why should I use distortion pedals?

Posted: 21st March 2023

Distortion, the sound at the heart of electric guitar. We look into what distortion actually is and how you can incorporate it into your own playing.

Read time: 3 mins

what is distortion?

The definition of distortion is for something to be changed, twisted, or exaggerated to make it appear differently. This definition is also relevant in musical theory language too, distortion is the sound of an amplified instrument that is significantly altered, creating a fuzzy, overpowered sound after the original signal has been pushed to its limit.

There are varied stories surrounding the origins of distortion in guitar music. It’s widely accepted that the first examples of distortion in music comes from Blues artists trying to match the raw power of their vocal performances with similar guitar styles when playing. The sound can be heard on tracks like ‘Maybellene’ by Chuck Berry, which was released in the early 50’s.

The late 60’s and early 70’s saw the overdriven guitar sound hit the mainstream and later a more aggressive variant that we now refer to as distortion appeared in heavy metal music. Changing demands and tastes led players to want more and more distortion over the rest of the 20th century. As a result of this, pedals started to appear on the scene that gave the players that overdriven, distorted sound.

Released in 1988, the Guv'nor set the bar for future generations of distortion pedals. The classic sound of The Guv’nor, provides a smooth overdriven, instantly recognisable sound.

why use distortion?

Distortion gives guitar a ‘fuzz’ or ‘gritty’ tone that is a key component of many different music genres including blues and many rock music genres; notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music.

Distortion can also have the same distorted effect on bass guitars which has been essential to the development of certain genres of hip hop and alternative hip hop music.

but why pedals?

There are multiple ways that a guitarist can create distortion, but one of the simplest, and most common, is through the use of pedals. Distortion pedals can be used alongside an already overdriven amp to act as a ‘boost’ give it further saturation, or with a clean amplifier which will allow the pedals to create their own distorted or overdriven effect.

Pedals are a quick and portable way that you can bring distortion into your playing wherever you are. The size and weight of pedals mean that they’re much easier than an amp to carry around and all you to easily adapt your sound and tone in any environment. Once you’ve found the range of pedals that bring your sound to life, create your own pedalboard so you’re always ready to make some noise!