how to use drive pedals

How do I use drive pedals?

To answer the question how do I use drive pedals, let’s first ask what is a drive pedal!? 

A drive pedal, be it overdrive, fuzz, distortion, etc will help you to achieve a more aggressive broken-up tone which can sound anything from a slight amount of grit only when hitting your strings harder all the way to “bee’s in a jar” tones. 

The approach to using drives in the early days was to get your amp so it was naturally overdriving by running it super loud, then use your guitars volume control to reduce the gain for clean tones and hit an overdrive pedal for even more overdriven tones which simultaneously sculpted your tones by reducing low end and boosting the mids. Something like a tubescreamer or distortion plus was perfect for this approach. 

Today people generally can’t run 100w Marshall amps at insane volumes so now there are generally two approaches. 

The first consists of using a different drive pedal for each of your needs. For example, you would run a clean amp and then have one pedal for low gain, one for medium gain another for higher gain, and yet another for fuzz tones. Of course, you can turn two drive pedals on at once to produce a higher gain tone, and something like the King Of Tone by Analog-Man is a great example of two pedals in one. Most people set one side as a low gain, the other as a medium gain then run both together for higher gain tones. The benefit of this is, both saving space on your board and the 3 possible tones all share a tonal characteristic, this is often preferable from an audience/listener perspective too.

The other method is running two drives but leaving one “always on” which acts as your drive tone. Choosing the correct drive pedal is fundamental here more so than with other setups because the pedal you choose as your main drive must be dynamic enough so that when you roll down your guitar’s volume control the pedal must clean up nicely. 

A great pedal for this would be our bucket seat which has enough gain on tap to get you even high gain tones but has been specifically designed to clean up nicely like a real amplifier. 

The second drive pedal in this situation is normally something like a tubescreamer or klon type pedal, both of these will give you a wonderful lightly driven mid-push, each in different places, and which sounds best will depend on your rig, ears, and tastes so it’s worth trying both. Alternatively, you can try an entirely clean boost such as our Power Pack boost which if placed after your drive simply takes your tone and makes it louder however by running it in front of your drive pedals (or a lower wattage amp) you push more power into the drive which will make it overdrive more. 

I personally run a combination of these approaches but would advise most people to start with one and get that perfect first before moving on to anything more complex. We will cover extremely complex tones in future blogs so don’t worry we’ll get there 🙂

Scroll to Top