Guitar Distortion and Overdrive Effects

There is often quite a bit of confusion between the terms "guitar distortion"and "guitar overdrive". Let's try to clear that up a bit.


Overdrive inherently involves distorting the sound coming from your amp, but it is different from what we have come to call "Distortion".

Overdrive is simply a boosting of the the signal of your guitar before it enters the amplifier. Basically, you can think of it as a very big signal trying to get through a smaller opening. In the early days--and sometimes still--, overdrive was achieved by turning the volume on the amp DOWN and the volume on the guitar UP. This forces the large signal of the guitar into the smaller output capacity of the amp. (Think of a garden hose where the water is forced into a smaller power nozzle.)

The sound that you get with overdrive is a kind of warm, dirty, "beefed up" sound. It is not meant to add massive amounts of screaming metal distortion. Rather, it is an overall boost to the guitar signal without any added tonal coloration. The sound is similar to that of a tube amp when it is "cranked up". If you are doing blues and rock then maybe an overdrive pedal will give you the sound that you want.

Here are some popular overdrive effects:

MXR ZW-44 Wylde Overdrive Pedal

Boss OD-3 OverDrive Pedal

Find Guitar Distortion and Overdrive Pedals Here!


Distortion is a more intense overdriven sound with added tonal coloration. There are as many types of distortion as there are players.It all depends upon taste--anything from a fuzz tone to a full-on, notched-out midrange, death metal wall of noise. Digital distortion has a more metallic, raspy sound which works well for heavy metal, grunge, or reliving your 80's hair band days. Analog tube distortion gives a good, all-around rock tone, such as the sound of a Marshall stack cranked to 10.

Here are some distortion effects for you to check out:

Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Pedal

DigiTech XMM Metal Master Heavy Metal Distortion Pedal


Find Great Deals on new and used guitar effects pedals!

Remember that Overdrive and Distortion are but two of a multitude of guitar effect available to you. To check out more effects,

Leave "Guitar Distortion" and Go To "Guitar Foot Pedals"

Go To "Absolutely Free Music Lessons"

New! Comments

We welcome your comments and ideas! Leave a comment in the box below.