What Does A Fuzz Pedal Do? Fuzz Pedals, Explained.

The fuzz pedal is the original guitar distortion device. Fuzzes were developed back in the 1960s, and they remain popular to this day.

Fuzzes have a slight wobble, with a sparkly, warm and rounded distortion over the guitar. In short, a fuzz pedal adds sustain, girth and meat to your guitar playing.

What Else Can a Fuzz Do?

A fuzz pedal can do more than just augment sound. The more powerful fuzzes can take over the signal and modify it.

Meaning, your guitar signal will hit a spot and won’t be able to go through it without being completely changed, i.e. brick wall fuzzes.

There are however, other fuzz pedals that keep elements of the signal for a more consistent core and feel.

With brick wall fuzzes, there is greater processing compared to other pedals. There are fuzzes which are more flexible, allowing you to use different effects while making sure the important elements in your tone are preserved.

With a good fuzz pedal, you just need to up a tube amp if it starts to break. Do that and overdrive goes into gentle mode. If you need heavy distortion, just set it to the max.

Today’s fuzz pedals are capable of so much more, giving you the means to do the work you’ve always wanted.

Fuzz Faces and Germanium Transistors

Other fuzz pedals came before it, but the fuzz face is the one most guitarists like to play with because it’s the one Jimi Hendrix used. Apart from fuzz face, you’re also going to run into the word germanium often.

Ask any seasoned guitarist and they’ll tell you fuzz face quality varies greatly. The reason is the germanium transistor quality ranges from the excellent to the barely adequate.

The reputable brands actually take the time out to sort and manage these transistors.

Quality germanium transistors are preferable because they’re rounder, softer and more flexible. You cannot make music alone with these transistors, but making music with them is easier.

The fuzz faces from the mid 60s were basic, and usually there are no more than ten components in them. The most important elements are the NKT275 or the AC128 transistor.

Modern Fuzzes

New fuzz pedals moved away from germanium and turned to silicon. However, a lot of musicians find silicon transistors possess a harsher sound.

Not everyone agrees though, as there are guitarists who are happy with silicon transistors. Silicon fuzzes for instance, are ideal for setups with multiple amps.

However, the demand for germanium has led to the development of classic fuzz. Some of these pedals combine the two so you can have the best of both worlds.

Fuzz, Overdrive and Distortion

There are three basic types of distortion pedals: fuzz, distortion and overdrive.

Overdrive leads to boost gain, pushing your amp which leads to distortion. Distortion on the other hand, processes the signal of your guitar, turning it into a screamer before getting into the amp.

Fuzz is an even more extreme version of distortion known as square wave. Keep in mind that some brands use fuzz and distortion interchangeably.

But as we have shown the two are not the same and you need to be aware of that.

How to Find the Right Fuzz Pedal

Make sure you know the vendor’s return policy so you can return the fuzz pedal if it does not live up to your expectations. When testing, play the leads, single note riffs and the chords.

As the fuzz produces distortion, bear in mind they are not capable of handling more than a power chord.

Gain Boost

If you’re going to use distortion boxes for leads, make certain it gives you lots of gain boost. Gain boost is crucial because without it your guitar signal could get lost.

Extra gain can be a good thing because it leads to more sustain.

Too much gain and it will lead to hiss, feedback and noise. Depending on your goal, this may be a good or bad thing.

What you should look for is a gain control that gives you enough boost to match up with the volume level of your guitar.

Frequency Matters

With just a few exceptions, the majority of fuzz pedals and boxes cut or boost EQ frequencies.

Also factor in how you intend to use your guitar. Some fuzz pedals sound amazing when you play solo, but the sound gets drowned out when you play with a band.

Modern fuzzes have precise tone controls, so use that to your advantage. Just keep switching and adjusting until you get the sound right.

If you’re in a band, it makes sense to test the fuzz with your bandmates to get an idea of how your guitar will sound.

Tips and Suggestions

Don’t fall in the trap of setting everything to max. It’s cool to have the knobs up to 12 o’ clock.

But some fuzz pedals produce so much distortion that you won’t hear anything when everything is at maximum.

There are no shortcuts, and there is no single perfect setting as it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Try the in-between settings and tweak those.

If this is your first time to work with a fuzz pedal, set the knob to low. Turn it up in increments until you find the right setting.

Look for fuzz pedals that are durable. If you’re going to rock, the pedal must be strong enough to handle your weight.

Control knobs have to be properly positioned, i.e. they must be within easy reach. At the same time, you don’t want them too close as you could accidentally move them.

A true bypass fuzz pedal is essential, and there has to be an audible click to let you know the switch is on. Some have LED lights that tell you it is active.


As we have shown here, there’s a lot you can do with a fuzz pedal. A lot of the problems that arise from their use stems from misunderstanding. The key here is your willingness to experiment and try different settings.

Next Read : How To Make a Guitar Fuzz Pedal in 10 Minutes

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