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Top 9 Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners In 2021 Review & Buying Guide

Where do you start with this one? Before you even begin to think about the best guitar pedals for beginners, you need to consider a number of things.

In the last decade, we have seen the emergence of the ‘boutique pedal.’ But even before then, there were many to choose from. Different sounds, different applications, they all did a variety of things. Dozens of manufacturers for each type. A decision-making nightmare.

So much to choose from…

Beginners going into the guitar effects shops are a lot like a kid going into a candy store, looking at everything there, and wanting half of it. But there is something to remember.

If you think that buying a certain pedal, you are automatically going to sound like ‘Dutch’ Eddie or Mark Knopfler. Or maybe Jeff Beck, Dave Gilmour or Steve Vai or a few dozen others, you’ve got it wrong.

We deliberately did not include Mr. Hendrix from Seattle on that list. No one could sound like that. We are not sure even he knew how he sounded like that. He just did.

You are the solution…

Effect pedals are tools; they are not the solution. You are the solution. The pedal will only be as good as you are. Just like guitars and basses, pedals have different timbres, balances, and sounds. It is what you do with the sound. Not what the sound will do to you.

Just bear this in mind. Some of the greatest music that has ever been heard was made without or with very few pedals.

But given that you are going to get one, where do you start? We have our own opinions about what is most important. But more on that later.

In the meantime, let’s have a look at some of the Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners. Welcome to the candy shop…

Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners

Top 9 Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners On The Market In 2021 Reviews

  1. Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal – Most Durable Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  2. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer – Classic – Best Value for Your Money Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  3. Pro-co RAT 2 WHITE “IKEBE 40th Anniversary” Distortion pedal – Best Distortion Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  4. BOSS Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal – Best Premium Pedal for Beginners
  5. Dunlop Crybaby GCB-95 Classic Wah Pedal – Best Vintage Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  6. Ibanez Analog Delay Mini Pedal – Best Mini Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  7. Digitech Whammy Ricochet Mini Pitch Guitar Effect Pedal – Best Luxury Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  8. Mooer Eleclady, classic analog Flanger – Best Budget Guitar Pedal for Beginners
  9. Electro Harmonix Small Stone Nano Analog Phase Shifter – Most Versatile Guitar Pedal for Beginners

1 Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal – Most Durable Guitar Pedal for Beginners

This is not a bad place to start. With overdrive and distortion that is best described as crushing. This pedal has been with us for a long time. We can remember it in the 70s, with guitarists buying it and not knowing how to control it. And you do have to control it, or it will bite off your hand.

It produces a serious distortion, or as we used to call it, a ‘fuzz sound.’ But is it a good pedal to put in the hands of a beginner? Let’s find out.

Art of the fuzz…

The art of controlling this is centered on just three knobs on top of the pedal. If you can use them wisely, you will create some epic sounds. The tone control will take you from a shattering lead guitar tone through heavy chords to warm overdrive. And everything in-between.

Sustain will do as it says on the tin, but it is a little bit more than just sustain. It enhances the harmonic distortion creating a sound many have copied.

It is fair to say that this pedal may have been messed about with more than any other. Remodeled, re-issued, re-designed, rebuilt, there are five main versions. The most popular is the NYC Big Muff, or as it is known in its micro form today, the ‘Nano Big Muff.’

Missing the mids…

It has its critics, though. The biggest drawback, according to some, is what is referred to as the ‘big mid scoop.’ There is an interesting natural profile to the EQ that means the mids go missing, and therefore so do you.

As we said, it is about learning how to use the controls. Plus, the controls on the guitar and the amp. It is also about personal preference. If you like the basic sound and work at getting it right, there is little else with the same impact. Get it right, and you will see.

Like all Electro-Harmonix pedals, it is well built and stands a lot of punishment. It is a standard size measuring 2.75 by 3.45 by 5.75 inches.

One heck of an intro to effects pedals…

There are a lot of players that have used this pedal. Most of the best at one time or another. It has been a fixture of the sound of rock music since those 70s days, when it bit a few people.

