Must Have Effects Pedals for Country Guitar

Best effects pedals for country guitar

Welcome, fellow six-string wranglers! We’re about to embark on a journey through the wild west of country electric guitar playing. At the heart of our exploration? Pedals – the secret ingredient to our beloved country twang.

Imagine effects pedals as the magic dust that turns our modest guitar licks into bona fide boot-stomping, barn-dance soundtracks. Let’s dive into these little enchantment boxes and why they’re so important for anyone who plays country.

By the end of this article, you’ll know the best country guitar pedals you can get in 2023.

Understanding Country Guitar Pedals

Pedals, my friends, are the control center of your guitar sound. With a foot stomp, they can transform a humble Fender strum into a tone the perfect country tone.

Let’s break down the country pedal trifecta:

  1. Overdrive and Distortion pedals: They add that bit of grit and sizzle, like bacon frying in a cast-iron skillet.
  2. Compressor pedals: These even out your dynamics, ensuring your licks don’t get lost in the crowd.
  3. Reverb pedals: Reverb is the echo in the mountains, the depth that fills a room.

Each of these pedals contributes uniquely to the grand ole opera that is country guitar tone, giving you a voice as unmistakable as a coyote’s howl.

Must-Have Pedals for Country Guitar

Now that we’ve introduced the all-stars, let’s hone in on the best guitar pedals for country. Every country guitarist worth their cowboy boots should have these essential pedals in their arsenal:

Overdrive Pedal

This is your ticket to classic country twang, giving you that “biting” sound as crisp as a fall morning in Nashville.

3 Popular Overdrive Pedals

  1. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer: The TS9 Tube Screamer is an iconic overdrive that’s been found on pedalboards of countless guitarists across genres. Known for its warm, mid-range focused drive, it’s perfect for adding a touch of grit to your tone, pushing an already overdriven amp into saturation, or as a boost for a guitar solo. Its three-knob layout for Overdrive, Tone, and Level makes it easy to dial in your desired sound.
  2. Fulltone OCD: The Fulltone OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drive) offers a different overdrive flavor than the Tube Screamer. It provides a more transparent and full-range drive that responds very well to your guitar’s volume and pick dynamics, making it feel more like an extension of your amp rather than an added effect. The OCD also includes a High Peak/Low Peak switch for added tonal versatility.
  3. Wampler Paisley Drive: Named after country guitar virtuoso Brad Paisley, the Wampler Paisley Drive is tailored to meet the needs of country guitarists. The pedal provides a clear, transparent overdrive that doesn’t mask the character of your guitar or amp. Its unique “mid contour” switch lets you tweak the mid frequencies, making it easier to cut through a mix. The Paisley Drive is perfect for adding a touch of grit or pushing your sound to the edge of breakup.

Compression Pedal

This smooth operator adds sustain and keeps your dynamics in check, no matter how wild the hoedown gets.

3 Popular Compressor Pedals

  1. Keeley Compressor Plus: The Keeley Compressor Plus is one of the most popular compressor pedals on the market, renowned for its transparent sound and versatility. It features controls for Sustain, Level, Blend, and Tone and a single-coil/humbucker toggle, making it adaptable to a wide range of musical styles and gear setups. Its blend control allows for parallel compression, a technique where the dry and compressed signals are mixed together, maintaining dynamics while adding sustain.
  2. MXR M102 Dyna Comp: The MXR M102 Dyna Comp is a classic compressor pedal that’s famous for its simple operation and unique “squish.” With just two knobs for Output and Sensitivity, the Dyna Comp can deliver a wide range of compression effects, from subtle smoothing of dynamics to intense, percussive squash. It’s been a favorite among country guitarists for achieving that characteristic tight, snappy picking sound.
  3. Empress Effects Compressor: The Empress Effects Compressor is a high-end, studio-grade compressor in pedal form. It offers a wide array of controls and features, including Attack, Release, Ratio, and Mix knobs, as well as a side-chain high-pass filter and a toggle switch for different compression modes. This pedal provides transparent, low-noise compression and is perfect for guitarists who want in-depth control over their compression settings.

Delay Pedal

For those moments when you need to paint a soundscape as wide and spacious as the open prairie.

3 Popular Delay Pedals

  1. Boss DD-7 Digital Delay: The Boss DD-7 is a versatile pedal that offers a wide range of delay times, from 50ms to 6.4 seconds. It includes multiple delay modes, such as Analog, Reverse, and Modulated, and a built-in loop function. Its stereo output allows for ping-pong delay effects, and its high-quality digital processing ensures a clean, clear repeat sound.
  2. Strymon TimeLine: The Strymon TimeLine is a powerhouse of a delay pedal, offering 12 distinct delay machines in one unit. From crystal-clear digital delays to warm, tape, and analog delays to unique sound-shaping delays like Ice and Duck, the TimeLine can cover a vast range of sonic territory. With its deep editing capabilities, presets, MIDI control, and built-in 30-second stereo looper, it’s a premium choice for guitarists wanting the ultimate in delay flexibility.
  3. MXR Carbon Copy: The MXR Carbon Copy is an analog guitar effect known for its warm, vintage-style echoes. With a delay time of up to 600ms and optional modulation via a two-knob control, the Carbon Copy can produce everything from slapback echoes to spacious, modulated soundscapes. Its all-analog signal path provides a rich, organic decay characteristic that digital delays often struggle to replicate.

