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> Distortion Question
Hardtail
post Feb 2 2011, 06:18 AM
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Before I ask my question, I'd like to point out that I have performed 99% of my "career" with an acoustic. I know how to get every sound I want out of my acoustic and feel very comfortable playing it. When I auditioned for my church band they all commented on how good the acoustic work sounded but didn't say anything about my electric guitar pieces. When they called me back to ask me to play with them, they said "just acoustic for now"... lol

I've been tinkering with electric for several years and trying out lots of different pedals and set-ups. One thing keeps bothering me...

Distortion either from a "Distortion" pedal or from an "Overdrive" pedal all have the same problem I keep hearing. If I want to hold a chord the distortion/overdrive quickly fizzles out and becomes a soft crackling sound right before nothing. That "crackling" sounds terrible in my ears. For the life of me I can't hear that in anybodies playing except mine. Here's my findings so far:

1. Overdrive Pedal into All Tube Amp -> No crackling... however, I used the overdrive pedal more like a booster (9 O'clock Drive) and let the amp do the overdriving.

2. Overdrive Pedal into Solid State -> Crackling after initial distortion. Pedal is used to push the distortion (12 O'clock)... amp is run fairly clean.

3. Overdrive Pedal into Sansamp into Preamp Input (no amp EQ) -> Crackling is much clearer and noticeable. Sansamp is run hot or clean and Overdrive is run at 12 O'clock.

It seems like the cleaner the preamp the the more noticeable the crackling and the shorter my sustain. Anyone have any advice or insight into this? I can't record the sound yet since I don't have an interface.

Hardtail





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Mudbone
post Feb 2 2011, 07:06 AM
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Try putting a compressor in front of whatever device you're using for your distortion, that should help smooth it out. Obviously you won't be able to get tube distortion out of a solid state device, it might be close, but not the same.

Check out this article, hopefully it will answer some of your questions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distortion_(guitar)


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MickeM
post Feb 2 2011, 08:58 AM
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Not sure about the distortion problem since I understand it's happening with different pedals and amps. Could your guitar put out an unstable signal that peaks too strong when you strum a chord or note? Does the pickups sit too close to the strings?

Same with the sustain. Quickly dying often goes hand in hand with a badly intonated guitar. I've experienced both kinds and one that's set up perfectly will hold a note for as long as you want while a dull one will kill it no matter how much you try.


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Ben Higgins
post Feb 2 2011, 10:27 AM
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Hi Hardtail,

This reminds me of my first experiences with distortion too smile.gif To be honest, it's probably nothing that you're doing wrong.. it's most likely just how a distortion pedal and certain amps are going to sound at this level of gear.

For me, it was just a case of me running a distortion pedal into a clean practice amp.. the pedal on its own didn't have enough juice and tone to make it sound any good and didn't have the natural sustain of a tube amp. It sounded more like a messy buzz and the tone was fizzy and terrible. This is how most people I've ever heard sound when they first get into using distortion.

I didn't start getting a cleaner and better tone until I got a small all in one effects unit that worked with a clean amp. It was a Zoom 505, not particularly well built.. but you can get so much more these days and gear has moved on in quality immensely. Basically it had built in presets for distorted tones, both for rhythm and lead.. and clean tones as well as effects like chorus, delay, flanger etc.. but the thing was the distorted tones were already designed to be used as is, so they sounded good even through a clean solid state practice amp. It may be worth taking a trip to a local guitar shop and trying a few small multi fx units out through a clean amp just to see if you hear any difference. Take your own guitar too smile.gif


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Hardtail
post Feb 2 2011, 03:53 PM
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I've been playing with this long enough... and using very high quality gear and boxes that I know it's not a matter of having the "wrong gear" but more of using my gear in the "wrong way". There are no good stores around my area but I could ask the other guys in the band to help me out with it.

The only constant in the whole situation has been my guitar. The distortion sounds awesome for single notes, scale work, and the little blues I play... it's when I strum many strings, as with open chords or barre chords where the distortion just sounds nasty and dies off quickly. Could it be something with my pickups? How does the distance they are set effect these kinds of things? They are humbuckers and I tend to run them at 8 on the volume knob... am I overloading the signal too much for larger chord work? Am I running the drive on the OD/DS pedals too hard for chord work (does chord work need different drive settings than lead work?)?

The last thought I had was this. I set the volume on my stomp boxes to be the same level as when they are off. I didn't want to "boost" the volume, just add distortion and maintain the level. However, it occurs to me that overdrive/distortion pedals might naturally boost the volume and when I run the volume the way I have been, maybe it's causing unnatural clipping.

