What is a Flanger effect?


Flanger pedals, known for their unique, swirling sound, are a staple in the realm of guitar effects. This guide explores the flanger pedal's capabilities, its history, and how to effectively use it to enhance your guitar playing.

The History of Flanger Pedals

The flanger effect originated in the studio, created by manually manipulating tape machines. This technique was first popularized in the 1960s and 70s in songs by artists like The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. The advent of electronic flanger pedals made this effect more accessible and controllable, leading to its widespread use in various music genres.

Understanding the Flanger Effect

A flanger pedal creates its effect by mixing the guitar signal with a delayed, modulated version of itself. The key components of a flanger pedal include:

  • Rate: Controls the speed of the modulation.
  • Depth: Determines the intensity of the effect.
  • Manual or Delay Time: Sets the starting point of the modulated signal.
  • Feedback or Resonance: Adjusts the intensity of the effect's "whoosh."

These controls allow for a range of sounds, from subtle undulation to intense, jet-like sweeps.

Types of Flanger Pedals

Flanger pedals come in various formats, each with its distinct characteristics:

  • Analog Flanger Pedals: Offer a warm, organic tone, often preferred for their musical modulation.
  • Digital Flanger Pedals: Provide more precision and versatility, with cleaner, more consistent modulation effects.
  • Stereo Flanger Pedals: Create a wider, more immersive sound, ideal for expansive sonic landscapes.

Integrating a Flanger into Your Setup

The placement of a flanger pedal in your signal chain can significantly impact its sound. Typically, it's positioned after distortion/overdrive pedals but before delay and reverb effects. Experimenting with pedal order, such as placing the flanger before a distortion pedal, can yield unique sonic textures.

The Interplay with Different Amplifiers and Guitars

Flanger effects can vary depending on the amplifier and guitar used. Tube amplifiers may add warmth to the flanger's tone, while solid-state amps might highlight its clarity. Similarly, the type of guitar and pickups (single-coil vs. humbucker) can affect the pedal's response and overall sound.

Iconic Flanger Pedals and Their Famous Users

  • Eddie Van Halen: Known for using the MXR Flanger to create his signature swooshing sounds.
  • Andy Summers (The Police): Used a flanger to add texture and depth to his clean, chorus-laden guitar tones.
  • John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers): Frequently employed a flanger for creating lush, dynamic soundscapes.

Advanced Techniques: Creative Applications of Flanger

Beyond basic modulation, flanger pedals can be used creatively for various effects. Techniques such as emphasizing certain frequencies for a pseudo-chorus effect, combining the flanger with other modulation effects for complex textures, or using it subtly for a thickening effect are explored.

Choosing the Right Flanger Pedal

Selecting a flanger pedal depends on your desired sound and the versatility you need. Consider the type of flanger (analog vs. digital), the range of control it offers, and its interaction with other effects in your pedalboard.


Flanger pedals, with their distinctive swirling effect, offer a unique way to add depth and movement to your guitar sound. Mastering the use of a flanger can significantly expand your sonic palette, enabling you to create everything from rhythmic textures to ambient soundscapes.


Q: How do I avoid making my sound too muddy with a flanger pedal? A: To maintain clarity, start with moderate depth and rate settings and adjust the feedback or resonance to taste. Placing the flanger in the right spot in your signal chain also helps in retaining clarity.

Q: Can a flanger pedal be used in genres other than rock? A: Absolutely. Flanger pedals can be adapted to a variety of genres, including pop, funk, and electronic music, to add texture and character to the guitar tone.

Q: What's the difference between a flanger and a chorus pedal? A: While both pedals modulate the guitar signal, a flanger mixes the original signal with a delayed version that is modulated in time, creating a more pronounced swooshing or jet-like effect. A chorus pedal, on the other hand, creates a more subtle, shimmering modulation by mixing the guitar signal with one or more modulated, delayed signals.

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