To get the guitar signal (The actual sound that comes out of the amplifier) that you want is very difficult to get.
Many players realize this only after recording themselves, at which point they realize what they thought was an amazing and full of emotion solo was nothing more than just a couple of notes without expression.
To add or put expression to the noted guitarist have lots of different techniques such as: bending, sliding, hammering on, pulling off, etc.
However, these techniques only affect the pitch of the note and the transition in between notes; they do not alter the final sound or the guitar effects that may be added throughout the chain like chorus, flanger, distortion/overdrive, delay, wah, etc.
So, how to, we alter the effect rather than the signal (note) coming through the signal change?
Easy, with an expression pedal.
It is wrongly thought that the expression pedal is only made to control the volume of the guitar. This is not wrong, but for sure is not right.
Controlling the volume is one of the functions that can be controlled with the expression pedal, however since most guitar players can also control the volume with the guitar volume knob or the amp volume knob, they end up using the expression pedal for other purposes.
The expression pedal (depending on the model) is usually attached to a certain effect of the guitarist choosing, once the expression pedal and the effect are combined, they become dependable. With the main effect stomp-box, you can turn the effect on and off.
For example, if you were using an overdrive pedal when you pushed it, the distortion kicks in, push it again and it goes off, and so on…
Now, let’s say that you want to play a song that starts with some distortion (Clearly not a clean sound) and then towards the end of the song you need to push the gain further and further with no time whatsoever to bend and change the gain knob manually.
As we said, there is no bar that you are not playing, so bending is not an option, what can you do? You assign the expression pedal to that effect, and you can set it to control for example the amount of gain that the distortion pedal adds, this way after you have turned the distortion on, you can still manage the gain throughout the song without any problems.
The most famous effect that must be used mandatory with an expression pedal is the Wah effect. In this effect, the pedal alters the signal by cutting parts of it making the final sound to sound like the guitar is saying “Wah.”
With the expression pedal, you can control how much “Wah” you want to put on the signal, this way you can alter the sound accordingly to your needs.
This is a good example of an effect that would be almost useless if there was only an on/off switch, the “Wah” pedal needs the expression pedal to alter the sound during the playing.
Probably one of the most famous guitar solos with Wah effect is the last part of GNR’s Sweet child of mine, in the music video you can see when Slash turns the wah on and how he plays with the expression pedals to add that extra doses of feel to the solo.
Like most things in modern life, you have almost an infinite amount of options depending mostly on their quality/ features, but we will try to let you know a little bit about five of the most favorite expression pedals in the world.
|Moog ACCEP003 EP3 Expression Pedal|
4.7 / 5
|Valeton EP-2 Passive Volume Expression Guitar Effects Pedal 2 Performance|
4.8 / 5
|Yamaha FC7 Volume Expression Pedal|
4.6 / 5
|Ernie Ball MVP, Most Valuable Pedal|
4.7 / 5
|Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal|
4.5 / 5
Best Guitar Expression Pedals
Using an expression pedal can be tricky and counterproductive if you are not used to it. It may be a good idea to train sometime on how to use the pedal while playing songs, you have to be very coordinated, but trust us, when you have mastered the expression pedal, the songs have new meanings.
What you have to look for in an expression pedal are two things:
- Materials quality as the expression pedals suffer a lot of use and wear as they are being pressed all the time, if the quality is bad one of the first things the pedal will lose and fade is the calibration, this means that when you want to be at a certain level the pedal will output a different one. Usually the high-quality pedals have a re-calibration feature, but even so it is not very funny to be calibrating the pedal after every song. The low-quality pedals don’t even have this option, meaning that if they get de-calibrated they become almost useless.
- If the expression pedal is going to be a volume only pedal or if it will be also an expression pedal, some models are only volume, some models are only expression and great models are both, be extra careful about these features when purchasing one.
Now, let’s go into the list and see what we got.
1. Moog ACCEP003 EP3 Expression Pedal
This expression pedal ranks at the very bottom of the list. Even though the manufacturer says that the durability and quality of the pedal are good, it isn’t.
You will not find an expression pedal for beginners that has as they quote “perfect weight and balance, along with superb craftsmanship,” if this would be a fact, then it would be the most sold expression pedal in the world.
However, is it a mistake to buy it?
For sure no, it will do its function at a minimum level, so if you are just starting to play guitar and you are playing with new effects, and you want to have some wider options while playing this pedal may be an option.
It may also be an option if you already have some other pedals from Moog as they are made to work together, but if you are planning to use this expression pedal with any of the mainstream pedals brands, be very sure to double and triple check that the expression pedal from Moog will work.
