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Friday, December 14, 2007

Your Gear and You!

Current mood: accomplished

Your Gear, And You! (I)

Got a new stompbox that you just feel like “curbing”? Guitar feeling “stringy”? Is your new cab painted yellow with the word “taxi” on it? “Fret” no more Because “Your Gear, and You” is here to help. Puns aside article #1 covers one of the most confusing topics for new players, and some veterans alike: Distortion!

So you've decided to take up guitar? Or perhaps you've already been playing for a number of years? Either way if you are looking at this guide look no further for this is the place to be! In todays article we will cover the basics of what is commonly known as “distortion” the act of introducing foreign waveforms into a guitars signal causing that oh-so pleasant sound we have come to know and perhaps even love. There are different type of distortion each with it's own unique elements, some include:








I have tried to organize these from the least to most “complicated” in terms of signal modification, no worries though I'm not going to go into the science, this is a “Get started” guide, I may write something later if I really feel like it. Now that, that is out of the way.

a. Boost

Boost as the name implies is simply the act of “boosting” the input signal of a guitar, this can be done in a number of different ways including but not limited to: Active pickups, turning the guitars volume up, preamps, and separate boost-pedals. Boosting is not a form of distortion rather it is a precursor, without a high enough input signal distortion would never (as far as this article goes) occur naturally.

b. Clipping

Clipping occurs when an amplifier is unable to amplify a signal any more this creates a waveform that cannot be reproduced by the amplifier, since this signal cannot be reproduced it is “clipped” (imagine a large truck going under a bridge that is too low for it, the top of the truck is “clipped off) and a clipped signal causes... You guessed it, distortion!


Fuzz is most likely the simplest of all distortions, a fuzzbboxes (as they are colloquially called) artificially causes clipping in the input signal which causes a distorted and somewhat synthetic sound.

Fuzz is typically heard in a lot of 60's music from genres including rock, and blues. Fuzz is also an effect that was relied upon heavily by a certain Hendrix, J. (perhaps you've heard of him?). Fuzz is also quite heavily used in modern rock and metal by a number of stoner rock bands including: Kyuss, Fatso Jettson, and Monster Magnet.

Famous Fuzz Tones Created By: Dallas Arbiter FuzzFace (Dunlop), Seymour Duncan TweakFuzz, Octavia, and the Maestro FZ-1A.


Overdrive, the most popular type of distortion found in rock music, it gave birth to an era, and it's echo may well be heard on forever. Poetry aside overdrive is the staple of an incredible list of muscians, it can be obtained naturally (through amplifiers themselves), or through artificial means (stompboxes, and digital reproductions). Overdrive is simply yet another form of clipping it is caused by running amplifiers at super-high volumes adding a certain “bite” to the sound. Overdrive was originally created by “driving” (pumping a high input signal into) a tube amp and causing the amp to clip in an “overly” agressive fashion.

A common misconception of overdrive is that the amp is actually being damaged because it's being “over”loaded however this is not the case as amplifiers are able to handle the load (clipping anyone?).

Overdrive can be heard in almost any form of music imaginable but it is predominant in: rock, blues, country, and sometimes metal. Listen to msuic by S.R.V (who used two *TS9s in succession to create one of the worlds “best” tones), The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and nearly every other rock band you can think of!

*The TS9 (Tube Screamer) is considered by most people to be the best possible external overdrive unit ever created, do a quick search on any guitar site and you will find wealths of information about this famous little green box.

Famous Overdrive Tones Prduced By: Ibanez TS-9 Tubescreamer, Fender Amplifiers, Orange Amplifiers, VOX Amplifiers, BOSS OD-3


Tube-overdrive is considered to be a special type of overdrive in todays world as more and more tube amps are (slowly) being replaced by inexpensive, low maintenance solid state amplifiers. Tube overdrive is fundementally the same as regular overdrive with the exception that tube-overdrive equates good tone with high volumes (easily remedied with an atteunuator) since the power-amp is being overdriven rather than the preamp (think of that little 10w Solid state amp you got for Christmas). Most people swear by tube tone because the clipping aside from sounding warmer, producing natural harmonics (a seperate issue entirely), and introducing a form of *compression into the equation (another entirely seperate issue!).

