Essential Pedals for Indie Rock

Pedals for Indie Rock

Indie rock is considered a sub-genre under rock. However, it has dozens of sun-genres in itself. There’s no definite way to describe the signature sound of it. Yet, you’ll know it when you hear it.

To achieve that specific indie guitar sound, you need all the proper equipment required for it. Among them, electric guitar pedals play a huge role in indie rock music. For getting that particular tone of a specific song, you need the exact right pedal. As long as you know which pedal is responsible for what sound, you’ll do fine.

And if you don’t know which are the essential pedals for indie rock, let’s take a look.

What Is Indie Rock?

Indie rock is a genre of rock that started in the USA and the UK back in the 70s. The term “indie” was originally used to refer to independent record labels and it became associated with the music they produced. The bands and artists from the small and moderately low-budget labels had a do-it-yourself attitude and the desire to diverge from the mainstream.

In the 80s, the terms “alternative rock” or “guitar pop-rock” were used interchangeably with “indie rock”. It then became its own subset of rock. It has extremely diverse influences and styles of the artists including punk, psychedelia, post-punk, and country. Some renowned artists well known for indie rock are The Strokes, Dinosaur Jr., Death Cab For Cutie, The Pixies, Arcade Fire, and Vampire Weekend.

A mixture of calm and storm, that’s a poetic way of describing the indie rock sound. Pristine melodies with lo-fi sentiments, but also mixed with distortion, force, and speed. That’s the characteristic feature of the original sound of indie rock. And this sound is generated from electric guitars but pedals and guitar amps are also essential for this.

7 Best Pedals for Indie Rock

Indie rock is often time pedal-driven, so getting a good quality pedal is necessary. And it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Affordable, low-budget ones will be perfectly fine as long as they can get the right indie tone. For that, you need pedals.

  1. Fuzz
  2. Overdrive
  3. Distortion
  4. Reverb
  5. Chorus
  6. Analog Delay
  7. EQ


One of the oldest guitar pedals is Fuzz and it’s also a type of distortion. It has a unique effect sound due to its harsh clipping process.

The tone is harmonically rich which is similar to the buzzing of a hornet. Some may find the reproduced sound like a broken amplifier. However, many rockers prefer this tone as it allows to lengthen and give presence to both rhythm and solo sections.

Big Muff PI

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If you could own only one pedal, what it would be? For indie musicians, the majority would answer Electro Harmonix Big Muff PI. Countless musicians, including Hendrix and Santana, relied on it for its rich, creamy, violin-like sustain.

The Big Muff PI is unique from many distortion pedals as it tends to be smoother and warmer than a typical distortion. It has three controls over the volume, tone, and sustain levels of the pedal. The Volume control adjusts the output level. The Tone control provides a wide range of sounds, from warm bass to crisp treble. And the Sustain control optimizes the long sustain with just the right amount of harmonic distortion.


  • Amazing Tonal Versatility
  • incredible Sustain
  • Lightweight, Durable, And User-Friendly


  • Needs An EQ


The overdrive pedal rivals the overdrive effect of a tube amplifier at maximum volume. The amplified signal exceeds the tube’s capacity and thus deforms the sound wave in a smoother way than the fuzz and the distortion pedal. This creates a slightly warm, fat, and sometimes sizzly tone.

Overdrive is basically used to produce different degrees of distortion.

Fulltone OCD Overdrive

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The Fulltone OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Drive) has been dominating the market and has been a best seller for years. The OCD V2 has been updated and redesigned for maximum fidelity and performance.

This pedal makes the tone remain consistent, no matter where you place it on your pedalboard. The buffer reduces loading on the pedal’s hard-clipping stage, allowing more sustain and overtone. It has the usual volume, drive, and tone controls. The V2 also has an HP/LP switch which spices up the overall tone.

Besides, the OCD pedal has switchable Enhanced Bypass and True Bypass modes. This makes sure you won’t lose any tone from multiple cables and effects.


  • Enhanced Dynamic Range
  • More Expressive Sound Than Traditional Ones
  • Great For Boosting Clean Sounds


  • A Bit Pricey


Distortion guitar pedals are mostly associated with the electric guitar. Overdrive and distortion pedals are perhaps the simplest and most effective guitar pedals for indie rock.

The distortion pedal adds more aggressiveness and intensity to the sound. It gives an extra kick to the metal or rock track which built the foundation of the rock and roll genre. Distortion is between the overdrive and the fuzz.

Boss DS-1

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A true icon, the Boss DS-1 Distortion is a modern classic in the electric guitar world. Musicians like Kurt Cobain, Steve Vai, and many more have relied on this to get the desired tone.

The Boss DS-1 features three knobs – tone, level, and distortion; and takes it to different tonal directions. The Distortion knob offers an impressively wide range. The tone circuit features an innovative design where the knob clockwise increases highs and decreases lows. The Tone control is particularly effective for maintaining low-end definition.

It’s also a great option for beginners as its high compression covers up mistakes in the technique with more gain. Ultimately resulting in less detail but more volume. Plus, the affordability of this pedal makes it more accessible for new guitar players.


