BOSS Overdrive – The Yellow Ones
There are two good ways to get tone from an overdrive. One is to use the overdrive in conjunction with your amp; that is, use the overdrive pedal to augment your amp’s inherent tone. Here’s how this works:
One of the things an overdrive can do is to hit your amp with a bit more level, without adding too much distortion. Sometimes all an amp needs to sing is more input gain than your guitar can put out. It’s like the difference between single coil and humbuckers; hums put out more level, so they tend to create more sustain and distortion from an amp. Stevie Ray Vaughan often used his overdrive pedal in this way. Not much additional distortion, just some additional gain to boost the level of his single coils. To do this, set the amount of overdrive fairly low on your pedal, but set the output volume a bit high. Set your amp for a mild amount of distortion. If your overdrive has a tone control, set it so it doesn’t alter your tone as it is before you turn the pedal on. This mode is also effective for boosting solos.
How effective this is depends a lot on the amp. A good tube amp works in this way. Another way to use an overdrive is to set the amp for a clean sound with flat EQ, and let the overdrive’s inherent tone come through. In this case, try setting the overdrive for somewhat more drive (or crunch, or whatever your pedal calls the amount of distortion), and try to match to the output of the pedal so that your volume doesn’t change when you turn it on (unless you want it to, for soloing or just being louder). Remember, there are really no rules! If you like the sound, that’s all that matters. This method is less dependent on the tone of your amp, and players often use their pedals this way. The tone is based on their finger technique and the pedal’s characteristics; the amp is just making it louder.
To wrap up: These are not rules. They are concepts. Regardless of this post’s title, “Get Great Tone With BOSS Overdrive” you can use these principles with any overdrive stompbox. The best way to incorporate them into your playing is to experiment. There are many pedals on the market, each with its own characteristic tone. One may be just the thing to make your tone what you’ve wanted it to be. Try some out, both with your own amp and guitar, and with others. The magic combination is out there.