Writing your own music is, by far, one of the most satisfying things one can do in life. And a huge portion of guitar players, whether they’re professionals or amateurs, spends a lot of time jamming and making their own music pieces. However, it’s always a huge bummer when you get stuck in the middle of the writing process of this amazing idea you have and you just don’t know what to do with it. Or, another issue that you might stumble upon, is realizing that all your songs and solos sound the same. If that’s the case, it seems that you need a bit of inspiration to get your juices flowing.
While inspiration can be found in many places, it is not uncommon for guitar players to seek the cure in new pieces of gear, especially effect pedals. And the weirder they get, the more inspiration guitarists get. Now, calling some pedals “weird”, it’s not meant as a derogatory description but rather a positive one. It’s about these unconventional yet eargasmic tones that they create, which ultimately spark new songwriting ideas. What’s more, just a slight tweak of certain knobs can sometimes make a world of difference and let you explore new horizons with these pieces of gear. Just like with those old school analog synthesizers.
So if you’re suffering from the songwriter’s block, here are some of those weird guitar pedals that you might want to check out.
Find these pedals and more on SamAsh.com!
Looking like some complex EQ pedal, the 8-Step Program by Electro-Harmonix is a pretty exciting pedal to use. For those who don’t know, a step sequencer doesn’t really do anything on its own but rather controls the parameters of some of your other pedals. Similar to an expression pedal, the only thing here is that there is no gradual movement. You basically “program” certain steps by tweaking the knobs of a sequencer, and these steps are then repeated on a loop. Sequencers are often used by keyboard players and synth enthusiasts, although you’ll find them on pedalboards of guitar players as well.
The one we’re talking about here has 8 steps but also features some other controls. “Rate” controls the speed, “glide” determines how steps glide from one to another, and there’s also a “tap” control that lets you set your own tempo.
Sequencers take some time to get a hang of and you’d need some patience reading the manual and researching what they can do, but there’s a whole new world of possibilities when you manage to wrap your mind around it. Of course, the effect that you plan to control with this sequencer needs to have an expression pedal input. Something like an auto/dynamic wah or a more complex chorus, phaser, flanger, or a delay.
While tremolo pedals might not seem as exciting compared to some other pedals out there, the ZVex Super Seek Trem takes the effect to a whole new level. What makes it so special is the fact that you can make some pretty unusual rhythmic patterns.
If you’re seriously into polyrhythmic rock music, this is a pedal that will certainly spark some new ideas. Aside from the standard tremolo effect controls, the Super Seek Trem by ZVex has some additional features that allow you to do some patterns that you’d be able to do with a sequencer. At the same time, there is a MIDI sync option, so you can sync it up with some of the old projects you have in your DAW.
Pitch shifting is another effect that might inspire you to drive your songwriting process in another direction. However, EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine might come in handy for those who are fond of making weird noises.
With its controls, you can tweak the frequency of the second tone that you’re adding to the mix, anything between a lower 4th to a higher major third. It’s kind of difficult to explain what sounds you’re able to get out of it, so you’d need to hear one in action yourself.
Aside from the input and output, there is an option to connect it with an expression pedal. Or – maybe even more exciting – a sequencer like the one we mentioned above. Just imagine what you could do with these two connected together.
Another peculiar pedal by EarthQuaker Devices (a lot of stuff they make is weird), this Data Corrupter is as crazy as its name would suggest. It’s technically a monophonic analog harmonizing Phase Locked Loop and it essentially distorts your signal and amplifies it additionally, ultimately creating some weird fuzzy “square” tones with additional harmonies.
Although it has so many different controls, whatever you do to them, you’ll manage to create something new and interesting. The possibilities are almost endless with this one.
EarthQuaker Devices’s Data Corrupter gets bonus points in your book if you’re a fan of the old school 8-but gaming music.
Malekko Heavy Industry Charlie Foxtrot Digital Buffer/Granular Signature Peter Holmstrom Guitar Effects Pedal
Now we’re getting into some really weird and uncanny territories. Charlie Foxtrot by Malekko is described as a digital buffer/granular effect that features manual and auto capture of your guitar’s signal. There are six controls in total: buffer size, repeat duration, mix (blend), threshold, level, and one more switch that picks between different pitch modes. One interesting mode that you can pick from is the “random” mode where the pitch is altered randomly in both directions and at different speeds. The parameters on Charlie Foxtrot can also be controlled via an external expression pedal.
While this pedal might seem confusing, it comes really in handy if you want to create a spooky sounding intro of a song played on clean guitar. If you’re feeling like you have a good idea for a song that needs a solid introduction to all the heavy riffs you wrote, maybe Charlie Foxtrot can be of some assistance.
Echo/delay pedals on their own can really spark one’s imagination, especially if you use longer delay times in a way that you would use a looper pedal. Or, even better, you can harmonize with the repeated sound, making your improvised solos and jam sessions more exciting.
However, add a few more things to the mix, and the possibilities become endless. Let’s take Chase Bliss Audio Thermae for example, which is an analog delay and a pitch shifter in one unit. What’s more, this is an analog pedal, which means that your signal is not digitally altered in any way.
