Generally speaking, the
gamut of fuzz pedals is
represented by the classic
Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face at
one end and the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi at the
other. The former works best
with an amp that’s already a
bit distorted, while the latter
can unleash glorious mayhem through a clean amp.
Fuzz Face photo courtesy of
Djdaedalus at en.wikipedia
the first fuzz pedals used germanium transistors, and some players prefer these to later silicon transistors because they consider the latter harsher-sounding.
control, but they are great for placing before
a volume pedal in order to get massive rock
sounds at a volume that’s comfortable for a
wedding or Bar Mitzvah gig.
Octave fuzz comes with its own set
of proper playing techniques. The upper
octaves come out best on the E and B
strings above the 12th fret, and they’re
enhanced by using the neck pickup and
rolling off the Tone knob. Octave fuzz
effects are designed for single-note lines,
but some groups of notes can be played
harmoniously. If you are into dissonance,
they offer a whole other world filled with
clashing intervals to explore.
You would think that a fuzz effect would
be easily distinguishable from an overdrive
or distortion—and some are—but others
blur the line. Technically, there is a difference—distortions and overdrives usually
use diodes and op-amps to achieve breakup, while fuzzes use transistors—but, sonically and feel-wise, there can be crossover.
Fuzz-pedal transistors can be of either
the germanium or silicon variety. The
first fuzz pedals used germanium transis-
tors, and some players prefer these to later
silicon transistors because they consider
the latter harsher-sounding. Other play-
ers prefer the edgier silicon variety, with
its extra gain. However, old germanium
fuzzes were extremely inconsistent in tone,
because the transistor values tended to vary
greatly. Modern manufacturers such as Jim
Dunlop, Electro-Harmonix, and Analog
Man test each transistor to make certain
the sound is more consistent.
As you can see (and hear from the sound
clips available on premierguitar.com), distortion comes in many colors, with various
shades and hues within those colors. For a
more in-depth look, check out my book All
About Effects (street $14.99, halleonard.com).
Experimenting with different ways of
dirtying up your sound is one of the most
exciting and fun things about playing electric
guitar. Using the various types of stompboxes
and approaches described here, you can elicit
a wealth of harmonics and overtones—from
sweet, singing sustain to chopped-off dissonant clang—from your guitars. Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to
make music with these marvelous tones.
Click here to hear sound
clips for the boost, overdrive, distortion, and fuzz
sounds discussed here
118 PREMIER GUITAR SEPTEMBER 2011