Ah the fuzz… An effect as mythical as it is controversial! Admittedly, the first Guitar Heroes carved out legendary riffs on the first Fuzz Faces (Hendrix, big up bro'). Even today, guitarists as talented as they are creative such as Mathew Bellamy or Josh Homme have made this effect their signature sound. But between these monsters, an era and 3 generations of hairy people have succeeded each other. Yes, but also a nice bunch of margoulins not knowing how to produce a sound porridge with this effect! My fuzz does not break through the mix? Here we go !
At Effects Area we love fuzz. Just look at our catalog… besides, we're going to calm down a bit because it's becoming nonsense! We like fuzz for several reasons. First of all, if you have read our article overdrive vs distortion, you know that the fuzz is one of the first effects invented. Just by his pedigree we are seduced. Then, because there is a monumental offer, vintage, modern, the wise of the not wise and everything that gravitates between the 2 😉 Finally, the fuzz has a character, an aggressiveness that alone defines the rock sound. Yes I'm not objective but I like it!
The problem is that behind this essential aspect hides a much less rosy truth:
" A fuzz pedal is boring and complicated to make sound good ! »
I'm going to tell you a story that will echo in the ears of many of you: You just bought a great fuzz and it cost you half a ball (it's normal, it's uneducated shop).
Proudly, you plug it into your favorite amp and off you go. What a slap! "It's bold, defined, well revered!" » Yes, it's true. You legitimately tell yourself that at the next rehearsal, Adrien (ne) (point of discrimination) your asshole of 2th guitarist, audiophile by profession, will be amazed€ and can only congratulate you. So you tumble into the studio, sleeve in hand and stars in your eyes. Unfortunately when you unleash your fuzz we can't hear you. But like not at all. To overcome this problem you turn up the sound of your effect and there, not only do we hear you but the studio next door comes knocking on your door for tinnitus problems. And there the ax falls:
It is " super screaming complains your singer. " You bother me, said the bass player in turn, I no longer discern my notes ". Only the drummer has no objection, and for good reason: he barely knows how to speak. You know, counting to 4 and starting over tends to soften the brain “and my rhythm in 5/4 the other time??? Sorry Mark. Anyway, you broke curfew for nothing. And we can only understand you! But rest assured, we will see that this feeling is normal! But above all little tricks so that you don't have to face this problem again!
This hollow in the mediums, THE signature of Fuzz?
Often when we test a fuzz, we are surprised at the rendering at home. It's rather flattering, you can feel the power and fatness of the effect. It's normal, it's just you and your guitar. You can behave like a selfish bachelor, thinking only of your personal enjoyment.
However, when setting up a mix, you have to think of several people, a bit like a family. In this little game we quickly realize the problem related to the Fuzz: It pump up the bass, reduces midrange frequencies And boost the treble. It is essential to understand this in order to then rectify the situation:
“The guitar is essentially a midrange instrument. »
It's not more complicated than that. The fuzz, goes in essence, " to withdraw » the frequencies that make a guitar a guitar. Imagine a bird without wings, immediately it will fly less well (don't talk to me about the kiwi, there are exceptions 😉).
In boosting low frequencies, you will encroach on the bass and some drum elements. Conversely, by increasing the treble you will come into conflict with other elements of the drums, as well as your lead guitarist, see your singer.
Your mission, if you accept it, is therefore to refocus your fuzz on these frequencies (600hz-1khz).
Come on, we tell you how to carry out this mission!
Always use a Fuzz on a slightly Crunch channel.
If there's one rule you should remember if you're new to fuzz, it's this one. A fuzz is not used on a perfectly clean channel ! Indeed, the very nervous character of the latter will be exacerbated on a perfectly clear channel. Suddenly, the treble (the swarm of bees) will be amplified, and the much less defined saturation.
For fuzzes (and most distortion pedals eventually), it is recommended to use them on a lightly overdriven amp. I'm not talking about extreme saturation, but a slight crunch. This will already allow better control of the effect but also less scattered frequencies
Equalization = the base
In general, equalization is extremely important. But with a fuzz pedal even more! Nowadays, amplifiers have 3-band EQs (Bass, Middle, Treble) can be enough to control your fuzz.
