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Looking to embrace the twang and incorporate that classic country sound into your kit of tones? Aside from some staple guitars and amps, there are some classic pedals that help achieve this sound.
The following pedals are some of the best pedals that can be used for country guitar. With all of these pedals, you’d have yourself a competent country rig, with all of the essentials.
Table of Contents
Keeley Compressor Plus – Best Overall
If you’ve done any research on country guitar, you probably know that the compressor effect is extremely vital. These pedals help to beef up a guitar’s tone, providing that delicious punch in all of the right EQ ranges.
This compressor has the ability to color a guitar’s tone to accentuate the twang within. However, you can also use it in a more transparent and subtle way if you need.
One of the best features of the Compressor Plus is that it’s suitable for single coil and humbucker pickups. There is a convenient 2-way toggle that allows you to switch between each.
When engaging this toggle switch, the pedal will modify its mode to create a better balance. This is an excellent addition as the tonal ranges between these pickup types are quite massive.
For those of you playing single coil guitars such as Stratocasters and Telecasters, this will be a dream pedal. You’ll notice immediately how much more sustain and depth your tone will take on.
Along with that, the Compressor Plus also includes controls for:
Having a blend knob is incredibly useful, allowing you to control how much wet signal is in the mix. There’s no room for confusion either, as Keeley has provided clear markings for the ranges of the parameter.
When you want to serve up classic country tones in a guitar solo, the Keeley Compressor Plus is a must. Out of almost all of the pedals in this article, this is perhaps the most essential.
Wampler Paisley Drive – Best Premium
Along with the compressor, a fairly transparent overdrive is another essential pedal for any country guitarist. The Wampler Paisley Drive (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is an excellent choice for this.
What makes this pedal so worthy out of all of the other overdrives on the market? In this case, it has to do with the fact that it has pure country roots.
Wampler’s owner, Brian Wampler, worked painstakingly at creating an overdrive for country guitarist, Brad Paisley, according to his ideal preferences. What resulted is a pedal that Paisley uses both on the stage and in the studio.
On the surface, the Paisley Drive has a pretty standard setup aligned with most other overdrive pedals. You have controls for:
However, the Paisley has a couple of extra features that will truly benefit the country guitarist. These include:
- 2-way switch for presence
- 3-way switch for EQ shape
The presence switch essentially adds a little bit more clarity to the guitar’s tone by adding a bit more treble. Adjusting the EQ shape affects mostly the mid-range frequencies of the guitar’s tone.
For the most part, this overdrive can definitely serve up some gravelly tones, but it isn’t a full-on distortion pedal. It’s best when used to provide a fairly transparent crunch or some extra snarl.
What’s unique about the Paisley drive is that your tone doesn’t lose much of its bass frequencies when in use. This helps to preserve that country guitar punch that the genre is so well-known for.
MXR CSP101SL Script Phase 90 – Best Budget
Aside from the staples previously mentioned, the phaser is a classic choice to have on your pedalboard. This effect is quite potent for adding subtle hints of motion to a guitar’s tone.
One of the best is the MXR CSP101SL Script Phase 90 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). You’ve definitely heard this in recordings, usually during passages that feature the lowest notes found on a guitar.
The CSP101SL Script Phase 90 is a reproduction of the timeless classic, first introduced in the 1960s. It even features its vintage art stylings, with its orange-colored housing and cursive script font (hence the name).
This pedal is extremely easy to use and it won’t take you long to find usable tones here. The only control you need to worry about is the pedal’s speed control, which controls the rate of motion.
You’ll find that this is the perfect pedal for all your phaser-tinged country tone needs. It’s subtle enough to not be too much but present enough to make a tasteful difference.
Even if you venture outside of country music, this pedal will still be highly usable. In fact, this pedal is largely associated with David Gilmour, Eddie Van Halen, and Jimmy Page, to name a few.
Plus, this pedal is incredibly friendly on the pocket and is affordable for just about any budget. It’s not often that you find such a classic-sounding pedal at such a price.
This isn’t your standard tremolo pedal by any means. The Kodiak is stocked with rhythmic capabilities and tremolo types that can truly expand your tonal palette.
For starters, you have controls for the volume, overall mix, and the speed of the tremolo itself. You can also choose the subdivision of the tremolo, with options for:
On top of that, the Kodiak allows you to change the tremolo type between:
If that wasn’t enough, the Kodiak is also equipped with a tap-tempo function. Having this is incredibly convenient as it means you don’t have to worry about not being in time.
You can even connect an expression control and control the tremolo’s tempo that way if you prefer.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy
One of the signature aspects of any classic country guitar tone is the slapback delay effect. This sounds very similar to reverb, with a short echo rather than a long sustain.
A quality, affordable delay pedal option is the MXR M169 Carbon Copy (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon). This pedal is incredibly simplistic and delivers no shortage of glorious tones that are sure to keep you inspired.
