Today, I want to talk about Overdrives and Distortion pedals because I feel some players are still confused about this a little bit.

I guess I’ll start to say that I never used a Distortion pedal in its true sense of the word. In order to get a good use out of a distortion pedal, you would have to play through a clean amp as the pedal adds just that – lots of distortion.

Since I use an amp that has an overdrive built in already (as I am sure all of you guys do as well), I choose to go with an Overdrive. What separates an Overdrive from the Distirtion pedal, is that the Overdrive gives your sound that little extra, that sweet boost needed for chunky tight rhythms and signing leads without throwing a ton and ton of gain on your amp. It works differently from a Distortion pedal. You can think of it as a milder version of a Distortion, although this is not exactly it, either.

If I plugged in a Distortion pedal in front of my head, the sound would be way overdriven and saturated. Not a good thing.

Here is how I use the Overdive to get a good sound and I’m pretty sure that most pro players do something in the ballpark.

When I play through a Marshall head (or, any high gain head or a combo) that already has a decent amount of gain, I leave the gain on the head at just about anywhere between 7 and 8.5. I don’t make the head work 100%.

In front of it, I run an Overdrive pedal which is always a Maxon OD-9. (Maxon OD-9 is closely associated with an Ibanez Tube Screamer, so if you are familiar with that pedal, then you might know what I’m referring to) But, any good Overdrive works depending on your taste. In the past, I also used the classic yellow Boss SuperOverdrive and Maxon OD808 which is very similar to the OD-9, but with less bass and more straight cut.

On the Maxon Overdrive, I keep the Gain/Overdrive just at around 10:30/11:00 O-Clock, Tone straight up at 12 and the Level pretty much just like the tone at 10:30/11. No matter what I’m using amp wise, this Overdrive setting works just as good. If the amp’s gain is weak, I might crank up the gain on the pedal.

So, amp’s gain not full tilt and you use the Overdrive to warm up/hot rod the sound. As you can see, I do not make any component work full tilt, which I think helps keep things in check.

See how it works for you. Of course, there can be variations of this depending on amps, guitars, style, etc., but this is pretty sure-fire way to get a cool sound.

In case anyone wants to know how my pedalboard looks like, it is also very simple.

Guitar goes into my pedals in this order:

1. Boss TU-2 Tuner

2. Dunlop Q95 Wah (This Wah is automatically turned on when you step on it. As soon as you take your foot off – it automatically switches off. I like that, because sometimes I don’t have time to worry about clicking it On/Off. It also has a button for 4db boost which is great for solos)

3. Maxon OD-9 Overdrive

4. Some sort of Chorus (Often a Maxon, or a simple Boss Super Chorus). Sometimes I bypass this step all together.

5.Boss NS-2 Noise Supressor, but if my rig is quiet, I even bypass that.

Any delay runs through the effects loop in the head. For the delay, I use a simple Boss Digital Delay stomp box. Many people are suprised when they hear me say that, but that Boss Delay pedal sounds good to me and I just leave it alone.

This is all fairly simple, to the point approach and I always think that the less stuff I got going on, the better the result.