What is a Fuzz Pedal?
A fuzz pedal is a type of guitar effects pedal that sits between the guitar and the input to the amplifier.
The sound it produces is generally very distorted and fuzzy sounding, hence the name. Inside the pedal is electronic circuitry that clips the tops from the electronic guitar signal coming into it and change it the nature of the signal quite significantly.
Its characteristics and is aggressive, gritty, and is sustain-heavy.
Some say the first pedals were originally designed to emulate the sound of the saxophone, although I’m sure there is some debate about this.
When were fuzz pedals invented?
Fuzz pedals were first introduced in the 1960s and have been used extensively since.
Some of the more famous early fuzz guitar sounds recorded were Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on “Satisfaction”, Isley Brothers on “Summer Breeze” and The Spencer Davis Group on “Keep On Running”.
After this, the fuzz pedal has been used in many genres of music from rock to shoegaze to psychedelic and beyond.
Some of the most famous fuzz pedals include the Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, and the Tone Bender.
Original versions of these pedals are now collectors’ items in themselves often fetching hundreds if not thousands of pounds.
There were some, naming no names, that were less than reliable and most guitarists at one point had to sport a soldiering iron for “in gig” repairs.
Fuzz pedals today
Happily, the situation today is quite different and there are many manufacturers that produce very high-quality fuzz pedals, some of them meticulously based on the original models but without the reliability issues.
Originally, pedals had rudimentary controls such as volume tone and first level. Obviously, today’s replicas of the original pedal have the same, but there are also pedals that expand on functionality and provide the following:
An octave up fuzz produces a sound that is one octave higher than the original guitar signal, while also adding a fuzz effect. This creates a distinctive sound that is often described as “synthy” or “siren-like.”
The octave up effect is achieved by using a circuit that doubles the frequency of the input signal, producing a signal that is one octave higher. This signal is then mixed with the original, and the resulting sound is distorted by the fuzz circuit in the pedal.
A gated fuzz is a type of fuzz pedal that features an integral noise gate circuit.
The noise gate is designed both to reduce noise and to switch off the signal once it gets below a certain threshold. This can be particularly useful with super high gain fuzz pedals which can be a bit unmanageable without some sort of gating circuit.
This can create a distinctive staccato effect when playing, as the notes cut off abruptly when the guitar signal falls below the threshold.
Very popular with post punk, heavy metal and thrash metal bands
Selection of tone circuits
There are pedals available that enable the player to switch between different types of clipping and also those that seek to emulate many of the different types of , which is a very popular and much evolved pedal, first introduced in the late 1960s.
Many famous guitarists have used fuzz pedals over the years. Here are a few examples:
- – Hendrix is perhaps the most famous user of the Fuzz Face, which he used extensively on songs like “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady.”
- David Gilmour – Gilmour is known for his use of the Big Muff, particularly on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”
- Eric Johnson – Johnson is another guitarist who is closely associated with the Fuzz Face, which he used on his breakout hit “Cliffs of Dover.”
- Jack White – White has used a number of different fuzz pedals over the years, including the Big Muff and the Death By Audio Fuzz War.
- Billy Corgan – The Smashing Pumpkins frontman has used a variety of fuzz pedals over the years, including the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff and the Z.Vex Fuzz Factory.
- Tony Iommi – The Black Sabbath guitarist is known for his use of the Range Master, a vintage fuzz pedal that helped to define the sound of early heavy metal.
Looks like the fuzz pedal is here to stay!
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