If you are in this case, we recommend that you (depending on the guitar and the cabinet of course) lower the bass, increase the middle and lower the treble. Although it may seem like a band-aid solution, these settings can save you the rehearsal setting.
However, this type of manipulation is interesting if the fuzz is your main effect. If you want to use the saturation of your amplifier later, you will have to adjust the eq at the risk of unbalancing the mix.
This is why it is recommended to use an equalization pedal (10 bands ideally). The equalizer pedal is in my eyes an essential effect. Not just for managing fuzz, but for your whole sound. It will allow you to sculpt ultra-precise way your signal, so that each instrument within the group is in its place. As part of a fuzz, the EQ pedal is incredibly effective. Take the case of mine (An Aequatio from Ministry of Tones).
Thanks to its 10 bands, you will be able to correct the frequencies that are not consistent and optimize the others: Below 100hz it gives off. This frequency range is important for kick drum and bass but not for guitar! Since I'm a rhythm guitarist, I tend to bloat my low mids, i.e. 250hz. This will allow a better support of the guitar, in reinforcement of the bass which operates a little lower. The 500hz band is often critical in guitar because it is unflattering resonances. It should therefore be lowered slightly. Depending on the desired rendering, we recommend to increase the 1khz or 2khz band, corresponding to the high mids. Beyond 4khz, the bees point the tip of their nose. Remember those high frequencies boosted by the fuzz? They are mainly between 6 khz and 10 khz! So if you drastically lower the 8 and 16khz bands the problem disappears!
Below is the setting I use with my rehearsal fuzz. This can be a good base if you want to refine your sound.
Favor a fuzz pedal with effective equalization or switch mids
Not everyone has an EQ pedal. And even if you have one, such a product takes a long time to master. If you do not want to bother yourself with such considerations, you will have to be cunning.
Some fuzz pedals have a equalization or quite a switch boosting the mids, as the Solidgold Fx Imperial to the left. These products will give you maximum flexibility while simplifying settings. Thanks to these features, it will be much easier for you to break into the mix. The midswitches are very useful because they have been designed to boost the frequencies that will interest us in electric guitar. Nowadays a lot of Fuzz embed this kind of device, whether it is the Keeley Rotten Apple or even the Dope Fx Earth Weller with downright 3-band EQ!
The overdrive, the close friend of the fuzz!
This may sound confusing, but be aware that the overdrives and fuzz get along wonderfully ! Not only do they get along well, but a fuzz will work much better with an upstream overdrive than on its own. This is explained by the fact that the signal entering your fuzz will then be less " right " than when it comes only from the guitar. Because of this, the frequencies will be better balanced and the fuzz will be more controllable. Thanks to these tips, you can also play the knobs of your guitar to get a dirty crunch even though the fuzz is on! From a versatility point of view, we are strong! Another positive aspect of such an assembly, there are fuzz devoid of control. I'm thinking, for example, of Anasound's Feed Me or La Earthquaker Acapulco Gold. Very good references with a particular grain but in terms of control, that's not it. Well thanks to the overdrive placed before, you will be able to use its tone as equalization for the fuzz! The best! Most overdrives work well with fuzz, but in general it's recommended to favor low-gain models. My 2 favorites for this type of application are the Mad Professor Little Green Wonder and the Xotic Ep Booster!
I did not lie to you, the fuzz is a mythical effect! A mythical effect but still requiring a minimum of reflection, especially if you want to play in a group. Should we give up the fuzz? No, surely not. These pedals alone characterize the Rock and Hard sound. However, if you want a result that meets your expectations, you will have to change your playing habits. Work on the EQ, lower the gain level and everything will be fine. Also know one thing, the great artists who made fuzz their favorite effect also broke their teeth at the start. An example ? Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins. It may seem surprising, but their first performances are decried, in particular because of the outrageous use of Big Muff! Like what !