Slide guitar either for blues, rock, country, Hawaiian, ambient, you name it, is a fun technique to master.
But what are the best effects to accompany your slide playing? And create a complete pedalboard for slide in various genres.
Look no further; this article will preview the best effect pedals for slide guitar and why they are essential to your pedalboard. Let’s get right to it.
Best Effects for Slide
- Overdrive – crucial for warm, distorted sounds for blues and lead lines
- Distortion – Adds grit and aggressive saturation for dirt tones
- Compressor – essential for raising quiet frequencies and balancing the overall sound
- Reverb – adds emotion and the sense of wide open to small spaces
- Delay – creates interesting delayed sounds for a doubled-up effect
- Tremolo – Adds flavor and unusual soundscapes
- Volume Pedal – not an effect but an essential pedal for the ‘swelling technique’ and volume control.
1. Overdrive – Add Smooth Drive and Warm Gain
The first effect pedals you’ll want to look at if you are firmly in the blues, rock, and country genres are overdrive.
Overdrive is the effect you will need for mild-warm distortion perfect for screaming leads or beautiful warm overtones. They can convert a clear, clean tone to a plush, smooth overdriven sound.
They contain the most warmth and less aggressiveness out of distortion and fuzz pedals. They add enough gain that pushes your sound to a mildly driven sound without too much bite and attack.
These types of pedals allow you to have enough versatility to play any style and genre out there and blend well with pretty much any effect you pair it with.
They also pair well with tube amplifiers as they can push your tubes to break-up and push them to drive harder and squeeze out more tones and nuances.
Usually, slide guitarists favor overdrive over the other pedals since they blend best with the genres most associated with slide playing.
Recommended Overdrive Pedals
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
The Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer is a reissue of the classic Ibanez TS-808. The TS9 is coined as a classic overdrive known as the ‘industry standard.
It has a wide range of tonality and can give a small boost to your clean sound, all the way to a full-character overdriven tone.
This pedal is one of the most sought overdrive pedals, and it’s quite simple to use (one tone, one volume, and one drive knob).
Fulltone OCD V2 Overdrive
The Fulltone OCD V2 Overdrive is a rich, dynamic overdrive/distortion pedal. It has a more comprehensive dynamic range and overall more aggressiveness than the other pedals on this list.
Again, considered a solid overdrive pedal and very popular amongst guitar players spreading across multiple genres.
A simple pedal to use as well, with an excellent addition of a Low-Pass/Hi-Pass filter to either make your sound smoother or with less weight.
Fender Santa Ana Overdrive
This is probably the most complete overdrive pedal on this list.
The Fender Santa Ana Overdrive is a FET-based pedal designed to give you a truer, tube-like sound.
Adding to this, you get much more control over your sound since you have the usual volume and drive knobs, as well as a 4-band EQ.
Out of all the pedals on this list, the Fender Santana gives you the most control over your sound for complete tone tweaking when it comes to your overdrive tone.
Electro-Harmonix Big Muff
The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff is technically a fuzz pedal made famous by guitar legends such as Jimi Hendrix and Santana.
Fuzz is a much more aggressive and punchy sound. However, I had to include this pedal due to being such a favorite for its warm and bold fuzz tones, which cemented it as a fan favorite for many decades.
The great thing about this pedal is its sustain knob, which works well with slide guitar to enhance the sound.
2. Distortion – Add Grit and Aggression
In contrast to overdrive, distortion is a much more full-sounding, aggressive effect.
It provides more punch and sustain to your sound, as well as a grittier tonal quality. Distortion sounds crunchier and punchier compared to smooth and mild overdrive.
While distortion might not work too well on softer slide-playing genres such as country or folk. It combines excellently with modern rock or more indie/experimental styles.
It can benefit you to search for both an overdrive and a distortion pedal to have different tonal presets. However, this is not essential to building a complete-sounding rig.
In general, overdrive is slightly favored over distortion in the slide-playing world. But by any means, is it a bad idea to gravitate towards a crunchy, powerful distortion for a more ‘in your face’ tone.