I'm basically gonna take my whole rig apart tonight and do a full battery of tests... including adjusting the pickups on the guitar.

PS - As far as sustain... my guitar sustains fine... When I strum a full 6-string chord you hear the Attack immediately followed by the smooth warm distortion followed by that annoying nano-second of break-up followed by the guitar still sustaining (but clean sounding now).

Hardtail

I found an interesting write up on the web that may be part of my problem:

"The reason for this is something called "intermodulation distortion." Basically, when you play multiple notes with distortion, the distortion also generates an extra note called a "difference tone." This note is often not harmonically compatible (or even in tune) to what you are playing.

A note's pitch is determined by its frequency, which, on guitar, is essentially how many times that string moves back and forth when you play it. Frequency is measured in Hz, you may be familiar with A=440Hz, this is our modern tuning standard.

Anyways, let's say you play a distorted C power chord. That C has a frequency of about 130Hz, the G is 196Hz, the difference tone is equal to the difference between those two notes... 66Hz which is close to a C an octave lower (which is why a distorted power chord sounds so big and awesome).

Now let's try playing something simple, that still sounds ugly... a major 3rd. We'll play the notes C and E. The C is, once again, about 130Hz, the E is about 165Hz. The difference tone would therefore be 35Hz, which about a C# 2 octaves lower... ugly right? You can imagine how these ugly difference tones just stack up and turn what would be beautiful and complex chords into hideous and ugly messes of noise.

So, basically, there's no way to avoid it (short of separately processing the signals from each guitar string). Sucks huh?"


- Lucasman via answers.yahoo.com

What do you think?

Hardtail


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Beginner's Amp & Guitar Gear Guide
My Keeley Blues Driver BD-2 Review
My Line6 Flextone II Review

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jstcrsn
post Feb 2 2011, 06:33 PM
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QUOTE (Hardtail @ Feb 2 2011, 03:53 PM) *
I've been playing with this long enough... and using very high quality gear and boxes that I know it's not a matter of having the "wrong gear" but more of using my gear in the "wrong way". There are no good stores around my area but I could ask the other guys in the band to help me out with it.

The only constant in the whole situation has been my guitar. The distortion sounds awesome for single notes, scale work, and the little blues I play... it's when I strum many strings, as with open chords or barre chords where the distortion just sounds nasty and dies off quickly. Could it be something with my pickups? How does the distance they are set effect these kinds of things? They are humbuckers and I tend to run them at 8 on the volume knob... am I overloading the signal too much for larger chord work? Am I running the drive on the OD/DS pedals too hard for chord work (does chord work need different drive settings than lead work?)?

The last thought I had was this. I set the volume on my stomp boxes to be the same level as when they are off. I didn't want to "boost" the volume, just add distortion and maintain the level. However, it occurs to me that overdrive/distortion pedals might naturally boost the volume and when I run the volume the way I have been, maybe it's causing unnatural clipping.

I'm basically gonna take my whole rig apart tonight and do a full battery of tests... including adjusting the pickups on the guitar.

PS - As far as sustain... my guitar sustains fine... When I strum a full 6-string chord you hear the Attack immediately followed by the smooth warm distortion followed by that annoying nano-second of break-up followed by the guitar still sustaining (but clean sounding now).

Hardtail

I found an interesting write up on the web that may be part of my problem:

"The reason for this is something called "intermodulation distortion." Basically, when you play multiple notes with distortion, the distortion also generates an extra note called a "difference tone." This note is often not harmonically compatible (or even in tune) to what you are playing.

A note's pitch is determined by its frequency, which, on guitar, is essentially how many times that string moves back and forth when you play it. Frequency is measured in Hz, you may be familiar with A=440Hz, this is our modern tuning standard.

Anyways, let's say you play a distorted C power chord. That C has a frequency of about 130Hz, the G is 196Hz, the difference tone is equal to the difference between those two notes... 66Hz which is close to a C an octave lower (which is why a distorted power chord sounds so big and awesome).

Now let's try playing something simple, that still sounds ugly... a major 3rd. We'll play the notes C and E. The C is, once again, about 130Hz, the E is about 165Hz. The difference tone would therefore be 35Hz, which about a C# 2 octaves lower... ugly right? You can imagine how these ugly difference tones just stack up and turn what would be beautiful and complex chords into hideous and ugly messes of noise.

