Ultimate Guide to Effects Pedals Jargon

effect pedalen jargon

Guitar pedals are great because they offer guitarists the tools to shape their sound, inspire creativity, enhance live performances, and connect with a rich tradition of music-making.

Their versatility, portability, and ability to create unique sonic landscapes make effects pedals an essential part of many guitarists’ arsenals.

Ultimate guide for effects pedals jargon

With a history dating as far back as the 1940s, many players new to the world of effects find it difficult to navigate their way through. So if you are in doubt and do not know the difference between a bucket brigade and a buffered bypass, and can not tell a harmonizer apart from a Bitcrusher, then this is the ultimate guide to effect pedals jargon for you. Here’s an alphabetic summary of common guitar effects jargon and explanations for each term:

A-Z of effects pedals jargon


9V Battery: Some pedals run on batteries. Almost always a 9 volts battery is used for power.



ABY Switcher: An A/B/Y box allows you to switch between two different signal paths or amplifiers but also includes the option to use both simultaneously (Y mode).

AC (Alternating Current): AC is when the direction of the electric charge periodically reverses, causing the current to flow back and forth. AC is the type of current used in most household electrical systems and is generated by power plants.

AC Adapter: Most pedals use an external power supply that runs on Alternating Current.

Active: Refers to the type of electronics used in a pedal. Active pedals require power (usually 9V), while passive pedals do not.

Amplitude: Refers to the measure of the strength or intensity of a sound wave at a particular point in time.

Analog Pedal: An effects pedal that uses analog circuitry to process the guitar signal. Analog pedals are known for their warm and organic sound.

Attack: The initial transient or onset of a guitar note’s sound. Some effects pedals, like compressors, can alter the attack of your notes.

Auto-Wah: An envelope filter effect that automatically sweeps through a wah-wah-like sound as you play. It responds to your playing dynamics without the need for a foot pedal.

Aux: Some effects pedals have an auxiliary send and return, which allows you to integrate external effects into your pedalboard signal chain.


Band (frequency): a range of frequencies within the audio frequency range

Band-pass filter: an electronic circuit or signal processing tool used in audio and other fields to allow a specific range of frequencies to pass through while attenuating or blocking frequencies outside of that range.

Bandwidth: Refers to the range of frequencies an effect pedal can affect. Some pedals allow you to adjust the bandwidth to target specific frequency ranges.

BBD (Bucket Brigade Delay): An analog delay circuit used in some delay pedals, consisting of a series of transistor-based stages that pass the delayed signal along, creating a distinct warm and analog delay sound.

Bitcrusher: A type of effect pedal that reduces the bit depth of a digital audio signal, creating a gritty, lo-fi sound by intentionally degrading the audio quality.

Blend: A control found on certain pedals, such as delay or modulation pedals, that allows you to mix the wet (effected) and dry (unaffected) signals to achieve the desired balance.

Boost: A boost pedal is designed to increase the signal strength or volume of the guitar, often used to push an amplifier or other pedals into overdrive or distortion.

Boutique: Pedals made by small, independent manufacturers, often handcrafted and known for their unique designs and high-quality components.

Buffer (signal): An electronic circuit used to maintain signal integrity when connecting multiple pedals in a chain.

Buffered Bypass: A bypass method where the pedal uses a buffer circuit to maintain signal strength even when the effect is turned off. This can help prevent signal degradation in long pedal chains but may color the tone slightly.

Bias: A control found on some modulation and overdrive pedals that adjusts the internal voltage or biasing of components to shape the tone or character of the effect.


Chorus: An effect that modulates the pitch and timing of the signal to create a thicker, shimmering sound.

Chromatic Tuner: A pedal that provides precise tuning for a guitar or other musical instrument by indicating whether the pitch is sharp or flat without reference to a specific musical note.

Clean: A term used to describe a guitar tone that is free of distortion or overdrive, producing a clear and pure sound.

Clipping: The process of limiting or distorting an audio signal, often used to describe how a distortion or overdrive pedal affects the waveform.

Compressor: A pedal that reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal by attenuating the loud parts and boosting the quiet parts, resulting in a more balanced and sustain-rich sound.

