4 Must Have Guitar Pedals That Every Guitarist Should Own

If you’ve been wanting to explore the world of guitar pedals but aren’t quite sure which ones to get, you’re in luck! 

Today we’re going to lay out the 4 must have guitar pedals no matter what style or genre of music you’re playing

Guitar pedals are the most effective tool in your arsenal to change up your guitars’ sound, BUT there are an awful lot of different types that are all very different. 

So let’s get you started with the bare essentials.

Four guitar effects pedals in front of white painted brick wall

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What Single Pedal Should Every Guitarist Have?

If there’s one guitar pedal that should be permanently hooked up to your guitar it has to be a distortion pedal. 

Distortion is the most iconic sounding electric guitar effect ever created; so iconic in fact that new players might be surprised that their guitar doesn’t sound distorted by default! 

Distortion can be dialed in to add heavy fuzz giving your guitar that classic rock tone, or even dialed in low to add a subtle crunch to your sound. For this reason, it’s suited to just about any style of playing.

So with that let’s break down the 4 most common guitar pedals you’ll see at every guitarist’s feet. 

The 4 Most Commonly Used Guitar Pedals

1. Boss DS-1 Distortion 

As mentioned before distortion is the most well known effect to ever be used on a guitar. If there is one distortion pedal to rule them all, it’s got to be the Boss DS-1. 

BOSS Distortion pedals

Although its design has been slightly modified over the past 40 years that it’s been on the market, its unmissable sound has been used by everyone from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers John Frusciante to The Cure’s Robert Smith; two totally different genres, one unbeatable stomp box.

The Boss DS-1 has a very simple design with only 3 knobs: Tone, Distortion, and Level. While this might seem limiting it’s actually the reason this pedal continues to outshine some of the more advanced distortion pedals available. 

For heavier genres such as grunge, rock, and garage you can dial back the tone and boost the distortion giving you a hard hitting sound that is just about as aggressive as you can get out of a single pedal.

For lighter genres like indie, dream pop, and even blues you can get some great crunchy tones out of this pedal. Rolling back the distortion and bringing up the tone will give you a jangling crunch that won’t overpower the intricacies of your playing. 

Even if you just use this pedal to help make your lead melodies punch through the mix you’ll have got your money’s worth!

Boss DS-1
  • Classic distortion sound
  • Reproduces dynamics of playing
  • Great base pedal for any pedalboard

2. Boss RE-20 Space Echo Reverb and Delay

Here’s one that kills two birds with one stone as far as essential guitar sounds go.

The Boss RE-20 Space Echo combines some of the best reverb and delay sounds designed for guitar into a single dual pedal box. 

Boss Re-20 Space Echo Delay & Reverb Pedal

If you want to add any kind of ambiance or dreaminess to your sound then you NEED to have a reverb and a delay in your set-up.

The RE-20 is designed after the Roland Space Echo which was a legendary analog echo machine about the size of a microwave! Condensed down to a stomp makes this the perfect way to emulate those classic tones without spending upward of $2000.

If you’re playing genres that are dreamy like dream-pop, shoegaze, indie rock, surf rock, psych rock, or even goth rock; then you’ll want some reverb dialed in at all times. This accompanied by the delay will add space to your sound and make your melodies glide.

For more classic rock genres and blues reverb and delay shouldn’t be slept on either. Adding a touch of either or even both will add warmth and character to your tone. 

A touch of reverb is essential for playing blues as well, especially when combined with a bit of distortion. It will smooth out the harsh edges of a distorted guitar to sound more welcoming.

Boss RE-20
  • Digital version that simulates the tone of the original Space Echo
  • Models the RE-201's tape flutter and magnetic head sound saturation
  • Allows delay time to be set by foot tap tempo
  • Longer delay time than the RE-201
  • Mode Selector knob with 12 selections

3. Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone Chorus

Chorus is one of those guitar effects that you’ll have heard a million times but perhaps without realizing. For this essential effect, it doesn’t get any better than the analogue Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone. 

Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone Analog Chorus Guitar Effects Pedal

The general idea of a chorus is that it multiplies the sound of your guitar by layering the same sound on top of each other over and over again. 

What you get is a larger more diverse guitar tone. It’s perfect across so many genres to add color and dynamics.

For heavily distorted genres it can turn your electric guitar into a sludge machine when paired with the Boss DS-1. In fact, this was the exact combo Kurt Cobain used to create the guitar tone on Nirvana’s Nevermind. 

Basically, if you want your guitar to scream when playing with a distortion you need a chorus pedal.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, chorus is just as (if not more) essential to the sound of indie rock, country, and dream pop. 

 When used with a clean tone, chorus adds that much loved jangly sound that hasn’t gone out of fashion since The Smith’s first hit single This Charming Man. Chorus makes any chord progression or melody full-bodied and bright. 

Electro-Harmonix Neo Clone
  • Analog design circuit
  • Similar chorus tone as the legendary Small Clone
  • Great clean tones
  • Simple to use

4. Xotic SP Compressor

The compressor pedal is nowhere near the most exciting pedal you can buy, however, it is one of the most useful for balancing your sound. An essential if you’re going to be using multiple pedals at once! 

The Xotic SP Compressor is one of the best you can get and it won’t overstate its space on your pedal board with its super compact design. 

Xotic Effects Sp Compressor Effects Pedal

A compressor is essential no matter the genre or style of music you’re playing. What it does is squish your sound together so that no matter what volume gets passed through it, your sound comes out balanced on the other end. 

For louder genres like punk, rock, and grunge this is a great pedal to use to ensure that your volume isn’t all over the place when adding extra distortion effects to your sound. Even if your sound is suddenly increased activating the compressor will make sure it gets dirtier but doesn’t get louder.

A compressor is just as beneficial for softer genres like folk, country, and indie as it helps make the quiet parts of your playing sound consistent. So if you’re playing something lightly and accidentally play a bit too hard on a note the compressor will make sure it doesn’t sound exponentially louder! 

They’re also great for dreamy genres that use a lot of delay. One of the most frustrating things about delay pedals is managing the volume of your delay. Sometimes the delay volume can come in louder than what you’re playing making your tone sound unbalanced and muddy.

With a compressor, your delays will be balanced out to match your playing. Alleviating a lot of unnecessary stress when trying to get your mix right live! 

Xotic SP Compressor
  • Wide variety of compressor tones
  • Gives a great transparent tone
  • Excellent for clean boost
  • True Bypass Switching
  • Extra dip-switch controls inside case