Systems and circuits are much more complex on high-quality pedals and may not work properly. Unfortunately, there is no further way I can assist you as there are so many options in the market that it is impossible to check the compatibility for all the stomp boxes.
2. Valeton EP-2 Passive Volume Expression Guitar Effects Pedal 2 Performance
This pedal will be my sincere choice when choosing the first expression pedal on this article. We will be reviewing five expression pedals from different ranges and this one even though it’s a first timer it has a decent quality.
The Valeton EP-2 is made of hard plastic but it is still very robust, and it has a great feeling when it is pressed. It has a two in one function system as it can be used as a volume pedal or an expression pedal depending on which part of the sound chain it is connected.
Since it is a passive pedal, it means that it does not need either battery or a power supply, which may sound as it is a very bad feature, but this is not true, lots of pedals have no energy supply and work with the power supplied by the jack cable.
It can be used with a variety of instruments like guitars, basses, keyboards, basically anything with a ¼” jack input/ output. Also, it detects automatically the function that you need, meaning that depending on the input signal it will be either an expression pedal or a volume pedal.
On the sides, it comes with high quality ¼” jacks, one input that will come from the instrument or another stomp box, and on the other side the output jack to connect the pedal to either the next pedal or the amplifier.
3. Yamaha FC7 Volume Expression Pedal
Still, on the beginners comes one of the most sold pedals online. The Yamaha FC7, why? I do not exactly know as this pedal does nothing.
To begin, it has no input and output jack, meaning it is useless for a guitar. The only way to make it work is on “reverse,” this means the instrument or pedal needs to have an 1/4″ input for volume or expression. Then you can connect the Yamaha FC7 and use the pedal.
They say that it can be used as an expression pedal, but trust me there are very few pedals that will have the extra input jack feature.
The only way this pedal works as a volume pedal is mainly in keyboards as they tend to have the extra 1/4″ jack input to allow the user to control the volume with an expression pedal, especially low-quality keyboards without sensitive keys.
The only good thing that the Yamaha FC 7 has is the “Fortissimo Function” which allows the user to boost the signal level when performing something that comes in handy if the music sheet has some solo or “concertino” part for that instrument.
Whoever, in general sheets that are this detailed, are played by musicians that have sensitive instruments, so in the end, this may be a bit of a paradox.
I think all the reasons above is why the pedal is ranked #907 in musical instruments out of 100!!
4. Ernie Ball MVP, Most Valuable Pedal
Now we are getting somewhere I like with this best expression pedals reviews. The Ernie Ball MVP (Most valuable pedal) not only has a cool name and looks but it also works incredible.
The first thing to look and compare is the quality of the materials that are made of. If you can try the different pedals at the same time, you will see that the Ernie Ball MVP has a different weight and resistant when being pushed.
On its features, it is a great pedal that allows the player to control the volume without losing high-frequency signal. It works with both active and passive instruments and other pedals meaning it can be placed anywhere in the signal chain.
It comes with a gain booster allowing the musician to boost the signal up to +20 decibels. It is supplied with either DC 9V/100mA or a 9V battery (neither are supplied).
The key part of this pedal is the front in which you will see some great features. In the picture we can see first a min and max gain knob, these allow the player to set the minimum and maximum amount of gain, volume, delay, basically whatever you want to use the expression pedal for.
Let’s say you are using the pedal to control the delay feedback, and you want there to always be a minimum delay let’s say 20% feedback, then you would switch the min knob accordingly, and on the other side let’s say you want the max delay feedback to be at 80%, so it doesn’t kill the audience, then you can do the same with the max gain knob.
Imagine the possibilities with every single effect on your chain! It would be endless.
Following the upper part, we have another ¼” output jack with a tuning fork, this is extremely useful, it allows you to send an extra signal from that jack to an electric tuner so that when you are performing you can tune your guitar even when the sound is off as it has a parallel signal system.
On the bottom part, you will find the classic input and output ¼” jacks for signal and in the middle the 9V-DC power supply input, have in mind that it has a neuter power as well to avoid static or kickbacks.
For all these, there is a wonderful expression pedal.
5. Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal – High Impedance
The Boss FV-500H is another incredible expression pedal, to begin with, Boss is one of the best brands in the world when making stompboxes, and it is very common for a guitarist to have at least four or five pedals in their rack meaning this pedal is extremely compatible.
The look is great, and the materials are high quality, you will feel the decimal precision that this pedal has when you are stepping on it. The rubber on the top part is great to avoid any slipping when pushing which may not seems as much, but when you are precise, you need this.
The pedal has the two main features as it can be used as both a volume or expression pedal, in these case it can be used at the same time for both as it has independent input/ output and expression jacks, however, have in mind that if you are using it for example for volume and Wah you will decrease volume when playing with your Wah, probably not the best choice.
