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Boss MT-2 Metal Zone Effect Pedal

Guitar effects

or how to make your guitar sound like your favorite guitarist

Guitarists will often use effect pedals to alter their instrument's sound. There are many, many different types of effects that can be found for the electric guitar, but the most popular is still the overdrive or distortion. While some effects transform the guitar's sound completely, others just color the sound in a minor way.

Time delay effects create a "copy" of an incoming sound adding a slight time delay, then mix it with the clean original signal.

The original delay lines were tape machines running a loop of tape or bulky units using a special spring. Modern time delay effects are digital, but some guitarists argue that analog effects produce "warmer" tones.

Time delay effects:
  • Reverb
  • Echo
  • Delay
  • Vibrato
  • Flanger
  • Chorus
  • Slapback echo
  • Reverse echo/reverb

These sound effects originate from people turning old valve amps up a lot louder than they were designed to function. This created a new, exciting effect with many overtones and a compressed sound with less difference between loud and quiet.

Distortion effects:
  • Distortion
  • Overdrive
  • Fuzz
  • Power tube
  • Power attenuator

Amplitude based effects are based on the variation of the instantaneous loudness of the signal.

Compression effects reduce the dynamic range of a signal, making loud sounds quieter and the quiet sounds louder.

The expander is quite the opposite, as it increases the dynamic range of a sound. Low level signals are attenuated while the louder portions are amplified. The noise gate is an extreme version of the expander, heavily attenuating the low level input signal.

Amplitude based effects:
  • Volume pedal
  • Envelope Volume pedal
  • Tremolo
  • Panning/​ping-pong
  • Repeat percussion
  • Compres­sors
  • Expansion effects
  • Noise gaters
  • Attack delays
  • Limiters
  • Auto swell

Graphic or parametric equalizers are designed to give more tone control than is possible with the basic amplifier's treble, middle or bass controls.

Speaker or cabinet simulators are highly tailored equalizers to emulate speaker box resonances, microphone techniques or performance hall conditions. Some include other subtle effects such as delays or reverbs as well.

The Wah-Wah is a foot-operated pedal is technically a kind of band-pass filter, which allows only a small portion of the incoming signal's frequencies to pass. The Talk Box effect is a variation of this technique, where a small speaker playing the guitar signal is routed up a small plastic tube to the guitarist's mouth, modulating the sound.

Filter or frequency response effects:
  • Equalizers
  • Vibe/Rotary speaker simulators
  • Talk Box
  • Treble, mid, bass boost
  • Cabinet simulators
  • Resonators
  • Wah-wah
  • Auto wah
  • Tremolo-wah
  • Panning effects
  • Simple Vibrato
  • Phase shifters

The pitch-related effects add one or more notes to what you are already playing. The octave dividers add a note one or more octaves below to the signal. Harmonizers offer even chord based harmonies and the interval can be determined by a key you set or the note you play. The pitch shifter alters the pitch of the instruments used mainly to give a smooth bend-like effect or to electronically "detune" the instrument.

Pitch-related effects:
  • Octaver
  • Octave dividers
  • Pitch Shifter
  • Harmonizers
  • Vocalizer

See also the schematic diagrams of a few popular guitar pedals: Boss CE-2 chorus, BF-2 flanger, MT-2 Metal Zone distortion, OC-2 Octave, DM-2 Analog Delay...