Recommended Distortion Pedals
Friedman BE-OD Distortion Pedal
Even though it is considered an overdrive pedal, The Friedman BE-OD Distortion pedal is a much more aggressive pedal.
With this pedal, you get a 3-band active EQ that allows you to cut/boost your guitar’s signal.
This hi-gain pedal allows you to get super high distortion tones with bags of sustain, for a bit more modern rock slide guitar than a classic blues distortion.
Boss DS-1 Distortion
The Boss DS-1 Distortion is one of the most successful distortion pedals since 1978.
Its classic rock tonal qualities are well-suited for heavy rock sounds. It also works nicely as a booster with low-gain settings.
It is a simple pedal to use in the lower range of distortion pedals, budget-wise. Hence, this pedal is an excellent choice because it is highly affordable and won’t break the bank for a solid distortion pedal for your rig.
Wampler Sovereign Distortion
The Wampler Sovereign Distortion is not as well-known as other pedals on this list. However, Wampler is a boutique pedal manufacturer regarded for providing high-quality fuzz pedals.
Nevertheless, it is a rich distortion pedal with clear-sounding, lush tones that players rave about.
With this pedal, you get the usual drive, volume, and tone controllers, as well as a mid contour tone to give you more flexibility to your sound.
Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal
The Fender Pugilist Distortion Pedal is a dual-engine distortion pedal that allows you to blend two signals.
Allowing you to dial in a wide range of lush gritty sounds with more flexibility you will not find on other pedals.
The Fender Pugilist has two independent gain and tone control for each engine. A blend switch allows you to have more signals on one side or the other depending on your tastes.
Finally, you get a bass boost to add some weight and oomph to your sound.
3. Compressor – Squash Frequencies
In my opinion, compression is an essential tool for nearly all guitar players’ pedalboards. In short, a compressor pedal squashes high and low frequencies, essentially ‘compressing’ them together.
This keeps wayward frequencies at bay, keeping your playing volume at an even level.
Taming your volume level is essential for allowing your sound to be level. A compressor also raises buried frequencies to become more audible.
This is essential for guitars with single-coil pickups as these lack natural compression compared to humbuckers.
This effect also promotes more sustain allowing notes to ring out for longer. This is ideal for ambient slide players as these players love long sustain, allowing notes to swell out for more extended periods.
Therefore, compression is essential for slide players who keep their tone crystal clean absent of any dirt or overdrive.
Ambient players will love the enhancement that compression has on a clean tone as it raises overall presence and impact.
Recommended Compressor Pedals
Boss CP-1X Compressor
The Boss CP-1X Compressor is a multiband compressor with intuitive processing to help you compress your sound as best as it can.
Its intelligent processing allows your playing to remain natural and not worry about setting the proper dials to get a good sound.
This pedal includes four different knobs (level, attack, ratio, and comp.) and a meter to see how much you’re attenuating your sound. The CP-1X is a classic compressor for all your frequency taming needs.
Keeley Compressor Plus
The Keeley Compressor Plus is one of Keeley’s most popular pedals and one of the best compressors out there.
This pedal can also function as a sustain pedal, which works well with slide guitar. As all slide players long for juicy sustain and resonance.
With a simple formating of four controllers (level, tone, blend, and sustain), this pedal gives you a very clear, non-invasive compression.
Xotic SP Compressor
The Xotic SP Compressor is a simple compressor with a nice clear tone and multiple types of compression.
Its main feature is its simplicity, as well as the crystalline characteristics it gives to your sound.
This pedal works really well with clean tones but also does a stable job with dirty tones. Another significant aspect is its mini pedal size allowing you to cram this pedal on the smallest pedalboard.
Fender The Bends Compressor Pedal
Fender The Bends’ Compressor Pedal is an intuitive compressor that analyses your playing and helps you get a consistent tone. This is a feature that you will not find on most compressor pedals.
This pedal includes a blend controller to help you mix the dry, original signal with the newly compressed signal. Allowing you to retain your pick attack and punch frequencies.
