Does Distortion Make Everything Sound The Same?

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by littlebadboy, Sep 7, 2019.

  1. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy New Member

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    As a metal/rock player, this video made me rethink pickup changes and all. I was surpised!... Dumbfounded!... So, I guess it doesn't matter in the end?


    What do you guys think?
     
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  2. xjbebop

    xjbebop Yippy ki yay!

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    No. Many different 'distortions', and different guitars & pickups & amps effect the voicing.
     
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  3. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy New Member

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    If you watched the video, he used different guitars but the same distortion pedal and amp. To me, they all sounded the same!
     
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  4. Tone-y

    Tone-y New Member

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    I guess distortion is boosting and clipping the original signal so much that a lot of the nuance is gone, which is why everything comes out sounding the same for any given distortion pedal/amp
     
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    You have to understand what distortion is, and what it does.

    Distortion is clipping. Clipping turns a sine wave coming from your guitar into a square wave. In essence it “clips off” the top and bottom of the waveform.. The more heavy the distortion is, the more fuzz-like it gets. This is exactly what a fuzz pedal does - it’s a square wave generator.

    When you clip off the top of the waveform, a few predictable things happen. First, the relationship between the bottom end and the top end of the frequency curve is altered. Things get more bassy because less high end gets through.

    Second, the signal becomes more compressed. The more compression, the less dynamic range, and the less opportunity for the pickups to distinguish themselves in terms of tone or dynamic range. On the good side, I suppose, the more compressed the signal becomes, the more sustain it has added.

    Anyway, when you compress a signal enough, and chop of the high frequencies enough, sure, most guitars sound very much alike. If all you play is very high gain stuff, the sonic differences between guitars will be obscured. Clean things up, and you hear the differences.
     
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  6. shimmilou

    shimmilou Established in 1963

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    Not really conclusive to me, as this was one particular pedal, fully cranked, and we have no idea if he changed volume on the amp for each different guitar. What would the result be if the distortion pedal was set to 5? I think we can all agree that each of these guitars likely has a unique tone when played clean, or with very low distortion.

    Maybe the title should be; “Does this one particular pedal, fully cranked, make all guitars sound the same”
     
  7. Boogie

    Boogie Zombie Two, DFZ

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    It always depends on how much. All of it? Yes. Except the unpotted pickups...they squeal, too.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Excellent observation.

    Also turning the volume down on a fuzz was one of Hendrix’ tricks for certain clean tones, as contrary as that might seem!
     
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  9. merciful-evans

    merciful-evans Portsmouth uk

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    Agree with the consensus here. I think of adding distortion to a guitar the same way as adding sugar to a desert. The more you add, the further the unique flavour recedes.
     
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  10. DISTORT6

    DISTORT6 NJ Devil

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    Not if you plug directly in.
     
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  11. CandidPicker

    CandidPicker Open - Eared

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    Not to stir the pot a bit, but how does the OP determine how well a guitar sounds if he plays through a distortion pedal? If buying a guitar he's test-driving, would it make sense to play through a clean amp to determine the qualities and characteristics of the guitar, then a distortion pedal (since the OP said it seemed that most guitars sound the same with distortion)?
     
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  12. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    I had a Metal Zone. Everything sounded the same through it. Same for the high-gain fuzz pedals.

    Through low or medium gain, guitars sound very much like themselves. Even with my Archon gain at 1:00 I can tell the difference between my different guitars.
     
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  13. Screamingdaisy

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    And as a metal/rock player, you should know better.
     
  14. vchizzle

    vchizzle Zomb!e Nine, DFZ

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    There’s a reason you can’t sell a metal zone for over $25. That said, if you’re purely looking for lots of gain no matter what you plug it into, I suppose it has a purpose. I use mine to hold jacks while I’m making cables.
     
  15. ViperDoc

    ViperDoc Plugged In.

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    Plugging a guitar into a Metal Zone is akin to burying it. The concept of distortion has already been discussed. The claim of this video "Distortion makes all guitars sound the same" is like saying "paint makes all houses look the same". Or if you buried the guitars (or houses), they'd look the same, too, because now there's so much other stuff on top of them, you can't detect the differences. If we turned all of our 100 W amps up to 11, they'd probably start sounding the same, too, because we'd all be deaf AF!!!

    Check out this distortion episode from the That Pedal Show channel. These guys know their stuff:

     
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  16. Johnny Rigs

    Johnny Rigs Have you tried restarting?

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    Anyone who has owned a Metal Zone would know the result of this experiment before it started. And anyone who starts off an experiment by saying “to do this proper ... I used a Metal Zone ... distortion on 10” forfeits all serious credibility. I don’t like to be insulting, but if he wasn’t trying to be tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing, he just might be clueless.

    That’s not because the Metal Zone is a bad sounding pedal (even if it does sound bad), it’s because it has such a strong EQ voice on its own, that combined with “distortion on 10” there is no way for the guitars character to come through. Everything wears the same mask.

    Distortion can be a great way to help determine the character of a pickup. But it has to be the kind that can actually allow the pickups character through. Edge-of-clean to medium gain amp breakup is what works for me. That reveals how hot the pickup is (is it going to push a clean amp into clipping?), where the frequency peak is compared to others, and even what kind of harmonics you get as gain goes up. In my experience, amp gain is a better test bed than a pedal in general.

    So the short answer to your question is No, distortion doesn’t make everything sound the same. But in that video, with that particular pedal on 10, yes most all of the differences in pickup character were lost and replaced with the same Jason mask.
     
    #16 Johnny Rigs, Sep 9, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
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  17. drdoom8793

    drdoom8793 THAT guy at Chick-fil-A

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    High gain definitely diminishes the differences, but doesn't completely remove them.
     
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  18. MarshallMike

    MarshallMike New Member

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    This is a perfect example as to if you use that much gain, then don't blow your money on great guitars or pups. Just buy more beer and ear plugs instead.
     
  19. GADonis

    GADonis New Member

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    I had a Metal Zone. It can sound good. But it takes a lot of knob twiddling and time. As I recall the tone controls were very interactive so a tweak to one would change how another one would react. Most of the knob settings didn't sound very good but there was a setting that sounded pretty damn good. I mostly used mine with a Charvel Model 6 into a '69 Deluxe Reverb.

    And I say "had" because my Metal Zone literally went up in smoke. The dangers of living with a crazy cat lady is that all your electronics get cat hair in them and eventually the cat hair will catch on fire.
     
  20. GADonis

    GADonis New Member

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    When I am seriously considering buying a guitar I spend a lot of time playing it through a clean amp. You have to have a good foundation to build upon. I also spend a fair amount of time playing it unplugged. Preferably in the acoustic room so there is little background noise. This makes it much easier to find all the buzzes and dead spots along the length of the neck.
     
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