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Understanding Distortion and Overdrive Pedals
10 Aug

Understanding Distortion and Overdrive Pedals

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One of the basic pedals every guitar player starts out with is a distortion or an overdrive pedal. These pedals allow you or play all the standard “rock” songs out there. There are several things you need to understand about distortion and overdrive pedals.

Overdrive Pedal

A overdrive pedal produces a smoother type of distortion this is much like the distortion you get when you turn up an amplifier to a loud volume. The speaker naturally starts to distort some and this is the type of sound you get with an overdrive style of guitar pedal. The overdrive pedal is basically a recreation of classic “tube amplifier” sounds. A tube amplifier has a warm type of distortion if it’s cranked up. Overdrive pedal tends to provide more distortion than a regular amplifier would. Many amplifiers have overdrive settings where you can get that warm distortion sound.

An overdrive pedal is perfect for basic rock sounds but you really can’t get aggressive distortion with them.

Distortion Pedal

A distortion pedal on the other hand provide more gain and drive and you can get a wider range of harder rock and aggressive tones out of them. These pedals allow you to player harder rock and heavy metal where there’s more power chords, solos and aggressive playing. You can get very distorted and heavy sounds with the gain cranked up on a distortion pedal.

Types of Distortion and Overdrive Pedals

There are basic styles of distortion and overdrive pedals you need to know about. You can get pedals that recreate various sounds.

  • Fuzz Distortion – This type of distortion attempts to recreate the sounds of the 60s and 70s. The Arbiter Fuzz face is an example of a fuzz type of pedal.
  • Basic Distortion – This type of distortion provides you with basic distortion and not much else. Think of pedals such as the Boss DS-1 which is a classic.
  • Grunge Pedal – These pedals recreate the sounds of the 90s.
  • Blues Overdrive Pedals – These pedals provide warmer overdrive sounds for playing blues or light riock.
  • Basic Overdrive – This provides basic overdrive. Many pedals today have a mix of overdrive/distortion.
  • Metal Pedal – These pedals provide harsh distortion to recreate the sounds of the 80s and beyond.
  • Death Metal Pedal – These pedals provide absolute extreme distortion sounds for the heaviest metal sound possible.

There’s a wide range of different distortion and overdrive pedals and it’s tough to decide what to buy. It’s really a matter of trying out different pedals and then making your own sound. You may use one pedal for one sound and another pedal for another type of sound. Most guitar players have 2-3 distortion pedals that they rely on to form “their sound.” You should plan to experiment a great deal until you find your own unique sound. A decent amplifier will naturally make a distortion or overdrive pedal sound better.

Just remember that there are literally thousands of different sounds you can get with these pedals and what works for someone else may not be what you like. There’s a pedal for every unique taste you just have to find the right one for you.

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