Types of guitar effects

As a (bass) guitarist you can choose from a huge variety of guitar effect pedals. They come with fancy names and weird shapes, but what exactly do these effects do? Below is an overview of the most common types of guitar effects, followed by a brief explanation.

Overview

Chorus

Compressor

Delay / echo

Distortion / overdrive / fuzz

Equalizer

Flanger

Multi-effect

Phaser

Reverb

Wah wah

Tips

Chorus

A chorus enriches your original signal with a simulated second signal whose frequency (pitch) differs slightly. The delay and pitch modulation creates a wider, but sharp, frequency band around your original pitch. Amplifying / extinguishing the harmonics results in a dreamy, ambient sound.

Compressor

A compressor ensures that the sound signal is compressed ("to compress"). This ensures that they are amplified softly played notes, while the harder ones are reduced in volume. This produces a more even volume. Often a compressor also has a "sustain" function: The slowly dying signal is amplified again and again, making it seem that the same volume will remain for a long time.

Delay / echo

A delay or echo is almost the same effect nowadays: a repetition of your signal. Usually the effect is referred to as an echo when it produces a distant repetition of your signal. A delay is more versatile and can repeat from milliseconds to seconds.

Distortion / overdrive / fuzz

These are effects that distort your signal. Distortions, overdrives and fuzzes have many similarities. For example, an overdrive can quickly resemble a distortion.
An undistorted note has a 'perfect' sine as a signal; so with deflecting buds. A distortion ensures that these buds are cut horizontally (hard clipping). As a result, information about the signal is lost, resulting in a raw sound, often heard in rock and metal.
An overdrive is a variation of this: instead of the tops being cut, they are compressed (soft clipping). This compression does not necessarily lead to signal loss. The clipping process is more gradual with the buds still having a certain deflection and therefore better retains the character of the guitar. This sound simulates distorted tubes and is widely used in blues, metal, but also as an extra boost for a solo. Finally, there are also fuzzes. This is the most severe form of overload, in which the sine changes towards a square wave. This means that a lot of information is lost, but a buzzing, humming sound is created, as if there are holes in your speaker. This effect has become popular with guitar legends such as Hendrix and Page.

Equalizer

An Equalizer (or EQ) is simply a volume knob per frequency. It is therefore possible to determine per pitch whether it should be amplified or attenuated so that the sound is best in the mix.

Flanger

A flanger was created by holding a finger on the edge (flange) of one of the two old-fashioned tape recorders. This created a small difference in speed between the two tracks, making a kind of "swoosh" audible. The process is very similar to how a chorus is created and is sometimes produced in one effect.

Multi Effect

As the name suggests, these are effect pedals that incorporate multiple effects. This varies from a few effects to real 'all-rounders' and everything in between. Here 1 chip can control the entire device, or the effects pedal consists of a number of separate circuits that are placed in 1 housing.

Phaser

A phaser provides a phase rotation of the sound. The signal is split, an amount of degrees (eg 90 degrees: MXR Phase 90) turned out of phase, and returned to the original signal. This extinguishes certain frequencies in the spectrum, making a reciprocating sound audible. This sound is used in reggae, but also by van Halen and even Daft Punk.

Reverb

The reverb is essentially not much different from a delay or echo. Originally, a reverb is an effect that used a spring (spring reverb) or metal plates (platereverb) which started to resonate. This creates a spacious reverb effect that makes the sound just a bit thicker.

Wah wah

This pedal creates a "human voice" effect, sounding like "wah wah". A filter "sweeps" through the frequency range with foot control emphasizing the corresponding pitches. This effect is easy to combine with a distortion / overdrive / fuzz, as can be heard with solos by Metallica and Hendrix.

Tips

Consider how many effects you will use. Do you mainly use distortion? Then a multi-effect is probably exaggerated. A separate pedal is designed for that one effect and will therefore have more possibilities in this area. On the other hand, a multi-effect is also useful to experiment with new sounds, or to replace your entire row of separate effects. Keep in mind that the quality of the sound may be less. A high-quality effect costs more, but generally sounds better / more versatile.