Current: refers to the flow of electric charge through a conductor or a circuit. Current is measured in units called amperes (A).

Cutoff frequency: In filter-based effects like wah-wah pedals and envelope filters, the cutoff frequency refers to the point at which the filter begins to attenuate or boost certain frequencies.


Daisy Chain: A method of powering multiple effects pedals using a single power supply. It involves connecting the pedals in series using a daisy chain cable, allowing them to share power from a single source.

DAW (Digital Audio Workstation): A computer with soundcard for recording audio.

DC (Direct Current): DC is when the electric charge flows in one direction, and the magnitude and direction of the current remain constant over time. Batteries and most electronic devices use DC power.

Decay: On some pedals, particularly reverb and delay, the decay parameter controls how long the effect lasts after the initial note or sound is played. It affects the duration of the reverberations or echoes.

Decibel (dB): s a unit of measurement used to express the relative intensity or power of a signal or phenomenon, typically in the context of sound, acoustics, and electronics.

Delay: An effect that produces a delayed replica of the input signal, creating echoes and repeats.

DI (Direct Inject): A device or pedal that allows you to send the guitar or bass signal directly to a mixing console or audio interface, bypassing the amplifier. DI boxes can be useful for recording and live sound applications.

Depth: Alters the depth or intensity of modulation effects.

Digital Pedal: A digital effects pedal works by digitally processing the incoming audio signal and applying a wide range of effects or modifications to it.

Diode: An electronic component used primarily for its rectification and signal clipping properties. Diodes are semiconductor devices that allow current to flow in only one direction while blocking it in the opposite direction.

Distortion: A type of effect that saturates the signal, adding harmonic content and creating a gritty, distorted sound. Can also refer to any change to the shape of a waveform.

Drive: A parameter found on many distortion and overdrive pedals that controls the amount of gain or distortion added to the signal. Increasing the drive setting results in a more distorted sound.

DSP (Digital Signal Procession): The proces in which an analog audio signal is converted to digital information and manipulated.

Dynamic range: The difference between the quietest and loudest parts of a sound or piece of music. It is a critical characteristic of audio quality and is typically measured in decibels (dB).


Echo: Another term for delay, an effect that repeats the audio signal with a time delay, creating a “echoing” effect.

Effects Loop: A section in some amplifiers and multi-effects units where you can place effects for specific parts of your signal chain.

Effects Pedal: A compact device that alters or enhances the sound of a musical instrument, typically a guitar or bass.

Envelope: The dynamic course of a sound in terms of attack, decay, sustain and release of a sound.

EQ (Equalization): A pedal that allows you to adjust the frequency response of your instrument, emphasising or attenuating specific frequency ranges.

Expander: An expander is the opposite of a compressor and increases the dynamic range of an audio signal.

Expression Pedal: A separate pedal that can control certain parameters of other pedals in real-time, often used for volume or wah-wah effects.


Feedback: (Unwanted) squealing or howling caused by high levels of signal regeneration in certain effects, like delay or reverb.Adjusts the amount of signal sent back through the effect in feedback loops.

FET (Field-Effect Transistor): FET is a type of transistor used in some effects pedals to shape and control the signal. It’s often associated with compression and boost pedals.

Filter: A filter is an effect that modifies the frequency content of a signal. It can be used to cut or boost specific frequencies, shaping the tone of the sound.

Firmware: Firmware is the software embedded in some digital effects pedals that controls their operation. It can be updated to add new features or fix issues.

Flanger: Produces a jet-like, swirling sound by modulating the delay time of the signal.

Footswitch: A footswitch is a pedal-operated switch used to toggle an effect on or off. Many effects pedals have one or more footswitches for easy control during a performance.

Fuzz: A type of distortion that produces a thick, buzzy, and saturated sound.


Gain: Gain refers to the amplification of the input signal in an effects pedal. It controls the level of distortion or overdrive in many effects.

Gain Staging: The process of carefully setting the gain levels at various points in your signal chain to achieve the desired tone and prevent distortion or noise issues.

Gate: A noise gate, often called a gate or gatekeeper, is an effect used to suppress unwanted noise when the input signal falls below a certain threshold. It’s commonly used to reduce hum and hiss.

