Best Guitar Volume Pedals
But among the many different pedals, we guitar players usually tend to get attached to some of the wackiest and most “colorful” effects. By colorful, we mean something like those large chorus pedals, analog delays, different wah-wahs, or even some devices that can help us create those unique sounds.
We get so obsessed with them that we even forget about basic concepts, like making our guitar tone pleasurable for the audiences. As a result, we tend to completely overlook some of those very useful pedals, which is just the case with volume pedals. Although we can argue that they’re pretty uninteresting (even outright dull), they’re a crucial component for every setup. Here, we will explore how they work and why they are such an important tool guitar and bass players.
How does a volume pedal work?
Put simply; volume pedals are like volume pots turned into pedals. The only difference is that you control the output volume using the rocking part of the pedal. But contrary to a wah pedal, you just set the volume at the desired level and keep it there. You don’t need to rock it all the time unless there’s some specific effect that you’re aiming at
Volume pedals are pretty straightforward with their construction. There’s the wah-like construction, input, output, and an additional knob that sets the minimum volume level. Many volume pedals also have an additional tuner output and even one or more separate expression jacks for connecting with other effects pedals and controlling some of their parameters. (We’ll get to that later.)
But as we said, volume pedals operate similarly to any volume pots. There’s a simple mechanism inside that’s attached to the pedal’s rocking part. As you move it, the potentiometer inside is turned up or down. When the pedal is at its “closed” position (pressed down), the volume is at its maximum. When you put it all the way back, or the “open” position, the volume is at its minimum.
It’s imperative to note that the volume pedal is not a booster. It’s not there to add any boost to your signal but to turn it down from its original level.
A video explains it better than a thousand words so have a look below for a quick and simple demonstration.
But why would I need a volume pedal in the first place?
You might be wondering: “Do I really need a volume pedal? Could I not use the volume knob on my guitar instead?” Well, things are really not that simple. While it might not be the most attractive and exciting thing on your pedalboard, one volume pedal is enough to make a world of difference.
While everyone’s signal chain is their own business, some people prefer just using a Compressor pedal instead, or a Synth pedal. It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. But a volume pedal finds use in almost any band setting, especially if we’re talking about larger bands or orchestras. Nearly all of the genres have a lot of dynamics involved, meaning each of the instruments will need to accommodate according to the song.
But there’s are important distinctions between what your guitar’s volume knob and a volume pedal can do. The first, and the most obvious one, is that a volume pedal lets you change the volume while allowing your picking hand to deal with the strings and not your guitar’s pots.
Another important distinction is the difference in effects that your guitar’s volume pots and your volume pedal create. When turning down the volume on your guitar, you’re reducing the signal strength coming from pickups. This way, you’re “feeding” less signal into your distortion and other pedals. As a result, it’s not just your overall output volume that’s reduced, but you also get less gain. In some way, a similar effect is achieved when you reduce the gain level on a distortion pedal, ultimately changing your tone.
Meanwhile, using a volume pedal does the opposite thing. The tone remains the same, but the overall output volume in the mix is reduced. This way, you can adjust your level in the mix without changing anything else. This is why volume pedals are especially useful for bass guitarists. In some songs, they need to keep the same tone color while also reducing the volume level. After all, being a backing instrument, there’ll be a lot of dynamics play involved in the process.
Reducing the volume on your guitar will make you sound “smaller” in the mix. But reducing the volume using a volume pedal will make your sound more “distant.” These are two completely different effects that find their use in different settings.
Are there different types of volume pedals?
There are two basic types of volume pedals that you can find – low impedance and high impedance volume pedals. Low impedance volume pedals are usually more common, and they go later in the signal chain, after the distortion and some other effects. High impedance volume pedals, on the other hand, go somewhere near the beginning of the signal chain and have a somewhat similar effect to volume knobs on your guitar.
In case you put the low impedance earlier in the signal chain, your tone might get “dull” or “soaked up” and feel weaker. You’ll end up losing some of its most essential characteristics, including sustain. This can sometimes be corrected if you place any buffered bypass pedal in your signal path, like a standard tuner.
Proper volume pedal placement
Now that we know that low impedance volume pedals are more common, there’s another important thing to know about their placement. There are two ways that you can place them in your signal chain. The first way is to have it before the echo and reverb effects, which are usually at the very end of the signal chain. With this formation, you will be able to reduce the volume. Still, the delay or reverb repeats will continue according to the set parameters even when you completely shut off the volume by putting it to the “open” position.
Another way is to have the volume pedal at the end of your signal chain, after delay and reverb. This way, even the repeated tones will be affected – all the repeats will cease the moment you shut off the volume.
What you also need to know
We recommend picking up a cheaper guitar pedal if you’re just starting out. Volume pedals often include expression pedal functionality and any cheaper model will do well in that regard. Some pedals out there – like some envelope filters, choruses, vibratos, or automatic “wahs” – can be paired with an expression pedal. This way, you’ll be able to control some of their parameters. However, you won’t be able to use your volume pedal both for volume and expression control at the same time. You do just one thing at a time.
If you’re serious about playing the guitar, it’s vital to choose a quality-built volume pedal. If the rocking part can’t stand still in one position, then there’s really no point in having a volume pedal. Ernie Ball has some great stuff, like their MVP. Boss also has excellent volume pedals, like their sturdy-built FV-500L. Other examples also include Yamaha’s FC7, DOD Mini-Volume, and Dunlop DVP4.