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Though they are notoriously difficult to categorize, most agree that the commonality between Effects Pedals of all makes, shapes, and sizes is that they alter the way an incoming audio signal sounds. Whether the pedal utilizes solid state electronics, computer chips, or even spring reverb and/or vacuum tubes depends on the desires of the specific manufacturer and the available parts during the time the pedal was produced. 

When most people think of effects pedals, most of the time their minds automatically conjure the image of a guitar. While there certainly are a wealth of innovative and inspiring pedals that work quite well when interfaced with guitars, that is far from their only intended use. Historically, FX pedals have been used in combination with keyboards, synthesizers, vocals, basses, and even drums—as well as a plethora of other acoustic sources limited only by the imagination of the composer and the material conditions of the present moment. Needless to say, today’s rapid technological development means there’s a lot of leeway in this regard.

No matter what they are used to process, pedals can be paired with expression controllers (like wah pedals) for manual control over certain parameters. This offers musicians using their hands for other duties a clever means of modulating various aspects of their overall signal.