Ground Loop: When two or more components in an audio setup have separate ground connections, it can create unwanted hum or buzzing. Ground loop isolators or lifting the ground can help eliminate this issue.


Graphic Equalizer: A type of equalizer pedal that uses sliders to adjust the amplitude (volume) of specific frequency bands. This allows for precise tonal shaping.

Germanium transistor: A germanium transistor is a variation on a standard silicon transistor, where, instead, a silicon-silicon-germanium alloy is commonly used to increase transmission speed of electrical signals.


Harmonizer: A type of effect pedal that can create harmonies by shifting the pitch of the incoming audio signal up or down in specific intervals.

Headroom: Refers to the available clean signal strength before distortion or clipping occurs in an effects pedal. More headroom means a pedal can handle a louder input signal without distortion.

High-pass Filter: A filter that allows high-frequency signals to pass through while attenuating or cutting lower frequencies. Often used to remove unwanted low-end rumble or to shape the tone of a guitar signal.

Hybrid Pedal: An effects pedal that combines multiple effects or technologies into a single unit, offering versatility and convenience.


Impedance: The electrical resistance of a circuit or component, often measured in ohms. Matching the impedance between pedals and other audio equipment is important for preserving signal quality.

Impulse Response (IR): A digital representation of the acoustic characteristics of a physical space or amplifier. IRs are used in convolution reverbs and amp modeling pedals to recreate the sound of specific environments or gear.

Input/Output Jacks: Ports for connecting your guitar (input) and amp or other pedals (output).

Isolated power supply: Isolation refers to the separation of different parts of a power supply to prevent interference or noise.


Jack plug: A common term for the input and output connectors on an effects pedal. These are typically 1/4-inch jacks.

JFET (Junction Field-Effect Transistor): A type of transistor used in some guitar pedals, particularly in overdrive and distortion circuits. They can shape the tone and gain characteristics.

Jitter: Unwanted variations in a signal’s timing or frequency. In pedals, jitter can cause unwanted artifacts or instability in effects like modulation or delay.

Jumper: A connector that can be used to alter or modify the internal circuitry of a pedal. Jumpers are often used for modding purposes to change the pedal’s behaviour.



Knee: Refers to the shape of a compressor’s response curve, describing how gradually or abruptly compression engages as the input signal crosses the threshold.

Killswitch: A pedal or switch that instantly mutes the signal when pressed, often used for creating staccato or choppy effects.


Low-Pass Filter: An effect or control that allows only frequencies below a certain cutoff point to pass through, while attenuating frequencies above that point. It’s used to shape the tonal characteristics of the sound.

Latching Switch: A type of footswitch that toggles an effect on or off and stays in its current state until pressed again. It provides a click to indicate the switch’s position.

LED Indicator: A light that shows if the pedal is active (usually on) or bypassed (usually off).

Level: A control on many pedals that adjusts the overall output volume of the effect. It allows you to match the effect’s volume with your dry (unaffected) signal or boost it for solos.

LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillator): An oscillator that generates low-frequency waveforms used to modulate various parameters of an effect, such as the rate of a tremolo or the depth of a phaser.

Limiter: An effect that restricts the dynamic range of an audio signal, preventing it from exceeding a certain level. Limiters are commonly used to control peaks and protect equipment from overloading.

Line Level: The standard signal level used for interconnecting audio equipment. Effects pedals typically work with instrument-level signals, and line level is a stronger signal typically found in mixers, preamps, and other professional audio gear.

Line Selector: A type of pedal that allows you to switch between multiple input or output lines. It’s often used to route your instrument to different amps or effects chains.

Looper: A pedal that records and plays back audio in real-time, allowing musicians to create layered compositions.

Low Cut: A control found on some pedals that allows you to remove or reduce low-frequency content from the affected signal. This is useful for cleaning up muddy or boomy tones.


mA (Milliampere): the amount of current is usually stated in thousands of ampere

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface): A protocol that allows different musical devices, including effects pedals, to communicate and synchronise with each other.

MIDI Clock Sync: Synchronising a pedal’s timing or tempo with an external MIDI clock signal, allowing it to stay in time with other MIDI devices.