But if you use them independently is very comfortable to have the options of independent jacks.
The front of the pedal is similar to the Ernie Ball with the three jacks right there, then the rest of the features are on the side.
There you will find a tuning output that has the same feature as the Ernie Ball (It allows you to send an extra signal for tuning that is independent of the rest) and since this is a high impedance pedal it comes with a general gain knob (instead of two like the Ernie Ball) to control the final signal’s decibel that will be outputted.
This is also another wonderful choice for an expression pedal.
Guitar Expression Pedals – Buyer’s Guide
|Question/ Expression Pedal||Moog ACCEP003 EP3 Expression Pedal||Valeton EP-2 Passive Volume Expression Guitar Effects Pedal 2 Performance||Ernie Ball MVP, Most Valuable Pedal||Boss FV-500H Volume Pedal – High Impedance||Yamaha FC7 Volume Expression Pedal|
|Ideal for:||Having a first expression pedal and learning what it does||Having the best low/ medium quality expression pedal out there||Rocking! This pedal is incredible and has it all in one plus amazing quality.||My personal favorite, Boss pedals are always awesome and have a lasting quality. This is ideal for your pedal board||Only buy this expression pedal if you are looking to use it as a volume pedal for your keyboard|
|Things to have in mind:||Do not expect much detailed when using the pedal, try to think of it as a three-position pedal. Like positions low, medium and high||You will get a lot, even though it is a passive pedal it will get the job done at a reasonable level||If you but this pedal take your time to know all of its features and how to use them. Learn how to use the gain control knobs to improve your sound and have an independent tuner||When you buy this pedal you get it all, also try to use everything. Besides the independent tuning jack, try to learn the different results of sounds depending on the impedance level set by the knob on the side.||Try not to expect much from this pedal, just plug it into your keyboard and use it for volume if your keyboard has no sensitive keys|
|Getting the most out of it:||The most out of it will be to have something to cut the signal, nothing more||Be patient with this pedal, try to see which combination is the best, if it is best with another stompbox or just as a volume pedal||To get the most out of this great pedal, it is very important where to put the pedal on the signal chain, try to put it after the modulations and before the delay and reverb, this will give you a wider variety of options||Same as before, you have to be very smart about where to put this pedal on the signal chain. Don’t put it at the end as it is very powerful and will cut the signal very fast losing sound quality||Not much to say here, same as before, just use it as a volume pedal for your keyboard|
|The biggest advantage:||It is nice to learn how to use an expression pedal by having one. This would be that option.||You are not going to spend much money, and yet you will get a cool looking and medium quality pedal||All the options on the front panel, especially the min and max gain knobs.||All the things you can do with an incredible expression pedal, plus it has decimal precision which is awesome||You will be able to alter the volume on your keyboard if it is not key-sensitive|
|Any cons?||Do not expect much than a three-position expression pedal, it will not have a decimal precision rate.||It is not a high-quality pedal, great for having fun. Also it is passive meaning it may not be as powerful as an active pedal||No cons, this pedal is just great.||No cons, this pedal is just great.||It doesn’t work on guitars|
|When to move on to the next expression pedal?||As soon as possible||You can hang out to this pedal a little bit more but in the end, try to upgrade to a high-quality expression pedal||No need, you have a pedal for life||No need, you have a pedal for life||As soon as possible is very slow rate to get out of this pedal|
The conclusion would be that if you are trying to buy an expression pedal that has great quality and full of cool features, then either the Boss or the Ernie Ball is your choice, you may spend some extra money, but it will be worth it.
If you are on a budget, then try to go for any of the first three options (Moog, Valeton, Yamaha), but particularly the Valeton, as you saw on my reviews, there were very little good things I had to say about the Moog and the Yamaha.
I am a big fan of saying, if you don’t have or don’t want to spend money, then it may be better to have nothing at all, lots of times musicians (especially at the beginning) try to buy whatever they can afford and end up hating their sound and finally quitting. Sometimes is better to wait a little bit more and buy the real thing further down the road.
Having an expression pedal is by far a must on any serious chain, but have in mind that the volume can be controlled by the guitar and the amplifier, and the pedals sometimes can have presets, meaning that in the end if you do not have a complex rack you may not really need to spend money on an individual expression pedal.
On the other side, if you like to play a lot with effects and having the possibility to change your sound while playing life then you most definitely will need a high-quality expression pedal. Hopefully, you will buy one from this list.
As usual, please let us know if you feel we left something out and we will be more than happy to review it and let you know what we think. Looking forward to seeing you in our next post.