How does a guitar distortion arise

Electric guitar: distortion

In the past, distortion was seen as an undesirable by-product of amplifiers. It is caused by overdriving the amplifier. The volume is increased as much as the amplifier allows. The signal (sine curve) is decapitated at the top, which makes the sound distorted.


This picture is based on the picture Clipping_1KHz_10V_DIV_clip_A_5ohms-1-.jpg from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and is under the GNU license for free documentation. The author of the picture is Lgreen.


Today the effect is usually desirable. The distortion is now artificially produced and an attempt is made to imitate the sound of an overdrive distortion. It happens like this:


This image is based on the image Verzerrer-schematisch.png from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and is under the GNU license for free documentation. The author of the picture is Putput. This file was released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

The amplifier V ensures an adaptation of the signal amplitude to the threshold voltage of the diodes and acts as an impedance converter. The switch S is used to switch between distorted and undistorted signal. This gives a similar distortion.

In the case of electronic distortion, spectral components are also generated that were not present in the original signal. This is especially true when chords are played through a distortion device. Difference tones can arise, these are tones whose pitch corresponds to the difference between the tones played, or hum tones, which are tones whose pitch corresponds to the sum of the tones played.

There are three categories of distortion. You have to know that an amplifier consists of a preamp and an output stage. The volume can be regulated at both levels. The preamp enables overdriving without reaching the maximum volume of the amplifier.

Overdrive describes the distortion sound of the power amplifier. Overdrive sounds a bit softer and more "dirty" in terms of sound. This type of distortion is especially heard in early rock. For example at Jimi Hendrix. At the time, amplifiers only had one stage.

Distrotion describes the distortion sound of the preamp. Distortion sounds aggressive and "pointed". This sound is widely used in modern rock and metal.

Gain affects the degree of amplification of the distortion level. This determines the intensity of the distortion. Nowadays, the terms actually have nothing to do with the different levels, since the distortion is generated, as is normal, with anti-parallel connected diodes.

Distortion is nowadays used to the limit, especially in rock and metal. Please note that the higher the input signal, the higher the degree of distortion.

Source: Wikipedia (distortion, overload)