Bare minimum pedals for beginners

Tracy Perry

Well-known member
Staff member
Guitar Player
What are the recommended bare minimum for pedals for a beginner.
Wah pedal is one I'm sure (looking at a Dunlop GCB95F Cry Baby).
While not a pedal, I'm also looking at the TC Electronics PolyTune (really like the clamp on that I have from them).
A delay pedal (not sure which to get).
Overdrive pedal (again, not sure what one).
Reverb (another not sure which one).

Right now I have a DigiTech GSP1101 Multi-Effects Preamp & Processor that is OK, but looking at something maybe more traditional like true pedals.


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Staff member
Pedals that I would consider fairly essential are a tuning pedal (for the sound cut as much as for tuning), overdrive, chorus/flanger/pitch modulator (semi-essential), delay and looper. Other pedals worthy of consideration are a compressor, wah, fuzz box and reverb (if you don't have it on the amp).

At some point, when you are pretty sure that you've built the signal chain that's right for you, I'd also recommend a pedal board and high quality power supply. I've seen quite a number of pedals destroyed by old batteries. I'd also do some reading up on true bypass. Less is more and truck load of pedals can inject a lot of unwanted noise into the chain.

Going down the signal chain in order (pedal order is important)...

Tuner - essential: Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner - My main reason for using this one is it mutes, it's bright, accurate, versatile and has power out options in an emergency.

Wah - nonessential: Dunlop Original Cry Baby or Classic Cry Baby - Perhaps a case of try before you buy. Either Dunlop pedal would be on my list but there are plenty of others to choose from. I use a pair of very heavily modded FX-17 Wah/Volume but they are long gone.

Compressor - nonessential: Pigtronix Philopher's Tone Micro - I use one a lot but be aware, some guitarists despise them. The unit I use preceded the model I've recommended but I think they are essentially the same. I'll let Paul Gilbert explain why you might want one (or not) and demo the model I've recommended.

Overdrive - essential: Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS9) - Until I got an Analogman King of Tone (2 year waiting list) I used a Tube Screamer. So does everyone else. Probably the most essential pedal.

Fuzz - nonessential: Electro Harmonix Little Big Muff Pi - A bee in a coke can. Not a sound I would use but a lot do. Google or try before you buy.

Chorus/Flanger/pitch modulator - semi-essential: google? - I use a TC Electronic SCF Stereo Chorus and Flanger because it does everything you could possibly ever want in one box well. Unfortunately it's now been discontinued and I don't know what else to recommend.

Delay - essential: Boss DD-7 Digital Delay - Fairly standard. There are better units but they come at a price and don't really suit my needs.

Looper - essential... no really, probably the first pedal you should buy: TC Electronic Ditto Looper - The problem with looper pedals is they can be frustratingly complicated to use but as a learning tool they are unsurpassed. The pedal I've recommended is as simple as it gets, one foot switch and a volume. I have one on my board so that I can leave the stage and listen to myself from the front of house during a sound check.

I've left off reverb because amplifiers tend to have really good real plate or spring units but if yours doesn't I'd be looking at the Electro Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb (which should come before the looper).