10 Best Volume Pedals | March 2017
- for active and passive audio signals
- billet aluminum housing
- works on ac or battery power
- always retains an instrument's tone
- good high-end clarity
- hammertone powder-coated finish
- single input and output
- reversible heel and toe functions
- doesn't require a power source
- two separate swell rates
- silent tuning in heel down position
- produces a dramatic expression
- built-in tuner output
- doubles as an expression pedal
- doesn't over-attenuate the highs
- produces smooth transitions
- very clean swells
- doesn't cause any signal loss
- sturdy all-metal chassis
- separate heel and toe-down settings
- large sweep range
Why Volume Pedals Are So Necessary
Volume pedals, also commonly called expression pedals, are a must have for many musicians. No matter what instrument you play, having a quick way to adjust your volume without turning off your instrument is critical. Fumbling around for the volume knob can be a stressful experience; worrying about not missing your cue can often be the cause for doing exactly what you fear most; missing your cue. In the early days of guitar, everyone played without the use of a volume pedal. While it is true that there are many great performers today who still use no effects at all, even they would probably admit they could benefit from the use of a volume pedal.
Nowadays, music can be pretty complex. Playing a two handed instrument such as a guitar means your feet are the only things free to control effects and volume. Enter volume pedals and stompboxes. In addition, the complex keyboard synthesizer can be made a little bit easier by taking expression responsibilities away from your hands, and putting them into your feet. Control of a function, effect, or volume is simply a step away.
The History Of The Volume Pedal
The concept of a volume pedal actually goes as far back as the 19th century, to an object found on pipe organs called a swell box. The swell box was a large enclosure built around the pipes of an organ, which had shutters on it that opened and closed like window blinds. The organist would use the pedal to open and close these shutters to create more or less sound. Thus, the first expression pedal was born. This is why expression pedals are sometimes called swell pedals.
With the birth of the electric organ came the evolution of the expression pedal. Organists no longer had to use both feet to operate an organ’s pedalboard, and could focus instead on making changes in the music with the expression pedal.
This transferred almost immediately to guitarists, who, as early as the late 1930s, had been looking for a way to increase the volume on their instruments without using their hands. Over the years, the volume pedal has evolved. In the modern era, a volume pedal combined with a digital amp or controller now provides many more options than the pedals of the 20th century. Modern volume pedals can now be set to control multiple effects and features; such as gain, vibrato, and the infamous wah. These features used to require their own circuitry and a dedicated pedal to operate. Now they can be mapped from a digital amp and controlled interchangeably from your volume pedal.
Things To Consider When Buying A Volume Pedal
There are five main things that must be considered when choosing a volume pedal: compatibility, accuracy, durability, function, and size.
Before you buy any volume pedal, you want to make sure it is compatible with your gear and play style. To this end, ask yourself a few questions before making your purchase. Will the pedal work with MIDI equipment, or is it only for regular ¼ inch cables? If you need a pedal to control your MIDI board, this is a question you can’t afford to miss. Does the slightest off note or out of tune guitar drive you crazy? If so, you may want to consider a volume pedal that will not affect the tone of your guitar. You may even consider an expression pedal with an attached tuner output, so you can be sure to tune between every song.
Consider how accurate you need your volume adjustments to be. Do you play with a group whose dynamics require very finely tuned sounds? Then you will want a volume pedal that can give you an accurate reading and complete volume control. On the other hand, if you are the lead guitarist of a garage rock group, and only need your pedal to take your sound from loud to ear piercing, a simpler pedal may be the way to go.
Durability can be extremely important as well. It would be terrible for your volume pedal to break in the middle of a show. Will your pedal be getting heavy use? Traveling the road, getting stomped on night after night? A pedal of strong construction would be the one for you. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a home studio setting, a rugged pedal can be swapped for one with lighter construction. This may save you money and shave some extra weight off of your gear bag.
You will also want to think about the functions of your volume pedal. Many pedals can be used to express different effects besides volume. Will you also be using the pedal to create swells or control other effects on your guitar? Some pedals are more suited for that use. Do you simply need a pedal to turn your instruments up and down? There are very simple pedals without all the add-ons that may suit you.
Size can be another vital area to consider. For a musician with a lot of effects pedals, adding another one to your board may be enough to cause minor anxiety. Instead of buying a new board just to fit your volume pedal, consider buying a pedal with a smaller profile.