Just to make sure we are all reading from the same page. An expression pedal is not just a volume pedal for a piano or keyboard. It’s quite a bit more than that. It is a foot-pedal, but it can control a variety of things. Volume is one of course but also modulation or delay or just about any other effect.
It will operate with a keyboard or a synthesizer but also with guitars and basses and even effects processors. It can be an important tool for applying as the name suggests, expression. An important tool for the guitar player to add emotion to the music. Or maybe emphasize an important lyric. Something that enhances live performance but also adds to the possibilities in the studio.
So, let’s go through the Best Expression Pedals currently available and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 7 Best Expression Pedal To Buy 2021 Reviews
- Choosing The Best Expression Pedal
- More Pedals?
- What Would We Choose?
Top 7 Best Expression Pedal To Buy 2021 Reviews
1 Ernie Ball VP Jr
Ernie Ball perhaps better known for their guitar and bass strings but they also make some good accessories. This being one of them.
This acts as a pedal that will give your playing an extra edge. It has a rugged build using aluminum of aircraft-grade for the body. Also, stainless steel for the springs and the pivot shaft, To ensure it is a tough unit it has a Kevlar cable and underneath the footplate a toughened taper switch. It is though quite big at ten inches long.
The critical internal moving parts are made of nylon to cut down the risk of wear. The taper switch at a click of the pedal gives you two separate levels of swell. The pedal action is smooth to accommodate gradual increases. It is a passive pedal so it requires no batteries.
If anything this pedal operates more like a volume pedal. It uses the increases and decreases to create swells. This variation in volume adds the expression to your playing style. It will hold the guitar at a set volume for parts of songs. Then increase or decrease where necessary by moving the pedal up or down. The rate of increase is determined by the taper switch under the footplate. This alternates the rate of the swell.
It can give your sound a variety that other pedals cannot achieve. It can even bring those swells more associated with pedal steel guitars. And it does so with a smooth operation as fast or slow as you want it to.
If you play any music that demands expressive playing then this pedal is worth considering. And being made by Ernie Ball must be considered as the best guitarist’s expression pedal.
Set at a competitive price it is a well-made quality pedal.
- Tough build with good materials.
- Has the capacity to add a lot to your playing sound.
- At 10 inches it is quite long and takes up pedalboard space.
2 Moog EP-3 Expression Pedal
Moog has a big reputation for producing quality gear, but also it is basic and easy to use. This pedal is very basic and very good so it fulfills both criteria. They have designed an expression pedal that does just that and nothing more. And at a very good price point.
They have cut back a bit on build quality, But it is a tough pedal with a reasonably rugged chassis. It has a rubber pedal surface and a cam system that ensures smooth pedal movement. Inputs and outputs are are ¼” TRS so you can connect to just about anything.
We mentioned that it was a basic pedal and by that, we meant the operation of the controls. The main control is the switch that sits beneath the pedal. This is used in conjunction with the pedal and the newly designed cam creates a smooth action. A smooth action will give you great control over your expression.
It only really has two other controls to worry about. It has an output level control which is not a standard addition to most pedals, and it also has a switch to change the polarity. This makes sure that the pedal becomes compatible with most types of equipment.
It is versatile as well and works well with guitars and basses. But it also works with keyboards and synthesizers that have access ports. All very simple stuff but at the same time very effective and in some cases necessary. And at a size of 6 by 3 by 4 inches, it is not going to take up too much room on a full pedalboard.
The smoothness of its operation gives you the chance to create not only volume changes but a sound swell. This pedal will work well as we have said in most scenarios. But it could be the best bass expression pedal with its smooth operation and impressive swell.
Well made, easy and simple operation and a great price. Can’t ask for much more than that and certainly one of our contenders for the Best Expression Pedal.
- Good design with simple but effective controls.
- Great price.
- The plastic build will not impress some.
3 Roland EV-5 Expression Pedal
With a size of 3.5 by 8 by 2.25 inches, you won’t find many smaller pedals than the EV-5. It is though a good pedal especially for those working with guitars and keyboards.
One area of concern for potential buyers is that it is made of plastic rather than having a metal chassis. This will, unfortunately, limit its practical uses. It will, therefore, be better used at home or in studio conditions. A life on the road, where the potential punishment risks are high, might not suit it much. Having said that the plastic build is quite sturdy. If it is taken care of it could last the pace.
Slightly vulnerable or not, this pedal has a respected position amongst musicians.
It is though nicely built with a full-length rubber-coated foot pedal. The pedal has a smooth controlled action and is comfortable to use. It is though an expression pedal and not a volume control that will rely on absolute precision. One of the big plus points with this pedal is the smooth transitions. These are controlled by the pedal and it offers a smooth volume rise to swell.
