Distortion pedal

Distortion pedals are often put in between the overdrive and fuzz category. They simulate a heavily overdriven tube amplifier. The distorted signal is changed dramatically compared to the original guitar signal.

Examples of classic distortion pedals include the Boss DS-1, the ProCo RAT, the Marshall Guv’nor and the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi (often classified as Fuzz). Distortion pedals are primarily used by electric guitar and bass players in the punk, rock and metal genre.

How to use a distortion pedal

A distortion pedal is typically used in settings where the guitar player has a single channel guitar amp. The guitar amp is set to clean and the distortion pedal is used for crunch and/or lead sounds. This way the guitar player can switch easily between the clean and dirty guitar sound. Another advantage of this setup is that delay and modulation pedals can be run after the distortion and before the amp. There is no effects loop and additional cabling needed, because the distortion comes from the pedal and not from the guitar amplifier.

Basic controls of the distortion pedal

A distortion pedal typically has these three controls:

  • Distortion: The amount of distortion or overdrive applied to the signal
  • Volume: The master volume of the output signal
  • Tone: A knob to adjust the high and low frequencies of the distortion. This way the guitar player can adjust the sound to their own rig