Friday, December 26, 2008

Guitar Gear for Beginners - Part 3 - Distortion Effects

It seems like at the beginning of every gear based email that I write, I start with a disclaimer that xyz is a little complicated, and effects are no different. One of the things that makes effects such a wide subject is that there are so many different types that do drastically different things. 

There are really 2 ways to acquire effects (that can be combined), first is the "Stomp Box", the classic effect pedal and second is multi-effects, which can either be pedal based or rack based. We will first take a look at the various types of effects. With each effect, I'll mention a pedal version. If you are interested rather in multi-effects we will get to that later on.

Distortion Effects

Gain effects are any in a wide variety that effect the overall strength of the signal. The main type of effect in this group is distortion. When you increase the gain past the amount the circuit is designed to handle, it 'clips' this clipping is what causes the distorted sound we are so used to. When you are just on the edge of distortion, it is called overdrive which is very light clipping, adds a bit of 'dirt' to the sound. Usually only on louder notes or chords. Distortion is when your signal is always clipping, the level of distortion is based on how hard it is being pushed. There are dozens of pedals that can give you distortion. One of the classics is the Boss DS-1 this pedal will give you a reasonable range of distortions, although having a DS-1 modded by Keeley Electronics this upgrade takes your $40 Boss pedal and really adds some fullness to it. See this Youtube video for a comparison.  By the end of this series you will probably think I am a shill for Boss, but I have always liked their stuff and I have a bunch of it myself, it is built pretty tough. That being said, The Boss BD-2 is another great pedal. This overdrive pedal when set right can give your guitar that little bit of dirt that really makes it stand out. The Ibanez TS808 is another classic distortion pedal. If you are in to much heavier tones, you also might want to check out the Boss ML-2 Metal Core or the Boss MT-2 Metal Zone which give "high gain" style distortion found in the various forms of metal music.

One last type of distortion worth mentioning is Fuzz. As wikipedia puts it 

"Fuzz was originally intended to recreate the classic 1960's tone of an overdriven tube amp combined with torn speaker cones." 
It has a unique and cool sound. The Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Fuzzface is an example of a popular fuzz pedal.

What do I use?

At the time of this post, I own a DS-1 and a BD-2 for distortion. This gives me a decent range of distortion sounds. Although I do not play straight ahead metal, I am looking at the ML-2 for those times when I need that something extra. I do not currently have a fuzz pedal in my rig. 

There are so many talented folks out there with their own personal favorite, so for any players out there who may be reading this, What is your favorite distortion pedal and why? Chime in below in the comments. 
Post a Comment