overdrive pedals

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 3, 2022

Always the latest guitar gear & tricks?

Subscribe to THE newsletter for aspiring guitarists

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

hi there I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Distortion effects create “warm” and “dirty” sounds by compressing the peaks of an electric musical instrument’s sound wave, which results in a large number of added overtones. This was originally achieved by forcing too much electricity through a guitar amplifier’s valves (see “triode valve”, as well as the detailed description of “valve overdrive” below). A slightly different method of distortion creates a “fuzzy” sound by replicating the sound of an old worn out guitar amp. This method creates noise as well as a large number of overtones. Another form of distortion is “feedback distortion” (see Wikipedia definition: “Audio feedback”) which was originally created by holding a guitar in front of a speaker. However in combination with ‘high gain‘ distortion effects and a medium volume setting on a guitar amplifier, feedback can now be created simply by the removal of the damping effect of fingers touching the guitar strings. Distortion effects are sometimes called “gain” effects, as distorted guitar sounds were first achieved by over-driving tube amplifiers. Distortion has long been integral to the sound of the electric guitar in rock and roll music, and is important to other music genres such as electric blues and jazz fusion. The terms “distortion”, “overdrive” and “fuzz” are often used interchangeably, but they have subtle differences in meaning. Overdrive effects are the mildest of the three, producing “warm” overtones at quieter volumes and harsher distortion as gain is increased. A “distortion” effect produces approximately the same amount of distortion at any volume, and its sound alterations are much more pronounced and intense. A fuzzbox (or “fuzz box”) alters an audio signal until it is nearly a square wave and adds complex overtones by way of a frequency multiplier. Distortion can be produced by effects pedals, rackmounts, pre-amplifiers, power amplifiers, speakersoftwares and more recently, digital amplifier modeling devices. Distortion effects are used with electric guitars, electric basses (fuzz bass), electronic keyboards, and in some cases with vocals.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

Microphone gain vs volume Subscribe