The Fuzz pedal effect is a distortion in its roots. The tone is heavily saturated, changing the sound in to a plain square wave with amazing sustain.
It is using two, tree or more transistors to amplify the signal
to a point were it starts to sound distorted and fuzzy, with infinite sustain.
Later in the years, the germanium transistors used in the first models, were replaced by silicon ones, because of inconsistent  production and faulty germanium transistors.

Silicon transistors are giving more gain, but sound brighter.

One of the coolest story behind the first fuzz effect recorded in history is:
In 1960, a faulty pre-amp on the mixer console, made Grady Martin’s recorded bass guitar to sound distorted and fuzzy.
The recording engineer Glen Snoddy loved it and tried to replicate this sound with transistors and later gave the new born circuit diagram to Gibson. Gibson Maestro  Fuzztone was born.

Tone Bender

Five years later 1965 electronics engineer Gary Stewart Hurst designed an effect pedal with the name Tone Bender, based on germanium transistors.
UK Fuzz box insanity , started at that time.

The first model – MKI,  became one of the most used pedals among the artist like:
Pete Townshed – Who, Jeff Beck of the Yardbirs and the Beatles.

You can hear the Tonebender MK I in Yardbirds track
“Heart full of Soul”.

It’s a good example how this  pedal sounds.

Fuzz Face

The first Fuzz sound that comes in my mind is:

“Foxy Lady” song by Jimi Hendrix’s band ,The Jimi Hendrix Experience, debut album “Are You Experienced” released in 1967.

His Fender guitar plugged in to the germanium transistors based Fuzz Face made by Arbiter Electronics, changed the history
of the guitar.
His innovative approach to produce psychedelic tones and making his guitar screaming, changed a few generations of guitarists.

A true legend!

Big Muff

One of the most used fuzz pedals.
Really fat and big sounding fuzz.

The Big Muff use four transistors staged together and biased in way  where the first one is a clean boost, the second two are producing the distortion, and the last one is used to recover the volume loss during the hard clipping stage.
It is produced by Electro-Harmonix.

I will give you more modern example of how this pedal
“Cherub Rock” by Smashing Pumpkins is an amazing representation of the sound of this iconic  pedal.

In the 80’s the Big Muff pedal became a signature sound of many alternative rock bands.

Fuzz pedals are not everyone cup of tea.
The distinctive, destructive, cutting through the music sound, has become one of the most known guitar pedals ever.
Jimi Hendrix made this “strange” sounding box, his signature voice in the art, he had the talent, creating amazing sounding sonic pictures, dreamed by many generations .
The fuzzy sounding box still lives in many great musical pieces and continues to shine on many modern songs.

So, lets face it. the Fuzz  Face will live forever!


Distortion pedals design is based on hard clipping which provides a huge amount of
gain – distortion.  Aiming for a sound produced by high gain amplifiers.

Distortion is one of the most avoided and at the same time desired effect or defect  of audio, used by audio engineers and musicians.
Distortion alternates the shape of the wave form, produced by audio signal, and when it comes from a device which is intended to provide the best clean sounding signal – such as a PA or Studio Monitor, its a disaster to the audio engineers and audiophile music lovers.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

After years of using tube amps, guitar players discovered the musical side of distortion produced by pushing their tube amps at limits, where the pre-amp and power amp tubes /which are designed to amplify the signal/ started to produce distorted signal.
This changed the instrument sound /in this case the guitar sound/ to long sustained – “dirty” – compressed, and at same time distorted tone which became a brake point and opened many new horizons.

During the late 70’s and 80 rock and metal guitarists like
Eddie Van Halen used some tricks to push their amplifiers by lowering the voltage and turning up the volume, using device called
A variable transformer that lower or rise the voltage going to the amplifier.
This experiment /which rumors were telling/  happened by accident, and produced a high gain – insanely distorted sound of his guitar.
This changed the history of the rock and metal guitar completely.
All of this happened on an old Marshall Tube Amplifier.

Distortion pedals started to show up a few years later
after fuzz pedals and overdrives.

Many guitar pedal builders and manufacturers like MXR – Jim Dunlop and Roland have started to build pedals which were intended to give you that high gain distorted guitar tone.

Names such as: Metal Zone, Metal Master, Super Lead, Turbo Distortion, and so on  were showing year after year to feed the hunger of the new age guitar players, who play at home on their practice amplifiers or gigging world-wide.

The Distortion pedals were designed to push guitar amplifiers harder and to produce that huge, crushing high gain – distorted signal.

Distortion+ yellow box. 
One of the most famous distortion pedal (1979).
It is using single op-amp and two germanium diodes.
LM741CN op amp

A combination which produces soft clipped distorted sound.

This pedal can push your amplifier input to that 80’s early hard rock distortion sound.
Randy Rhoads in his work with Ozzy Osbourne made this pedal famous with his recognizable heavy metal guitar tone.

DS-1 – 1978
it was the first distortion pedal made by Roland under the name Boss.
This pedal is really dynamic sounding, although it is a high gain pedal.  The Orange box become one of the classic guitar pedals used in many genres.
Bands and players like Nirvana, Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai have made this distortion a true legend.


Although its a distortion pedal, players like Vai and Satriani, are using it to shape their tone and adding more gain on top of their amplifiers lead channel, producing unique tone for solos.

Try it on clean channel with settings like – Volume 12, Tone 15 and Distortion on max.
This will give you really powerful and heavy sound with clear chord notes separation.
Underestimated by many, it is still one of the best distortion boxes and it’s still in production.

Years later, the distortion pedals became more and more complex in their design.
Now the modern high gain distortion boxes are emulating the tube amps pre-amp section with cascading Mos Fets and JFets transistors, instead of using Op-Amp and diodes to distort the signal.
This claims to give you more tube like saturation when the Fets are properly biased and matched. / Like the tubes /
But that’s another topic. 🙂
If you hungry for knowledge go and check out this article:
They are so called “amp in a box” distortion pedals.

Some famous amp builders have their equivalents of their flagship amplifiers made in a pedal housing, using Fet transistors.
One great example is: Bogner Ecstasy amp and its pedal version Red Pedal.


Now the guitarists world is fulfilled with many distortion pedals claiming to give you the tone you have never heard before, but you will never go wrong with a few selected classic pedals which are the blue print and the source for the new well known old.

Using them with guitars, synths or using them as a secret mix tool to add a saturation to your |cold| mix
Distortion pedals will continue to inspire us.