3 Fun and Unique Uses for Guitar Pedals
If you’re like me, you have spent a lot of time and money acquiring guitar pedals in order to find the tones that you love (and enhance your playing ability 100%). With all the effort we put into buying pedals, we should be getting the most out of them. So, what can you do with a guitar pedal other than using it for six-string tones? Well, a lot truthfully. It’s not really brought up a whole lot, but most guitar pedals are essentially just outboard gear in a compact form factor that is dialed in for guitar frequencies. This means that you have a lot of creative ways you can use your pedals. Below I’ve listed three fun ideas to get you started.
I figured we should start off these ideas with one of the last things you would likely record with using guitar pedals. Due to many mics being involved, drums do not make it easy for you to use your pedals. However, the plethora of possibilities for effected drums makes the struggle worth it. You have a couple of ways of going about using your pedals for drums. First, is the option of recording live with the mic signals running through your pedals. You can do this in a few ways but the best, if you are wanting all the mics to be affected, is to use the aux sends on a hardware mixer (if you want more details on this process check YouTube, people have great demos of it). The other option that will work for any track in your DAW is to us a reamp box, to literally make all your pedals outboard gear. Re-amping is a great option if you are familiar with routing in DAWs but really anyone can learn, you just need to dig online for the proper way to rout peddles in your software.
Once you have the process of actually getting your pedals to work on your drum tracks, there are a lot of creative routes to go down here. Using time-based effects is a great place to start with any percussion. I recommend starting with messing around with delay controls as you play live, just be ready for speed ramping madness. If you want to go the more subtle route, you can try effects like reverb and dive pedals. Both these types of effects can be used to get some pretty interesting timbres that can be hard to find software versions of. If you haven’t realized yet, there is not really a limit here. You can even use the weirdest device from EarthQuaker and get cool results (i.e. Rainbow Machine and Data Corrupter). With that said, check out this list of some pedals that others have had success with using on drums.
o Fuzzes are great on drums to get a taste of bit-crushing without losing all the percussive elements at play. You have to be careful not to muddy up the low end too much, but don’t be afraid to add drive to drums. Especially if you are looking for that pushed tube preamp sound that is on a lot of older records, a little fuzz can go a long way.
o With drums most solid delay pedals will do the trick, just try your best to find one that is stereo, so your field doesn’t suffer from your experimentation. Another tip would be to look for having a mod knob on the pedal. Modulating the delays will give a pretty unique feeling to any drum track. You might not want to take this approach to every song, but you can make something that really stands out via delay + drums.
Make Your Synths/Keys Sound HUGE
A much more common use for guitar pedals than drums, keys are a great option for stompboxes. Specifically, synths will become a lot more fun and immersive once you add some of your favorite pedals into the mix. The nice thing about using your pedals with most keys is that the process is very straight forward, replace your guitar with the synth or keyboard… all going into monitors or some other speakers of course. After you have figured out the signal chain, all that’s left is to sit and play with knobs. You will find that having different units to aid in synthesis will change the way that you go about your process.
- Source Audio – Nemesis
o Source audio makes great stuff all around and this delay is a perfect example of that. I like this pick for synths because of the fantastic array of settings that you get to choose from. Additionally, this unit is stereo and will keep your field intact.
o Great for anything but Fender’s Lost Highway Phaser will really shine with electric pianos. At its core, you have a great sounding phaser, past that you are granted switching from preset low and fast speeds along with sensitivity control. A great choice if you're wanting some killer modulated tones.
Have Your Voice be the Instrument
The last use for your guitar pedals we are going to discuss is not a traditional one by any means. That’s right we’re talking about vocals. Most people are not putting their voice through guitar pedals… but you should. There are so many possibilities here it is somewhat mind-blowing to me that no one really does this beyond experimentation. While in most recording situations you should probably track your vocals dry, there’s no reason not to try it. The setup for this one is basically the same as we talked about before with drums. So, try putting some of your crazy pitch shifting pedals on your vocals and see what you get, you never know, you might just find your “sound”.
- Electro Harmonix – Pitchfork
o This is a great pedal to try out on vocals. You will not get clean harmonies like you would with a vocal processor, but it does have a very unique sound to it. This one must be heard in order to be explained adequately. However, I can say that having heard a minor 7th harmony on a distorted vocal take is something to brag about.o The pulsating sci-fi potential that this pedal contains makes it a prime experimentation device. You could actually get some pretty Jack White-esque sounding vocals out of this if you just use the square wave fuzz. But if you are putting forth the effort, you really need to try using its insane pitch oscillation. This may very well have never been done, so please let us know if you try this, I personally would love to hear the results.