Whether you are an experienced musician, or you are just starting your musical journey, you might have heard of the term, ‘distortion pedal’ before now.
However, if you are still unfamiliar with what they do or how to use one, then you have come to the right place.
A distortion pedal is a piece of equipment that is used for effect, to distort your sound and is a reference to distortion effect pedals. Whatever category of music you produce, distortion can provide texture, color, and flavor to any piece.
In this article, we are going to look at what a distortion pedal is in closer detail, as well as talk you through step-by-step instructions on how to use them.
What Is A Distortion Pedal?
A distortion pedal helps you distort the music. Distortion happened when the gain is added to a signal and the signal is pushed beyond the peak.
You will then have harmonic overtones and compression and sustain when it clips the peaks of the signal. This can be done with all audio signals, yet is not typically used in hi-fi audio.
For a lot of guitarists, this distortion is the sound they want and it can be achieved by turning up the volume on any amp to the point which causes the tubes to overdrive.
A lot of amps use a preamp and this is used to overdrive the input signal at a lower volume. A distortion pedal however matches this regardless of the amp it is put into.
How To Use A Distortion Pedal
To use a distortion pedal to distort the sound on your electric guitar, you will need to have a distortion pedal, your electric guitar, an amp, 2 instrument cables, one pedal power supply, a 9V battery, or another power supply for your pedal.
Step One: Connecting The Cables
As mentioned, you need 2 instrument cables. One is going to come from the output on your guitar and run into the input on your pedal. The other cable will come from the output of your pedal and to the input of your amp.
Step Two: Connecting To A Power Source
You are now going to have to connect to a power source. Your pedal needs to have some power as it cannot draw power from the cables above. You will need to connect either to an external power supply with a 9v power cable or a 9v battery.
Step Three: Setting Up Your Amp Channel and Volume
If your amplifier has both a dirty and a clean channel, you need to make sure you set it to the clean channel so the amp is not distorting your signal already.
Once your clean sound is dialed in, you should set the volume levels so they are not too loud and are at the volume you want. You will need to have your pedal a little louder than your clean signal.
Step Four: Neutralizing Pedal Settings
Now it’s time to set those knobs to 12 o’clock. Once you have got all your settings on your amp normalized, you need to set the distortion pedal round to 12 o’clock, and this way you will have full control and a starting point to fine-tune your distorted sound.
Setting your pedal will also ensure the levels are not too high and this means you will not have a very loud flash of distortion as you turn the pedal on.
Step Five: Turning The Pedal On By Stepping On It
Now it is time to turn that pedal on! You will need to step on the bypass of the pedal which is a switch usually in the form of a pad or button and this will turn up the distortion effect.
You should, as soon as you start playing your guitar, begin to hear distorted sound coming out of your amplifier. Ensure the volume is turned up and you are good to go!
Step Six: Fine Tuning The Pedal Settings
Now that you’ve got your tone and it is distorted, this should be coming through your amp and it’s a sign you are ready to fine-tune your pedal settings.
Set the level first and this should be just a little louder than your cleaner tone. This is the volume or ‘output’ of your pedal.
From there, you should set gain or ‘distortion’ to provide the breakup amount or the ‘saturation’ you are after. Some distortion pedals will have other controls such as noise gates, tone, and other dials.
So adjust to your liking and start playing! Keep playing and practicing this way until you get to know your perfect distortion sound.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind Of Musicians Need Distortion Pedals?
Since a distortion pedal simply distorts your sound, a pedal can be used by anyone. They can help any guitarist find their sound and makes some cool pieces.
However, they are commonly associated with rock and heavy metal bands as they can give your sound a ‘heavy’ tone. It will darken the output and boost the signal but this depends on settings.
What Is Distortion?
Distortion is the next level of overdrive and means the signal is clipped and compressed. When your sound is distorted, there is little of the original tone left in the guitar.
We hope you have enjoyed this article on ‘how to use a distortion pedal’ and are a little more familiar with what it is if you are a beginner guitar player.
From the start to finish, we have provided you with a step-by-step guide on how to use a distortion pedal and hopefully helped you get started.
We have covered the basics, as well as told you how to set up, tweak the settings and play an awesome distorted sound! Happy playing!
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