When to Distort

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by MikeLindgren, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. When do ya'll typically use distortion? Under what situations does it work with the mix, and when does it hurt? What style of music do you play?
  2. Nyarlathotep

    Nyarlathotep Banned

    Feb 5, 2006
    West Coast of Canada
    In the music I listen to (metal mostly) distortion seems to be used when there is no "rythm guitar" or for an intro/bass only fill.

    That way the "higher" part of the sonic fabric is still "filled".
  3. I'm in a metal band right now with two guitar players, and I'm wondering if there is even a place for me to use distortion. As much as those two fill up, I am attempting to determine if playing with distortion is a waste of time. I typically root whatever the guitars are playing, and I'm wondering if distortion is even worth the effort. I guess I'm trying to size up my peers here, and figure out if I should even bother squirreling with it. My bass amp is pretty f'in growly as it stands, and if I start distorting it is going to get nasty. I love the way it sounds, but I don't have much experience with it in the mix. I assum ethe guitars are gonna soak up any of my highs anyway...And I don't want to waste rehearsal time "testing" tone. So I am essentially looking for a quick fix.
  4. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    A couple of points: If you like the sound of your setup, don't bother with distortion. Distortion is good for thickening up the sound, but with two guitars I don't think you need to worry about that.

    You can easily get lost in the mix with distortion. And you *will* have to waste rehersal time "testing" tone. I have setup a distortion pedal for a killer tone at home, only to find at rehersal that you can barely tell the difference between the pedal being on and off :(

    When to use distortion? When playing electric Neil Young :D It can also help in a trio when the guitarist is soloing. I also use it once in a while where the guitar has a distorted part then a clean part. I will kick in the distortion when he does and kick it out when he does. But to be honest, this is more of a showy move than a sonic one.
  5. I play in a band w/ 1 guitarist and a band w/ 2 guitarists...

    with the one guitarist, distortion is my KEY...i use a timmy c inspired 3 tiered setup to step up my grit as my guitarist steps up his...i fill in the sonic gap between me and him, my vocalist is a tenor, so im thickening up the mids pretty much...theres a LOT of crunch in the bass for this band, i almost always have some sort of grit going on...especially in the chorus of most songs - u can usually hear a pretty thick distorted bass sound in my bands choruses, and im FULL ON whenever there's a solo

    in the band with 2 guitars, we're not very effect driven at all...they use their amps overdrive channels and I have a HBE Hematoma...I use the overdrive more sparingly in this band, seeing as theres always some thick rhythm guitar going on, but when my bassline takes on a more moving part, OR we just need that extra push of thickness, I stomp in the overdrive...its much less of a "fill in the gap" element here and more so a "thicken up the bass" in this band...if ur worried about ur sound getting lost under 2 guitars, use at least 2 amps (1 for "clean", and add one on top with ur distortion)...the hematoma keeps all my lows, so i don't worry about it, it works great for me

    but, thats me...the bottom line is do what sounds good to u and ur band...if u think a part needs distortion, try it out...whenever u stomp in ANY effect, the bottom line is "does it sound good?"...don't use an effect jsut cuz other people would typically use one in a situation similar to urs...its a very subjective thing, and it takes some practice, and u usually overdo it at first, but when u can make it tasty, its golden

    btw, if u want to check out some samples of my main band (1 gtr) where im using a boss sd-1 and hbe big-d for my 2 levels of overdrive, check out www.youaresafehere.com all the songs except for "oris scaena" have good examples of my use of the spectrum of distortion avalable to me..."careless youth" goes from clean to full on only, some of the other tracks have some examples of a more moderate overdrive before adding in the final level...i have since those recordings upgraded to a homemade fuzz and marshall guvnor for my grit, but i wont be able to record that until the summer

    I hope my ramblings helped u in some way
  6. uly_


    Jul 4, 2005
    Playing in a system of a down, audioslave, ratm inspired band at the moment.

    I tend to "build it up" if you can say it like that. First verse with clean sound, first chorus with heavy overdrive, next verse with a mild overdrive, next chorus with heavy overdrive etc etc etc.

    Seems to work just fine as the guitarist in my band only uses 1 single overdrive all the time (apart from the clean sections) so we kinda do the "use-the-bass-to-sound-heavy" thing :)

    Also depends on the song, if it's a song starting out heavy and ending heavy I'll just leave the heavy overdrive on the whole tune ;)
  7. Most of the time I use heavy distortion when i'm solo playing just because I find the distortion that I like doesn't work in the slightest in a band setting.
    I used to play in a band with 2 guitarists playing metal type stuff and as soon as I kicked the distortion on it sounded awful so I never used to use it.
    I think distortion works well with one guitarist, when the guitarists is playing a picky/lead type line the mix needs a bit of help filling out.
    The only way to find out if it works is to give it a go at rehearsal see what it sounds like, can't hurt to try. :)