Added to this, you have a drive, a level, and a recovery controller. Overall, this is a high-quality stompbox that serves optimal compression and retaining the frequencies you want to hear.
4. Reverb – For Ambiance and Emotion
Once you have your tone down (and possibly a compressor to give you balance and consistency), what you need is a reverb pedal.
Reverb pedals are part of the market’s time-based effects and help you create depth, fullness, and richness to your sound.
Reverb gives your tone the illusion of space and ambiance. This effect mimics the reverb level from everything from a small room to a vast open auditorium.
This effect is like the icing on the cake to add ambiance and emotion to your slide playing.
Not only this, but reverb allows you to blend better with other instruments, whether it is live or in-studio recording situations.
To be honest, I believe reverb is one of the most essential elements when it comes to constructing your sound.
I’d very much recommend you spend some time looking at reverb pedals to find what best suits you.
Recommended Reverb Pedals
Strymon Flint Tremolo and Reverb
The Strymon Flint is a pedal that combines three classic-sounding tremolo settings with three vintage reverbs.
Obviously, this pedal is a nod to the reverb and tremolo sounds of the iconic Fender amps of the 60s and 70s.
Fender reverb is the perfect combination with blues, country, and the majority of clean tones.
Tremolo-wise, you have the classic ’61 Harmonic Tremolo, the swampy ’63 Tube Tremolo, and the sharp ’65 Photocell Tremolo.
As for reverb, this pedal is equipped with the vintage ’60s Spring Tank Reverb, the ’70s Electronic Plate Reverb, and the 80’s Hall Rack Reverb.
You can combine these six parameters in any configuration, giving you a palette of classic fender reverbs in a handy stompbox.
The Boss RV-6 is one of the most reliable and versatile reverb pedals you can find.
Again, this is another classic pedal from the boss’s army of pedals winning the accolade of many players in the industry.
This pedal gives you your classic reverb types in digital forms, such as spring, plate, room, and hall.
Added to this, you get some more modern-sounding reverbs such as shimmer, modulation, and reverb+delay.
Perfect for players who want an extensive collection of reverbs from such a small and affordable pedal.
TC Electronic Hall Of Fame 2
The TC Electronic Hall Of Fame 2 is currently one of the most recognized and sought reverb pedals on the market.
This is due to its versatility and affordable price, perfect for a wide range of players with different budgets.
It is very similar to the Boss RV-6 with the particular addition of the MASH button.
The MASH button works as a sort of expression pedal that allows you to alter your sound by varying how hard you press it. The MASH feature is something you will not find on most reverb pedals.
Strymon BigSky Multidimensional Reverb
The Strymon BigSky pedal is the most complete, high-end pedal on this list. The BigSky is the boutique option with an infinite amount of reverb options depending on your flavor.
This pedal has up to twelve different reverb types and multiple knobs to control parameters such as decay, pre-delay, modulation, and such.
The great thing is you can also save up to 300 presets to recall and modify as you please.
The BigSky is similar to a reverb multi-effects unit rather than a straightforward, honest stompbox. Hence why the high price tag compared to budget options on this list.
5. Delay – Double the Fun
Delay is the other very important effect you can find in the family of time-based effects.
As well as with the reverb, it allows you to give your sound depth, richness, and a full-sounding quality.
Delays stand out in their ability to provide for you intricate sounds and complex atmospheres that give you a much more exciting sound.
Delay can go from quick snapback delays that mimic the illusion of two guitars or long trailed delays depending on your flavor.
There are plenty of pedals out there that combine both the delay and the reverb effect as well.
It might suit you to find one of these pedals if you are looking to spend a little less and build a smaller rig.
Recommended Delay Pedals
The Boss DD-3T is one of the most iconic digital delay pedals in the guitar world.
A simple pedal to use has four parameters to dial: E.Level, Feedback, Time, and Mode. Both Mode and Time can work together, so it’s only three parameters.
To this, you can also tap the tempo to allow you to modify the delay length depending on your preferred rhythm.
The Boss DM-2W is another classic delay pedal noted for its 100% analog circuitry.