  • Durable Metal Casing
  • Great At Both High and Low Distortion Settings
  • Amazing Value for Money


  • Not A Super Original Tone


Reverb pedals may not be as flashy as the distortion pedals, but they’re fundamental pedals for adding depth to the sound.

Not just indie rock, the reverb pedals fit pretty much every genre of music and are pretty much a necessity in indie pop, surf rock, and rock. The reverb pedal is in charge of simulating atmospheric effects. Rever pedal also drastically affects the tone of the guitar, making it darker or warmer. And it allows to tweak it according to requirements.

TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2

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The original Hall of Fame is one of the most popular reverb pedals and the TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 is the new and updated version of it. This reverb pedal has all the magic of the old one, along with more exciting features.

The incredible MASH technology turns the footswitch into a pressure-responsive expression pedal. Through MASH integration, you’ll be able to control length and decay, which adds to a whole new level of playability and musicality.

Another key feature of the reverb pedal is the new shimmer reverb algorithm which pitch-shifts the reverb effect up to 1 octave for ethereal effects. Also, with the TonePrint App, anyone can download custom-designed artist presets into their pedal for free. This reverb pedal allows to load up three different TonePrint presets simultaneously for more flexibility onstage.


  • True Bypass for Optimum Clarity and Zero High-End Loss
  • Design Own Customized Reverb Effects
  • Work Flawlessly with Guitar and FX Loop Signals


  • Spring Reverb Not Best


The chorus pedal is useful to extend the sound of the guitar. It copies the sound signal from the guitar and replicates it. By delaying slightly from the original, it seems as if multiple guitars are playing at the same time.

Instead of a bright sound, the chorus pedal gives the guitar a thicker sound. Some chorus pedals can even change the pitch of the other sound signal. They can make it sound like multiple guitars playing different things simultaneously.

Electro Harmonix Small Clone

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The Electro Harmonix Small Clone pedal got popular for being Kurt Cobain’s chorus pedal. This analog chorus pedal has a rich, spacey, classic tone.

The Small Clone doesn’t have too many features but is utilized correctly, it’ll be able to deliver diverse sonic performance. It’s the most simple and easy pedal to operate, as it only has a single knob and a switch. The Rate knob alters the speed of the chorus and modifies the drops and rises in the frequency range. Whereas the Depth switch adjusts the amount of effect and allows to choose the ideal amount of intensity and saturation.


  • Adds Thickness to Tone
  • Clear, Rich, And Dimensional Sound
  • Noise-Free


  • Not Sturdy Enough

Analog Delay

Analog delay pedal is usually recommended to round off the sound and make it more versatile. It may not be as popular as other pedals, but many believe that analog delay does the job better than digital ones.

It’s mostly due to the warmer and mellower tone caused by the analog delays. Whereas, digital delays have additional controls to make the tone of the repeated signal more muffled. The ideal way is to try out different pedals and decide which ones work best.

Electro Harmonix Memory Toy

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The Electro Harmonix Memory Toy is a dream come true for budget-minded musicians. Usually, analog delay pedals demand a hefty price, but the Memory Toy pedal comes at a surprisingly reasonable price.

This pedal can be combined with other effects processors to develop a unique sound. It has a range of 30 to 550ms of delay. The delay effect can be made very subtle and non-evasive, yet having a large impact on the sound. Along with the Delay knob, there are also a Feedback and a Blend knob with a modulation switch.


  • All Analog Delay with Feedback
  • Minimalist Delay Without Unnecessary Frequencies
  • Vintage-Style Sound


  • Less Durable


EQ or equalizer pedal is vital for pretty much all genres. Its sole purpose is to make sure the sound is balanced. EQ allows to completely shift the tone for a certain section of the song, or parts of a live set.

This is really simple and easy to use, often featuring 5-10 sliders. Each one represents a specific frequency range. Its effects may not be as evident as other pedals; however, those subtle changes can make or break the overall audio quality of the recordings.

MXR M108S Ten Band EQ

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EQ pedals may not be the first thing on your mind while thinking about essential pedals for indie rock. However, a pedal like MXR M108S Ten Band EQ can be used in a variety of applications and can be used to improve the overall tone.

The MXR M108S has noise-reduction circuitry and true bypass switching. This pedal also has a second output for running two separate signal chains. It can cut or boost ten different frequencies up to 12dB.

Moreover, the lightweight aluminum housing is supposed to be bullet-proof. Hopefully, you won’t have to find this out the hard way!


  • Dual Outputs to Run Separate Signal Chains
  • Both Input and Output Level Controls
  • Brighter LEDs for Increased Visibility


  • No Presets

It’s hard to put this into a box because it’s a vast genre. Despite having a signature sound, most indie bands have unique and versatile sounds among them. A good way to find good pedals is to observe the indie rockers and see what they’re playing at.

Here are only a few examples of some of the best and essential pedals for indie rock. There are tons of pedals out there with different and unique features. If you keep searching for it, you’ll find the one you’re looking for.

Last update on 2024-06-09 at 08:00 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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