A great place to start when looking at great pedals. Set at what is a very reasonable price point. It runs off a nine-volt battery but has an optional mains supply that is not included.

So, is it a good pedal for a first-timer?

Of course, it is, but you have to control it.

For more great Fuzz options, check out our review of the Best Fuzz Pedals.

Electro-Harmonix Nano Big Muff Guitar Distortion Effects Pedal
Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Pros

  • Big overdrive sounds with plenty of variety.
  • Well-built and fitted with easy to understand controls.

Cons

  • Some do not like the mid scoop.

2 Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer – Classic – Best Value for Your Money Guitar Pedal for Beginners

Oh dear, this is not going to be easy, is it? From one legendary pedal to another. The Tube Screamer from Ibanez is another legend. It was originally created to replicate the sound of a hard-driven tube amp. Does this recreate that vintage sound? Let’s see.

A living legend…

The original Tube Screamer TS808 was a late 70s pedal. It was updated a little and re-issued as the TS9 Tube Screamer in 1981. Basically, it is the same but sounded a little brighter. It was manufactured until 1985.

It achieved legendary status with many guitarists building their sound on its heavy accentuated mid-range. In many ways, it was the antithesis of the NYC Big Muff, which lacked mid-range power. This was overflowing with it. Both camps had their supporters.

This particular model is a re-issue of the TS9. It was always one of the most copied and imitated pedals with its classic overdrive distortion. Ibanez has gone to extraordinary lengths to recreate it.

True to its roots…

It is finished in the same color that was fondly referred to as ‘seasick green.’ They use the same housing and the same components as were used on the originals.

They even make it in the same factory. So, it is not too much of a surprise that they have got the sound just right.

So what are its strengths?

The first thing to note is what it was famous for and what we have already mentioned. The accented mids. The guitar with this behind it never gets lost in the mix. But it is also a very versatile pedal generating a wide variety of sounds.

Is an overdrive or distortion pedal going to be on your list? Then this pedal would have to be considered as one of the best for beginners. It can fit everything from Blues to Metal and most things in between. But the plus points don’t end there.

Turning the drive down and increasing the level allows it to function as a boost. A lot of guitarists used this idea to kick in when they needed a bit extra, such as for a solo. It has three basic looking controls but don’t let that fool you. It is full of sound options.

Let’s go a stage further…

If you happen to have a tube amp and use the boost idea through it, you are in for a shock. What you will get is tube amp overdrive heaven.

It is a standard size, but that’s about the only thing standard about this pedal. Set at a great price point.

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic
Our rating:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Pros

  • Great vintage pedal with a strong build.
  • Stunning overdrive with a variety of tones.

Cons

  • Boosted mids don’t suit everyone.

3 Pro-co RAT 2 WHITE “IKEBE 40th Anniversary” Distortion pedal – Best Distortion Guitar Pedal for Beginners

“The Beat Goes on,” and so do legendary pedal names. All of them with a trademark sound. No need to introduce this beast. However, there is something you do need to be aware of with this particular model.

As we mentioned, this is another pedal considered a classic. This is a reincarnation and the 40th Anniversary version. Furthermore, this had a particularly hard sound that encouraged other manufacturers to copy it.

Hard distortion…

It is not what you might call a ‘softer’ distortion if there is such a thing. The Tube Screamer, for example, might be termed that. This was full-on. A much harder, punchy sound. If you play through a tube amp, there is a certain amount of ‘dirt’ already. So you might have to reign this in a bit. It has a reputation for being quite hostile.

Let’s not give the impression that this pedal is a ‘one-trick’ pony. It is far from that. It has a variety of sound options. But they are all delivered with a hard edge.

Versatile…

One big positive with this pedal is that it can operate in either high or low gain settings. You do not lose the basic sound and timbre of the pedal by taking a bit off the top.

