There’s a ton of effects out there that do all manner of badass things to your guitar signal, generating everything from face-melting saturation to atmospheric soundscapes. It’s tempting to pack your pedalboard with these types of pedals, but there’s another class of gear—often overlooked—that you should seriously consider. We’re talking about utilitarian pedals. They’re tools more than they are effects—not fancy or flashy, but they can make your life much easier on stage.

Playing live is not the same as playing in the studio or in the practice space, where you have much more control over all the various factors that can effect the way you sound. When you play a gig, you’re at the mercy of the venue’s acoustics and sound tech.

Here’s a list of pedals that allow you to retain as much control over your sound as possible when playing live.

Reverb is that sense of place and depth you hear when sound is reflected off of solid surfaces. Architects have been designing concert halls and other enclosed spaces to enhance this effect with live music for more than a hundred years. Recorded music, however, can sound flat and unnatural if it doesn’t sound as if it actually exists in a physical space, so musicians and producers have relied on a number of methods to recreate the sonic characteristics of playing in acoustically rich environments.

Simply put, Marcus Miller is a living legend. His prowess as a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and composer has earned him two Grammy awards and the esteem of critics and musicians across genres. As a sideman, his credibility is well-attested—Marcus has played, and in many cases written and produced, for everyone from Miles Davis and Luther Vandross to Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. His solo career has further cemented his status as the preeminent living bass player. With his groundbreaking style and carefully cultivated sound, Marcus has created a unique and massively influential musical voice. Marcus has honed that voice for decades, in part by embracing innovation and using the best tools available. And that’s what brought him to Dunlop Super Bright Bass Strings.

The Carbon Copy® Analog Delay has been the world’s bestselling delay pedal in the world since its release in 2009. Its warm analog sound, ease of use, and healthy reserve of delay time made the pedal a hit with guitar players everywhere, weekend warriors and recording pros alike.

We sat down with the masterminds behind this modern classic—veteran MXR® engineer Bob Cedro and Way Huge founder/delay guru Jeorge Tripps—to talk about the this pedal’s origins as well as the development of the newly released Carbon Copy Bright Analog Delay, a collaboration with the guys at Pro Guitar Shop that provides brighter, more refined repeats.

The MXR® Super Badass Variac Fuzz delivers a big, aggressive, and biting square wave tones with a nice touch of smooth compression. Its Tone, Output, and Gain controls provide plenty of fine-tuning potential, but what makes this pedal a dream come true for tonechasers is its Variac control.

The Variac control allows you to vary the pedal’s voltage from 5 to 15 volts, which also changes how much headroom is available—lower voltage means lower headroom and vice versa. Many pedals sound radically different depending on how much headroom they have.