Distortion Vs. Overdrive

Distortion Vs. Overdrive

          So you're trying to set up the perfect pedal board, and you're not sure if you need a distortion pedal, an overdrive pedal, or both. Which one is better? Don't they both do pretty much the same thing? How do you even pick one of the thousands of available pedals? Well it all depends on your play style and the kind of music you want to play.

Overdrive Pedals

             Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

             Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

          Most of these overdrive pedals are designed to emulate the sound of vintage tube amps when they're cranked up. Overdrive pedals came into the scene shortly after solid state amps were introduced, because they lacked that organic tone that guitar players had been used to with tube amps for so long. That's not to say that overdrive pedals are used exclusively with solid state amps. I use one with my Peavey 6505+ to enhance the natural tone of the amp, which is exactly what J.B. Brubaker of August Burns Red does to get that epic tone. A good overdrive pedal will give your tone some added distortion while maintaining clarity and not washing out your tone in a sea of fuzz. Here are a few of the best overdrive pedals (In no particular order) to get you started.

You can check out any of these pedals by clicking on them.

Here is a comparison between a clean tone and a clean channel with an overdrive pedal:

Distortion Pedals

                                                                                      Boss DS-1 Distortion

                                                                                      Boss DS-1 Distortion

          Distortion pedals are different from overdrive in that they put a lot more gain and crunch into your tone, generally speaking. They usually have multiple stages of gain and give you huge amounts of sustain. You can use distortion pedals on the clean channel of your amp to simulate a distorted lead or rhythm channel. These pedals are great especially if you have a nice clean channel on your amp, but your lead/rhythm channel is lacking a bit. When I was first starting out, I had a Line 6 Spyder. The clean channel was passable for a beginner, but the lead channels sounded like static from a 1960's radio broadcast, so I just spent a few extra bucks on some distortion pedals and it sounded much better. I chose the Boss DS-1 Pedal as the picture example because, even though it's a cheaper pedal, everyone recognizes it. Plus, it was the first pedal I ever bought. Here are a few of the best distortion pedals (In no particular order) to get you started.

You can check out any of these pedals by clicking on them.

Here is a comparison between a clean tone and a clean channel with a distortion pedal:

So Which One?

          What kind of music are you playing? If you're playing blues, the more subtle effect of an overdrive pedal may suit you better, or you could use a distortion pedal for playing blues, but I think that's just called metal. If you're more into rock, metalcore, or anything in between, you probably want to look at some distortion pedals. That is unless you have an amp with an amazing lead channel. Did I mention the Peavey 6505??? Then you could try combining the lead channel with an overdrive pedal for maximum crunch, like in this audio example.

          Well now that you know the difference between the two, start looking around for which one you want. Insider tip: If you want to know what a specific pedal sounds like and you are nowhere near a guitar center, just type it into youtube. There's a video for almost every pedal under the sun.\m/

 

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