Guitar pedals explained (Part 7): Other Guitar Pedals

Apart from the effect pedal typologies described in the other posts of the series, there are many other kind of pedals that cannot fit into any of them.

Some of these can create create sounds that have nothing to see with the sound of a guitar. In fact, they fit more in the category of synthesizers, as they apply such a deep signal processing that the tone of your guitar can be transformed into any other instrument.

Apart from these, you have other pedals (actually pedal-shaped) that can be utilized for controlling parameters in other pedals (expression) or the volume of your guitar.

It is impossible to include here any other pedal that could not fit in the rest of categories. In any case, these are the most common worth mentioning:

  • Synth pedals. They apply synthesis to the signal coming from the guitar, and can therefore make your guitar sounding like any other instruments.
  • Talk vox pedals. With these pedals you will use your mouth to shape the sound of your guitar, making it just like if it talks.
  • Expression pedals. Expression pedals are used for changing parameters in other pedals or devices, by rocking them with your foot.
  • Volume pedals. Volume pedals allow you to modify the volume of your guitar, just like the proper volume knob in your guitar does.

This post will be the last (and shortest) of the “Guitar pedals explained” series.

Synth Pedals

Synthesizer-like pedals create amazing sounds just like keyboard-like synthesizers. Instead of feeding the digital processors to synthesize sounds with a piano keyboard, you feed them with the strings of your guitar.

And how do they work? They capture the pitch and volume of the notes (or chords) you are playing and generate a raw digital signal. Now you can do whatever you want with this signal: play a Hammond organ, a sitar… you name it.

Just like other synthesizers do, but instead of generating tones with a piano keyboard, you do it with your guitar.

Electro Harmonix B9
Electro Harmonix B9

Synth pedal controls and features

In this case, I just can’t write here which controls you can expect having in an average synth pedal, just because there isn’t such an average synth pedal. Every synth pedal is different.

Do I need a Synth pedal?

Synth pedals are very different from one another, and are great to play with. You don’t really need them (unless you need to emulate, for example, the sound of a hammond organ). But you can probably end up by adding a few of them to your collection.

Talk Box Pedals

This pedal is used to create kind of voicy effects. They take the sound of the guitar and direct it to your mouth via a plastic tube with an adjacent microphone. Then you modify the sound by changing the shape of your mouth, “vocalizing” the sound of your guitar; this way you make your guitar to appear to “speak”.

Talk Box controls and features

Jim Dunlop Heil Talk Box
Jim Dunlop Heil Talk Box

You won’t have any controls as such in a talk box pedal apart from the plastic tube you will use to vocalize the sound. However, some models implement a some knobs to change the volume, gain and tone of the “voiced” sound.

Do I need a talk box pedal?

To tell you the truth, you don’t need a talk box. But be sure that you won’t sound like David Gilmour without having one…

Expression Pedals

Some stompboxes my have an additional input for an expression pedal, allowing you to control any of the pedal parameters (like effect level, speed, etc.) by rocking the expression pedal with your foot. It can be very handy as you may change some effects parameters while you play.

Boss FV500H
Boss FV500H expression/volume

Expression pedal controls and features

These pedals are, in general, very simple. Don’t expect to see a few knobs on them. Instead, you’ll simple have the pedal itself, so you will be able to control any given parameter of another device (pedal, amp, etc.) by rocking on it with your foot.

Do I need an expression pedal?

You may need an expression pedal to be able to change parameters of some other effects while playing live. But first think which pedals in your pedalboard are controlable via an expression pedal.

Volume Pedals

A volume pedal may be seen as an amplitude modulating device.

It allows you to control the volume of the guitar with your foot while playing. Usually placed at the beginning of the signal chain, it can change the way the rest of the subsequent pedals (and the amp itself) are driven.

On the other hand, you could put them at the end of the signal chain too. This way, you will simply change the volume of the tone you generate with your whole gear, not the way you drive the subsequent pedals.

They are designed to be transparent so the tone of the guitar remains unaltered; however, the way they react to your foot may be different among different pedals, as you may prefer either a linear or a logarithmic response when stomping on it.

VM Pro Volume pedal
VM Pro Volume pedal

Volume pedal controls and features

Volume pedals are very similar in shape than expression pedals. In fact, you will find some units that can act either as expression or volume pedals.

You’ll simple have the pedal itself, so you will be able to control the volume of the guitar by rocking on it with your foot.

Do I need a volume pedal?

Volume pedals can be used in two different ways.

Put them at the beginning of the signal chain (right from your guitar) and it will act just like the volume knob of your guitar. If you like using this knob, you may not need a volume pedal.

On the other hand, you can place them at the end of the signal chain, just before the input of the amp. This way, it will modify the volume of the sound created by your whole setup. Perhaps you find this functionality more usable…

In any case, have look to Mark Knopfler mastering the use of the volume pedal, and you will see the juice you could get from it.

I always loved guitar effects and music. My effort is constantly directed towards new and innovative products that will make your job easier, help you develop your skills further and spark your creativity, while trying to keep the cost within reasonable bounds.