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Beginners Guide To Guitar Fuzz Pedals

If you’re a huge fan of rock music, you’d probably heard about the numerous riffs that were recorded using guitar fuzz pedals. 

As a beginner, you can get easily confused when it comes to distortion, overdrive, and fuzz pedals. Although it can be difficult to distinguish one from another, there are differences that keep overdrive and distortion distinct from using a guitar fuzz pedal

Main Differences of Overdrive Pedals, Distortion Pedals, and Fuzz Pedals 

  • Overdrive Pedals – Basically, overdrive pedals aim to recreate the sound of tube amplifiers pushed to the highest level, which results in a thick and hot distortion that is suitable for rock and blues genres. It occurs because the amplified signal exceeds the tube’s capacity and distorts the sound as a counter-effect, which happens to be a sought-after sound in the history of music. 
  • Distortion Pedals – There pedals create a more saturated sound that generates a less-natural clipped signal, which overdrive pedals can’t match. The sound produced in distortion pedals can be often heard in metal, heavy rock, grunge, and other intense and aggressive music genres. 
  • Fuzz Pedals – These are distortion pedals, but the sound is a bit different. The sound produced by fuzz pedals is harmonically rich, fat, drone-like, and similar to the psychedelic rock of the 1960s. The sound of fuzz pedals is closer to faulty amplifiers, which allow the length of notes to sustain. 

The guitar tone of fuzz pedals may vary a bit. The pickups of the guitar will play a big role in how your fuzz will sound. Often, single-coil pickups sound clear in fuzz pedals compared to humbuckers. It’s also essential to take note of the placement of your fuzz pedals at the start of your effects chain. The reason behind it is that fuzz pedals have low input impedance, which causes an oscillating sound once placed after another guitar effects pedal. 

History of Guitar Fuzz Pedals 

If you’re new to guitar fuzz pedals, it’s best to know where it started and when it became popular. Well, it was in the early 1960s when fuzz sound became interesting.  

Some guitarists generated raspy, brash tones with a sound that’s similar to baritone sax. Others went to extreme measures through slashing the speaker cones of the amplifier with a razor blade.  

With songs becoming mainstream with such sounds, many guitarists looked for ways to attain similar sounds, which led to a demand for units that could generate the fuzz tone. 

Back then, experimentalists would consider using faulty components in the same way to produce distorted and broken sound. Modern fuzz pedals are built similarly, but they’re wired with mismatched parts to produce the same effects. The benefit of today’s guitar fuzz pedals is their improved reliability and options to control sound. 

Silicon Fuzz Pedals vs Germanium Fuzz Pedal: Which is Best for You? 

Guitar fuzz pedals use silicon or germanium transistors. It’s something that’s debated often with some guitarists curious as to which is great. As with other gear, it’s subjective and can be in accordance with what you prefer. 

The earliest guitar fuzz pedals basically use germanium transistors. That’s why there’s a strong sense of nostalgia for those with old school purists. Germanium fuzz pedals tend to generate a more rounded and much warmer tone with a strong mid-range. Moreover, they’re reactive to your playing style and picking dynamics. 

The tone of germanium fuzz pedals is comparable with the old inspirations for the effect, which produces a sound of a faulty or old amp. These pedals also react well to the guitar’s volume pot with a hair level that reduces once you roll the control down. 

Unfortunately, there are some cons when it comes to germanium transistors. One of these is that they react to the changes in temperature that affect their sound. For instance, playing in a hot studio or room can make the pedal behave differently than using it outside during winter. Therefore, other users believed that using germanium fuzz pedals is better in the cold temperature. 

On the other hand, silicon fuzz pedals use silicon transistors that were developed to be an alternative to germanium. These pedals offer more consistency and reliability. Generally, silicon fuzz pedals are also much cheaper and provide a brighter sound with top-end and more presence that enables players to cut through the busy mixes. 

Silicon fuzz pedals also produce a high amount of gain, providing you a more tone with lots of saturation. When compared to germanium, when you roll down the volume pot of your guitar, only the volume will be reduced while the fuzz sound will remain. At present, most manufacturers that create fuzz pedals use silicon transistors due to their availability. 

How to Shop for Guitar Fuzz Pedals 

With the different guitar fuzz pedals in the market, you might find it challenging and confusing to choose the right one for your needs. To find the best guitar fuzz pedal that matches your music and budget, keep the following in mind: 

Research 

Find more information about the varieties of fuzz pedals in today’s market. If possible, check for reviews and visit various websites that offer such guitar pedals. Reading information regarding some users’ hands-on experience may also help you decide. 

Gain Boost 

A guitar fuzz pedal requires a certain amount of gain boost, which allows you to generate a sustained sound. Your guitar’s sound may disappear faster than you like it to. If the gain is high, your guitar sounds will also be sustainable. Depending on your preferences, you may go with any level of gain you want. 

Frequency 

You have to know about the frequency of a guitar fuzz pedal. Basically, it cuts or boosts in many distortion pedals. It affects the tone of the guitar. So, once you test a fuzz pedal, your guitar’s tone must always cut through. 

Bypass Functions 

The best fuzz pedal has a real bypass function, which enables you to switch your pedal into a bypass. The signal of a guitar in this mode goes through the fuzz pedal to the amplifier directly without the usual interference of the pedal with the sound. For guitarists who want to switch back to the default sound, a bypass function may be useful. 

Power Options 

Most fuzz pedals are powered by replaceable batteries. Such batteries can work for so long. Dead batteries may cost you a lot when it comes to playing time, most particularly when you don’t have an available replacement. It’s recommended to go for the one that can be powered using an AC adapter. 

Bottom Line 

If you’re planning to buy a guitar fuzz pedal, remember that the best one is subjective to your preferences. The first step is to research the possible options available for you. Some factors to consider when choosing fuzz pedals may include gain, powering options, bypass function, frequency, and your budget. But no matter what your preference is, always take note to let your ears be your guide. 


About the Author: Rolland Black is a full-time music blogger. Rolland’s content helps people make a name in the music industry, and choose the best music products for their needs. Rolland also reviews products the product that he regularly uses to make music. 

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