The practical usage of two (or more) dirt pedals...

Discussion in 'The Stomp Box' started by GeorgiaHonk, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. GeorgiaHonk

    GeorgiaHonk Tele-Holic

    Mar 19, 2003
    Auburn, Georgia
    Please enlighten me on how and why you use more than one boost/overdrive/distortion boxes.
  2. GearHund

    GearHund Tele-Meister Ad Free Member

    Apr 9, 2008
    East, Tx
    What I have done in the past is find a nice clean sound on the amp then use one dirt box to give me a crunch rhythm and another set up with a little dirt but increased volume to use as a lead tone boost. The trick was finding the right amount of dirt to be able to use the crunch box for your leads if playing clean and the lead box to boost the crunch sound to lead level. Other times I have set the lead box up with enough gain to be the lead tone for both clean and crunch sounds.

    In the above situation, I was using a single channel amp. Lately I've been using a Mesa TA-30 which has two channels and a godzillion different tonal options. So, I can get rid of one dirt pedal and use the second channel of the amp for either crunch or lead.
  3. SamClemons

    SamClemons Poster Extraordinaire

    Jan 23, 2011
    Jasper, TN
    Distortion....and more Distortion.
  4. uriah1

    uriah1 Telefied Ad Free Member

    Feb 12, 2011
    I use 3....
    -extremely slight dirt (normal) play 3/4clean
    -crunchy songs
    -Leads over top when necessary (A+B+C)

    -gentle leads low guitar vol hit (b only).
  5. flyswatter

    flyswatter Friend of Leo's

    Jan 12, 2013
    I aim for three different dirt settings -- Light overdrive (a bit of warm bite for mainly rhythm/ bluesy tones -- Tube Screamer, Blues Driver, etc.), heavy overdrive (full gain setting for leads and heavier rock -- Marshall Guv'nor, Rat, Boss Super OD, etc), and fuzz (for retro/ psych type tones -- Big Muff/ Little Big Muff, Fuzzface, etc).

    Set all three differently, step on one for the particular sound you want (with or without ODing the amp -- I normally run mine dead clean), and occasionally use two stomps at once for end-of-night craziness and feedback.
  6. chesire

    chesire Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Feb 17, 2010
    The Ol' Pueblo
    Do you mean two simultaneously or more than one total? I have two ODs, one Distortion, two Fuzzes running plus a boost for solos right now all so I can get different flavors of dirt.

    The two ODs are an MHP 72 and a BBV1. They do different sounds and I like one for low OD an one for heavy, close to distortion.

    The Distortion is a Barber Dirty Bomb which can do most things DS1 as well as all things Guvnor or Crunch Box... but it's my heavy, over the top sound.

    The fuzzes are a MojoHand Iron Bell for Pink Floyd and saturated distortions. It's a Big Muff of sorts but can do more simple distortion sounds. Then I have a BC108 fuzz face for more classic fuzz stuff.

    Why all this dirt? I bought my amp for its clean tone, which is amazing and I use it all the time, and I don't want to have multiple amps for all the dirt sounds I want.
  7. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 29, 2007
    Manassas Park, VA
    Here is what I do, just works for me:

    I play a mix of older R&R (not so much ROCK)/blues/country/surf/R&B- just pointing this out as I don't really require a lot of distortion, so much as a boost.

    So I basically "toggle" between my guitar>clean Fender amp sound (which I use for lead as well as rhythm depending on the tune..) and some kind of distorted sound created by a pedal.

    I choose the "#1Dirt" pedal for a gig (I like a very small board and don't ever want to use more than 2 dirts anyhow), either a Blues Driver, Barber Direct Drive, or GFS Brownie ("corrected" by 11 Gauge), THEN I will BOOST whichever pedal I choose with my Biyang TS clone (at low Gain, Level moderate). This adds volume and sustain w/o affecting tone. I don't like just using the "TS" by itself now, just as a boost.
  8. Iago

    Iago Friend of Leo's

    Sep 18, 2006
    I try to set me OD pedals in such a way that they will sound "great" both by themselves and when used in different combinations (be that OD+Fuzz or OD+OD). Truth be told, sometimes it just doesn't work - some pedal combinations simply won't give you "them nice toanz" even when you love them individually.

