How to Choose the Right Distortion Pedal

Walrus audio pedals

Walking into your local guitar shops to buy your first guitar distortion pedal can be a little overwhelming. There are so many different brands to choose from, and so many different varieties of distortion available. In fact, there are 17 different kinds of T Rex guitar pedals for distortion alone! Although, you didn’t expect the buying process to be quite so complicated, it doesn’t have to be such a pain in the neck. All you really need to understand is how guitar distortion works, and how each pedal distorts a guitar to deliver the sound you like.

You see, by compressing the sound waves’ peaks and adding overtones, guitar distortion pedals create the crunchy, powerful, warm, dirty, or fuzzy sounds. Guitar distortion effects are sometimes referred to as “gain” effects, because the first distorted sounds were achieved by over-driving tube amplifiers, which are less common today. Although these tube-amps are no longer in vogue (though many artists still swear by them and they’re not totally unavailable), a musician can produce distortion effects not only through their pedals, but also through pre-amplifiers, power amplifiers, speaker software, digital amplifier modeling devices, and other ways.

One thing that can make shopping for pedals tricky is the fact that the terms “overdrive,” “distortion” and “fuzz” are oft used interchangeably, having only subtle differences between each. Overdrive effects produce warm overtones at quieter volumes, and harsher distortion as the gain is increased, making them the most mild of the three. While a distortion pedal produces the same amount of distortion at any volume, the alterations of its sound are much more pronounced and intense. Lastly, a fuzz, guitar distortion pedal actually alters an audio signal until its nearly a square wave. This adds complex overtones by means of a frequency multiplier.

What this all comes down to in the end is the kind of sound you want to produce. If you want something simple, distortion is the best way to go. If you want something heavy, but versatile, then choosing an overdrive pedal might be your best bet. If you care more for creating a unique, complex tone, then perhaps a fuzz guitar effect pedals are the move to make.

Whichever guitar distortion you choose, knowing how the pedals produce the sound will make you a savvy shopper whilst browsing pedals on online music stores or the used guitar pedals from the shop down the road. If you have any questions about how guitar distortion is produced, feel free to ask in the comments. Read more.

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