Distortion on Guitar - What Level Of Drive Is Appropriate?

Distortion on guitars or guitar amps are really all about personal preference since there are actually many different flavors of distorted drive. Distortion on guitar can either be very piercing and on the edge of white noise like your typical Metal-Zone guitar pedal, or smooth and buttery like the subtle distortion tone of a country music group.

Either way, there's quite a bit that can be altered simply by deciding how much of that distortion (that you have been presented with) you actually need to use. That's really the key-word there too. "Need" to use.

Because anybody can grab a guitar, crank up the distortion, and think that they're contributing to a guitar tune. However, knowing what is the necessary distortion level, regardless of the tone you've decided to use, is a big part of adding beneficial detail to your compositions.

Here are a list of common genres and what I would recommend as guitar distortion levels when playing along with a band or for recording purposes. Of course you can have recommendations of your own, but these are what have worked for me.

* Use medium distortion levels for a punk-rock sound.

The distortion on your guitar amp should be around 5 or 6 for a punk tone. (Assuming your levels go to 10 and not 11 like Spinal Tap) It will be right in that range to give good bite, but also to give enough smooth melody to come through.

* Higher distortions are for metal, but don't max it out.

When you're playing metal, yes, I would suggest that you give it some more distortion on your drive knob (Around 7 ). Get out those overdrive pedals as well.

However, that does not mean that you should apply as much distortion as you can get your hands on. Keep your gain in the range of listenability and don't go towards nasty-sounding white noise.

* Keep things modest for country guitar tunes.

Personally, I have never played country tunes. Mostly because I really don't like country music. However, when listening to country on the radio or CMT, I notice that most of the drive levels sit at around 1, 2, or 3 to keep things light but with some grind.

* For a rockabilly sound, keep things more like punk.

Set your drive knobs to 5 or 6 and you'll hear a smooth melody with a nice grind to it too. It almost really accentuates the voice of those typical rockabilly singers with a rough feel.

* Standard rock can be more or less.

Rock has many definitions as we all can probably guess by now, so it would be safe to say that the level of gain should stick to the mid-rage of the drive knob. Put your setting at 5 and depending on how much or how less you need it, make an adjustment.

Of course, these are only suggestions to what is necessary for distortion levels. But the point I'm trying to make is that even with the best distortion tone for you guitar, do what's best for your guitar tunes.

If you need more to rock, then add more. If you don't need more, then take some away. Be a deity in these respects, but always do what's best for the genre and your fans.


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