Signature Sounds: Which Guitar Pedals & Effects Do the Pros Use To Get Their Tone?
Depending on what type of music you’re intending to play, you may find yourself wondering which guitar pedals and effects are used for that genre of music or even by a specific guitarist. Sometimes it’s fairly obvious: You’re probably not going to be using a death metal distortion pedal if you’re planning to play your favorite John Mayer tune. But hey, maybe you should try that. It might sound awesome. This post will detail the types of effects that are used by nine guitarists of differing styles including the specific guitar pedals that they are using. Being that they are rich and famous (or deceased in cases), some of the effects and pedals are discontinued. Usually you can find them on Ebay for a small fortune, but in either case, I’ll give a less expensive alternative to get a similar tone. If you’re interested in learning which guitar effects are used by music genre, that’s covered in a separate post.
1. Jack White: Thick Fuzz
Jack is a huge fan of big thick sounding fuzz. From the White Stripes and Raconteurs to his solo work, Jack loves the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi with the dials set around midnight. Another huge component of his sound is the Electro-Harmonix P.O.G. or Polyphonic Octave Generator, which creates multiple different octaves very smoothly at once. A less expensive, yet extremely high quality Micro POG is also available.
2. Jimi Hendrix: The Pioneer
Jimi was a pioneer in effects use at a time when few guitarists bothered to try anything. He made the Wah effect famous on songs like “Voodoo Child” with the Vox Wah which is still available in its original form today for a reasonable price. He was also a big fan of fuzz, and at Woodstock he used a Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face, which has been reissued to Jimi’s specs by Dunlop.
3. The Edge: Major Delayer
The guitarist for U2 has one of the largest effects arrays ever assembled at over fifty different effects. But the ones that give him his signature tone are delays. The Electro-Harmonix Memory Man for the older songs, and digital delay for most of the newer songs. His choice for digital delay is the discontinued TC Electronics 2290 rack-mounted delay unit which will set you back a couple of thousand dollars on Ebay. But if you’re looking for something similar and less pricey, the TC Electronics Nova Delay or Boss DD-6 will do an excellent job.
4. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd: The King of Psychedelic
For the king of psychedelic guitarists, David Gilmour used surprisingly few guitar pedals. For distortion and fuzz he is also a big fan of the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi as well as the Fuzz Face. For delay, his choice for many years was the Binson Echorec which is a tape type delay. These are tough to come by these days and quite a challenge to maintain. Portland, Oregon based effects company Catalinbread has recently introduced their Echorec pedal which does an absolutely stunning job of recreating the original vintage sound in a more convenient pedal design.
5. John Mayer: Modern Day Blues Man
A fan of classic blues for the most part, John gets a lot of his tone from three different Ibanez Tube Screamers. The classic TS-808 (which has been reissued), the standard TS-9 and the, unfortunately, discontinued TS-10. Though these guitar pedals all accomplish the same basic goal of adding light overdrive and boost, they all have a slightly different tone, and John often likes using them in combination with each other to achieve different levels of overdrive.
6. Slash: Master of Distortion
While the former Guns ’n’ Roses guitarist likes to add little accents of effects like chorus to certain songs, Slash is known for huge distortion and solos that are full of Wah. The majority of his distortion comes from his amps, which are classic Marshall JCM-800s turned all the way up. For his Wah effect, Slash started out with the Dunlop Crybaby 535Q which is an upgraded version of their classic Crybaby. Once he became a household name, however, Dunlop created a Slash signature Wah that is based
on the 535Q, but with an extra boost control to add even more punch.
7. Stevie Ray Vaughn: Blues on Overdrive
The late great bluesman wasn’t a fan of big effects rigs, and he didn’t really need them. The one trick that Stevie consistently had up his sleeve was his overdrive. He loved the Ibanez Tube Screamer TS-808 and figured that the only thing better than one was two. He often ran one TS-808 directly into the other to add layers of drive to his sound. It was also a great way to boost his volume when switching from rhythm playing to solos.
8. Kurt Cobain: The Minimalist Grunge Rocker
The quintessential grunge rocker was a fan of a dirty stripped down sound that changed music forever, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t have a couple of stompboxes on stage. Always one to keep it simple, Kurt favored the Boss DS-1 distortion pedal that retails for an absurdly low forty dollars. It may be an entry level pedal, but it still has excellent tone for a heavy distortion. Another of his signature effects was the Electro-Harmonix Small Clone chorus which can be heard, most notably, on the song “Come As You Are”.
9. Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead: Out of this World
Not just a guitarist, but also an accomplished pianist and classical composer, Jonny Greenwood serves many functions in Radiohead. Sometimes he’s creating otherworldly sounds via envelop filters like the DOD440 or the Roland Space Echo RE201, but he’s also known for heavy distorted guitar tones. On many Radiohead songs from ‘The Bends’ and ‘OK Computer’ Jonny uses either the ProCo Rat or a Marshall Shredmaster pedal. The Rat can be found at many music shops for under $100. For the record, Jonny has much more gear so check out sites like The King of Gear for an alarming amount of detail on his gear while on tour throughout the years.