How does a Fuzz pedal work?

fuzz explanationYou’ve heard of Fuzz pedals, and probably used one. But do you know how they work?


Fuzz is a type of distortion that was originally marketed in the early 1960’s as a device that you can use to emulate the sound of Orchestra instruments such as the Trumpet, Cello, Bassoon, Saxophone, etc. It was a Saxophone sound that Keith Richards wanted for the beginning of “Satisfaction,” that prompted him to try out a Fuzz pedal. It was also during this time that the Kinks, Link Wray, and many other early Rock & Roll and Blues guitar players reportedly punched holes in their speakers to get a fuzzy sound. You can hear a torn speaker in “Rocket 88” (the first Rock & Roll song), by Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston. Other notable songs from that time that feature Fuzz are “You Really Got Me,” by The Kinks and “Rumble,” by Link Wray. The aggressive Fuzz tone of this song actually caused people to feel fearful, so the song was banned from the radio.

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Coil-Splitting a Humbucker Pickup with a Push-Pull Pot

coil-splittingHave you ever wanted to turn off one of your humbucker pickup coils?

So, here we’ll talk about how to wire a humbucker pickup so that it can be split into a single coil pickup. For the split you need a four-wire humbucker; you cannot split a two-wire without first modifying the pickup itself. Each coil has a Hot and a Ground, and a determination must be made as to which is which before we get started.

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What is the difference between overdrive and distortion?

best guitar distortionLearn the technical differences between overdrive and distortion, and the role that each plays in your guitar tone.

In discussing the differences between distortion and overdrive, what creates them, and how they’re used, we’ll begin with the relationship between a device’s maximum signal level and its threshold.

Every device in your guitar rig, or your home recording studio, has been designed to accept a maximum signal level. The maximum signal level that a device can accept is called that device’s threshold. If you introduce a signal to a device that exceeds the threshold, the parts of the signal that exceed it will get “clipped” (like tall grass), in various ways. Often, when a signal gets clipped, additional frequencies get created and added to the signal, as a sort of by-product of the clipping. These additional frequencies are known as overtones and harmonics. Sometimes the way a signal gets clipped sounds musical, natural, and warm, while at other times it sounds harsh, brittle, and as though there was something wrong with your equipment. Clipping the signal adds a “buzzy/crunchy” character to the tone, and that buzz is what we call distortion. Distortion is everywhere — on TV, in radio, etc. and it is rarely a good thing. Luckily, however, guitar players have found a way to make it work for them.

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What does it mean when guitar pickups are wired in-phase, out-of-phase, series or parallel ?

phase series and parallelLet’s take a look at Phase and how to make sure your pickups are In Phase with each other. Let’s also examine polarity, and how to wire pickups in Series or Parallel.

What does it mean when guitar pickups are wired in-phase, out-of-phase, series or parallel ?

To answer this question the first thing we’ll need to do is understand a little about how our pickup is made and how it works.

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Basic Guitar Electronics – Treble Bleed Circuit Wiring (aka Volume Kit)

treble bleedDoes your tone get muddy when you turn your volume down? Learn how a treble bleed circuit fixes this problem.

The treble bleed circuit is one of the easiest mods that you can perform on your guitar, but it is also a mod that might require extensive experimenting before you’re able to it get perfect. The treble bleed is meant to preserve treble loss as you turn down the volume control on your guitar by creating a very simple high pass filter to counteract the high frequency loss inherent in the volume control. You will want to add this mod to your guitar if you feel that rolling off the volume causes your tone to change too dramatically, thus becoming muddy or dull.

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What is the Difference Between the 12AX7, 12AT7, and 12AU7 Preamp Tubes?

What Is The Difference Between EL84 / EL34 and 6L6 Power Tubes?Let’s take a look at the less glamorous, but still equally important type of amplifier tube – the Preamp Tube.

The 12AX7, 12AT7, and 12AU7 all belong to the same family of nine contact, twin triode tubes. In many cases these tubes are interchangeable and can easily be swapped. We will take a look at why you might, or might not want to swap out the different types of tubes.

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How Do I Split a Humbucker With a 3-Way Telecaster Switch?

phase series and parallelIf I have a Humbucker in the bridge position of my Telecaster, can one of the coils be turned off with the 3-way switch?

A reader asked about turning off one coil of the bridge humbucker in his Telecaster via the 3-way switch. What he proposed is:

1. Neck pickup
2. Neck + one humbucker coil
3. Both humbucker coils

While I guess the answer might be technically “yes,” I am going to say the answer is in reality: “no.”

The reason is that we do not use “both coils” in the Humbucker. We actually run one coil into the next coil, and it might be better to look at a Humbucker as a Single Figure 8 Coil instead of 2 separate Single Coils. We can “split” the Humbucker by running a (switchable) wire to Ground right where the one coil meets the other coil. This actually “shorts out” the second coil, it doesn’t shut it off.  So, in order to split the pickup we need a path to Ground. The 3-way switch in a Telecaster is a “Hot Wire” that selects which of the Hot pickup leads to send to the Volume pot. There is no ground connection available and adding one will short out the entire guitar. Without a ground we cannot split the pickup.

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Basic Guitar Electronics – Les Paul Three-Way Switch Wiring

les paul three-way switchNow let’s take a look at wiring up a three-way toggle switch in a Gibson Les Paul style guitar, and while we’re at it, we’ll talk about the rest of the wiring also.

We’re going to take a look at wiring up a three-way toggle switch in a Gibson Les Paul style guitar, and because Gibson electronics are different than what we have been looking at so far, we’ll take a look at the rest of the circuit as well. We’ll look at the two humbuckers, the three-way switch, two Volume controls, two Tone controls, two capacitors, and the output jack.

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Basic Guitar Electronics – Stratocaster Five-Way Switch Wiring

blues telecaster pickupsLet’s try something a little more difficult with the Strat style five-way switch: three pickups into a five-way switch with 1 Volume and 2 Tone controls (SPOILER ALERT: It’s not difficult at all).

Let’s talk about wiring a five-way switch to your Stratocaster. We covered the Telecaster and its three-way switch and one Tone control; now we’ll look at the Stratocaster and its five-way switch and two Tone controls. Even though we’re talking about the Fender Strat and how it’s wired, the switch will work the same way in any guitar with one Volume and two Tone controls. If you are changing your switch it might also be a great time to check out the other components in your guitar to see if they are also due for an update. Be sure that you have high quality pots with the right values, and check the value of any capacitors as well. Check your Output Jack for wear as this is another very common part to wear out.

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Basic Guitar Electronics – Telecaster Three-Way Switch Wiring

telecaster three-way switchLet’s take a look at re-wiring a three-way switch for a standard Fender Telecaster guitar. If you have already tried out our Volume and Tone wiring guides, this would be a great next step.

Wiring up a Telecaster three-way switch

The information in this article will apply to any similar three-way “Lever” switches that are used in many different Strat style guitars. The Gibson Les Paul and several other similar guitars use a three-way “Toggle” switch and that discussion will be in a different article. Since the title of this article is “How To Wire A Telecaster” I am going to use all of the standard Fender Telecaster values in the wiring diagram.

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