Even if you have some experience using different guitar pedals, it may still be difficult to define the key differences between overdrive and distortion. Both effects can nicely transform ordinary sounds, jazzing them up with unique effects. I have thoroughly studied the topic and can help you grasp what is what.
Beginner musicians tend to confuse overdrive and distortion pedals, but these are 2 totally different “tools”. When you press an overdrive pedal, you get a sound similar to that caused by a solid-state amplifier. Actually, this pedal is needed to imitate the sound of a valve amp at its highest point when the sound is extremely powerful and loud. Note that the sound you get while using an overdrive pedal is directly affected by how hard your touch is. If you play soft, there won’t appear window-blowing noise, but pushing a bit harder, you may hear your signal starting to break up.
In fact, overdrive is defined as a “gentle” variation of distortion that reveals its full potential when you play more intensely. This effect is especially favored by Country and Blues musicians, who want to preserve the tone of their guitar, slightly embellishing it with a gentle boost.
Distortion pedals work in a totally different manner. Simply put, such sounds have an aggressive component, which appeals to fans of Metal and Rock. While overdrive resembles an amp and mimics the coveted cranked sound, the distortion fully alters the initial composition. If you want to add filth and grit to your tone, you definitely need to try the distortion effect.
When using a distortion pedal, the result doesn’t depend on how hard you press it. The effect is always the same. The main idea behind distortion is to distort sound, and the pedal perfectly copes with this task. This sounding is mainly associated with heavy rock genres, which are distinguished by a “heavy” tone.
Overdrive vs. Distortion
It is difficult to state what pedal is better, as they are aimed at a slightly different outcome. While an overdrive pedal is needed for changing the tonality of a melody slightly and allows controlling the intensity of an effect, a distortion pedal is like a mighty instrument that can complement your music with “heavy” signals, completely distorting the original sound.
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