MIDI Controller: A device used to send MIDI signals to control various parameters on MIDI-compatible pedals, such as changing presets or tweaking settings.

Mix/Blend: Changes the balance between the dry (unaffected) and wet (effected) signals.

Modulation Effects: Effects like chorus, phaser, and flanger that modify the sound by creating variations in pitch, time, or both.

Modulation: A category of effects that includes chorus, flanger, phaser, and tremolo, which alter the sound by modulating certain parameters.

Momentary Switch: A type of footswitch that engages the effect only when you press and hold it down, releasing it disengages the effect.

Mono/Stereo: Some pedals offer both mono (single-channel) and stereo (dual-channel) output options.

Mute Switch: A switch on some pedals that silences the effect temporarily, often used for tuning or when the effect is not needed momentarily.

Multi-Effects Pedal: A single pedal or unit that combines multiple effects, often with presets and the ability to chain them together.


Noise Gate: A noise gate is an effect pedal that helps reduce unwanted noise by cutting off the audio signal when it falls below a certain threshold. It’s commonly used to eliminate hiss and background noise in a signal chain.

NOS (New Old Stock): NOS refers to electronic components, often vacuum tubes or transistors, that are no longer in production but are unused and considered vintage. Some guitarists prefer NOS components for their unique characteristics.

Notch Filter: A notch filter is designed to attenuate or eliminate specific frequencies in the audio signal. It’s useful for removing unwanted frequencies, such as feedback or hum.

NPD (New Pedal Day): A slang term used by guitarists to celebrate the acquisition of a new effects pedal. It’s often used in social media posts to showcase the latest addition to a guitarist’s pedalboard.


Octave Pedal: An effects pedal that generates tones one or more octaves above or below the original input signal, creating a richer and more complex sound.

Octave Fuzz: An effects pedal that combines octave-up and fuzz distortion effects to create a unique and distinctive sound. It produces a thick, harmonically rich tone.

Optical Compressor: A type of compressor pedal that uses an optical circuit to control the dynamics of the audio signal. Optical compressors are known for their smooth and natural compression characteristics.

Overdrive: Overdrive is a type of distortion effect that simulates the sound of a tube amplifier being pushed to its limits, resulting in a warm, saturated tone with a smooth breakup.

Oscillation: Any sort of vibration or cycling behaviour from sounds waves. In effects pedals oscillation usually refers to a certain kind of filter behaviour or delay feedback behaviour.


Parallel: A setup where the dry (unaffected) and wet (effected) signals run independently and are mixed together, preserving the original tone. Many modern compressor pedals have this feature.

Parametric EQ: An equalisation pedal with adjustable frequency, bandwidth, and gain controls for precise tone shaping.

Passive: Refers to the type of electronics used in a pedal. Active pedals require power (usually 9V), while passive pedals do not.

Patch Cable: Short cables used to connect effects pedals together on a pedalboard.

Pedal: See effects pedal

Pedalboard: A flat board or case used to organise and mount multiple effects pedals.

Phaser: An effects pedal that modulates the phase of an audio signal, creating a swirling, sweeping sound.

Pitch Shifter: A pedal that alters the pitch of the incoming audio signal, allowing for harmonisation or detuning effects.

Plate Reverb: An effects pedal that simulates the reverberation of sound in a large plate of metal, producing a lush and smooth reverb.

Polarity: Polarity indicates if the centre (or tip) of the output plug is positive (+) or negative (-).

Polyphonic: Refers to pedals that can process multiple notes or voices simultaneously, typically used with pitch-shifting and harmonisation effects.

Power Amp: The final stage of a guitar amplifier where the signal of the preamp is amplified to move  the speakers in the cabinet.

Power Supply: An external device that provides electrical power to multiple effects pedals on a pedalboard.

Preamp: A circuit in some pedals that amplifies the input signal before it’s processed by other effects, often used for signal boosting.

Preset: A saved configuration of settings on a multi-effects pedal, allowing quick recall of specific sounds.

Programmable: Pedals with the ability to save and recall custom presets or settings for various effects.