Reverb Pedals

Reverb is the echo in the mountains, the depth that fills a room.

3 Popular Reverb Pedals

  1. Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano: The Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano is a straightforward yet versatile pedal. It features three settings: Spring, Hall, and Flerb (a flanged spatial reverb). The Holy Grail Nano is known for its warm, organic reverb tones, and its simplicity makes it easy to dial in a great sound.
  2. Strymon BigSky: The Strymon BigSky is one of the most feature-packed pedals available. It offers twelve different reverb machines, each with its own unique character, from traditional Room, Plate, and Spring types to more ethereal sounds like Bloom, Cloud, and Shimmer. With extensive sound shaping controls, stereo inputs/outputs, and 300 presets, the BigSky is more like a professional-grade reverb processor than a simple pedal.
  3. TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2: The Hall of Fame 2 by TC Electronic is a versatile and compact pedal that offers a wide range of reverb types, including Room, Hall, Spring, Plate, Church, and more. It features TC’s innovative MASH technology, which turns the footswitch into a pressure-sensitive expression controller, and TonePrint technology, allowing users to beam custom-tuned reverb sounds into the pedal.

Tips for Using Pedals in Country Guitar Playing

Getting the most out of your pedals is a bit like mastering a good country line dance – it’s all about the right moves in the right order. Here are a few tips:

  1. Experiment with different pedal combinations and settings. Try a light touch on the Tube Screamer with a pinch of reverb for a classic, clean country sound.
  2. Understand your amp’s clean tone – it’s the canvas upon which you’ll paint with your pedals. Learn how to tweak the EQ to dial in your sound. 
  3. Be subtle. Just like a dash of hot sauce on your fried chicken, a little pedal can go a long way. Don’t overpower your sound – let the song shine.
  4. Know what sound you’re after. Are you chasing that modern country tone or the sounds of classic country guitar?

Case Study: Famous Country Guitarists and Their Pedal Setups

Ever wondered what’s on the pedalboards of the greats? Let’s take a peek: 

Brad Paisley

With his chicken pickin wizardry and slick songwriting, Brad Paisley has firmly planted his cowboy boots in the annals of country music history. Much like his humor, Paisley’s tone is sharp, tasteful, and immediately recognizable.

A key cornerstone of Paisley’s sound comes from his Wampler Paisley Drive, an overdrive pedal designed specifically for him. This stompbox adds a warm, tube-like drive that can go from a gentle growl to a full-on roar with a twist of a knob. It’s known for its transparency, maintaining the character of the guitar and amp while adding a layer of tasty grit.

Now, what’s a barn dance without a little echo? Brad Paisley uses a delay pedal to add depth to his blistering leads and complex runs. His pedal of choice for delay is the Way Huge Supa-Puss Analog Delay, providing warm, organic repeats.

Another critical part of Paisley’s sound is compression. The Keeley Compressor is a regular feature on his pedalboard, helping to even out the dynamics of his fast, intricate picking patterns and to add sustain to his soulful bends.

Paisley often uses a Z Vex Super Hard On, a boost pedal that can drive his amp a bit harder for those soaring solos without coloring his original tone.

Brad Paisley’s approach to pedals is integral to his signature sound. His rig exemplifies the philosophy of choosing pedals that complement and enhance your playing style and musical expression rather than simply adding effects. Like the seasoned pro he is, Paisley knows that the key to a good pedal setup is understanding how each pedal interacts with the others and how they all work together to shape the final tone. It’s a masterclass in tone crafting, served up with a generous helping of country twang.

Vince Gill

This multi-Grammy award winner, known for his soaring vocals and tasteful guitar licks, has defined and redefined the boundaries of country music over his illustrious career. His tone is a warm, rich blend of classic country twang and contemporary sparkle.

One pedal you’ll frequently find under Vince’s boot is an overdrive pedal. He’s been known to use the Ibanez Tube Screamer, which offers a classic, mid-rich overdrive tone that can add just the right amount of sizzle to your sound without losing the natural characteristics of your guitar and amp.

For added space and dimension, Gill uses the Lexicon PCM42 for his digital delay needs. This rack-mounted unit might not fit on a pedalboard, but it gives him the warm, analog-style delay that’s crucial to his spacious, atmospheric sound.

