Guitar Effects To Use For Each Music Genre

Pairing Guitar Effects With Your Musical Style

Depending on what type of music you’re intending to play, you may find yourself wondering which effects are generally used for that genre of music. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious: You’re probably not going to be using a death metal distortion pedal if you’re planning to play country music. But hey, maybe you should try that. It might be awesome. As always, there are no hard and fast rules, but I’m going to break down different genres of music and the types of guitar effects that are generally used. I’m also going to give some recommendations for specific pedals to try. My next post goes a little further down the rabbit hole exploring “Which Guitar Pedals & Effects Do Pros Use to Get Their Tone?”.

Guitar Effects To Use For Each Music Genre Aerosmith Gibson Les Paul Guitar
Aerosmith

ROCK

I’m going to start with the most difficult genre because rock uses pretty much every effect. Distortion and overdrive are probably the most notable effects because it’s a tone we usually associate with rock music. But there’s a huge range here, from light overdrive to heavy metal type distortion. You’re also going to find delay, reverb, phaser/flanger, chorus, compression, and more unusual effects like envelop filters and octave effects.

Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan

BLUES

This one’s a little easier because blues players tend to keep things simple. The most common effect you’ll see in blues is overdrive, and the Boss Blues Driver is an excellent entry into blues overdrive. Guitar World wrote a nice piece on Stevie Ray Vaughan’s preferred equipment, which revealed that SRV was a fan of the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9.

Guitar Effects To Use For Each Music Genre
Django Reinhardt

JAZZ

Unlike the blues and rock players, Jazz guitarists often like a smoother, cleaner sound. Many jazz players favor amps that stay clean at higher volumes like the Fender Deluxe Reverb or Twin Reverb. And one of the most common effect pedals for jazz isn’t really an effect at all. Compression is more of a filter than an effect, but it certainly influences your tone. By squashing the highs and lows, a compressor gives you an even tone that allows each not to flow very smoothly.

Country

Guitar Effects To Use For Each Music Genre Johnny Cash Country
Johnny Cash

Like jazz, a lot of country players favor a clean tone, and it’s not just modern country. If you listen to Johnny Cash’s band, you’ll notice that the electric guitar has a clean punch that cuts right through the songs. Again, this is achieved with a compressor. Back in Johnny’s day this was done with huge rack mounted boxes in the studio, but now we have stompboxes that do it just as well. By turning the compression up, you get that thick country tone that we all associate with Nashville.

Zakk Wylde Guitar Effects To Use For Each Music Genre
Zakk Wylde

Metal

While metal gods of the past got their tone by turning Marshall amps up to eleven, things have evolved a bit since then. There’s a good chance that your neighbors won’t appreciate you blowing out their windows with a hundred watts of pure harmonic distortion, so pedals have found a way to fill the sonic void. The Boss Metal Zone is probably the most popular example of high gain distortion that won’t burst your eardrums.

As promised, here is a list of guitar effects pedals that will do a great job of achieving the tone you’re looking for without breaking the bank. These pedals also shouldn’t be too hard to find and try out.

Effects by GenrePedal ExamplesRockBluesJazzCountryReggaePopMetal
CompressionBoss CS-3XXXXX
ChorusElectro-Harmonix Small Clone & Boss CE-3XXX
Digital & Analog DelayBoss DD-3 & MXR Carbon CopyXXXX
Distortion / FuzzBoss Metal Zone & Electro-Harmonix Big Muff PiXXX
Envelop Filter DOD440 & Roland Space Echo RE201X
OctaveElectro-Harmonix Micro POG & Boss OC-3X
OverdriveIbanez Tube Screamer TS-9 & Boss Blues DriverXXXXX
Phaser / FlangerMXR Phase 90X
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy GrailXXXXXX
WahDunlop Classic CrybabyXXXXX
Effects by Genre (with Pedal Examples)
Rock
CompressionBoss CS-3
ChorusElectro-Harmonix Small Clone & Boss CE-3
Digital & Analog DelayBoss DD-3 & MXR Carbon Copy
Distortion / FuzzBoss Metal Zone & Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
Envelop Filter DOD440 & Roland Space Echo RE201
OctaveElectro-Harmonix Micro POG & Boss OC-3
OverdriveIbanez Tube Screamer TS-9 & Boss Blues Driver
Phaser / FlangerMXR Phase 90
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy Grail
WahDunlop Classic Crybaby
Blues
CompressionBoss CS-3
OverdriveIbanez Tube Screamer TS-9 & Boss Blues Driver
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy Grail
WahDunlop Classic Crybaby
Jazz
CompressionBoss CS-3
ChorusElectro-Harmonix Small Clone & Boss CE-3
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy Grail
Country
CompressionBoss CS-3
OverdriveIbanez Tube Screamer TS-9 & Boss Blues Driver
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy Grail
Reggae
Digital & Analog DelayBoss DD-3 & MXR Carbon Copy
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy Grail
WahDunlop Classic Crybaby
Pop
CompressionBoss CS-3
ChorusElectro-Harmonix Small Clone & Boss CE-3
Digital & Analog DelayBoss DD-3 & MXR Carbon Copy
Distortion / FuzzBoss Metal Zone & Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
OverdriveIbanez Tube Screamer TS-9 & Boss Blues Driver
ReverbElectro-Harmonix Holy Grail
WahDunlop Classic Crybaby
Metal
Digital & Analog DelayBoss DD-3 & MXR Carbon Copy
Distortion / FuzzBoss Metal Zone & Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
OverdriveIbanez Tube Screamer TS-9 & Boss Blues Driver
WahDunlop Classic Crybaby