Whether whipping out a nice dose of chicken-grease rhythm or a screaming lead, funk guitar players use certain effects pedals to enhance their sound. While technique alone can be funky, the right pedals really drive the point home. A wah (or wah-wah) pedal is a must-have for any old-school/blacksploitation funk stylist, as are a compression pedal, distortion pedal, phase shifter and delay pedal.
A wah, or wah-wah pedal, is a must-have for funk sounds -- think porn-style grooves, music by Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix and Prince. This pedal gets its name from the baby-like "wahhhh" tones it produces when you rock the wah pedal back and forth while playing guitar. Two of the more well-known and respected wah pedals are the Vox wah-wah and the Dunlop Crybaby. The wah is also a mainstay with funk bass guitar players such as Larry Graham.
A compression pedal, or compressor, compresses the tone of the guitar, evening out the frequencies and allowing the guitar to be heard better through the music, whether during quiet, rhythmic sections or loud solos. Compression is what makes those tight, clean funk guitar rhythms -- one of the most important parts of funk songs -- audible over the rest of the band.
Distortion and Fuzz
While distortion and fuzz both distort the sound of a guitar, they create different tones. A distortion pedal is great for solos of a somewhat heavy metal vibe, which is actually quite common in funk music. Think screaming, distorted solos and you've thought of a distortion pedal. Fuzz gives the guitar an extremely fuzzy tone and was quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Jimi Hendrix is well-known for injecting fuzz into his music.
A phaser, or phase shifter, modulates the tone of a guitar or other instrument, giving the music a feeling of rising and sinking or even psychedelic swirling. The use of a phase shifter is rampant in Prince-penned works such as Appollonia 6's "Sex Shooter" (the rhythm/percussion is phased) and in many songs from the 1970s and 1980s. Flanger pedals also produce a similar effect, but the phaser is by far more popular in funk.
Echo, Echo, Echo
A delay or echo pedal is also a key element in funk music. The pedal can be set to wait a while before producing delays, or to echo back immediately (as in the vocals sung by John Lennon on much of his work). Delay gives the sound a bit of a slap-back effect, enhancing the vibe.
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