Top 13 Tips on How to Use Your Distortion Pedal

The first time you plug in a new distortion pedal into your setup and start playing is a great experience.  Despite how hard you’re now rocking, don’t get too comfortable – there’s so much more you can accomplish!  You need to know how to get the most out of your distortion pedal.

Getting great tone from your equipment is a matter of knowing the ins and outs of your signal chain, proper long-term care and maintenance of the equipment, and of course lots of testing and practice.

In the spirit of that, here are our top 13 tips on how to get the use your distortion pedal.  Whether you’re a total beginner to distortion pedals or you’ve been rocking out for ages, hopefully you’ll find something useful here.

1. Read the manual

Yes, I know – nobody wants to read the manual – especially not when you can be rocking out!

The real value in the manual comes from knowing the scope of functionality of the pedal.  How can you get the best tone when you don’t even know all of the features?  Take a quick stroll through the manual just to understand the basic settings and what kinds of things are within your control while you’re using it.  There may just be hidden features and other exciting controls that you aren’t yet aware of or that may come in handy later while you’re dialing in your tone!


2. Start taking good care of the equipment now.

Unnecessary roughness on your gear will do nothing except decrease the age of your pedal.  It’s important to set good habits now so that you’re not having to replace your pedals all the time in the future.

Never plug and unplug your cables when the power supply is active.  Always turn the pedal to its clean channel and turn off the amplifier before removing your cables.  Your amp’s circuits will thank you!

The pedal is already going to get stomped on all the time – make sure you’re not adding to it’s stress for no reason!  Start setting good habits now.


3. Familiarize yourself with the pedal’s default settings first.

When you’re first dialing in the tone on a new distortion pedal, set the pedal to its defaults – either zero or noon depending on the setting.  This is kind of the “factory reset” and you can now start dialing in tones and effects to what you’re looking for.






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4. Watch lots of videos about the pedal.

Youtube is your friend!  We’re obviously big fans of Youtube here.  There is so much great content out there that is yours for the picking:

  • pedal reviews
  • tone tutorials
  • guitar tutorials
  • common troubleshooting
  • pedal comparisons

Search for your pedal and see what kinds of great tones others are able to achieve with your gear, and see how they did it.  There’s also plenty of good advice on dialing in tones, how to setup distortion pedals, how to connect a pedal to an amp, and more.


5. Always have backup power supply.

Be ready with your power setup. If you have distortion pedals that use batteries, then you should have lots of spare batteries for backup. You can also use pedals that are powered by an AC adapter, but you should make sure that you don’t end up with a mess of cables as a result of using multiple pedals.

There are few things worse than showing up to practice or a gig and running out of power for your gear – stay prepared!


6. Set your guitar to its maximum volume.

Check that your guitar volume is at the maximum. Then see to it that the volume level of your pedal actually allows you to hear the different effects.


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