Distortion (music)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Distortion, also known as overdrive or fuzz, is an effect applied to the electric guitar, the electric bass, and other amplified instruments such as the Hammond organ, synthesizers, and even harmonica and vocals. Accomplished by electronically compressing and/or clipping the input signal, this effect adds sustain and additional harmonics and overtones to the signal, creating a richer sound. The most subtle types of distortion add a "warm" thickness and sustain to the original tone; the more extreme types of distortion range from the noisy, buzzy sound of a late 1960s-era fuzztone pedal to the screaming, "bite", "grit",and "crunch" of a late 1980s thrash-style distortion pedal. Distortion is used across a wide range of musical genres, from the subtle overdrive used in traditional blues to the hard-edged distortion featured in noise music, hardcore punk and metal.

Early examples of distortion were often the result of accidents in which the guitar amplifier or its vacuum valves was damaged, or because the amplifiers and speakers were "doctored" by poking holes into their speaker cones. Observing this trend, Leo Fender of the Fender amplifier company designed valve guitar amps that would "overdrive" slightly. In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix was one of the first guitarists to experiment with fuzzbox effect pedals.

Distortion can be produced by many components of an instrument's signal path, including effects pedals, the pre-amplifier, power amplifier, speakers, or more recently, digital amplifier modelling devices and software. Many players use a combination of these to obtain their "signature" tone.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Distortion (music)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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