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Distortion is the most popular effect, either by amplifier controls or pedal. It is used in many almost types of rock music and blues. Sometimes known as clipping, distortion cuts off the extreme highs and lows and in doing so creates a “buzzy” tone. Effects like Boss Metal Zone has a lot of controls, which can be adjusted to get a really heavy sound.
Unlike Distortion, Overdrive is a gain setting that is set higher than the chip can handle, therefore creating a slightly distorted sound. Sometimes a clean channel on your amp will become overdriven when you crank it all the way up.
Chorus is a time delay effect which enhances richness similar to that of a 12 string guitar. It’s a subtle effect, shimmering effect that gives an deep lush sound. It does this by mixing the normal signal with a signal that has been delayed and raised slightly in pitch. In effect, you get the sound of 2 instruments playing at the same time, note by note. It is usually used with a clean guitar setting as opposed to distorted.
Flangers sound almost like you’re under water. It is an effect that is similar, but more intense than chorus but the pitch is not changed, the signal is just delayed a little bit.
Phasers mix the normal signal with a signal that goes through a modulated delay (or varied delay) and ends up with a “whooshing”, jet plane sound.
Delay, otherwise known as echo, does exactly what it says. It repeats what you play a short time later. It could be used to add depth or to create a spacious effect. This is a very potent effect often used to fatten up solos.
Reverb is an effect that simulates the natural reflection of sound waves off of the walls. It is used to add ambience or richness and comes equipped on many amplifiers. It is the main effect you’ll hear on vocals.
Octave is a pitch shift effect which adds a second note one octave below the original. Some produce more than one octave. Octave pedals are limited to tracking only one note at a time. They are often used by guitar players to simulate a bass guitar.
Compression is a device that smoothes out the volume of the instrument. It softens the notes you play hard, and amplifies the notes you play softly. The effect also adds sustain to the notes and can give you a nice crisp attack to the note.
You can rock a Wah pedal back and forth to produce a sound that sounds like “WAH.” It is similar to your tone knob in how it works – try putting your tone knob all the way up, hit a chord, then roll the tone knob back and forth.