In this series I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music. This week we’ll talk about the different types of overdrives, and why you may be wasting money on your rig.
Note: Any opinions or gear recommendations I give are my own based on my own experience. No company pays me to endorse them. But I can be bought! 😉
So if any guitar, amp, or pedal maker wants to send me there stuff they can contact me HERE
I’ve written about Overdrive pedals in worship many times in the past. HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for example. My point today isn’t to talk about how to use them or which one is the best. My point is today is to talk about a common mistake that many guitarists (both worship and otherwise) make in selecting and purchasing the overdrive pedals in their rig and how this can end up costing you needless dollars.
WHAT IS AN OVERDRIVE?
I’ve written at greater length about this HERE, but the short story is that while a distortion your guitar’s signal to the amplifier, an overdrive pedal is designed to push or drive your signal. The idea is that if you have a tube amp that is already pushed to the edge, the OD with send it over that edge or in other words “make your tubes scream.” (see what I did there? 😉 )
NOT ALL OVERDRIVES ARE CREATED EQUAL, BUT MANY ARE
Probably the most well known Overdrive pedal out there is the Ibanez TS-808 or “tube screamer”. It’s the classic green box that’s found it’s way on to rigs for rock, metal, blues, and country. What do Brad Paisley, U2, and Metallica all have in common? They all use some form of the Ibanez tube screamer. There are other overdrive circuits out there, but the 808 is the grand daddy of ’em all.
The problem with the 808 circuit is that it’s been so copied over the years that many guitarists will have two, or three, or even four pedals on their board and not realize that they are all 808 designs. As Josh from JHS pedals puts it like this: “a typical email…will start: “My board has a “Fulldrive” and a “TS-9” on it but I’m looking for something a little more real or open for my style. I’m thinking about getting a “Sparkle Drive” or maybe an “Route 66” because I hear they are pretty sweet.” There is a big issue with this email- the player has no clue that ALL of the pedals that he mentioned are based on the Tubescreamer design.”
What he’s say is that if you have any combination of DigiTech Bad Monkey, Boss OD-1, Fulltone Fulldrive 2, Ibanez TS9, TRex Alberta, Visual Sounds Route 66 or 808, Voodoo labs sparkle drive, etc. You basically have 2 or 3 versions of the same basic pedal.
DON’T THROW THE 808 OUT WITH THE BATHWATER
This doesn’t mean that the Tube Screamer circuit is bad or evil. I have a Fulltone Plimsoul (stage 1 side) and Xotic AC Booster on my board which are both basically TS’s. But they are both very different pedals and I have both set up very differently. If you have a Fulldrive 2 and a TS9 in your rig then good for you, you’ve got some great sounding pedals. So please don’t take this as a knock on every TS style overdrive ever made.
MANAGE YOUR RESOURCES WELL
The point is to know what you’re getting so you manage your resources well. On forums, blogs, and youtube I see a lot of worship rigs that have “repeat pedals”. Two or three TS pedals, or two delays that are basically the same pedal (Nova and DD7, etc). Knowing what you have and what you need can keep you from wasting money. God has given us all resources to steward. For guitarists, we spend a certain amount of those resources on gear so we can use our God-given creative gifts and to serve the church in music. But if you’ve just dropped a few hundred dollars on overdrive pedals and now you’re looking for a new one for a different sound, not realizing that it’s al the same circuit, then you are by definition, wasting resources. Truthfully, I’ve been guilty of this over the years. That’s why I continue to read blogs and articles to better understand the tools of the trade.
WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND?
Honestly, I’m good if you’re good. If you have a TS style overdrive and you’re happy with it, then I’ve got no problems. But if you want something different to compliment or counterbalance it, then just avoid buying more of the same.
Paul Cochrane Tim or Timmy
Analogman King of Tone or Prince of Tone (I personally use, love and endorse the KoT).
JHS Morning Glory
Marshall Blues Breaker (Note: The Xotic BB is supposed to be based on this pedal, but some claim it’s a TS circuit, if you know the answer then let me know)
Wampler ’57 Tweed or ’65 Blackface overdrives (designed to sound like natural amp OD’s)
Catlinbread RAH, Dirty Little Secret, etc (I’m not sure if these are based on TS circuits or not, but they aren’t designed to sound like, but rather to sound like classic tube amp overdrive tones, so I’m including them in this list)
Any thoughts, ideas or questions then feel free to leave a comment below.