One thing to note is that it is a bit larger than most others. It measures 4.69 by 4.57 by 3.43 inches. A ‘big-box’ pedal. Its metal construction makes it a tough cookie. Three basic knobs and a stomp switch make up the controls.

Something to consider…

There are a number of RAT models on the market. And this particular pedal, good as it is, comes in at about twice the price of some of the others.

Just something to consider if you are thinking about a glorious RAT pedal.

Pro-co RAT 2 WHITE IKEBE 40th Anniversary Distortion pedal
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Pros

  • Powerful, rough distortion sounds with a hard edge.
  • Strong build with easy to use controls.

Cons

  • Some may not like the timbre of the distortion.
  • Black versions are a lot cheaper than the 40th Anniversary White edition.

4 BOSS Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal – Best Premium Pedal for Beginners

And so we move away from the overdrive and noisy things to another sound to consider. The BOSS Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal DD3T is a classic of its time. And must be considered as one of the Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners.

It was first given to us by those Japanese masters of sound creation in 1986. Since then, it has become ‘the’ classic delay sound.

Why do we say that?

There is a myriad of digital delays. Some are really great pedals with excellent sounds and extra built-in features. But the DD-3 from Boss has evolved whilst still maintaining its signature sound. This is an updated version.

It still retains its ‘you can run over it with a truck toughness.’ Keeping its design and its formidable foot control switch. And it is still easy to use, but this version has added a ‘tap-in’ tempo facility.

To allow an easy and quick set up, the delays of 12.5 to 800 milliseconds are split into three separate ranges. There is also a setting to create loops. On the original DD3, this was achieved with a ‘hold’ function.

Convenient to connect…

The main and the direct output sockets are now located on one side of the pedal. And there is a direct output so that you can send wet and dry sounds to different amplifiers.

It maintains its nice sound with no rough edges and sits comfortably in most environments. Additionally, it has a ‘chime’ delay sound that has become part of the folklore of this pedal.

The choice of champions…

It would be easier to list the names of guitar players who have not used this pedal at some point. Some still do. This is the latest reincarnation of a formidable digital delay, with just a few extra features thrown in.

The sound, the ease of use, the robust build all contribute to why this pedal sets the standard for the others to follow. And is why it has become the ‘classic’ digital delay sound.

Quality comes at a cost…

And no, it is not cheap. But you need to consider what you are getting for the price. A great pedal for a beginner or for the pro.

For more superb Digital Delay options, take a look at our reviews of the Best Digital Delay Pedals currently on the market.

BOSS Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Pros

  • One of the great delay pedals with outstanding sound.
  • Easy to use and robust build.

Cons

  • Some might think it expensive.

5 Dunlop Crybaby GCB-95 Classic Wah Pedal – Best Vintage Guitar Pedal for Beginners

And still, it goes on. Another pedal. Another classic. This time the inimitable wah pedal. The wah is found on the pedalboards of most players, and this is possibly the best-known version.

A bit of history…

And not detracting from the quality of this pedal, there is some misunderstanding about it. Dunlop didn’t invent or create it. They even ‘acquired’ the name, shall we say. And Hendrix used something else at first, not the Dunlop version.

What he used was a Vox design inside a Thomas organ volume pedal. Given to him through Jim Marshall and Mitch, his drummer. Jimi tried to make it work on a few European gigs. But he couldn’t coordinate it with his fuzz sound.

He achieved that in the Marshall shop in West London in about 1966. After he had returned from some gigs in Europe. However, Vox and Thomas Organ didn’t patent it. Dunlop took advantage and labeled their pedal with the name.

Modeled on masters…

We don’t think Hendrix ever played through a Cry Baby. He had his own pedal designer, Roger Mayer, even in the early days. But Dunlop did a good job of copying the sound he created.

None of this matters to most, of course. Although it might have to Vox at the time. The pedal became a legend. And as with other legends, it is easier to name those who haven’t used one.

A classic effect…

If you are going to get a wah pedal, then this is probably the one to go for. It will give you that classic wah sound. But it will also allow you the room to create new sounds.