*Compression, to put is simply compression is the act of compressing the input signal so that clipping occurs later (at higher input levels); basically loud sounds seem “normal” while quiet sounds seem “louder”.


Gain, is another way to boost the input signal, however instead of modifying the amount of signal reaching the (for all intensive purposes) the input jack on the amplifier, it modifies the signal level that reaches the actual amplification stage.

(I suggest reading up more on gain, for the purpose of this article I really limited my discussion on it.)


Finally, the holy grail, the big kahuna, the main course, the rueben sandwich, the.. Rambling aside distortion is what you are reading this article for. Distortion is really a misconception, since it only exists as a concept (sorry, had you going there for a while though huh?) “classic” examples of distortion in reality are just extreme version of overdrive (see why I waited on this one?). Distortion is classically seen as a very thick, heavy, and manly sound emphasizing bass, and treble frequencies... While cutting out the “unimportant” midrange (*one scoop or two?) this leads to that heavy metal sound that makes babies grow beards, and vikings pillage space-villages! For examples of “distortion” listen to bands like: Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeth.

*Please do not scoop your mids, you liked this article so much that mids will never go below 4... Please?

Famous Distortion Sounds Come From: BOSS MT2 Metalzone, Mesa Amplifiers, Peavey Amplifiers, and ElectroHarmonix Big Muffs.

7:33 am - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Sunday, December 09, 2007

Antique Amp Adventures II

Current mood: amused

So I got the amp working in case anyone was wondering, but it needs new tubes, and new caps I got quoted nearly 400$ and that was the lowest price I could get. I think I'll just try and do it myself now.
10:13 am - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Antique Amp Adventures

Current mood: curious

I was rummaging through my grandmothers basement one day, and I happened upon an old amplifier. It was covered in dust and just about every other thing time could throw at it, but it looked salvagable.
After a good clean off, and finding all of the missing parts for it I decided to take it home and check the usual places for sources of information; google, ebay, forums; but no such luck it seemed that this amp was a mystery.
After browsing a bit more and asking some questions I found out that I had happened upon a P.A. amp, however with a preamp, it could become a good guitar amp. And so now I sit waiting until I get some more free time when I can begin testing this thing...
8:11 am - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Monday, November 12, 2007

My Room

Current mood: contemplative

So I look at my room and I think to myself "thank christ I'm using firefox 2 because I just spelt look as 'lok'." My blunderfull spelling aside (apparently blunderfull is a word, who knew?) my room is a complete and utter fucking disaster, I've been recording copious amounts of material lately and my normally pristine room looks like a GWAR concert if the roadies exploded and some retard off the street was asked to run cable. There are clothes on the floor, cables running every which way, I have guitar stuff everywhere; in fact it's gotten so bad that I can't even sleep on my bed any more, I've had to pull out the air mattress in order to rest. It isn't all that bad though, my brain could really use a break from all the heavy thinking and logical nitter natter of my daily life and it does promote better musicianship for some reason. I suppose that I can keep my right brain entertained for a little while longer while, I do want to sleep in my bed though.
8:44 am - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Monday, October 15, 2007

Loud Muzak

Current mood: annoyed

I'm writing this because I have nothing better to do, once again I arrived to class an hour early. To my dismay there was an emo kids sitting in the seat next to me listening to some shitty music a loud as possible for his [her] iPod headphones. Let this be a lesson to all emo kids turn your headphones down I don't want to hear your shitty "music".

Or else...
2:41 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ulta Brite Headlights

Current mood: pissed off

So I'm sitting here in class today with nothing to do because I got here an hour early sinceit's the only way to beat traffic and I'm thinking about my drive over and what really pisses me off. Almost instantly I realize that the thing that makes me the most angry about driving is those goddamn super-brite halogen headlights, for starters they blind me every time I go to make a turn, and even worse yet they are illegal in Alberta and the cops don't do anyting about it. Aside from that the only thing that makes me angryer than those bloody lights is speeding; why is it that I can't speed for fear of getting a major ticket when I'm a bonafied licensed race-car driver? And anyone else can just whip right past me in their goddamn '88 Civics, and  can't do anything about it? I mean driving is supposed to be fun, not blinding and/or unfair. At least that's my opinion.
2:33 pm - 0 comments - 0 Kudos