This stompbox has flexibility and versatility with a 20ms -200ms delay range with switchable modes ideal for a host of different sounds scapes.
Having an analog delay pedal gives you a warm, crystal clear sound easily manipulated thanks to the various parameters to adjust.
Discontinued in 1984, it is now one of the most sought-after analog pedals from back in the day.
TC Electronic Flashback 2
Similar to the TC Electronic Hall Of Fame 2, the TC Electronic Flashback 2 is a very popular pedal with a ton of delays ideal for multiple genres.
This pedal is equipped with analog, digital, modulation, dynamic, and many more delays you could ever want.
TC Electronics is well-known for its sound quality, and this pedal does not disappoint.
MXR Carbon Copy Delay
The MXR Carbon Copy is another analog delay that favors warm, rich, and crystalline delay sounds. Ideal for ambient slide players for sweeping soundscapes and relaxing textures.
The standard version is simple to use, as it only has the mix, delay time, and regeneration (feedback) parameters.
The deluxe version gives you more elements to control, such as speed, width, and brightness, as well as a tap delay.
6. Volume Pedal – Complete Volume Control
Conventionally, volume pedals are used to regulate your volume in live situations and give you an extra hand in handling your overall output.
And most certainly, that is one of the main features you look for on a volume pedal.
However, one of the main factors that slide players favor this pedal is that you can do sweeping volume swells.
Volume swells add many dynamics and articulations to your playing. They are used continuously in slide guitar, especially for atmospheric ambient tones.
You can consider this another ‘cherry on top” type of effect. It allows you to control volume with your foot instead of your volume knob.
You get a ton of versatility from a volume pedal; therefore, I would highly consider it if you are a keen slide guitarist.
Recommended Volume Pedals
Ernie Ball MVP
The Ernie Ball MVP is a classic volume pedal with a very smooth foot sweep to allow you to change your volume seamlessly.
A great thing about this volume pedal is that it has a minimum controller that lets you decide how soft you want the attenuation.
Added to this is a 20dB booster that lets you signal some more volume if needed.
Sonicake VolWah 2-in-1 Volume and Wah Pedal
The Sonicake VolWah is a small pedal that includes both a volume pedal and a wah pedal.
It is very minimalist in terms of controllers, as you can only activate/deactivate the wah feature.
This pedal is a good option for someone wanting to get a two-trick pony at an affordable price.
7. Tremolo – Vibrator Effect
In essence, a tremolo pedal takes your signal and modulates the volume at a different rate, speed, and depth.
This can add different kinds of de-tuned flavor, which works incredibly well combined with crystal clean tones.
You can consider this effect as a “cherry on top” kind of a deal. The great thing about it is that you can also find pedals that combine tremolo and reverb FX.
Slide guitar players favor this modulation effect (as opposed to flangers, chorus, or vibe pedals) due to its warm, atmospheric, and deep character.
This character works very well with country, folk, bluegrass, and other slide-based genres.
Recommended Tremolo Pedals
Voodoo Labs Tremolo
The Voodoo Labs Tremolo is a pedal that recreates the vintage sound of an old tube amplifier.
This pedal has four parameters: intensity, slope, speed, and volume.
These four parameters give you all the elements you need to create a smooth, buttery-sounding tremolo effect.
Mooer Trelicopter is a simpler tremolo pedal with one excellent addition, its bias knob.
This knob allows you to change the overall color of your tremolo sound. Added to this, you have the classic speed and depth controllers.
A simple, yet affordable tremolo pedal for those looking to add some character to their sound.
The Fender Tre-Verb is a pedal that combines both a reverb pedal and a tremolo pedal.
This pedal is almost identical to the Strymon Flint pedal I mentioned in the reverb section.
The one true difference you get with this pedal is the classic Fender sound they have developed for over 70 years.
There are literally thousands of great boutique pedals with different specs and tonal characteristics. Granted, this is a bit of a rich- man’s game, but it is very satisfying to build your own unique sound with pedals’ help. So, go out there and explore all kinds of effects, my fellow guitar players. I’m sure you’ll find what you are looking for.