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Distortion vs. Overdrive vs. Fuzz Guitar Pedals

Learn how to use distortion and overdrive guitar pedals for lead and rhythm guitar patterns from musician Michael Aarons in this Howcast video.


So when you're talking about rock music, and you're talking about rhythm versus lead, and you're talking about overdrive versus distortion and even fuzz; which I'm not demonstrating today; there is just such a wide spectrum. And really it comes down to a lot of different parameters, but one of the things is sustain. Distortion head fully saturated and a compressed distortion that's going to give you a much longer sustained, much more compressed sound, and the frequencies are going to vary, from a very rumbley low end to a high piercing high end, high frequency.

In metal music for the most part, that really is key. You're never going to get that sustain with an overdrive pedal. So when you're playing lead, let's go from the OCD, which is a very clean transparent overdrive, next we have the Box of Rock, which is somewhere in the middle. It's not very transparent. It definitely colors the tone quite a bit. And then the far end of the spectrum and the most extreme, the Metal Zone, which is the most heavily saturated distortion.

So you're really going to get a huge wide range of tone here and all under the umbrella of rock music, really. Let's start with the OCD pedal. I'm just going to play one note. I'm not even going to get into anything flashy, but if you just listen... If you just listen to the trail on that note, it's so clean that it's just adding a little bit of dirt, a little bit of hair. You know rhythm and blues, even just to add a little dirt to sound like your cranked amp, you know?

Next we have the Box of Rock, which is going to color it a little more. You're really getting much more color, much more saturation, much more compression. You're really hearing more frequencies. You're hearing more of rumbley low end. You're hearing a little more of the high mid's. Finally the far end of the spectrum is the Metal Zone Pedal by Boss. This is the most extreme. I would only bring this on; hence the name metal; I would only bring it on a metal gig.

But you can already here it's very noisy, and that's because there's so much packed into that box. So many frequencies, the distortion is cranked all the way up, so it's going to be a very dirty sound, which is key in metal. So as far as playing the one note, like I did earlier, you'll hear how much sustain. I mean it just goes on forever.

So there's hundreds of different kinds of overdrive distortion and fuzz pedals and depending on what you like and what music going for; what guitar you have, what pickups you're using, what amps you have; in between the guitar and the amp the possibilities are endless. So it's all about what sound you're trying to achieve, what genre you're trying to achieve it in and you'll find your own cool sound.

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