Learning to play the guitar or the bass can be a real challenge because of the precision and speed at which you will have to move your hands in order to hit the right chords. In the beginning, it is almost certainly going to drive you to a point where you will want to chop your fingers off because they hurt so much from practising. But after a while you start to get the hang of it and discover how worthwhile the repetition was when you get to show the skills you polished. And then you discover that you probably need to know how to work the pedals properly as well and consider cutting off your feet this time (chuckles).
While they may seem to a lot of people like an afterthought that they can take or leave when learning how to play, the truth is that distortion pedals can not only contribute to your sound, but give it an entirely new dimension. Rather than a gimmick, if you use them in the right way, even the simplest bass distortion pedals can give you a sound that makes it sound like you are a one man rock band with just a little pressure from your foot.
What I meant by “even the simplest bass distortion pedals” was that there is a wide variety different models that come with not only many different options, but with a difference in how many of these options they can have as well. Amateurs should naturally stick to the less complex models to start with, not only because they are the more cost-effective choice, but also because they can give you more than enough versatility in the sound that you can experiment with it anyway you want. Later on, after you’ve gotten a better feel for your own sound and you’ve developed a better handle on how the pedals work, by all means, get the most complex and the most expensive one you can find and really see how far you can change the colour of the tone.
Speaking of tone, depending on which pedal or which combination of pedals you use, you can end up with a successful alchemic mix that will give you what you may have thought was missing from the way you play. If you lean more towards blues, then you can deepen the sound of your chords or increase the reverb, rock lovers can up the distortion or make their solos a bit sharper, or you can increase the resonance and echo if you just want a good way to end a song and transition to the next seamlessly (which can be an awkward task sometimes).
Music is all about feeling and going with the flow, so don’t try to be good right from the start, allow yourself to be terrible, improve what you like and get rid of what doesn’t work and you’ll develop your own unique sound in no time.