How Guitar Pedals Work | HowStuffWorksAn effects unit or effects pedal is an electronic or digital device that alters the sound of a musical instrument or other audio source. Most modern effects use solid-state electronics or computer chips. Some effects, particularly older ones such as Leslie speakers and spring reverbs , use mechanical components or vacuum tubes. Effects are often used as stompboxes , which are typically placed on the floor and controlled with footswitches. They are also built into amplifiers , tabletop units designed for DJs and record producers, and rackmounts , and are widely used as software VSTs. Modern digital effects utilize computer chips to emulate an array of sounds. All of the aforementioned effects have been recreated with digital, and the realm of potential has been expanded dramatically with the increase in technologies.
Think "guitar god," and a particular image of Jimi Hendrix springs to mind: Hendrix kneeling, shamanlike, before his Fender Stratocaster, his hands seeming to coax flames from the instrument. Captured by photographer Jim Marshall at the Monterey Pop Festival, this image is burned into the collective consciousness of American rock culture in the same way that Hendrix's signature sound still echoes through the years. His defiant rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" isn't quite a technical masterpiece -- one could almost play the melody with a single finger. What elevates the song is its sound. Almost since the birth of amplified guitars in the early s, players looked for ways to enhance the sound of their electric guitars. A huge variety of guitar effects have emerged from their experiments. These include rack-mounted effects, effects built into amplifiers , and pedal effects.
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Effects pedals are electronic or digital devices that modify the tone, pitch, or sound of an electric guitar. Effects can be housed in effects pedals, guitar amplifiers, guitar amplifier simulation software, and rackmount preamplifiers or processors. Electronic effects and signal processing form an important part of the electric guitar tone used in many genres, such as rock, pop, blues, and metal. All these are inserted into the signal path between an electric instrument and the amplifier. They modify the signal coming from the instrument, adding "effects" that change the way it sounds in order to add interest, create more impact or create aural soundscapes. Guitar effects are also used with other instruments in rock, pop, blues, and metal, such as electronic keyboards and synthesizers. Electric bass players use bass effects, which are designed to work with the low-frequency tones of the bass.