I love guitar pedals. And like to make stuff. For that reason, I’m very interested into the DIY guitar pedals thing. More on that will come soon…

Researching about DIY guitar pedal kits, circuits schematics, and so on, I’ve realized that there are some effects that are way more popular than others. Put another way, there’s plenty of DIY stuff about overdrive pedals, but just a little about synth pedals.

In my opinion, it’s a matter of simplicity. For sure, the most simple circuits in the guitar pedals world are boosters, fuzzes, overdrives and distortions.

The curious thing is that the same thing occurs with comercial pedals. If you visit any store (online or brick and mortar) some effects are more popular than others. Overdrives, distortions. delays, choruses… what is the guitar pedals population like in absolute numbers?

I decided to research a little on the topic, do some numbers, plot some graphs and share my results.

I went to the biggest repository of information about guitar effects and pedals: www.effectsdatabase.com. There is no existing pedal that isn’t in this website. It is awesome! You can find anything there: articles, reviews, discussions, interviews… ESSENTIAL!!!

If you want to know more about Bart Provoost, the founder of the website, there is a great interview here.

I followed this methodology:

  1. I selected the most representative types of guitar pedals
  2. I browsed each type at Effectsdatabase.com and selected, among some of the types listed there, only pedals (no desktop units, rack, etc.)
  3. I counted the total of pedals listed for each effect type
  4. Finally, put everything together and created some graphs

I have to mention some things about the numbers you’ll see:

  • The numbers are just approximate, as Effectsdatabase adds to the repository more and more pedals periodically
  • Some of the pedals may be listed for more than one category. For example, a Chorus+Flanger pedal may duplicated, by being listed for both Chorus and Flanger categories
  • The same pedal may be listed more than once within its own category. This is due to the fact that Effectsdatabase may include multiple versions of the same pedal

For the classification of pedals, I’ve followed a similar approach than the one I used in the Guitar Effects Explained series:

  • GAIN: boost, compressor, overdrive, distortion and fuzz
  • MODULATION: chorus, phaser, flanger, vibe, vibrato, tremolo
  • ECHOING: delay and reverb
  • FILTERING: filter, EQ and Wah
  • OTHER: Pitch shifting, Tuner, Routing, Multi-effects, Synth, Volume, Voice

The following graphs plot the results, in relative terms first, and providing some absolute numbers at the end.

guitar-pedals-distributionYou can see in the graph that gain-based pedals are nearly three quarters of the total. The most popular pedals, by no means. You will see in the following plots how the population of the different gain pedals is distributed. On the other hand, modulation pedals are also quite significant (19%), and the rest of them only represent the 8%.


The previous graphs show the distribution of the different categories within each of the main big groups. As you can notice, the most popular pedals are, with a significant difference, OVERDRIVE pedals.

Any big brand have a few overdrives in their catalog. Any single boutique pedal builder will also include some overdrives in their portfolio.

As I’ve told you before, the gain-based pedals’ electronic circuit schematics are the simplest among different effects. With a very basic knowledge about electronics (or even without it at all and buying a ready-to-build kit) you can build many different analog circuits. Digital effects are different. They are more complex to build, and you’ll need a deeper knowledge about electronics, as well as some knowledge about digital electronics, signal processing, algorithms, micro controller programing, etc.

For sure, if you get started with DIY guitar pedals you’ll probably build a … yes, an overdrive pedal.

I have to admit that I got surprised when I saw the date related to fuzz: It’s the second biggest group! Look at the following graph to see absolute numbers about the population of guitar effects pedals.


Here you see the numbers for all effect types in a single graph, so you can tell the difference among the different groups. Surprised?

The following tables show the exact numbers I’ve taken into account from the Effectsdatabase website (with the possible inaccuracies I’ve mentioned before).


I hope you found these statistics kind of curious. In any case, don’t take them in absolute terms because they are inaccurate. However, they are very representative to the reality.

I’d love to read your opinion and your comments about these numbers. Let us know by commenting down below!

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  1. Informative and spot on, as always. Your articles are amazing, they are really helping me to make good decisions about how can I get the sound that I’m looking for.

    Great Job. Please keep on going