The M169 Carbon Copy has 3 control knobs in total, with the mix knob controlling the wet/dry blend. To control the number of repeats in the delay, you’ll adjust the “regen” knob.
For the actual timing of the delay, you’ll need to adjust the delay knob. This pedal has about 600ms of delay time, which is a fair amount but not too much.
The reason this pedal doesn’t have as much delay time is that it is completely analog. Digital delays are typically equipped with more delay time but do not have the same sound characteristics as analog.
Analog delays are noted for their warmth and pristine preservation of tone, no matter how much delay is used. Your tone will not get muddy, and you’ll be able to clearly hear each repeat.
The M169 Carbon Copy also has a modulation button to add a hint of motion to the delay repeats. You can adjust the modulation rates by accessing the pedal’s internal dip switches.
What To Look For When Buying Pedals For Country Guitar
If you’ve never bought a pedal, or aren’t sure what to look for pertaining to country guitar, have no worries. Buying pedals is fairly easy, though there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind during your research phase.
For those of you who have a pedalboard, you’re definitely going to want to be mindful of a pedal’s size. It’s a bit of a drag when your board runs out of space for new pedals.
The best way to avoid space issues is by buying with a pedal’s size in mind. Pedals come in 3 different sizes:
In more cases than not, mini pedals can provide the same utility as standard sizes. Having a smaller size means you can fit more on your board.
These smaller pedals can also be great for when you only have a little space left on a board to fill.
That isn’t to say that mini pedals are what you should be looking for, exclusively. Standard and large sizes all have a part to play, and sometimes, there’s no getting around it.
You’ll have to do your due diligence in considering what is worth accommodating, especially if it is a larger pedal.
Another thing to be mindful of is the actual power requirements to run the pedal. Most pedals run on a standard 9V adapter, but this isn’t always the case.
There are some pedals that use 12V and 18V. Make sure you check before purchasing so you know you can use the pedal right out of the box.
Buying pedals can become quite an expensive endeavor, it really doesn’t matter what kind of guitarist you are. Everyone is susceptible to GAS (“Gear Acquisition Syndrome”), so try to be aware of how much you’re spending.
Before buying pedals, you should have a good idea of the size of the budget you want to work with. This will help to narrow down the selection of possible pedals available to you.
There are some excellent pedals that are quite affordable, so do not rule them out based solely on cost.
If you want to save the most money possible, consider searching the used market for guitar pedals. Used pedals sell for considerably less than what they cost as a new item from a store.
You could very well acquire a used pedal for half of the price that it costs as brand new. What was out of your budget could be well within your budget if you are open to going this route.
Another thing to consider is asking whether or not a shop has any demo versions available for sale. These are essentially brand new pedals that have only been used within the shop.
Because they have been taken out of the box and lightly used, shops sell them for a discount. It should be noted that the discount is not as extensive as the used market, but is a viable option.
Consider Your Gear
For country guitar, you’ll want to tailor your pedalboard around the guitar(s) and amp(s) that you use. Every guitarist has a unique list of gear, so what works for someone else might not work for you.
In particular, you’re going to want to pay close attention to how the pedals respond to your guitar’s pickups. Some specific pedals respond better to certain pickups, but an alternative can always be found to respond better to others.
The best way to figure this out is to take your rig into a guitar shop and try the pedal out. By doing this, you’ll hear exactly how the pedal responds and what it can do for your sound.
Most shops will allow this, as they understand the importance of this step in the purchasing process. You’ll find that shops are quite accommodating, but if you’re feeling a bit unsure, don’t be afraid to ask.
Consider Your Inspiration
Do you have any specific country guitarists that you look up to? Take a look at their rig to see what they are playing.
By doing this, you’ll have a direct idea of what pedals can be used to achieve the sounds you love. This helps to cut down on the research time required before making an informed purchasing decision.
Best Brands For Country Guitar Pedals
Every industry (including small niche offshoots) has its own reputable brands that are well-known and trusted. For country guitar pedals, this is no different.
The following brands have a well-built reputation for producing some of the finest pedals for country guitar.
Keeley was founded in 2001 and is known for its high-quality handmade pedals. Guitarists have sought out Keeley pedals for their increased depth beyond the traditional basics.
MXR was founded in the early 1970s and created some of the most iconic pedals of all time. The company is now owned and managed by the guitar accessory company, Jim Dunlop.
Top Pedals For Country Guitar, Final Thoughts
With these pedals, you’re sure to rein in that classic country guitar tone you’ve been searching for. Plus, each one is versatile enough for other genres if you do decide to venture into different sounds.
Do be sure to try these pedals out in person and hear how each one sounds with your guitar. Don’t forget to wear your favorite cowboy hat and pair of boots while you’re at it!
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