It has four separate settings that are pre-programmed. They can be edited but form the basis of expressive opportunities. This provides a basic position at which to start experimenting with the sounds.
If you are using it with a keyboard make sure the controller is compatible.
It hasn’t been designed to be top of the range. It is here to give a basic expression option and deliver it at a competitive price. We think it does both. Roland builds quality products. And on the back of that, we would not be worried about the plastic build. No, it is not as secure as metal but a lot of pedals have a tough plastic build and survive.
It is a good value pedal at an attractive price.
- Small and economical with pedalboard space.
- It has some decent sound options.
- Plastic build might deter some people.
4 BOSS Dual Expression Pedal (EV-30)
Where there are pedals then you are going to find Boss. To take that a stage further, where you find good pedals you will find Boss. This is one of those pedals that you instinctively know who made it.
It has the usual tough Boss build in this case from die-cast aluminum so no worries about taking this pedal out on the road. It is designed to be completely compatible with keyboards, MIDI controllers and other effects pedals. The ability to control two devices at the same time by having dual expression outputs that are isolated is a good idea.
The pedal has a very substantial feel to it and moves smoothly but positively. This gives you complete control over the precision of filters on keyboards and pedal delays. It also provides good control over the volume increases and swell effects for individual instruments. That is the main point of the expression pedal. To give expression to the playing.
There is a two-channel switch for polarity compatibility with other devices. Thus ensuring it will work with almost everything.
The dual outputs save valuable space if you are using it on a pedalboard. There are separate adjustments for each output. The outputs are isolated to ensure that there will not be noise from ground loops. It is a reasonably small size, though some might say rather long at 10.5 by 4 by 3 inches. It certainly isn’t the largest pedal though and so must be considered quite compact as it is quite slim.
As per all Boss products they are road-ready and packed with good features. They are though, also easy to use. The two outputs and the polarity switch are located on the front of the unit, out of the way.
Not the cheapest of expression pedals but you are buying Boss reliability and quality. Certainly, a contender for the best guitar expression pedal and must be considered as the Best Expression Pedal around.
- Boss quality of build and reliability.
- It has a lot of good features.
- Some may think it expensive.
5 Mission Engineering Expression Pedal
To some Mission Engineering might be a new name when compared with Boss or Roland. Founded in 2009 in California. They have grown in a decade to become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of expression pedals. All of which are compatible with the very latest effects and controllers as well as amps.
They make them tough and equipped for life on the road. And whilst they have a rugged build they are suitable in any environment. The EP-1 has an all-metal construction that is built to last. They ensure the build quality is the best they can make it. Even down to the rubber pedal surface so designed to prevent it from moving around.
And while they are doing that they include the best components. What you get is a rugged product that is reliable and does the job. Styling hasn’t been ignored either. It has a sleek look with its black understated finish. Reminds us perhaps of the original Cry Baby wah pedal.
On a pedalboard size matters. This pedal has been designed to take up as little space as possible at 4 by 10 by 4 maximum in-use size it is compact enough. But being small doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on performance.
Then this pedal is going to suit you. The transitions through you make with the pedal are smooth and easy. They give you that real feeling of a progressive increase in volume and swell. Let you know you are in control.
A good pedal made by a company that prides itself on its quality. Compared to its competitors though it is quite expensive.
- Well designed with a rugged build.
- Some good onboard features.
- It might be too expensive for some.
6 Donner 2 in 1 Viper Mini Passive Volume Expression Guitar Effect Pedal
We have reviewed Donner pedals before. We like their approach to what they do and how they do it. They make no pretense, they are in the business of providing the best budget level pedals they can. They are not the toughest or the best, but they are decent quality for those on a budget. And they take undue criticism sometimes from people who seem unable to grasp that concept.
This Viper Mini Expression pedal is a good example of what they do. It is made, as the majority of Donner pedals are, from a hard plastic. It might not have a metal chassis but it’s still a tough little cookie. Measuring just 6 by 2.5 by 2.3 inches and weighs just 11 ounces it is certainly a compact little pedal. It has ¼” input and output jack sockets.
The analog design of the circuits gives you two pedals in one. It is a standard Volume pedal, but will also act as a basic Expression pedal. When being used as an Expression pedal it connects using a ¼” stereo cable. If you want to use it just as a volume pedal it will connect either to your amplifier or to any other pedals in your chain.
The action of the pedal is very smooth and allows you to produce a controlled volume increase or a swell. The response is quite good and there is not a big delay when reducing the volume.
It operates without a battery or external power supply.
Of course, it is not going to act like a pedal that has a much higher price point. You shouldn’t expect that. But it does provide a basic expression tool at a very cheap price. Maybe you are on a budget, or just want to see what an expression pedal can offer. If so, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money, this is a good option.
As always with Donner a cost-effective little pedal that does its job.