  8. i play pop/rock dancy covers...i use an ibanez ts10 when i use a pick, and when i do fills or sometimes in a solo ill whack on my boss hm-2 heavy metal....but im always running a clean tone underneath those...rhonda smith style with the fuzz
  9. dumelow


    Feb 8, 2006
    i use my distortion behind a guitarists solo on a few of our songs. We also have a drum and bass track with no guitar whatsoever, i use a flanger and distortion pedal in that, i dont over use it though, and im also after another pedal so i can vary my sounds.
  10. Higgie


    May 31, 2005
    London, England
    On the heavier songs I have a mild OD on all the time, then kick in the heavy OD on the heavy bits like the Chorus, Bridge, Outro etc.

    On the lighter songs I usually have clean in the verse, and either mild or heavy OD for the Chorus/Bridge/Outro etc.

    When the Guitarist solo's I usually use mild OD behind it, just to bump up the sound a bit but not be overkill to the mood.
  11. phxlbrmpf


    Dec 27, 2002
    Adding a bit of distortion also sounds good sometimes when the guitar player has a clean sound going on. I use a bit of distortion in our "ballad" to keep it from sounding too "ballad-y".
    I tend to avoid using heavy distortion when my band's guitar player is already grinding away.
  12. opivy3056


    Oct 14, 2004
    Annapolis, MD
    There are 2 guitarists in my band.

    I use distortion (big muff pi) and overdrive (sans amp) a lot.

    I use overdrive when i DONT need to cut through and the low end just has to be really thick and meaty.

    I use distortion when the guitarists are both doing leads (which occurs quite frequently in my band).....and the big muff does an AWESOME job filling the sound.

    Distortion/overdrive can be used whenever, depending on what kind of sound you're going for. I find it useful in more situations than just "Filling the gap" between the lead guitar(s) and bass.
  13. I have used a lot of distortion in past bands, but mostly to fill out a three piece situation ala King's X. I don't seem to have much call for it these days, but still enjoy it when I have the chance to throw it in. A lot depends on the amount of space the guitar palyers leave you. If you are already fighting for aural real estate adding more distortion to the mix could be a bad thing, lol. Being a bass player in a band with two guitarist can be tough if everyone plays all the time - see if you can get your bandmates to clear you some space to do your thing!
  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    To reinforce what a number of people have said already, check out recordings that show these contexts. For example Judas Priest, Dio, Black Sabbath- the guitars are ultra distorted, but the bass is usually pretty clean. (I'm generalizing.) OTOH, listen to Buddy Guy's "Sweet Tea" CD. It's a stripped-down blues band with a lot of open space in the songs, and the bass is fuzzed and distorted like crazy and it sounds KILLER!
  15. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I'd say..

    Nice post, Man!
  16. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Dance/Funk band with three horns and two singers, but only one guitar - no keys. When a song has a bassy clav part or a synth-bass part, I won't necessarily try to copy the part, but the distortion does at least stick some of that kind of sonic signature in there somewhere.

    A good example is Jungle Love ("oh-we-oh-we-oh!") - I use high-gain distortion on everything but the verses. Like others have said: it's sort-of amazing how hard it is to actually tell that it's distorted - pretty-much a downright 'fuzzbass'-sound - when other instruments are playing. Especially during the distorted, echoed, reverbed guitar solo, it's really hard to tell that the distortion's on! ..but it does sound very thick and compressed, and those little glimmers of it that bubble through the mix once in a while sound killer too.

    I also have a great light-overdrive sound that's great for smoothing flatwound-thump and compressor attack-tick (which I usually GO FOR, you understand!), and it makes fifths and octaves and tenths sound growly-cool. I used this sound a LOT with the classic rock band, but just for a couple songs with the funk band.

  17. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Syracuse, NY
    I've been using my Bass POD Live to dish out the effects and tone for my Wednesday night stoner rock band. The guitarist is almostalways running distortion. We are also tuned to C# standard, so it gets pretty bass heavy without EQing it in.

    I tend to play with a pick, using my Jazz, so I get some trebly goodness there, and then laying in some light OD, distortion, or all out fuzz depending on the mood. I just love laying on some grit, make it a bit dirty, fill out the sound.
  18. ++1
    when i brought my guv'nor original i loved the tone and the sound of the distrortion but with my band it was not what i needed at all it just diddnt sound right and that at the end of the day is what matters. not just your sound but the sound of the whole band
  19. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    I only have 1 guitar player in my band, and yes I use distortion...I used it when I had a band with 3 guitarists....Simply because the tone I have cuts through...It's a tone like Meshuggah's bass tone...
  20. Thanks for all the advice, everyone's opinion here has been very informative. Kronos, I do very much like the bass tone. My band sent you guys a friend request, and I must say that you guys rip.