It is well-built from heavy-duty die-cast metal and runs off a nine-volt battery or an AC adapter. It does take up a bit of room if you are putting it on a pedalboard as it measures 10.00 x 4.00 x 2.50 inches.

A true legend…

A classic pedal and classic sound that fits a wide variety of styles. Not expensive considering what it is. You think Wah, and most people think Cry Baby. Quite right too.

Need more Wah options, no problem, they are all in our Best Wha Pedals review.

Dunlop Crybaby GCB-95 Classic Wah Pedal
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Pros

  • Legendary sound.
  • Tough, long-lasting build at an attractive price point.

Cons

  • Certainly a great pedal, but for the first pedal, there may be others more necessary.

6 Ibanez Analog Delay Mini Pedal – Best Mini Guitar Pedal for Beginners

Another pedal from Ibanez and another piece of quality equipment. This is a no-frills Delay that provides you with some interesting features. It is a ‘mini’ sized pedal measuring 3.75 by 1.80 by 2.10 inches. Not going to take up too much room on a pedalboard.

It is quite possible that the starter getting their first pedals may not have a pedalboard. And if they do, there won’t be much on it. The size of the pedal becomes less of a problem to the beginner.

Easy to use…

The controls are neatly placed and are a size that is easy to use. The larger control knob is the delay time. There is also a repeat control and a blend. The jack sockets are on either side of the pedal.

It has a strong build and has a robust stomp switch. There is true bypass included making sure there are no tonal changes through the chain when it is turned off.

Interesting features…

Well, interesting to some. The signal path on this pedal is purely analog. An all analog-sounding pedal is a plus if you like those sounds. It will give you short sharp as well as longer echoes. This utilizes the delay times of 20ms to 600ms.

There are plenty of delay possibilities from this little pedal. But, it does not have as many options as a digital delay, which might be its only drawback. It is darker sounding, and the delays drop off in a different way to digital, which many players prefer.

Quality delay comes at a quality price…

However, it is not a cheap option. No battery options; it is mains only. It takes a 9 volt supply, but the adapter is not included.

Looking for more excellent Analogue Delay options? Then check out our review of the Best Analog Delay Pedals you can buy.

Ibanez Analog Delay Mini Pedal
Our rating:4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

Pros

  • A compact pedal that has a strong build.
  • Pure 100% analog sound.

Cons

  • Doesn’t have the options level of a digital delay, and it is quite expensive.

7 Digitech Whammy Ricochet Mini Pitch Guitar Effect Pedal – Best Luxury Guitar Pedal for Beginners

The Digitech Whammy pedal brought a whole new sound to the game in 1989. A Pitch Shifter in pedal form. We are not sure that this pedal should be the first choice as a beginner’s pedal. There may be other pedals that will contribute more everyday use.

Having said that, this is a great pedal that solved a big problem at the time, which we’ll deal with soon.

A compact copy…

This is a mini version of the original. It has a basic design change that, in our view, has made it a better pedal than its larger cousin. The design is better because it takes up far less room on the pedalboard. That was always an issue with the original, but not anymore. This measures just 4.75 by 2.88 by 1.75 inches.

No more large treadles. You operate it with a footswitch that distributes a delayed action on the note or chord.

Loaded with options…

The controls are all conveniently located, and it is easy to set up your own settings. Dive-bombing was never easier. It has seven-pitch intervals to choose from, and there is a range control. That will give you a lot of opportunities to bend a few tones around, exactly how you want to.

It will bend the pitch to two octaves either below or above the note or chord played. As we said, this is controlled by the footswitch with its momentary delay. To get the sound exactly right, there is a Return time and Shift control.

Dedicated tone and signal quality…

You can either do it off the cuff as you are playing or use the latching switch. This will lock the fall and rise of pitch according to your settings. It has true bypass to ensure you keep your tone clean through the chain.

