Fuzz distortion is an audio effect that people typically associate to altering the tone of electric guitars, as well as other musical instruments and audio signals. Fuzz is an electronic distortion element that is capable of changing the whole sonic signature. Often, experts describe the rough sound resulting from it as thick and metallic.
Fuzz Distortion Pedals
Common distortion pedals mimic the sound of cranked-up tube amps, while fuzz distortion pedals tend to push the audio signal towards square waveforms. When this happens, the sound compresses and it the audience perceives it as odd-order harmonics. Nowadays, there is a wide variety of pedals capable of producing this hard clipping effect. Each pedal has peculiarities of its own. Some amplify the signal in order to overdrive the op-amp, while others send the signal through several stages of diode clipping until they produce a square wave.
A Brief History on Fuzz
The term fuzz appeared around 1960 and became popular with the recordings of Grady Martin, a famous guitarist from the United States. Martin used a recorded an instrumental song, called “The Fuzz,” by using a damaged preamplifier with his guitar. With this, he discovered the fuzz effect.
Gibson company launched the first commercially available fuzz distortion device. People called it the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone. Musicians frequently used this device basses and electric guitars. For example, Keith Richards, a member of The Rolling Stones, used the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone on his guitar riff. This device became a favorite of many garage rock and psychedelic bands.
The Maestro FZ-1
The Maestro FZ-1 has two 1.5 volt batteries and a lead cable that you can connect to a guitar or a bass instrument. It also involves a three germanium transistor circuit with RCA 2N270 devices. Germanium transistors give fuzz distortion pedals their unique tone character. Volume and fuzz provide a smooth, warm sound. Musicians love these pedals for their playability. The reason is that they can control their response and dynamics by the user’s pick attack and the guitar’s volume control.
Fuzz Distortion Today
Modern fuzz distortion pedals include silicon transistors. In addition, they have harder and more crisp defined tones. They also produce a distinctive tone, so many famous contemporary guitarists choose them.