Every guitar player knows that incredible feeling when he finds a new sound for his sonic arsenal. And once the most important part, (I’m of course speaking of “tone”) is achieved, a guitarist can begin to use other weapons to shape his sonic attack. These tools are effects, and there are more versions out there than you could ever hope to test-drive in your lifetime.
So in hopes of giving you a helpful signpost, here is a list of what I like to call “The Heavenly 7” of the guitar effects world. I don’t purport these to be “the best”, as everybody has different tastes. But these 7 are beyond popular, considered classic, and despite their ages, are still in wide use today. Let us begin!
Les Paul devised the first “echo chamber”, but Mike Battle made it classic with his design of the Echoplex, built circa 1959. From the original green box tube Echoplex to the EP4, this magic little box has been employed by countless greats, including Jimmy Page, Gary Moore, Joe Satriani and Eddie Van Halen.
Ibanez Tube Screamer
This is one of the most popular and most copied overdrive pedals. Predominantly used to push a tube amp to create “over-the-top” overdrive, the pedal boosts midrange, which is quite popular with blues players. Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and even Kirk Hammett employed different versions of this pedal throughout the years.
A “real time” pitch shifter operated by a foot treadle, this baby added harmony, detuning, and an incredible slingshot capability to your pitch. The original WH-1, which was made between 1989 & 1993, remains the most popular model. Noted users include Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, David Gilmour, & Tom Morello,
MXR Phase 90
Released in 1972, the Phase 90 helped launch MXR, until they went bankrupt in 1984. Touting only one knob (a speed control), there was just something about it that made you all warm and fuzzy. Jim Dunlop eventually bought out MXR and resumed production of this and many other MXR pedals, including the EVH model and a hand wired version using NOS. Older units are a little smoother but tend to be a tad noisy, while the newer units add a tinge of distortion on faster settings.
Clyde McCoy Vox Wah
Clyde McCoy was actually a trumpet player who had a distinct ability to get a muted “wah” sound from his trumpet. Vox decided they wanted to emulate this for guitarists, and released The Clyde McCoy Vox Wah somewhere around 1967. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton both used this little gem, and photos taken during the recording of “Electric Ladyland” document Jimi’s as being the “signature” model, the more popular of the 2 released. Many different wah pedals have been released by different companies, and each have slightly varying tonal characteristics. (Personally, my choice is the original Steve Vai Bad Horsie Wah by Morley)
Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress Flanger
This little lady has many voices, and they are ALL beyond cool. Every ebb and flow of flanging is available, but she also boasts incredible phasing and chorusing aspects, including an almost Leslie like rotating speaker effect. This is one of those rare effects that has only 3 knobs, (and a filter matrix switch) but can make a couple of hours of your life fly by just tweaking and enjoying it’s vast sonic entities.
This is a phaser (or phase shifter) used for creating chorus and vibrato simulations for electric organ or guitar. Developed in the 1960’s, it’s original intent was to emulate the Doppler effect of a Leslie speaker. It actually missed the mark, but became a unique and popular effect in its own right. The Univibe can be heard on Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs”, Jimi Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” and Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”.