Distortion, in musical terms, is used in reference to the general effect of modifying an audio signal to get a rougher sound, with better harmonic saturation, added sustain than a clean signal and more audible overtones. Distortion is created by an overdriven tube amp. Typically, distortion pedals are hard-clipping devices and they produce enharmonic overtones. These can be best defined as overtones which are dissonant with the fundamental of the player or more simply, the note that is played. For this reason, when chords that have lot of distortion are played they are not very pleasant to the ear. The fundamental clash with the enharmonic overtones. However, the sound is more complex and fuller as well, which is what is responsible for giving the genres you distort their trademark tone.
Use of Distortion
Distortion is useful as it adds complexity and sustain to your tone, with complexity and sustain growing as there is an increase in the level of distortion. Distortion pedals are the easiest way to get a metal and hard rock tone. It is possible theoretically for an amp to be pushed hard enough for rock and metal tones with just overdrive pedals; however, it is a lot easier to simply use a distortion pedal.
When it comes to distortion pedals, there is another thing to know and that is the fact that there are tons of varieties. There are different kinds of distortion that are designed to be used with different genres. There are some that are intended to be focused on hard rock, some on metal and others on hard rock.
Distortion Pedal vs Using Guitar Amp Built in Distortion
When compared to guitar amp built-in distortion, distortion pedals are cool and all; however, the pedals are far too unadaptable. The enjoyment that comes from playing a Boss HM-2 and chugging out dismember riffs is precisely why, in the long run, the guitar amps built-in distortion are a superior choice. Stompboxes are basically aural novelties or as some would say, they are trick ponies. This is the reason a number of guitarists cannot stop at just one. They definitely do not have a whole lot of range.
The best distortion pedals that are mostly being used by metal guitarists are based directly on character tones that are well established. They are an off-the-rack, sonic crystallization of a specific sub-genre or particular bands that are already in existence. A Big Muff is a great choice for those who are into Bong Rock band. If your amp has a metal zone in front of it, retro death metal is quite hip right now so you should consider it. If you are into having HM-2 cranked all the way up, then you might find that Swedemosh and Godflesh is right up your alley.
If your aim is to blend in with the regular genre tropes or call to mind a Pavlovian comeback from listeners who have become accustomed to certain distortions, then you should go for it. This is not an attempt to put pedals down, a number of people find them quite enjoyable. In addition, they are a cute addition to a bedroom contraption and they supply useful studio “color” effects.
However, if you are one who take your tone seriously, a good guitar amp will offer you a clean blank slate that you can use to communicate your music. The metal amps like the Dual Rectifier or 5150 are the ones that are most commonly used and even they are a lot more dense and inconspicuous to people than any type of distortion pedal.
In addition, the distortion produced by the amp is generally far smoother than distortion pedal. Even the very best distortion pedals are a little twizzly and tinny. It is true that you can throw in an EQ or pull the treble down on the amp; however, all you are doing is just playing yourself. That is just attempting to imitate the sound of a good amp distortion anyway. It makes way more sense to cut out the middle-man.
There are a many players who like to accumulate the colorful little boxes. Discovering a new boutique edition of your favorite distortion stompbox that is equipped with the faceplate or an additional bass control knob. It is a satisfying little pedal board and creating a chain by deliberating the order and considering the layout carefully is undeniably satisfying.
Instead of spending money on a series of distortion toys, use the money to purchase a sick amp. Find an amp that produces a heavy sound and write songs that are so remarkable that you will refuse to cover them up with a weak-sounding distortion pedal.
Included among the famous distortions are:
This is an orange pedal that is typically viewed as the original distortion stompbox and even to this day, it remains among the most reasonably priced models in the category. It has a brash tone that is definitely not for everybody; however, it can be heard on all different types of recordings. One of the noted users is Kurt Cobain and you can find the DS-1 all over Nevermind, the album from Nirvana.
MXR Distortion Plus
The sound provided by this distortion is milder than the RAT or the DS-1. It is another remarkable option for those who enjoy lush distortion effects. This pedal was the one that defined a great era of guitar tones. The Output commands the loudness of the effect and the knob gives you allowance to dictate whether you would like distortion that is beautiful sounding for the rhythm sections or you have a preference to crank it all the way up to produce some riff tones and sweet lead.