Boost, Distortion and Fuzz – What’s the Difference

To the ears, it’s quite easy to hear the difference between boost, distortion and fuzz.  Boost adds to the volume, generally makes your tone a bit brighter.  We’ll often use a boost during those times when the rest of the band is loud, and you need the high end of the guitar to cut through.  Sometimes it’s to emphasize a lead section, other times it’s to brighten up your tone throughout the song.  It keeps things fairly clean, just louder.

Distortion pushes the signal much more, driving it into a gritty broken-up tone.  We’ll use distortion for lead sections or for crunchy rhythm tones.  Many will leave it on all the time and it can come via a pedal or your amp.

Fuzz, on the other hand, is the extreme of distortion.  It’s often described as buzzy or harsh.  Fuzz is used for over the top, searing lead tones.  Fuzz creates driving bluesy rhythms that sound like they are going to melt the speakers.  It is never light or subdued, but raucous or insane.

But what are the technical differences?  What makes these pedals unique in terms of design?  To answer that, we must understand what is happening under the cover. Continue reading

Get a Berklee College of Music Education for Free

I’ve seen Berklee offer some free programs online before, but this is the most comprehensive listing of courses I remember them offering.  Thanks to /u/nostrongfeelings for sharing this.

Here’s the complete program at Coursera.  Ignore the “sign up” links, as they’ll charge you in order to get a certificate at the end.  If you don’t care about the piece of paper, clicking the individual course names gets you in for free.

Have fun, learn stuff.


What if Bands Traded Musicians Like Sports Teams?

It’s officiall the offseason for basketball and football here in the States.  And it’s the time of year where baseball teams start talking about acquiring someone to push for a title.  Basically, there’s a whole lot of sportball dorks going on and on about what-if stories to make their favorite team better.

There are 24-7 TV networks dedicated to this sort of talk.  Yet, it almost never comes up outside of this world.  Sure, companies may look at a rival executive and wish they could steal them away, but WSJ never runs editorials assembling dream recruiting moves.

In music, we mainly play the what-if game when it comes to break ups or death.  What if Hendrix lived?  What if the Beatles didn’t split?  What if Rodger Waters wasn’t such an asshole?  But rarely, if ever, do we say “what if” to swapping pieces in bands.  We just assume that it can’t happen because it will destroy the mojo of that band.

In reality, most bands have one or two people carrying the thing, and the rest are along for the ride.  Or bringing in someone new can inspire everyone or quell a fight.  So why couldn’t we swap some pieces to make things even better or at least more interesting?

Continue reading


This Excites Me: Fractal Audio FX8

As always, I’m a week late and probably $2500 short, but that’s how it goes when you’re busy being king of the world1.  I just noticed that Fractal Audio is teasing a multi-effects unit.  No amp modeling, it sits on your floor, you turn it on with your feet.  You might even be able to take it out of a studio now and again.  It does a ton of effects at once, and seems to be meant for running 4CM, although I’d guess you can go straight in and to your amp. Continue reading


Technology Still Killing My High

The other night my friend was showing me his new sampler.  It’s new to him, not the world.  He’s also got a pretty old drum machine.  Super hipster stuff, I know.  But it got me excited to go home and make some tunes.

So I did, I pulled out my midi keyboard, fired up Logic and went to town trying to relay the sounds from my head onto my laptop.

I failed miserably.  Within minutes, I was zooming way in on the editor trying to fix some notes that didn’t auto-align perfectly.  To the ear, you’d never know it was off beat.  But I could see it to be so.

This went on for an hour or two and in the end I had a sliver of a song that I wasn’t happy with at all.  Delete, go to bed.

I realize most people think this is an excuse, because thousands of others successfully create music all the time in this fashion.  Maybe that’s an accurate assessment.  But I still hate it.  Rather than sucking it up and buying a bunch of physical devices for recording and music creation, I keep fighting with my computer, thinking somehow the relationship will change.

It won’t.  I’m hitting ebay.


Electro-Harmonix Schools us on Modulation (well… some of us)

The folks at EHX have a vested interest in teaching people about modulation, so they can sell more pedals.  I’m cool with that, because they did a pretty good job with these videos.

These are not for effects junkies.  Their audience is people who don’t use pedals and haven’t in the past.  If you can’t describe the difference between a chorus and flanger, or couldn’t pick out when one is being used on a recording, watch these.  They’ll help.  If you’ve got $500 worth of modulation pedals on your board already, move on. Continue reading


How to Lower the Action on Your Acoustic Guitar

A couple years ago, I bought a super cheap Ibanez acoustic.  I think it was on sale for $200, is actual wood all around and has a respectable Fishman preamp/pickup.  Of course, when you spend this little for a guitar, you cannot expect perfection.  It never played great, but it was certainly usable.  And it looks kinda nice. Continue reading


Tested: Source Audio Orbital Modulator

You want a flanger for your pedal board, right?  And a phaser too, right?  Crap… Well, two new pedals isn’t so bad.  You know, that Diamond phaser is really nice… but you probably want a Phase 90 for everyday use.  That’s like $400 in phasers.  Weren’t we talking about a flanger too?  How often do you really use any of these? Continue reading

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