This can be a standard delay, with a warmer sound compared to other standard units you’ll find on the market. But with the pitch shift feature, you can easily replicate the vintage tape-based delays from the good old days. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can go nuts and just create sounds never before heard in the guitar world.
One of a kind delay with lots of features that would require an article on its own to explain all the possibilities that lie within this unit.
We all remember DigiTech’s famous classic Whammy pedal which essentially served as a tool that helped revolutionize rock music. And since our planet is in need of a new Tom Morello or Jack White to bring things to a whole new level in the genre, maybe you can be the next to lead the revolution by implementing something like the company’s Whammy Ricochet.
The design and the looks of it are definitely a throwback to the old famous Whammy. It’s basically like the old pedal without the rocking part. Instead, you use the knobs and controls on it to achieve a similar effect. The pedal’s switch can either be in latched or momentary operation, giving you the option to see what suits you more. There are seven different intervals that you can choose from and an additional switch that determines whether the pitch will go up or down. The two “Ballistics” knobs allow you to set the rate at which this target note will be reached and the rate at which the pitch will return to the original note.
This wonderful pedal is rounded up with one great looking LED indicator, consisting of nine individual lights.
It seems that EarthQuaker Devices has an abundance of products that can fit this list. Another weird one that we’d recommend for the songwriting inspiration is their Arpanoid V2 pedal which is, in its essence, an arpeggiator. Yeah, it creates arpeggios for you, although not the classic lightning-speed heavy metal sweep picking ones that you would expect when you hear the word “arpeggio”.
Although a weird one, the Arpanoid V2 is pretty simple to use, which is great even for players who don’t have much experience with such unconventional pedals. There are separate controls for dry and wet signals instead of the typical mix or “blend” knobs. Then, in the center, there is a switch where you can pick from 8 different modes of minor and major arpeggios. Especially exciting are two modes that do random patterns of major and minor arpeggios. All you need to do to create this chaos is to play the root note.
In addition, there is a “rate” control which sets the speed of the sequence, and there’s also a “step” feature that determines how far will the sequence go. In addition to all these goodies, there’s a switch that allows you to choose whether this sequence will go up, down, or back and forth.
Now, this is a particularly weird one, which was probably the main goal for Electro-Harmonix when they designed it. The Mod Rex has four separate sections – Trem, Mod, Filter, and Pan. The Mod section is interesting since it allows you to choose between flanger, chorus, vibrato, and phaser effects. The Pan also makes it really interesting since it gives some amazing stereo and mono possibilities.
But, as its name suggests, the pedal also has some polyrhythmic features to mess around with. Each of the aforementioned four sections can individually be controlled with the “Tempo” feature, which gives you nine different note-length choices. Just imagine what kind of a divine King Crimson-styled prog rock bliss you can create with the Mod Rex. And as if all these features weren’t enough, you can sync the pedal using an external MIDI device.
Although really fun to use, the pedal is best suited for more advanced players who already know a thing or two about these kinds of effects.
Boss is a company respected for its high quality of guitar pedals. While they usually make conventional (but great, nonetheless) effects, there are some odd and inspiring pieces of gear they came up with over the years. One of those is definitely their VO-1 Vocoder.
If you’re into talk boxes, you’re definitely going to love Vocoder. Literally giving your guitar a voice, this pedal, in combination with a microphone, lets you do a lot of stuff. Aside from the level and blend controls, there is also tone, color, and a separate switch for four different modes of operation. The color knob works with certain parameters depending on what mode is selected.
As for the modes, there are vintage, advanced, talk box, and choir. The “choir” is pretty interesting as it adds additional voices that match your playing and can also be used without a microphone plugged into the pedal. The Vocoder also features an FX loop with send/return jacks and it’s recommended that you plug the rest of your effects inside this loop.
In case you have that melody that’s stuck in your head for a while, why not try singing it and playing it at the same time using the VO-1?
There was just no way not to mention a looper pedal on a list like this one. But with a company like Pigtronix, you get more than just an ordinary looper. Called Infinity, it’s fairly simple yet it shows a lot of versatility.
All the basic features are there – playback, overdub, undo/redo, plus you get the stereo operation for the pedal’s two loops and great recording quality. But all the excitement comes with the usage of sync modes. Or, even better, playing the two loops with the sync feature turned off which allows you to make two loops that intersect in continually changing ways. Just imagine what kind of polyrhythmic wonders you’ll be able to make.
In case you do decide to get one of these, you’ll need to spend some time researching all of the Infinity’s features and options.
Korg Miku Stomp
Okay, look, this pedal is just so weird that there was no way not to mention it on this list. Although an effect that turns your guitar tone into random syllables of an anime character might sound impossible, the guys over at Korg have come up with the solution. Well, the pedal is based on the Vocaloid’s well-known voicebank called Hatsune Miku.
The pedal is simply hilarious. But not in a bad way, as you’ll have lots of laughs with this piece of gear. It’s so bizarre yet really really fun to use, creating anime-like voices with the melodies of your favorite songs.
It features 11 different lyric patterns and the pedal is based on the lyrics of Japanese song “Senbonzakura”. But at the same time, there’s an option to make your own custom lyrics with the iPhone app.