It used to be that you bought a drive box for how it sounded solo. Now, an essential question in any quest for ultimate distortion tone is, how well does it stack? Even within this question, there are multiple strategies for combining or configuring overdrive sources. Where to start?
While there are endless ways getting more out of your overdrive effects, sometimes it is the simple solutions that give you the most mileage.
If you’re in an overdrive rut, here are four hacks and hints for rethinking your strategy for a truly signature sound.
Be Open to Experimentation: There are No Rules
At the start of any signal chain redesign, it’s essential to get this one thing right. There might be trends, best-practices, or even, tried and true methods, but there is no one way to order your pedals. This is particularly important for the topic at hand as it demands some non-traditional thinking. Sure your main gain source will probably come at or near the beginning of the chain, but there is still a ton of room to experiment with what’s alongside of it or set up in tandem. Try stuff, you might just find an order or combo that’s unexpected but exceptional.
This leads us to our next pair of tips.
Pick a Pedal with Internal Stacking Capabilities
You’re probably familiar with the concept of stacking overdrive pedals. In short, you take two of your favorite gain pedals and set them up to cascade into one another. The result, is an exponentially diverse set of overdrive architectures.
A number of pedals, however, offer this capability internally with two independent circuits that play off (and into) one another. Stompboxes that achieve this include the Keeley D&M Drive. Chase Bliss Audio Brothers, Strymon Sunset, and Boss JB-2 Angry Driver, and Empress Multidrive.
The real advantage of these is not only the ability to dial in the sources on either side—it’s their capabilities for stacking in either direction. In this sense, you’re stacking is multidirectional (i.e., A to B, or B to A) and can change with the flip of a switch.
Play with Parallel Overdrive Signals
The previous hack was all about how a cascading gain sound evolves from on stage into the next. Many of the aforementioned pedals, however, also allow for playing in parallel. Rather than playing in series, parallel means that your incoming signal is split, then sent separately to the two sides of the overdrive signal, and then they’re blended back together in the outgoing sound.
Where things get really interesting, however, is when pedals such as those listed above include a “blend” knob. This is essentially a mini onboard mixer that allows you to decide the mix between your parallel overdrive sounds. Keep in mind, these aren’t driving each other. So what you’re mixing is the impact and volume of the two separate sounds.
In this sense, the options are truly endless…so mix away!
Get a Wetter Box to Design Your Own Drive Twofer
What if you like the concept of the above but already have two solo overdrive pedals you know and love? Thankfully, Dan at the GigRig thought of this and released the Wetter Box. You’re welcome.
In short, this operates as the “mix” knob in the previous scenario. Only now, its job isn’t to manage two internal circuits but to sit in between two independent gain boxes so you can run them in parallel. Here too, the mix is up to you. This is an ideal solution if you aren’t looking for a new pedal per se, but searching for new ways of getting different sounds out of your go-to overdrive effects.
If these tonal strategies for getting more out of your overdrive effects was up your alley, be sure to check out Dan & Mick’s full tour of all things stacking, series, and parallel overdrives on this week’s episode of That Pedal Show.
TPS Episode Rig Rundown
Guitars: Fender Custom Shop 1963 Telecaster, Gibson Memphis 1958 ES-335, Fender Highway One Texas Tele, Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster.
Pedals: TC Electronic Polytune 3 Mini Noir, Boss JB-2 Angry Driver, Empress Multidrive, Mythos Argo, Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini, ProCo Rat, Keeley D&M Drive, Maxon AD-9 Delay, The GigRig Wetter Box.
Amps: Matchless HC-30 with Hughes & Kettner Vintage 212 / Celestion G12M Greenback, Victory V140 The Super Duchess and V212VCD cab/Celestion G12M-65 Creamback Speakers.