Another great feature is the addition of LED lighting that displays the trajectory of the pitch bend. This is a real-time visual display of what is going on. All controls are located conveniently on top.

What problem did this pedal solve?

Well, we all know the sound benefits of the ‘whammy bar’ on guitars. It gave us sound options. The downside was that if used regularly and aggressively, it often de-tuned the guitar.

This solves that problem completely. You can create a similar, but not exactly, the same sound. But the tuning stays in place.

As we said, a good pedal to own but probably not the first a beginner might choose. Especially given its price, which is not cheap.

Digitech Whammy Ricochet Mini Pitch Guitar Effect Pedal
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

Pros

  • A mini version of a well-known pedal.
  • Has some good new features built-in.

Cons

  • Very expensive for what might be considered a luxury item.

8 Mooer Eleclady, classic analog Flanger – Best Budget Guitar Pedal for Beginners

Mooer might not be the first name you think of when thinking about effects pedals. In many ways, they are like Donner pedals. And there is even a little of the Behringer in them. They are based in China, and they make some good stuff. And it is always priced very competitively.

Perfect for a small pedalboard…

Mooer is especially known for its mini and micro pedals. The Mooer Eleclady classic analog flanger is a good example. It measures just 1.75 by 4.25 by 2.25 inches. The casing is made from metal, and it has a strong footswitch.

To complete the structure, there are ¼ inch input and output jack sockets on either side of the pedal. This is a mains pedal only, no batteries.

An ideal introduction…

In many ways, this is the ideal first pedal for someone looking for a flanger. It is basic and simple to understand, having just three controls. The Rate, Range, and the Color allow you to create the sounds by applying certain amounts of each.

For those old enough to remember, it will give you that classic flanger sound that defined the early psychedelic period. An analog memory if you like.

Style, substance, and simplicity…

There are two modes of basic sound. The Normal is a gentle sweep so reminiscent of the era. The Filtered sound much more deep, dark, and dramatic. It has a true bypass.

This really is an impressive little pedal considering its price point. It is solid and well-made and generates some great sounds. As a flanger, it should be considered as one of the Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners.

A sound from the past…

The sounds are very retro in many ways, but for the flanger, that was what it was all about. It will certainly flash you back to those early Pink Floyd Days.

More great sounding Flanger options can be found in our in-depth Best Flanger Pedals review.

Mooer Eleclady, classic analog Flanger
Our rating:4.1 out of 5 stars (4.1 / 5)

Pros

  • A sturdy metal build at an attractive price.
  • Has that delicious early analog flanger sound.

Cons

  • Some people don’t like micro-sized pedals.

9 Electro Harmonix Small Stone Nano Analog Phase Shifter – Most Versatile Guitar Pedal for Beginners

To complete our look at the Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners, we go back to New York and Electro Harmonix, who are a very interesting company.

With the beginner, it might not be the first company you think of, like maybe Boss or MXR. But they are a manufacturer with a sound reputation. Also, a Phase Shifter might not be the first pedal you think of buying. But it certainly has its place, and for some young players, it will be close to the top of the list.

Sweet swirls…

If you are going to buy a Phase Shifter, then there won’t be too many better than this. If you quite like a return to the 70s sounds, does this take us back there? You are about to find out.

This model is a reincarnation of a pedal from one of Electro Harmonix’s ‘purple’ periods. In the 70s, they produced a pedal called the Small Stone. Say hello to its latest version.

Based on a masterpiece…

We had some ‘hands-on’ experience with that ‘70s masterpiece’. It had the sound of a Leslie cabinet. The sound swirling around you in circles. We tried it with a bass guitar, but you lost the bottom end. But it is still a great sound reminiscent of a time.

This pedal is similar with its three-dimensional phasing. That familiar whoosh and sound that seems to emanate all around you.

Easy to tame…

The controls are easy to use and understand. Really there is just the Rate control. This determines the speed of the sweep of the phase. Turn it to increase it to a faster speed.

