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Distortion imitates the warm, hard, growling sound of an amp cranked up full, even at low amp volumes . Adds sustain. Pushes the amp towards feedback. When played at full volume, a guitar with a distortion box plugged before the amp sounds even more powerful. The word distortion sounds like it would be a bad thing, but in this capacity, it's a good thing.
A distortion box usually has two or three knobs : volume, distortion, and sometimes some kind of tone knob.
My editor, Sandy, didn't get this. She added: "Michael: I'm kind of lost now. You were talking about effects boxes and distortion pedals, but how can a pedal have a knob? I thought we were talking about distortion as an effect that you could create using an effects box, but now it sounds as if it's an actual physical thing that has knobs. Can you clear that up for me?"
My very smart tech editor (and good friend) Michael Woody, added: "The pedal on an effects box, other than wah wah and volume, is strictly the On/Off switch. The knobs attenuate the various effects associated with the pedal and are adjusted by hand. I've seen Jay and Doug (Bomb) do this during live shows mid-song, and it can be both compelling and befuddling to behold. The pedal on old wah wah and all volume pedals is the only attenuator , and the On/Off switch is typically at one end of the pedal arch."
Distortion and fuzz boxes (and, to a lesser degree, most effects boxes) add a bit of volume to the signal, so it is useful to have the volume knob on an effect, to roll this back if you want to. Otherwise, every time you hit the switch on an effect, it will make you WAY louder than the rest of the band . This is not good. Except maybe you would want to leave one of your distortion or fuzz boxes (many guitarists use more than one) set a little louder than the unaffected sound, to give you an edge to make a solo stand out.
Or you could just leave them all louder than everything else. Set at 11.
All rules demand to be broken.
Good examples of a distortion box at work: Linkin Park: "One Step Closer." Pennywise: "Unknown Road."
A distortion pedal is sometimes also called a fuzz box, though technically this is a particular kind of distortion. A true fuzz box has a little bit more of a tight, less overdriven, more 60s sound.
Michael Woody also added, " It might be worth mentioning here that the fuzz box is responsible for certain renowned 60s bass tones ( Jack Bruce from Cream, for example), not just guitar sounds."
Fuzzbox examples: Portishead: Portishead, "Elysium." Hooverphonic: "Jacky Cane."
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