How to Use Different Guitar Pedals in Rock & Blues

Learn how to use distortion pedals and overdrive pedals in rock and blues music from musician Michael Aarons in this Howcast video about guitar pedals.


The uses of overdrive and distortion in rock-and-roll and blues music is critical. Really, I don't think that you can achieve the tone without using, to me, either overdrive or distortion. I'd say more blues and classic rock tones are going to gravitate more toward an overdrive sound, even as far back as Link Ray or BB King, that used crank amps. You're going to get that kind of a tone with an overdrive pedal. Cream, early Led Zeppelin; you are going to get tones like that with different overdrive pedals.

Whereas, distortion crosses into the spectrum of a much more saturated, much more colored sound: Green day, Metallica, even Maroon 5 are some modern rock that really has a compressed with a mix of those records, is very high-gain, very compressed. Distortion might be a way you would go in that genre. Really, the spectrum is so vast that you can achieve so many different kinds of guitar tones between overdrive and distortion. There's so many different pedals and sounds you can achieve in between that's really impossible to just pinpoint it. Experiment with it and see what works for you.

That was just a little blues thing. I was using my full-tone OCD pedal. As you can see, the humbuckers on my SG are creating much more base-heavy, mid-range-y tone through the amp, without the overdrive pedal. Right away, we're getting a heavier, meatier sound. Again, Strat and [inaudible : 01:51] verses a Les Paul or an SG is going to get a very different reaction with an overdrive pedal. There's just so many colors on the pallet to use.

In this case, you might get a tone similar to Cream or some of the early classic rock/blues artists with an overdrive pedal. It's a very effective way to get a good rhythm sound, really good blues sound, really bring out some of the low mid-range of your guitar. It does add a little bit of color. The drive on this pedal is all the way down, pretty much; probably about 7:00. It's not as transparent as it would be with the Telecaster or single coil pick up, but that's okay, because if you want that, just switch guitars.

This is an example of a way you can achieve a blues rock, classic rock sound with an overdrive pedal.

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