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It isn’t always readily apparent, but country music tends to have some of the best guitarists in the game. This might come as a surprise, especially if one assumes that only metal genres are home to technical players.
As you might guess, there are some staple pedals to be found on a country guitarist’s pedalboard. The following pedals will serve any guitarist who is looking to build their own country guitar pedalboard.
MXR Duke Of Tone – Best Overall
You might assume that country guitar consists of primarily clean tones. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, as a somewhat transparent overdrive tends to be the preferred tone for country guitar.
One of the best currently available is the MXR Duke Of Tone (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center). This pedal is actually a collaboration between MXR and the famed boutique pedal maker, Analog Man.
Analog Man’s famed Prince Of Tone overdrive has a massive 4-5 year wait list.
This collaboration is essentially a Prince Of Tone, minus the massively long waiting list requirement. That means you don’t have to wait (or pay) so much to utilize these golden tones yourself.
The Duke Of Tone is much like any other overdrive pedal in its controls. It has parameters for Tone, Volume, and Drive.
However, the Duke Of Tone also has a 3-way switch to change the operating mode between:
This gives you quite a bit more flexibility with regard to the amount of distortion clipping present in the tone. As you might guess, Boost provides the least amount of distortion, while Distortion mode is clipping at full blast.
You’ll certainly be able to use this as a transparent overdrive that cleans up by rolling back the guitar’s volume. Of course, if you need some extra grit, the Duke Of Tone is more than capable of providing it.
If you’re looking for an original Prince Of Tone, the Duke Of Tone makes for a great alternative. For the price, you could get 2 Duke Of Tones and stack them for similar gain staging.
What’s even better is that the Duke Of Tone is fitted in a miniature housing. You can even feed it an 18v power line for increased tonal definition.
Strymon Flint – Best Premium
Sure, it might not be the most alluring pedal when you think of other pedals and their otherworldly capabilities. However, this area of your signal chain shouldn’t be overlooked, as it will certainly pay off in dividends.
Amp reverb and tremolo/vibrato effects, particularly from Fender amps, are some of the most iconic tones ever. Some of the most famous guitar tones ever recorded have utilized those effects to a large degree.
The Strymon Flint aims to bring those classic, luscious tones right to your foot, accessible at any time. It’s safe to say that the pedal delivers on its promises.
As you might guess, the reverb and tremolo effects are separated in their own channels on the pedal. This means you can opt to use one at a time, or both simultaneously if you should choose.
The reverb channel has a 3-way switch for selecting the type of reverb you would like to use. Each reverb has its own characteristics and is modeled after the following decades:
Likewise, the tremolo channel also has its own 3-way switch, giving you a range of options including:
- 1961 harmonic tremolo
- 1963 power tube tremolo
- 1965 photocell tremolo
All of the basic controls you need can be found here on the pedal, as well. It won’t take you very long to find some usable tones.
The Flint is a true utility pedal that you’ll find a use for in quite a few country songs. Its reverb provides that classic vintage wash you know and love, with the tremolo adding some excellent motion.
MXR M107 Phase 100 – Best Budget
Have you ever heard a blazing country guitar solo that had a hint of tonal motion you couldn’t identify? You might not guess it, but the phaser effect is a popular effect amongst many country guitarists.
MXR’s phasers have long been hailed as some of the best in the industry. This iteration gives more flexibility, offering 10 different phase settings compared to its traditional 4 (with the Phase 90).
With this, you’ll have options for increased phaser depth, wider sweeps, and extra phaser motion. You’ll certainly be able to use this both subtly and in a more extreme manner.
The M107 Phase 100 is easy to use, offering only 2 controls to have to worry about. For starters, you can choose between 4 different phaser modes, each with its own depth and regeneration.
With this setting, MXR has cleverly illustrated the settings by use of ovals and circles. Each setting affects different parameters of the guitar’s EQ, giving the pedal more versatility overall.
Furthermore, you’ll also be able to control the rate of the phaser motion with its Speed knob. On traditional MXR phasers, this was the only adjustable parameter offered to guitarists.
The phaser has long been used in recording studios since the 1970s. This pedal gives you some classic options for when your tone needs an extra bit of flair.
Wampler Ego Compressor
If you’re new to the concept of country guitar, you might wonder how these guitarists get their tone. You might have the same guitar and amp as your heroes, but can’t quite get the same sound.
For those of us who have been around the block, we all know that a compressor plays a critical role. Compressors provide that punchy goodness that we all know and love about face-melting country guitar leads.
With this pedal, you’ll be able to retain your tone, while getting that classic compressor squeeze. The Ego Compressor’s Blend knob allows you to dial in the compressor as transparently as you need it.