Q: In some equalizer (EQ) pedals, “Q” refers to the bandwidth or width of a specific frequency range that you can boost or cut. A high Q value narrows the range, while a low Q value broadens it.


Ramp: In some modulation pedals, a ramp control allows you to smoothly increase or decrease the intensity of the effect over time. This can be useful for creating evolving sounds.

Rate: Rate refers to the speed at which an effect modulates or oscillates. For example, in a chorus pedal, rate controls how quickly the pitch of the affected signal varies.

Ratio: Controls the degree of compression in a compressor.

Regulated Power Supply: A stable power supply that delivers the exact amount of voltage.

Relay switch: A remotely-controllable switch

Resonance: Resonance control is found in some filter and EQ pedals. It adjusts the intensity or emphasis of a specific frequency, allowing you to shape your tone.

Reverb: Simulates the acoustic characteristics of different spaces, adding depth and ambiance to the sound.

Reverse Delay: Reverse delay is an effect that plays the delayed signal backward. It creates a surreal and otherworldly sound, often used for dramatic effects.

Ring Modulator: A ring modulator is an effect pedal that generates dissonant and metallic tones by multiplying the input signal with an internal oscillator. It’s known for its alien-like and unique sound.

Routing: Routing options on multi-effects pedals or switchers allow you to determine how your signal flows through different effects and amplifier channels. It can be used to create complex signal paths.

Rotary Speaker Simulator: This type of pedal simulates the sound of a rotating Leslie speaker cabinet, often used with organs and electric pianos. It creates a swirling, Doppler-like effect.


Sample and Hold: A sample and hold (S&H) pedal captures and “holds” a momentary input voltage or signal level and outputs it as a continuous voltage. This effect can create unique stepped or glitchy sounds.

Saturation: Saturation is a type of distortion that occurs when an audio signal is driven to its maximum level, resulting in a warm and often gritty sound. Some pedals, like overdrive and distortion, are designed to create saturation.

Send/Return: The connections needed for an effects loop. When a signal is to be send outside a pedal you connect it to the send output. The return input is used for the incoming audio signal.

Series: A setup where the audio signal goes through different effects pedals. There is only one signal path from the guitar, through each of the pedals and on to the amp.

Shelving filter: A shelving filter or shelving EQ allows you to boost or attenuate either the high end or the low end of an audio signal.

Signal Chain: The signal chain is the order in which audio signals pass through your pedals. The arrangement of pedals in a specific order can greatly affect the resulting sound.

Silicon transistor: A silicon transistor is a semiconductor made with a silicon base and is used in effects pedals to alter the flow of electrical current.

Sine Wave: A sine wave is a smooth, periodic waveform that represents a pure tone. Some modulation effects use sine waves as the basis for their modulation shape.

Soft Clipping: Soft clipping is a distortion type that rounds off the waveform’s peaks, resulting in a smoother and less harsh distortion sound compared to hard clipping.

Speed/Rate: Modifies the speed of modulation effects like chorus or tremolo.

Spring Reverb: Spring reverb is a type of reverb effect that emulates the sound of a spring vibrating, creating a characteristic “boingy” or “twangy” reverb sound.

Stompbox: A stompbox is a compact effects pedal that can be activated or deactivated by stomping on a footswitch. They are typically placed on the floor and are controlled by a guitarist’s foot.

Stomp Switch: The footswitch used to turn the pedal on/off. Some pedals have extra switches for toggling settings.


Sustain: Sustain refers to the length of time a note or sound continues after it’s played. Some pedals, like compression and sustain pedals, can increase or extend the sustain of a guitar.

Sweep: Sweep refers to the movement of a variable control (such as a knob or a slider) on an effects pedal that changes a parameter continuously. For example, a wah-wah pedal sweeps through a range of frequencies.

Swell Pedal: A swell pedal is an expression pedal that is often used to control volume, allowing a guitarist to create smooth volume swells and fade-ins.

Swells: Swells refer to a technique where a guitarist gradually increases the volume of their guitar signal using a volume pedal or volume knob to create a smooth, swelling sound.


Tails: In delay and reverb pedals, it refers to the reverberation or delayed sound that lingers after the effect is turned off. Some pedals allow you to choose whether the tails continue or cut off immediately.

