoustic and semi-hollow electric guitars that project the guitar’s sound. On an acoustic, they’re the circle, most often, in the middle of the body. On semihollow electric guitars, they’re long holes that come in various shapes. The most recognizable is the f-shaped hole, like you see on this Gretsch Electromatic.
What are pickups?
Pickups are magnets wrapped in coils of wire that convert the vibration of your strings into an electric signal, which is then sent on to your amplifier. The most common types are single-coil pickups, found on guitars like the Fender Stratocaster, and humbuckers, seen on the Gibson Les Paul. Since pickups’ positions on a guitar’s body give them unique tones, the pickup selector switch on electric guitars lets you choose which pickups you’re hearing.
Are guitars made from one single piece of wood?
No! They’re typically made from a number of different pieces and types of wood, which are glued and/or bolted together.
Are all guitars made of wood?
Not necessarily! Some builders use composite materials and laminates in their lines, or metals, or even Lucite, as in the famed Ampeg Lucite guitars and basses of the 1960s.
Can I do guitar maintenance myself?
There are lots of simple maintenance tasks that players can do themselves, like changing strings, polishing the fretboard, changing action and intonation, and adjusting the truss rod. But it’s best to read up on your specific guitar and how to do each of these tasks first.
Where can I find additional reading on guitar strings?
The following articles on guitar strings, tonewoods, and DIY improvements can be found online at premierguitar.com: “DIY: How to Choose Your Electric Guitar Strings,” “DIY: How to Choose Acoustic Guitar Strings,” “Does String Gauge Really Matter?,” “What Will Replace Classic Tonewoods?,” and “DIY: Seven Ways to Soup Up Your Guitar.”
PG Explains: CAGED
Understand key facts and definitions of the popular CAGED guitar chord system with our simple guide.
What is the CAGED system?
The CAGED system is based on five chords—C, A, G, E, and D—and provides a way to organize a guitar’s neck into five different sections, which can be linked together to play melodies, major scales, and arpeggios across the entire fretboard. The shapes of those chords can also be used anywhere on the fretboard to play any major chord in any key.
Why is it called the CAGED system?
For starters, that name contains each of the five chords used in the system, but it also helpfully alludes to the order in which the chords connect up and down the neck.
Is the CAGED system hard?
If you can play basic C, A, G, E, and D chords, you’re essentially all set. It involves some manipulation and extra fingerwork to make the chords as you move up the neck, but you’ve already got the essentials.
Why is the CAGED system useful?
The CAGED system lets you create and explore different, unique chord voicings up and down the neck. It introduces new sounds to your repertoire, and gives you new ways to be expressive in your playing.
How is the CAGED system different from barre or power chords?
In the CAGED system, your index finger often forms a barre, mimicking your guitar’s nut in relation to your open C, A, G, E, and D chords. But while barre and power chords are discreet, individual units, CAGED chords link directly and logically to one another. They can also sound more dynamic and open than traditional barre or power chords.
Can you do the CAGED system in open tunings?
No, the CAGED system only works in standard tunings.
PG Explains: Amps
Get the facts on guitar amps with answers to ten FAQs from the experts at Premier Guitar.
What is a guitar amplifier?
An amplifier is to your electric guitar as a blast of electricity was to Frankenstein’s monster: it gives it life. In simple and traditional terms, it receives the signal created by your electric guitar’s pickups, processes and boosts that signal, and amplifies it through one or multiple speakers.
What’s the difference between an amp head and a combo amplifier?
An amp basically involves two sections. The first comprises a chassis, control panel, and circuit that process the signal, while the second comprises a speaker section which is connected to the circuit. Sometimes they’re both housed together in one box called a combo amp. Sometimes the first part is housed on its own, and can be connected to a separate speaker cabinet. That is an amp head.
What types of amps are there?
There are four main types of amps: tube (or valve, as the Brits call ’em), solid-state, hybrid (both tube and solid-state), and modeling.
What’s the most popular type of amp?
The tube amp. From the 1950s onward, tube amplifiers have dominated stages around the world, but solid-state amplifiers emerged in the 1960s as an alternative to the perceived unreliability of tube circuits. These days, loads of touring and studio guitarists are opting for modeling amps and even amp pedals.
What’s a tube amp?
Tube amplifiers are named after the glass vacuum tubes that form a key part of the amp’s circuitry. The signal is usually passed through two sections of tubes—preamp and power amp—which impart different characteristics to the resulting sound depending on how an amp’s controls are set. A lot of players describe the tube sound with words like warmth, sag, punch, and chewiness. You can check out our in-depth guide on tube amps for more info.
What’s a solid state amp?
Solid-state amps are those that don’t use any tubes at all, and instead use transistors to affect and amplify your guitar’s signal. Here’s an explainer on solid-state amp tech.
What’s a modeling or digital amp?
These are entirely digital modules that mimic or ‘model’ the function of amplifiers. They can be paired with real speaker cabinets, or with digital impulse response (IR) programs, which in turn mimic what a speaker cabinet does in various rooms. Given their size and ease of use, more touring guitarists are choosing them
What are 1x12s, 2x12s, and 4x12s?
These are shorthand terms for speaker cabinets that hook up to an amplifier. The 12 refers to the size of the speaker cone: 12 inches. The preceding number refers to the number of speakers in the cabinet. A 1x12 has one 12-inch speaker, a 2x12 has two 12-inch speakers, and so on. These are also sometimes designated as 112, 212, and 412 by manufacturers.
What type of amp is best?
You’re not gonna like this answer, but it’s the one that’s right for you. Whatever sounds best to your ears is the best amplifier for you. Don’t worry what the forum overlords and trendsetters are doing. They’re not listening to your playing, you are, so your own satisfaction comes first. Consider various factors: How often will you play through the amp? How loud or quiet do you need it to go? How big or small do you want it to be? What style of music are you playing? What’s your budget? Add ’em up, do your research, and pick what fits your style.
Where can I read more about amplifiers?
Try “Are Digital Modelers For You?” and “Top 10 Tips For Buying An Amp” at premierguitar.com.