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Best Guitar Pedals for Indie Rock Musicians

Indie rock musicians have long been known for their distinct and unconventional sounds, distinguishing themselves from their classic rock counterparts with their creative use of effects and tone. Pedals are a big contributor to that uniqueness, especially when it comes to guitars.

The post “A Day in the Recording Studio of an Indie Musician” notes that losing yourself in the studio can be easy. However, it can be easy to get bored of your own music when you listen to it repeatedly, and that can be a danger to your process. Instead of getting caught in your own head, why not try making use of your pedals’ functions to give your guitar’s sound that extra ‘oomph’ that can bring fun to your track?

Here are some of the best ones to try out on your indie rock record:

JHS Colour Box

An essential yet often overlooked pedal when it comes to creating a signature sound is the preamp pedal. It’s meant to amplify the signal from your guitar to ‘line level’ before sending it to the power amp so the EQ can shape it. They offer more tonal possibilities and great sound consistency, perfect for experimenting with your own unique sound and tone. The JHS Colour Box is a favorite for countless indie rock artists thanks to its EQ, overdrive, distortion, and fuzz capabilities that give a guitar sound a crunchy, compressed, and punchy quality, akin to a Vintage Neve Preamp’s sound.

Indie singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco has made the JHS Colour Box a big part of his arsenal of pedals for overdrive tones. It’s a go-to whenever he wants to add a ‘minor crunch’ to his sound, contributing to his warbly, surreal take on the indie rock genre.

Dunlop’s Billy Duffy Cry Baby

Wah-wah pedals are a great way to boost guitar solos through their ability to shift frequencies through the oscillation of the pedal from heel to toe or low to high, creating the ‘wah’ or ‘wow’ effect when playing. It adds a distinctive and fun tone with a lot of character to your guitar sound, which is why it’s a favorite and first-choice pedal for many indie rock artists. One of the most well-known and iconic names when it comes to wah-wah pedals is Dunlop. In particular, Dunlop’s Billy Duffy Cry Baby packs two wahs into one pedal, allowing you to switch between classic and modern sounds as you see fit. Its auto-return switching function lets you step in and out during solos and riffs.

To hear a wah-wah pedal in action, check out Stephen Malkmus’ solo on Jo Jo’s Jacket, and listen for that expressive ‘wah’ sound, which closely resembles a kitten’s meow, fitting right in with the music video visuals.

EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter

A harmonizer pedal is integral for adding depth and texture to your sound. When you plug it into your signal chain, it duplicates the input signal, creating harmony in your melodies. This effects pedal gives your sound a thicker quality to it. EarthQuaker Devices have shown up fairly recently to the scene, but their handmade effects pedals, including harmonizer pedals, have become a staple for many indie rock guitarists. The EarthQuaker Devices Data Corrupter can be found on many of these artists’ pedalboards, as the guitar’s input signal is multiplied, divided and modulated to create a three-voice synthesizer. It’s great for fun and creative synth and fuzz effects that allow you to add some personality to your tone.

Lindsey Jordan, better known as Snail Mail, uses a lot of EarthQuaker Devices pedals like the Data Corrupter regularly to mix up her guitar playing. She utilizes it to make her sound cleaner and synth-like or changes it up to give it more noise.

Article contributed by Romy Jane
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