Tap Tempo: A feature that allows you to set the tempo of time-based effects (e.g., delay) by tapping a footswitch.

Threshold: Sets the level at which a dynamic effect (e.g., compressor) activates. The threshold sets when a gate effect opens or closes based on input volume.

Time-Based Effects: Effects like delay and reverb that manipulate the timing of the sound to create spaciousness or echo.

Tone/EQ: Adjusts tonal characteristics, often bass and treble frequencies.

Tone Stack: The arrangement of tone control knobs (e.g., bass, mid, treble) on an amplifier or some EQ pedals to shape the overall sound.

TRS (Tip Ring Sleeve): TRS cables can be used for mono, balanced signals as well as stereo signals.

Trails: Refers to the residual sound or effect that continues after you turn off a pedal with true bypass or buffered bypass.

Transient: The initial, short-duration peak in a sound signal, often associated with the attack of a note. Some pedals can affect transients.

Transparent: A buzzword usually describing the sound of an overdrive when it does not alter the core tone of your guitar too much.

Treble: The high-frequency range of sound, often controlled by a treble knob on pedals to adjust the amount of high-end frequencies.

Tremolo: An effect that modulates the volume of the signal in a rhythmic, pulsating manner.

True Bypass: A circuit design that allows the pedal to completely bypass the effect when it’s turned off, ensuring the cleanest possible signal path

True Stereo: A stereo pedal that processes the left and right channels independently.

TS (Tip Sleeve): TS cables are generally used for mono, unbalanced signals. These are most commonly used with electric guitars and effects pedals.


Underdrive: Underdrive is a term sometimes used to describe a pedal or effect that attenuates or reduces the gain or signal level. It is the opposite of an overdrive or distortion effect.

Univibe: A Univibe is a type of modulation pedal that emulates the sound of a rotating speaker, often associated with a Leslie speaker. It creates a distinctive swirling, phase-like effect and is commonly used with electric guitars.

Unity Gain: Unity gain refers to a setting on an effects pedal where the output level matches the input level, resulting in no increase or decrease in signal strength. It is often used to maintain the same volume when engaging or bypassing a pedal.

USB Connectivity: Some modern effects pedals offer USB connectivity for firmware updates or computer-based editing and customisation. This allows users to tweak and refine their pedal’s settings using a computer.


V (Volt): Voltage is the electric potential difference between two points in an electric circuit.

Vacuum tube: A sealed glass tube from which most of the air has been removed to create a vacuum. Inside the tube, there are various electrodes, including a cathode, an anode, and sometimes one or more control grids. Used in guitar amplifiers and some pedals.

VCA (Voltage-Controlled Amplifier): A component used in some modulation pedals to control the amplitude or volume of the audio signal based on an incoming voltage, typically from an LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillator).

VCO (Voltage-Controlled Oscillator): A component used in some synthesizer-style pedals to generate audio waveforms that can be used for various modulation effects.

Vibrato: An effect that modulates the pitch of the guitar signal, creating a subtle pitch modulation similar to the natural vibrato produced by a guitarist’s finger.

Voltage Sag: An intentional drop in voltage in certain pedals to mimic the effect of a dying battery, which can create unique and warm distortion characteristics.


Wah-Wah: A foot-operated pedal that alters the tone of the instrument by sweeping through specific frequency ranges.

Wet/Dry: Refers to how the affected (wet) and unaffected (dry) signals are mixed. Some pedals allow you to adjust this balance.

Wet Signal: The processed or affected audio signal produced by an effects pedal.

White Noise: A type of noise generated by some effects pedals, often used for creating ambient or textured sounds.


XLR Jack: A type of connector commonly used for balanced audio signals. Some pedals may have XLR jacks for specific purposes, such as direct outputs.


Y-Cable: A Y-cable, also known as a splitter cable, is used to split a single audio signal into two or more signals. This can be useful for routing your guitar signal to multiple effects pedals or amplifiers.


Understanding these terms will help you navigate the world of guitar effects and make informed choices when building your pedalboard or choosing individual effects for your setup. Did we mis something in this glossary of effects pedals jargon? Please leave your comment below and we will add them asap.

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