Which Guitar Pedals To Get First?

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Which Guitar Pedals To Get First?

I bought my first guitar pedal in 1996 from another kid at school for $50 (zero stars, do not recommend). I think it was some kind of Ibanez equalizer that I was led to believe was an overdrive pedal. Back then I had no idea what I was doing or what I was buying. Once I started to learn about pedals a few months later, my first distortion pedal was the DOD Grunge (which I later replaced with a Boss Metal Zone), but that’s another story involving wasps and jars.

DOD Grunge FX69
DOD Grunge FX69

Thanks to the internet, there is a wealth of information available about pedals. But if you’re just starting out, which pedals should you get? And if you can only afford one at a time, which order should you buy them in?

The order of which guitar pedals to get first will vary depending on your amp or what kind of music you play. However, some essential pedals are worth owning. So assuming all you have to work with is a clean tone, here’s what I wish I got in chronological order:

  1. Overdrive, Distortion or Fuzz pedal
  2. Delay pedal
  3. Looper pedal
  4. Tuner pedal
  5. Reverb pedal (optional)
  6. Modulation pedal (optional)

Which exact pedal will depend on which is better suited to the music you play, but here are some suggestions as a jumping point…

Overdrive, Distortion & Fuzz

Light gain: TC Electronic Spark Booster

Don’t be put off by how affordable this pedal is, it’s actually really good and I prefer it to every other more expensive pedal I’ve bought for light gain. Plus it sounds good with both humbucker and single-coil guitars. Also, I’m talking about the standard size version (not the mini).

Medium/High gain: Mesa Boogie Throttle Box

I know, it’s a bit pricey, but I have bought lots of overdrive and distortion pedals in the sub £200 category (most of them after already owning the Throttle Box) and I just haven’t found anything that comes remotely close to sounding as good as the Throttle Box. And with a flick of the Lo/Hi switch, it provides classic crunch to modern gain.

Fuzz: Any of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi reissue pedals (Green Russian / Op Amp / Ram’s Head / Triangle)

I’ve tried boutique fuzz pedals too, but for me, they can’t beat the EHX versions, and for the money why pay more when you can get the original. I have the Op Amp and Green Russian but still plan to get the Ram’s Head and Triangle as I need them all.

Delay

TC Electronic Flashback 2

I have the first version of the Flashback and I just can’t in good conscience recommend anything else that beats the Flashback for price vs features. And I’m one of those people who has to know if the grass is really greener by buying other pedals, even when I like what I have. Plus it’s the only delay I’ve found that works with the hot level of my Mesa Mini Rec’s effects loop without distorting the delay.

Looper

TC Electronic Ditto Looper

I really wish these existed when I was learning how to play guitar, I never learned scales beyond the minor pentatonic and this would have really helped to give me some looped chords to practice scales to. The simplicity of operation means you will never forget how to use it either.

Tuner

TC Electronic Polytune 2

TC Electronic was the first company I can recall that made a big deal about tuner accuracy and kept improving theirs with every generation. The Polytune 3 adds a buffer circuit if you need it, but the Polytune 2 without the buffer is all I need (and I have the standard, mini, and mini noir versions). Also, clip-on tuners are quite affordable, which is why this isn’t higher on the list.

Reverb (optional)

TC Electronic Hall Of Fame 2

I hear lots of YouTubers who say they simply cannot play without Reverb. I am not one of those people, but this is obviously a personal preference thing. I do, however, use Reverb in conjunction with my Delay as I like Delay/Reverb together. And yes, you guessed it, I have the TC Electronic Hall of Fame pedal too.

Modulation (optional)

TC Electronic Corona Chorus

Hmm… this seems to have turned into an ode to TC Electronic… but seriously they make great stuff for a great price; the TonePrint technology really is revolutionary. As far as modulation goes, you’ve got Chorus, Flanger, Phaser, etc, but as uncool as it appears to be these days, I still prefer Chorus – specifically the TC Electronic Corona Chorus.

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