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Fuzz, Overdrive and Distortion Guitar Pedals

by admin on April 25, 2011

What are the differences between Fuzz, Overdrive and Distortion Guitar Pedals? They all do the same basic thing – add harmonics and clip the audio signal. However the sounds that they produce and the amounts of distortion can be quite different.

Overdrive Guitar Pedals

An overdrive guitar pedal produces enough gain to push your amp into its non linear clipping (or distorting) level while also providing their own clipping which is less than that of a typical distortion pedal. An overdrive pedal is used to simulate the sound of an “overdriven” guitar amp.

In comparison to distortion overdrive has a cleaner (but not clean) sound with usually less sustain that is more “bluesy”. An example of this sound would be Ibanez Tube Screamer that Stevie Ray Vaughan used. You can often hear how he uses when he launches into a guitar solo.

Overdrive guitar pedals typically produce a tone that accents or enhances the sound of the guitar amp without dominating it as a distortion of fuzz pedal can. An example of this would be the Ibanez Tubescreamer, which can add compression and midrange tone the sound of the guitar without overtaking original sound of the amp.

Overdrive can be seen as an effect to create sound like a cranked amp with power tubes being overdriven. – not a clean sound, but not too distorted either.

Here’s an example of some well know Overdrive guitar pedals:

  • Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
  • Boss OD-3

Ibanez Ts9 Tube Screamer Effects Pedal Fuzz, Overdrive and Distortion Guitar Pedals

 Distortion Guitar Pedals

In comparison a distortion produces enough gain to push a guitar signal into a non linear clipping zone. This enables it to produce a distorted sound at lower levels as it does not rely on the amp also being overdriven as part of the distortion sound. The sound of these pedals can be described as a crunchy, gritty sound with lots of sustain. It is the basic sound of most classic rock, heavy rock to metal.

Distortion guitar pedals often dominate the amps natural gain in order to produce a similar effect. For example the Boss DS-1 tends to sound the same no matter what amp is being used.

A distortion pedal will create it’s own type of distortion, generally one that is not based on the sounds of a overdriven amp. The idea being that they distort the signal rather than trying to imitate the natural OD of tubes.

Here’s an example of some well know Distortion guitar pedals:

  • Boss DS-1
  • Boss MT-2 Metal Zone
  • BBE Crusher

Boss Ds-1 Distortion Pedal Fuzz, Overdrive and Distortion Guitar Pedals

Fuzz Guitar Pedals

A fuzz pedal has large amounts of overdrive which is then clipped producing a near square wave. With a square wave comes the addition of almost infinite harmonics. This produces over tones and undertones maximising the distortion being produced.

An example of the sound of a fuzz pedal would be the Maestro Fuzztone used on  “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones.

Fuzz guitar pedals could be considered to be an extreme form of distortion, however some fuzzes will work with amps in a manner similar to overdrives (Fuzz Faces into Marshall’s like used by Jimi Hendrix), while others dominate the sound of the guitar amp like a Big Muff.

Even though it is fuzz pedals have an unmistakable sound they also can be used as an overdrive depending on if they’re being used as it’s own voice, or to drive or distort the amps further.

Here’s an example of some well know Fuzz guitar pedals:

  • Dunlop Fuzzface
  • Electro Harmonix Big Muff
  • Maestro Fuzztone

Dunlop Fuzz Face Guitar Effects Pedal Fuzz, Overdrive and Distortion Guitar Pedals

 

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

tom May 15, 2011 at 4:09 am

The fuzz face is probably one for the most important effects of all time. From Hendrix to Clapton, this pedal is a part of music history.

Dirk Radloff March 22, 2012 at 2:20 am

Actually I am looking for the right Fuzz, maybe a Fulltone ultimate octave, which seems to be very flexible. I want to reach a really wild Rocksound like in the early days of The Who and Led Zep.

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