The Boss SD-1 overdrive pedal is a great pedal for the price. It’s really well built and available in almost every guitar store. Also it’s very cheap, you should be able to find the pedal on the 2nd hand market…Read more
An overdrive pedal is probably the first pedal a guitar player would grab (besides a tuner). Just like the choice of amplifier and guitar, the overdrive pedal has a major influence in the base sound of the guitar player. That is probably the reason why so many guitar players keep on hunting for new overdrive pedals all the time.
There are many kinds of overdrive pedals and they have many applications. In this article, we’ll talk about how to use an overdrive, the functions of the overdrive pedal and the controls of a typical overdrive.
An overdrive pedal is basically meant to make your sound dirtier. Either by boosting the pre-amp section of your tube amp or by adding gain within the circuit. An overdrive pedal is used to stand out in the mix during a solo part. Most overdrive pedals color the sound when they are engaged. This means that they emphasize or de-emphasize either low, mid or high frequencies. The term ‘transparent’ is used if the overdrive doesn’t color the tone of the guitar signal.
A typical overdrive pedal has three knobs: ‘Gain (or ‘Drive’), ‘Volume’ and ‘Tone’. Some overdrive pedals just have ‘Gain’ and ‘Volume’, for example the DOD250 or the Way Huge Red Llama. Some overdrive pedals have two tone controls and therefore four knobs, for example the Timmy by Paul Cochrane or the Spark Booster by TC Electronics. Here is a description of how each knob works:
An important term in using overdrive pedals is ‘unity gain’. It means that the output volume of the pedal engaged is the same as the output volume of the bypass signal (when the pedals is off). When the volume is set above unity gain, it means that the pedal will boost the volume whenever it is engaged.
In this section we’ll go through the three most common applications for overdrive pedals.
The first application is driving the tube amp section of the amplifier. In this application the tube amp and the overdrive pedal work together to achieve an overdriven sound. This application works best if the tube amp is set on the verge of breakup, right between clean and dirty. The output volume of the overdrive pedal is set above unity gain, so it boosts the pre-amp into overdrive. Often a small amount of gain is added on the overdrive pedal (around 10 ‘o clock) to add a little gain to the overdriven sound of the amplifier. This gives a very rich and full sound.
An overdrive pedal can also be used to boost the high frequencies in certain parts of a song. This application is ideal for a live situation with a loud band. The volume and tone are set to a higher setting, so that the guitar player can cut through the mix during a solo.
Another function of the overdrive pedal is to simulate a tube amplifier. Amplifiers are expensive and heavy. There are many guitar players who invest in a great overdrive pedal to get their base sound. This enables them to just use whatever amp the venue or practice facility has to offer and still get their own sound from the overdrive pedal. Some guitar players have their overdrive pedal on all the time.
My top 10 of the best overdrive pedals Overdrive pedals are an important part of guitar tone. The ability to switch between different gain stages while playing live is extremely useful. And that’s probably the reason why the search for the best overdrive pedals…Read more