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Vintage threads from the first ten years

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7/18/1997 3:11 AM
Bob King
i would like to know how to get the most distor tion out of my guitar and amp
7/20/1997 1:55 PM
Mark Hammer

Simply speaking, distortion in the guitar sound is created when the signal passing through something exceeds what that device can deliver or tolerate.  
- using very high output pickups, and adjusting them so that they produce the most output they are capable of (raising them, and raising the polepieces - if possible - as well as heavier gauge strings) will push the next thing in line very hard and generate distortion.  
- putting a pre-amp in your guitar (or adding some type of stomp-box pre-amp in line) to make its output even higher  
- running all devices you're plugged into between the guitar and amp at full tilt (or as close to it as is allowed)  
- pushing the speakers about as hard as you can without them, or your eardrums, blowing up (e.g., using lower wattage-rating speakers)  
- turning up the gain on the early stages in the amplifier and turning down the master volume  
- if you have a tube amp, replacing the pre-amp tubes with higher gain versions of the same (e.g., a 12AY7 or 12AT7 with a 12AX7)  
- if you have a tube amp that uses negative feedback from the output transformer, remove the negative feedback  
Bear in mind that not all distortion created at any single point is necessarily "sweet-sounding". If you are new to this, I can assure you that there are literally hundreds of e-mail postings about whether distortion from a boosted pre-amp sounds better or worse than distortion from the output tubes and transformer.  
Finally, distortion and gain accumulate over the signal chain. So, pushing the first thing in line a little harder not only creates distortion itself, but also creates a hotter signal for the next thing in line.  
One of the best distortion sounds I ever had in my life was 28 years ago, when I plugged my guitar into the voice microphone input of a cheesy tube tape recorder and took the extension speaker signal from the tape recorder and ran it into my cheap tube guitar amp. The guitar overloaded the mic input (guitar signals are usually 50-100 times higher than microphone signals), and the tape recorder overloaded the guitar input on the amp. Presto, a fuzz monster.  
Experiment. my friend.
7/22/1997 3:53 AM
Bob King

dear mark hammer,  
thank you for replying to my  
question.but now i have another one .ive tried to raise my pickups but they just wont rise bucause they dont have a spring or somthing under them to raise them.  
thank you ,  
bob king
8/11/1997 10:27 PM
Mark Hammer

You don't want to raise your pickups too high, since this can result in several undesirable consequences:  
1) Squawky tone  
2) Not enough room for your fingers to work in  
3) Too much magnetic pull on the strings, reducing sustain  
Optimal height is a question of taste, and specific model, but you probably don't want to crowd any closer to your strings than about 1/4 to 3/8".  
If the thread of the screw, or whatever it's screwed into, is stripped then you'll have a hard time adjusting height. If you need to replace either the springs or the screws themselves, Stewart-McDonald Guitar Shop Supply (ads found in GP and many other places) carries them for a small fee.  
Some guitars/pickups, of course, are nonadjustable. The classic Tele front pickup comes to mind in this regard.
8/12/1997 2:42 PM
Bob Austin King

thanks for the tips but i already got a new guitar..
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