    So far, what's been working for me is having either a Sweet Honey or Timmy as light OD (later in the chain) and another pedal like a Zendrive clone or my modded Joyo Ultimate Drive set to medium gain/volume setting (earlier in the chain) and using both together for leads - All that into a clean amp.
  9. Wrong-Note Rod

    Wrong-Note Rod Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 4, 2009
    one pedalboard I use has two - a clone of a Klon for "normal" overdrive, not real heavy, and then I use a Boss OD3 for cream and scream leads on top of that (both pedals on)

    The Boss can also be used as a ballad power lead when the Klon thing is not on, and I'm playing in clean mode.
  10. blotchard

    blotchard Tele-Meister

    Nov 22, 2012
    A clean boost, O/D and a distortion are what I like to use.

    That should pretty well cover all my bases, whether used alone, or stacked into each other.
  11. xjazzy

    xjazzy Friend of Leo's

    Feb 17, 2007
    I like to have 2 dirty pedals or a dual OD.
    One set for light OD, the other for a more crunchy sound and I stack them for lead work.
  12. CyanideJunkie

    CyanideJunkie Tele-Holic

    May 9, 2010
    Got a fuzzy boost for adding hair to my amp's dirty signal and a treble boost to give it more cut.
  13. 11 Gauge

    11 Gauge Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 21, 2003
    Near BWI Int'l
    That's it, in a nutshell.

    So if someone prefers dirt from the amps, or multi-channel amps, multi dirt boxes or even one at all might not be practical for them.

    And for folks who want just a little dirt, probably a single box is fine. They may even try to config it to be more like what they consider to be a boost.

    But along with different levels of dirt - dirty boost/touch of hair/slight grit/mild drive/medium drive/heavy drive/saturated "max" drive/etc. - there's dirt boxes that are looser or tighter, there's some that are big on harmonics while others are kind of "static" sounding, there are some that work well for leads but not so much for rhythm, and there's all the ones that have pleasing EQ characteristics much like the classic overdriven amps have specific ones. So if you prefer the sound of a cranked AC30, you might want one type of dirt sound. If you prefer a hotrodded 100 watt Marshall's EQ characteristics, you would want a different dirt sound.

    I love stacking stuff, and have found a sort of basic formula that works, Drive box #1 needs to be lower gain, lowest noise, have "tight" breakup characteristics, and not so much bass. Depending on what you want for a higher dirt setting, box #1 should have a sort of mid-emphasis of your preference.

    ...Drive box #2 can be higher gain, looser sounding, have more bass, and have a less restricted EQ spectrum IMO. IMO, it should just be "filling in the blanks" that box #1 isn't providing. That doesn't mean that it's just a flat response booster on its own - it will really augment the harmonics with what is inherently appealing about it.

    The one thing I try not and get caught up in is the old "dirt and boost" combo, at least not where the boost doesn't really contribute any dirt. IMO, that type of boost is a different animal - it's more about volume and less about overdriven signals. This is also working under the premise of using a clean amp. I would never try to drive a clean amp into breakup - if it has the headroom reserves that I'm looking for, a boost is going to overload things in an unpleasant way, IMO.
  14. wstarkel

    wstarkel Tele-Meister

    Nov 14, 2012
    Norcross, GA
    When playing with a touch of dirt, I use two separate dirt boxes, one to tame the highs of the bridge pup, and the other to bring out the highs of the neck pup. This gives me a nice change of pace.
  15. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 29, 2013
    near Arnold's
    Re point 1: I prefer to get my dirt from my amp, and roll back guitar vol for clean. But after extensive live testing, I've found having a single dirt box tailored to the specific amp can be VERY useful. I may not turn it on at every show, but setting it to unity volume (pertinent to point 2 below) or pretty close and then being able to tailor the EQ and/or clipping characteristics to the room and the volume I'm able to use can avoid frustration at the show.

    Re point 2: I learned this one the hard way too. To MY ear, with MY amps, turning the amp up sounds way better, and feels way better, and has much better clipping charcteristics, than leaving the amp volume low and "PUMMELING" the preamp with a a boost pedal - "overload" is good word for what I finally realized I was hearing.
  16. tekbow

    tekbow Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 24, 2012
    flavours flavours flavours..

    It's not just about one kind of dirt, it's about different kinds. They all interact differently with your amp.

    I've never understood this whole "i like my dirt from my amp" thing, like its cheating or less real or something, or makes your guitar sound fake. We're talking about the amplification of an induced current in copper wire caused by the movement of metal strings in a magnetic field. It's not what your guitar sounds like (or rather it is).

    Confused yet?

