What does an overdrive effect do? | The Basics

THE GIST

Overdrive effects allow players to simulate what it sounds like when you drive a tube amp so hard that it distorts your clean guitar signal.

Overdrives can be seen as a step above a clean boost pedal, which is just meant to beef up your signal without modifying it. Overdrive simulates the breakup you get when you crank your amp hard enough that your signal starts to distort.

Overdrive effects tend to add more color and texture to your tone than a clean boost would, but less color than you’d get with a dedicated distortion pedal, which tends to further distort, compress, and saturate your tone.

As with most effect types, there is a wide range of overdrive flavors that you can choose from and experiment with. That said, most of them feature two gain stages (input volume and output volume), as well as a tone knob and, usually, a few other tone-shaping controls, like bass and treble.

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