Furthermore, you’ll also have the ability to adjust the attack of the compressor without sacrificing sustain. This will allow you to really dial in the amount of squeeze you want in your tone.
The tone knob gives you the flexibility to match the pedal’s tone with the tone of your pickups. This means you can truly match the pedal with how your guitar sounds, no matter what pickups you have.
A compressor is a must-have if you hope to play country guitar. Do not pass up a chance at trying out this handmade pedal from Wampler, you won’t regret it.
Another pedal you shouldn’t overlook for country guitar is the volume pedal. While this might be a very simple effect, there is actually so much more you can do with it.
For starters, the FV-500H is incredibly rugged, featuring a body made of die-cast aluminum. Where other volume pedals use a string mechanism, this has a solid plastic guide piece.
This means that you won’t have to worry about breaking the internal string when sweeping the pedal. Anyone who’s ever tried to replace those strings can tell you how much of a pain that process can be.
Because of this design, the FV-500H gives you some flexibility with regard to the sweep itself. You’ll be able to set how much pressure is required to rock the foot pedal back and forth.
Along with this, you can even adjust the amount of volume that the FV-500H produces. Output for a tuner is provided, as well as the capability to use the FV-500H as an expression pedal.
The FV-500H is a must-have if you need to play swells drenched in delay and reverb. This can be the missing key to properly emulating some lap steel guitar tones.
What To Look For When Buying Country Guitar Pedals
Buying a pedal in today’s market is no small feat, especially considering the number of options available. Keep the following points in mind to aid you in your research for your next country guitar pedal.
First and foremost, you must have a pretty solid idea of what tones a pedal is able to produce. This might seem obvious, but so many guitarists buy pedals simply because they have attractive graphic designs.
If you don’t have any pedals suited for country tones, you will first want to consider the basics. Make sure you at least have a compressor as well as a tasteful transparent overdrive handy.
Once you have the basics, it’s worth venturing into the depths for some other pedals. Again, you’ll want to consider the most basic effects before getting something that is a bit more bizarre.
The reason for this is that you’ll find more utility with the basics. If you opt for the bizarre, you might only use it for 6 seconds during a 3-hour set.
That isn’t to say that bizarre effects have no place in country music. Everything has its time and place, and you’ll find less use for the bizarre than with other genres.
Phasers, reverbs, tremolos, and delays all make for excellent additions to a country guitar pedalboard. It’s also worth looking into a volume pedal, as well as a chorus for a little extra watery depth.
Another major thing to consider with a guitar pedal is the actual size of the pedal itself. You might be a bit perplexed by this, but any pedalboard owner can likely agree with this sentiment.
The reason for this is that pedalboards are limited in the space that they provide. Because pedals come in all shapes and sizes, it can be difficult to fit everything on your board.
Of course, some degree of organization will help you make the most of your space. But some pedals are simply very large and require massive accommodation.
Every pedalboard owner has had to rearrange their board because they couldn’t fit something on it (myself included). It becomes a major thorn in the side when the process becomes a regular occurrence.
To make the most of your space, it’s best to consider a miniature pedal size when you can. Quite often, these pedals will have the same tones as found in a standard form factor size.
This will give you the flexibility in accommodating a pedal that has an unavoidable large size.
I know it’s not what you want to hear, but you’ll need to be budget-conscious when buying pedals. Guitarists tend to be financially broke, so don’t overextend yourself in the name of tone if you don’t have to.
You could certainly drop a massive wad of cash on a pedal but always look for cheaper alternatives. There are many budget pedals available that can provide some classic tones.
Also, don’t be afraid to check the used market. You’ll usually be able to find pedals at a massive discount (excluding the rare and legendary pedals, of course).
Best Brands For Country Guitar Pedals
You’ll want to check out the following companies when buying pedals for country guitar tones. Each has a stellar reputation in the industry.
MXR has created some of the most iconic pedals in guitar effect history. The company is currently owned and operated by conglomerate giant, Jim Dunlop.
Wampler provides quality handmade pedals perfectly suited for country guitarists. Brad Paisley and Brent Mason are just a couple of the country guitarists who endorse Wampler pedals.
Top Country Guitar Pedals, Final Thoughts
Definitely be sure to try each of these pedals out in person to really hear the tones they provide. You’ll find that each of these together will give you the bare essentials for a competent country guitar pedalboard.
Plus, each of these pedals is versatile enough to be used in other genres. So, you aren’t purely limited to playing country guitar stylings with these pedals, ensuring your versatility as a guitarist.