    Then again if thats all it is, body wood shouldn't make a difference. But it does. Bridge material shouldn't, but it does. etc etc. not to the same extent it does on acoustics guitars, but its a combination of factors thats there

    All i'm meaning to say is that when you think about it, amplified string instruments using magnetic pickups are no more "real" than the next thing. So really how can it affect you're tone badly to have other things in the way, as long as they're well designed and have a POSITIVE effect to YOUR ears.

    I DO like my dirt from my amp, but i also like how different pedals interact with on the "on the verge of breakup" sounds from an amp, boosted with a pedal "high gain sounds" from an amp, or straight up dirt into a clean amp.

    As long as you like it, it's all good, and different pedals will affect your tone differently.

    Sorry, just waffling,

    I've always thought this dude has had a great grip on using dirt, and getting the best of them

  17. telerocker1988

    telerocker1988 Tele-Afflicted

    May 2, 2010
    I use a lot of them.

    First, I start with a clean Blackface amp. Either a Twin or a Super Reverb. Loud cleans, no breakup - high headroom.

    Then I go into a wide variety of dirt selections on my pedalboard. My goal is to replicate tones from the record of the songs I'm playing. So I might use a Marshall sounding dirt on a song I know was recorded with a Marshall, etc.

    I have some "amp in a box" pedals as well as some generic (not amp replicating) pedals.

    My lineup from first (near guitar) to last (end of the dirt) is:

    Analog Man Sun Bender - My only fuzz. I use it once in a blue moon for a thick nasty lead tone or Creamy woman tone like "Swlabr".

    Xotic EP Booster - On only for single coils to match them to my humbucker level of volume.

    Xotic RC Booster - Always on for a line conditioner sort of thing. Just adds girth to the amp.

    Mojo Hand FX Rook - Warm tubey OD. More like a Klon than a TS the way I have it set. Very clear.

    XTS Imperial Overdrive - A next stage of gain for a thick yet clear OD (think Nobels ODR-1).

    Rockett Guthrie Trapp OD - A very nice cranked BF amp sound. Very warm yet high gain and more "singing lead tone". Nice combo with the XTS.

    BearFoot Emerald Green Distortion Machine - My Vox in a box pedal. Use it on a lot of John Cougar Mellencamp tunes to get that classic Mike Wanchic/Larry Crane dirt sound.

    ZVex Box Of Rock - My early Marshall/Tweed Bassman in a box pedal. Does the Tweed and JTM thing for me. Great for AC/DC, even Stonesy numbers.

    Mojo Hand FX Socrates - This is my firebreathing high gain Marshall pedal for the late 70s/80s numbers. Very "RAT" influenced yet is more versatile IMHO.
  18. waparker4

    waparker4 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Nov 9, 2011
    Philadelphia, PA
    I use a fuzz pedal for fuzzy sounds and an overdrive pedal for overdrivey sounds. The fuzz is darker and flabbier in the bass which I like the sound of, the overdrive is higher in volume and less in the bass to keep things under control but increase volume of leads.
  19. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

    Jun 19, 2009
    Nashville TN
    MHP Code Green fuzz> ROG Umble> Blues Breaker v1 runs the whole gamut for me.
  20. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 25, 2003
    Santa Barbara, California
    Stacking gives you more options, which can be good, or could complicate things. I know one thing for sure-- if you have several amps, several guitars, and a handful of dirt pedals, you can spend hours trying them in all permutations...I know I do and I still haven't figured it out!

    The other problem is everything changes dramatically when you can crank things up to gig volume and when there are other instruments in the mix. I think this is one reason why so many pros play plain old Tubescreamers. In my experience they often sound crummy in A/B comparisons at home, but when playing live at stage volume they seem to be just about perfect, at least for single coil guitars going into a tube amp that is set to be pretty darn loud and has a little bit or even a lot of amp break up going on.

    My RAT is another interesting challenge. It is extremely versatile, but settings that work great when I'm playing by myself suddenly need significant adjustment when playing with others....and it takes me quite some time to figure it out. The tubescreamer, conversely, seems a bit more idiot proof to me.

    Some guys chase dirt pedals because they are not happy with the subtle EQ'ing produced by pedal x vs. pedal y. I recently modified my Boss GE-7 eq so it is much quieter, and I have been putting it in my signal chain after dirt. I find that using it to fine tune my overall EQ has really been eye-opening, and has dramatically reduced my need to chase a dirt pedal with "just-so" EQ characteristics. It also works well now as a boost pedal.

    Along the same lines, some guys chase pedal x vs pedal y because of the different compression characteristics. A compressor before dirt can add as much or as little compression as you want! Some guys like to put their compressor after the dirt pedal, but that will generally increase noise.
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