Hey pedal people, today we are talking about pedals and effects for ambient guitar music. If you enjoy making your guitar sound like a symphony orchestra floating through space these are the pedals for you. These are pedals that create atmosphere, dynamics, and space with out getting overly distorted or muddy.
Some useful tips for launching your guitar sound into a space canyon of ambient ecstasy:
- Put a very light distortion or modulation pedal after your reverb/delay pedals. This will add texture, grit, and sometimes warmth to the echoes.
- Set your pedal chain up in a strange order in general to get strange and interesting results.
- Add a compressor at the end of your pedal chain to expand sounds or at the beginning of your chain to add sustain to your base guitar sound.
- Use a wah pedal before your delay and reverb to create sound that have vocal characteristics or sound like they are singing/talking.
Volume pedals are great for adding dynamics and swells to your ambient soundscapes. This saves you from having to try turning the volume knob on your guitar while picking. With the right effects later in the chain this pedal can really give you the abilities of an orchestra conductor. Orchestrating the volume and dynamics of the song. It’s also useful for removing the initial attack or pluck of a sound. That way you can create really smooth flowing melody lines great for ambient music.
Delay pedals are essential in the ambient player’s toolkit for adding echo and cascading trails. I would recommend trying an analog and digital delay. Both provide different advantages but an analog delay is going to provide the most natural and textured modulation. The Strymon El Capistan isn’t a fully analog delay. However, it does have analog components to the sound and can replicate a lot more of the intricacies of tape machines than say the carbon copy or other straight forward analog delays. I would challenge many purists to tell the difference between this and an analog delay. The sound is so natural and it really just sounds great. The filtering on the delay trails just sounds so much more detailed than other delays. This pedal is great for a whole range of delay sounds I really recommend having a listen to the Wow & Flutter control in particular. A must have pedal for tape lovers!
If you want a delay with a few more options or rather nearly infinite options the Strymon Timeline is a great choice. The option to click and hold one of the bank switches to temporarily get infinite repeats is extremely useful for ambient music. You can emphasize certain lines with more feedback or create a large swell without ever turning a knob, all with your feet! This is a top tier pedal with options for reverse, crystal, analog tape, digital, and dual delays as well as a built in looper. Each delay machine within the timeline is completely tweak-able. For ambient music the smear option for delays makes it easy to create really smooth flowing cascades and atmosphere.
Another important pedal for this type of music is a looper with a few options. This is going to let you go from one guitar player to a whole orchestra of sounds. The ditto x2 has a few more options like reversing and slowing down sounds as well as optional stereo outs. This creates a lot of flexibility for taking your loops further and further from the realm of guitar into indistinguishable mystery beauty.
A good quality reverb is the most essential pedal for ambient musicians. What I look for is a pedal that can have really long decays without getting muddy. The Strymon BigSky does this perfectly. I also like how easy it is to dial in a good sound with this pedal. The knobs are so responsive and easy to use. It has a great range of sounds for ambient music. Really hard to describe why this reverb sounds so much better than others but you really just have to try it. The optional stereo outs take this pedal to the next level. A must have if you love ambient guitar or synths.