After reading this article you might also be interested in some delay pedals, so for more information on that, see one of our other articles. Blues is a type of music that requires a certain sound from your guitar. To get that sound you need different effect pedals. This guide will help you identify some of the pedals that you need to add to your setup to get the best blues sound.
If you’re listening to the sound of some early blues guitarists like the late B.B. King, you can notice that their blues have an overdriven and warm tone. Most of the times guitarists don’t play the guitar with a clean tone. That is why, if you want to get closer to the sound of blues, you need to get yourself an overdrive pedal.
Of course, this effect can be created with the help of your amp, but there are cases when you can’t use an amp, especially if you’re performing on a large stage. Even if you use an amplifier in your gigs, you can hear that, if you turn the knob too much, you will get something that sounds more like distortion, and that’s certainly not what you need for blues.
To get a good sound you need overdrive pedals that work toward pushing the preamp to new limits. Some of the oldest blues songs were played using valve amps, and those create a thick and warm tonality, a certain kind of distortion. That’s why if you want to get close to classic blues, you need a vintage valve amp.
There are some overdrive pedals that experts recommend and amongst those, you can find the Blues Driver BD-2. This is one of the oldest such pedals still in use today. It’s a cheap piece of equipment that will give you the desired sound without altering the frequencies too much, and it’s a classic choice.
The fuzz pedal is for those looking to have a more hard-hitting sound, something that goes between blues and rock, and that’s why it’s not liked by all blues guitarists, but it’s a pedal that will serve you well in a lot of situations.
The man who made it popular was Jimi Hendrix, and if you want to be a person set to experiment, like him, get yourself a fuzz pedal. Nowadays there are a lot of people still using fuzz pedals, including Eric Clapton.
Why is this pedal so necessary? Because the sound it produces can only be created with it, and that is because this pedal alters the sound wave drastically, chopping at different frequencies. When you set a fuzz pedal at a low-frequency level you get a heavy sound, that feels like a compressed distortion.
In high-pitched situations, you get an effect that is similar to the sound of an octave pedal. There are many variations of fuzz pedals and each of them is suited for a certain style. What’s best about such a pedal is that it allows you to go into different styles too. For example, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd uses a Big Muff model that gives his guitar a classic sound.
Jimi Hendrix on the other side used a Dunlop Fuzz Face, which is still popular today, although re-engineered by the company that initially sold them.
You also need reverb
Generally, reverb is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the sound gets reflected out of surfaces. These reflections get amplified and they are slowly absorbed by the objects in the room the sound is produced within. That is why the reverb has been one of the oldest effects, and one type of effect that always works, because it’s so natural.
This is also why many amplifiers have some kind of reverb built into them. But as we previously said, you can’t always rely on an amp to do the job, especially in places where you need more sound volume.
Reverb pedals nowadays come with a lot of additional effects, and chances are that if you’re playing blues, you won’t be needing those effects, and you won’t be using the pedal to its full potential. However, some reverb will help you sound better, bigger, and most of the times the tone produced by such a pedal is a pleasing one.
What makes reverb good for blues is that it helps the notes sound less abrupt, it binds them together and it makes transitions smoother. And we all know that blues needs to be smooth. One reverb pedal that everybody recommends is the Strymon Big Sky. It’s the kind of device that lets you tailor the sound as you wish.
Coming with many reverb options, it allows you to create a great number of different effects. It’s not a cheap pedal, but it is one that will give you plenty of room to experiment.
Treble boost pedals
You don’t often hear guitarists complaining that they have too little treble, and a lot of those guitars made for blues have a lot of treble in them; they sound incredibly bright. But sometimes you need that extra power in the high-pitched areas. There is a general concern that adding more treble to your guitar’s sound will cause it to sound too thin and sharp.
Although that sometimes happens, it’s important to know when to use such a pedal. Furthermore, you should remember that a treble boost pedal will take away the lower frequencies and this will help accentuate the higher ones. So it’s not adding to the top part, just taking from the bottom part.
If you’re afraid to try such a pedal, remember that Rory Gallagher is one of those blues guitarists that really love using a treble booster. One of the earliest treble boost pedals made was the Dallas Rangemaster model, which Gallagher used too; however, this model isn’t produced anymore.
But plenty of other boosters inspired by the Rangemasters are now sold. One of these is the Analog Man Beno Boost. Selling at a relatively low price, this is a good choice for those looking for a treble boost pedal.
The wah-wah pedal
This one wasn’t really made for blues, but it can certainly make your guitar sound a lot better in many situations. As you might now, it was made popular by Jimi Hendrix, the guitarist that liked to experiment a lot, and if you want to get some of the sounds that he produced, you need the wah-wah.
One reason why you need such a pedal is that you can’t find it in any amp, so if you want to emulate the sound, you need the pedal. Eric Clapton uses a wah-wah pedal in some of his songs, and he favors the Dunlop Cry Baby model.
You have some other guitarists such as Gary Clark Jr that constantly use such a pedal to great effect. He needs this effect in the blues-rock he is playing because he borrows many aspects of the funk and hip-hop genres.
Generally, in blues, the wah-wah effect is used to spice up the solo parts that may sound a bit dull. It’s the sort of gimmicky addition that allows you to get some wild effects. Anyway, it’s a good addition to your pedal collection.