- Simple and basic design.
- Operates as two different pedals.
- The plastic build will put some people off.
7 Fender Expression Pedal For Guitar
We would have been very surprised if Fender had not had a product on this list. Guitars and amps are what they do and so anything they produce is usually of good quality, In fact, we are expecting this to be a pedal that might be the best expression pedal for guitar.
Before we go too far into this, though, we want to point out that this expression pedal only works with Fender amps. If you haven’t got a Fender amp then this pedal will not be of use to you.
It is a well-built and sturdy pedal with a good size footplate. It has a smooth action and positive click feel on the mode button under the plate. When used with a Fender amp, the sound quality is very good. It is a multi-functional pedal.
It serves firstly as a volume pedal. But then it will also work with the features that the amp contains. It will control the flanger, phaser and the chorus and also act as a wah pedal. Added to these control parameters you can also control the level of distortion, reverb and delay timings.
The use of Fender’s Fuse software is quite important. To get the best out of this pedal there will be a learning curve to go through. Getting comfortable with the Fuse software will expand your ability to use the pedal.
It has two modes of operation, volume, and expression. There are red and green lights that tell you which mode is in operation. These indicators are principally for live performance, where you can tell at a glance which mode is operative.
Returning to the FUSE software. The big plus point with this pedal is not so much what is onboard but what you have access to. The software will let you select and manage the sounds to create exactly the sound you want.
For some, it will be a door opening into a world of sound possibilities. For others, just another piece of tech to try and get your head around. If you fall into the latter category then this pedal might not be for you.
It is not cheap and we feel a little overpriced when you consider it only works with Fender amps. However, if you have a Fender amp it might be worth considering. If you haven’t time to look elsewhere.
- Well made and sturdy design.
- Exercises good control over the built-in features of your Fender amp.
- This pedal will only work with Fender amps.
Choosing The Best Expression Pedal
An expression pedal is not what you might call the first pedal on the pedalboard. Probably most things will be considered more important. There is some truth in that. If you asked a dozen guitar players you might get ten different answers of what is the most important.
But the expression pedal can have a variety of functions besides its obvious job. It can act as a controller for effects pedals and instruments in a variety of ways. It just depends on how complex you want it to be. Or, it can just do what it is best at. Giving expression to your playing. For the experienced pro guitarist that may be the most important function of this pedal.
Time To Get Expressive…
There are times in music when the guitar or perhaps another instrument needs to create emotion, expression. It becomes expressive. It is needed to enhance a lyric or a section of the music. That is where the expression pedal does what it is designed to do. It takes a discerning guitar player to know when that moment is. Sometimes they cannot be told, they have to feel it themselves.
And What Is The Effect?
The song lifts, the music soars or the words take on more meaning than they would by just singing them.
What Kind Of Expression Pedal Do You Want?
Do you want a pedal that will work with and to a certain extent, control your other effects? We looked at some of those. They need to be understood, of course. What they will actually do and how? So a little time investment may be necessary to acquire the skills to use them effectively. Some have some brilliant effects and control parameters, ut you need to know how to use them
Maybe you just want the basic operation. The volume rises and falls, swells and patterns that swirl. That is what some people see as the prime function and we have to say we can’t disagree.
If you have ever been to a classical music concert you will understand the expression pedal. It is a simulation of the rises and falls in the music you heard there. It creates the emotion, the expression.
There is quite a wide range of price points for these pedals. In most cases the more you pay the more facilities you get. But possibly you don’t need all the bells and whistles. That is why it is important to decide what you want the pedal to do before buying.
If it is purely simple swell and volume increase the price will be less. There were some budget brands that we looked at. They are also worth considering if you don’t want to spend too much.
For the experienced player, this is a pedal that should be included on your pedalboard. For the studio, an absolute essential.
If you’re thinking of buying a quality expression pedal, then you probably already have quite a few other pedals. But have you got one of everything? If not, it’s well worth checking out our in-depth reviews of the Best Compressor Pedal, the Best Digital Delay Pedals, the Best Flanger Pedals, the Best Noise Gate Pedals, the Best Amalouge Delay Pedals, and the Best Phaser Pedals currently available.
Plus, you’re going to need one of the Best Guitar Pedal Boards to keep them on, and some of the Best Patch Cables to connect them all up, as well as the Best Pedal Power Supply currently available, so check them out as well.
What Would We Choose?
An Expression pedal is something that you might not use that often, but when you do, it needs maximum impact. It needs to provide controlled volume increases and a decent swell. What it doesn’t need to be is too complicated. We have therefore chosen as our choice of the Best Expression Pedal as the…
Basic and easy to use, it works great with guitar and keyboards but is also in our view the best expression pedal for bass as well. A great little pedal at a very attractive price.