What Guitar Effects Are Used in Songs?

What Guitar Effects Are Used in Songs?


  • If you hear guitar on a song, likely, you are also hearing an effect of some kind, even with acoustic guitars.
  • Guitar effects are available via guitar pedals, guitar rigs, guitar plugins, and multi-effects units that work on guitars and other instruments. All of these impact the guitar tone in some way. 
  • Popular guitar-playing effects found in songs include reverb, volume pedals, octave pedals, distortion, delay, and compression.

If you are new to the wide world of instrument effects, you may wonder what guitar effects are used in songs. Many of the best guitars, after all, integrate with effects quite nicely, and this carries over into songs. So what exactly are guitar effects, what makes for the best guitar pedals, and what types of effects are commonly found in songs? Keep reading to find out.

What are Guitar Effects?

Before you can pick the best guitar pedals, you need to understand guitar effects. Simply put, a guitar effects pedal transforms signals from the electric guitar pickup into, well, whatever it wants, if you are wondering what a delay pedal does. The signal can get soaked in reverb, more distant, looped, or super crunchy if you are learning how to use distortion pedals.

What Effects are Used in Songs?

If a song has a guitar on it, it is likely to also feature effects. This holds especially true of electric guitars, but even acoustic guitars receive some effects via the digital audio workstation (DAW.) Here are some of the more popular guitar effects you often hear in your favorite tunes.

Distortion Effects

Like that crunchy guitar on your favorite hard rock or metal song? That’s likely a dedicated distortion pedal, plugin, or standalone effects box. Simply put, distortion saturates and overdrives the signal until it breaks up, creating that pleasing, well, sound of distortion. Some guitar amps can be overdriven to create a similar effect without the need for any pedals.

Delay and Echo

If you keep hearing repeating notes or patterns on the guitar as you listen to a favorite song, that is likely due to an abundance of delay and/or echo. This type of guitar effect is available via pedal, guitar stompbox, plugin, and dedicated multi-effects unit. This type of effect allows for subtle echo-enhanced variations all the way to completely drenched soundscapes that alter the sound dramatically.


This is a tough one. Compression is an effect likely found on every guitar track in hit songs, but it is difficult to actually hear. Compressor pedals, plugins, and standalone effects units compress the sound to even out the volume. In other words, it eliminates any spikes in volume that would otherwise ruin the song. There are also many sound-enhancing reasons why engineers rely on this effect type.

Guitar Song Effects FAQs

Why presets and recommended settings can cause more harm than good?

Well, you want to practice restraint whenever adding effects to a guitar track so as to avoid a muddy audio signal and an unusable signal chain.

How do you figure out what guitar effects a song uses? 

Looking to emulate Keith Richards or other famous guitar heroes? Learn what guitar effects are present on any song by, first, actively listening and, next, trying to repeat the sound with your pedals and effects. 

What are the different types of pedals for guitars?

There are so many types available, including overdrive pedals, expression pedals, volume pedals, fuzz pedals, and more. All of these pedals impact the original signal or audio signal to create a new signal chain with enhanced audio. 



“Guitar effect pedals are electronic devices that allow you to alter the sound of your guitar or other musical instruments by manipulating the audio signals.” (source)

TIP: Many digital audio workstations include a bevy of built-in guitar effects, including all of the aforementioned effects types.







Lawrence Bonk
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