So, basically, there's no way to avoid it (short of separately processing the signals from each guitar string). Sucks huh?"


- Lucasman via answers.yahoo.com

What do you think?

Hardtail

i would like to know your giutar and what pick-up it has
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JamesT
post Feb 3 2011, 04:16 AM
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You should post a clip of your distirted amp sound. It mught help someone to key in on the issue.

Be careful of over driving the input of a solid state amp. It will behave differentlly from a tube amp in that regard. If using a clean setting on a solid state amp, stick to a distortion box rather than boosting the signal at that piont. Boosting the raw guitar at the front of a solid state amp can clip the input pre-amp causing a nasty crackle/buzz. On a tube amp, the front end can take a hotter input signal and even responds nicely to it by distorting gracefully.

Also, for a "sanity check" bring your guitar to a music store and plug into the best all tube amp they've got. If it sounds good on that amp it's probably not the pickups. conversely, if it sounds bad, it could very well be the pups or other components of the guitar. I would suggest though that if your guitar sounds good clean, then it will sound pretty good distorted on a decent amp.

There is indeed some technique to apply in order to get a good tone from a distorted amp. To me that is more a matter of feel which you can get quickly by playing for a few hours. Your palm muting, and or the way you articlulate the fretted strings can adjust quickly to the sound of the amp and desired style. But in my experience switching from your favorite amp/tone to a totally new one (even one that is potentially a better rig) can wreck your tone at least until you get used hearing to it and to how it "feels".


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Hardtail
post Feb 3 2011, 06:55 AM
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I stepped back from over-analyzing the guitar because it always sounded amazing on my Fender Blues Jr (all tube) which I JUST sold.

I looked at what was going on in my pedal arrangement... the input I am using on the amp and the settings of the Sansamp GT2.

I toyed with each pedal independently and realized that most of my issues was with the Keeley DS-1. The Blues Driver only seemed to have this issue very slightly when I was cutting the Volume output of the pedal to the same or lower than the dry volume (which reduces the signal before gain clipping causes a poor quality distortion). But the DS-1 seemed to do it no matter the volume.

So it occured to me that the noise I am bothered by is an odd clipping drop-off occuring after heavy distortion and dampening my sustain output. I decided to switch the Keeley DS-1 from the "Ultra" mode to the "All Seeing Eye" mode via the toggle switch they installed on the top of the pedal and viola... the annoying sound was gone and my sustain was back.

The "Ultra" mod adds an LED signal clip to further reduce the signal headroom and add a more crunchy distortion sound. The sound is really cool and it's why I was using it... but the crunchiness was breaking up strangely and killing the sustain by adding more resistance to the signal path in general. I don't think the "Ultra" mod was meant for heavy chord work with sustain but more like a "Blues/Metal" hybrid sound for lead work. It's very unique but apparently has a drawback! hehe

Anyway, after figuring that out I messed with other various settings and everything sounded real good (like it did with my tube amp before). I even cranked the output of the Sansamp GT2 to see if overloading my amps "Effects Loop In" would cause unwanted side-effects and it still sounded good. I don't know why I originally thought it was happening across my other overdrive pedals as well. It just goes to show you that you should fully test a new pedal before sending everyone on a ghost hunt.

Thanks for all the effort and input guys! I really appreciate it and I definitely learned a lot from this experience.

Hardtail


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Beginner's Amp & Guitar Gear Guide
My Keeley Blues Driver BD-2 Review
My Line6 Flextone II Review

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Daniel Realpe
post Feb 3 2011, 04:26 PM
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One thing that really helped me to sort of shape my distorted sound is find a part in a song where you find the distortion isolated and start comparing it with your sound while you tweak it.



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Hardtail
post Feb 4 2011, 08:03 AM
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So my DS-1 crapped out on me so I took it out of the board altogether. The BD-2 is still producing that sound once I kick the Drive Knob up past 12 O'clock. I'm very frustrated with the whole thing. It may just be because of my SS amp. I'm gonna see if I can't borrow someones amp to do more testing.

Hardtail


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Beginner's Amp & Guitar Gear Guide
My Keeley Blues Driver BD-2 Review
My Line6 Flextone II Review

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Amps: Fender Blues Junior Special Edition & Fender Studio 85 (Simultaneous... yummy)
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Todd Simpson
post Feb 4 2011, 03:21 PM
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As was posted earlier, a video/sound clip would really help here. Actually, several clips with examples. Just reading about tone is always tougher than actually hearing it smile.gif


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