There is a toggle switch for ‘Color.’ This changes the sound from a more gentle swirl to a more pronounced phasing. It has true bypass. The pedal measures 7.8 by 4.3 by 4.3 inches.

A brilliant recreation…

So does it take us back to those days? The answer is a simple yes. The Phase Shifter might not be some people’s first choice for a pedal. But it recreates a time when it took our breath away with its swirling, surrounding sound.

The Electro Harmonix Small Stone Nano Analog Phase Shifter is a quality return to some great sounds that are still relevant today. Not a cheap option, but worth considering.

Want more options? Our in-depth Best Phaser Pedals review has all you could ever need.

Electro Harmonix Small Stone Nano Analog Phase Shifter
Our rating:4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

Pros

  • Well-built with a strong metal casing and sturdy footswitch.
  • Great swirling ‘Leslie-like’ sounds for the guitar.

Cons

  • Quite expensive.

Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners Buying Guide

Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners Review

There are some situations that could affect which pedal you might buy. That is if you were only going to buy one or two. For instance, if you have a modeling amp, it might negate the reasons for buying overdrive or delay.

But we are going to assume you just have a simple, plain amp with no bells and whistles. Before we get going on what to buy and why we would like to make a couple of points.

The most basic pedal…

On our list, there are no Chorus pedals. Some may consider that an excellent choice. There are also no ‘multi-effect’ pedals. Those that have more than one effect built-in. That could be a good purchase for a pedal for a beginner.

But also not on the list is the pedal we would recommend first. Not exciting, but what would we say a beginner came to us and asked what to buy. Our answer would be a tuner pedal. It does have a certain importance. Boring, aren’t we?

However, we are also going to assume you have made arrangements for tuning. If not, check out our reviews of the Best Guitar Tuners and the Best Clip On Guitar Tuners on the market.

What to get?

Ideally, a player getting a pedal or pedals for the first time is going to probably want two sounds. They will want an overdrive. Of course. But they will probably also want a Digital Delay. Those two sounds alone give you a terrific amount of scope for sound shaping. It is also going to take them closer to the sound of their heroes.

There are some featured in this review. In fact, there are some classic sounds on the list. Pedals that have been used for years by some of the biggest names.

Specialized sounds…

There are, of course, some of what we would call ‘specialist’ sounds – the Wah pedals, the Flangers, the Phase Shifter, and the Pitch Shifter. It may be that whoever is buying those may want to recreate Floyd fifty years after.

Whatever they choose as a beginner, there is some real quality to choose from.

Looking for more superb pedal options?

Then check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Uni Vibe Pedal, the Best Boost Pedal, the Best EQ Pedals, the Best Tremolo Pedals, the Best Looper Pedals for Electric Guitar, and the Best Noise Gate Pedals you can buy in 2021.

What are the Best Guitar Pedals for Beginners?

We are going to break with tradition here and choose two. If only for the reason that we can’t decide which would be most important or effective.

For our first pick, we would pick an overdrive unit, if only because you just have to have one. For that, we would pick the…

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer – Classic

A monumental overdrive pedal that also has a softer side. Almost like it was saying sorry. After it ripped your head off, that is.

The second would have to be a Digital Delay.

And we would pick, yes you’ve guessed it, the…

BOSS Digital Delay Guitar Effect Pedal

Can you have a pedalboard without a Boss pedal? We didn’t think there was such a thing.

And is there a better digital delay than this? We haven’t heard one.

Two monumental pedals, both with a major history, both having influenced endless players and their sounds.

Our choice for the very best of the Best Beginners Guitar Pedals.

Happy effecting.

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About Warren Barrett

Warren has spent nearly half a century (now that's a long time!) as an ink-stained wretch writing for music magazines and websites and has no plans on giving up soon.

He is curious about all types of music and instruments apart from any genre with 'Urban' in the title. He's also not so keen on Plastic Potted Plants, Reality TV, and any movies with Kevin Costner in them.

He lives in Delaware with his wife Wendy and lots of great memories...

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