The Keeley Compressor compression pedal is another essential part of Vince Gill’s setup. Much like a seasoned ranch hand keeps a rowdy herd of cattle in check, the compressor helps keep Vince’s dynamic range balanced, giving his softest passages and most fiery licks an even volume level.

Vince Gill’s approach to pedals is marked by his years of experience and finely tuned ear for tone. He knows that the magic often lies in the subtle interplay of equipment, playing technique, and song context. Vince’s pedalboard is a testament to this philosophy – carefully selecting tools, each playing a vital role in creating his signature sound. As such, it offers a rich source of inspiration for any country guitarist looking to develop their tone.

Keith Urban

Known for his electrifying performances and cross-genre musical sensibilities, Keith Urban has carved a unique path in the country music landscape. His tone spans the gamut from traditional country twang to searing rock influences, and his pedal choices reflect this versatility.

Keith is a fan of overdrive pedals. One of his preferred choices is the classic Ibanez Tube Screamer, which provides that warm, mid-range hued overdrive sound. But he’s also been known to use the Fulltone OCD for when he wants to up the gain for his rockier numbers.

In terms of modulation, Urban has been seen using the TC Electronic Dreamscape, a multifaceted pedal that provides a plethora of chorus, flanger, and vibrato effects. This allows him to add depth and movement to his tone, whether it’s a subtle shimmer or a thick, pulsating warble.

Keith relies on the ethereal soundscapes provided by the Strymon BigSky for reverb. This powerful pedal gives him access to a wide range of reverb types, from the naturalistic ambiance of room and plate reverbs to the dreamy decay of shimmer reverb.

Urban’s pedalboard also features the Eventide H9, a multi-effects unit that includes a range of top-tier effects from delay and modulation to pitch-shifting and more. Its versatility and high-quality algorithms make it a potent tool in Keith’s sonic arsenal.

Keith Urban’s pedalboard reflects his broad musical influences and innovative spirit. His setup isn’t strictly traditional or conventional by country standards, but that’s part of what makes his sound so distinctive. Keith Urban’s pedal use offers a treasure trove of inspiration for guitarists looking to blend country tones with a wider palette of sounds.

Brent Mason

Renowned for his intricate fingerpicking and smooth hybrid picking style, Brent Mason’s name is synonymous with Nashville’s session scene. This Grammy-winning axeman has contributed to over a thousand albums and has played alongside country giants such as George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Shania Twain, to name just a few.

Mason’s signature sound, often called the “Nashville sound,” is heavily shaped by his meticulous use of pedals. His pedalboard is a veritable laboratory of tone-tweaking tools, and while he may use a wider range of pedals than some country players, each serves a distinct purpose.

A key pedal in his setup is the Wampler Hot Wired, a versatile overdrive/distortion pedal designed specifically for Mason. This pedal offers two channels that can be used independently or stacked, providing a range of tones from warm overdrive to rich, tube-like distortion. It’s essential to Mason’s toolkit, helping him achieve his signature sound.

Additionally, Brent often uses a compressor, such as the Keeley 4 Knob Compressor, to add sustain and balance out his fingerpicked licks, ensuring each note rings out clear and true.

His choice of delay, such as the Boss DD-2, is also noteworthy. Brent uses delay tastefully to add depth and dimension to his tone rather than swamping his sound in echo. It’s another example of his finely tuned approach to pedals.

In short, Brent Mason is a maestro of the pedalboard. His choices reflect his deep understanding of tone and texture and his ability to use pedals as effects and integral components of his musical voice. Brent Mason’s setup offers a masterclass in pedal use and selection for any country guitarist looking to delve into the world of pedals.

These legends show that finding the right combination of pedals can become an integral part of your unique country sound.

Buying pedals for country guitar

When embarking on the quest for the perfect pedal setup for country guitar, it’s important to remember the types of pedals you need and where you might find the best deals. New pedals can typically be found on Amazon, which often offers competitive prices and a large selection from various manufacturers. The only downside is can’t try the pedals out in person. 

However, don’t overlook the used market when shopping for pedals. Retailers like Reverb and eBay are excellent platforms to find used pedals that are often still in great condition but at a fraction of the cost of a new unit. Buying used can also allow you to find discontinued models or vintage pedals with unique tones not found in modern units. 

As always, ensure you buy from reputable sellers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the pedal’s condition. 

Best Pedals For Country Guitar Tone Conclusion

Pedals, my friends, are the unsung heroes of the country and western guitar world. They’re the salt that brings out the flavor, the yeast that lets the dough rise, and the secret handshake that takes you from a bar room player to a blazing country guitar barnstormer.

Remember, the world of pedals is vast and full of wonders. So don’t be shy – experiment, play around, find the combination that speaks to your soul. After all, country music is about authenticity and telling your story. So go on, find your tone, assemble your pedal board, and let your guitar sing its heart out. Yeehaw!

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