Guitar FX basics: What is overdrive?

Boss's SD-1 is a typical overdrive pedal
Boss's SD-1 is a typical overdrive pedal

Click here for all Guitar FX basics videos.

Getting to grips with guitar effects can be a complicated business and there are so many different types that it can be difficult to know where to start. This Guitar FX basics series of video lessons is a brief introduction to the most common effects.

This video lesson focuses on overdrive. Overdrive is one of the most basic guitar effects, and occurs when the gain (the degree of amplification) of the guitar signal is turned up beyond the point where the circuitry is able to handle it. This causes the signal to ‘distort´. We won´t explain how it sounds here, though, it´s better to hear its effect from the video below.

Overdrive is a similar effect to distortion - see our FX basics lesson on distortion to learn the difference.