Using Fuzz in Modern Music
Fuzz is one of those effects that a lot of guitarists kind of overlook. I was the same way…used to feel like it was kind of outdated, and that I would only use it for those rare times when I needed a retro, Hendrix-y vibe. And then I started looking into some great tones I was hearing from different bands…Coldplay, Death Cab, Elliot Goldenthal, U2, The Listening, Chris Tomlin; and I kept finding that it was fuzz pedals behind some of the best sounds.
So I did a little research, and a little playing. And I just started to fall in love with fuzz pedals. (Ya, I know, that’s probably not a surprise. I’ve fallen in love with pretty much every effect I’ve ever heard……except for flange! Yikes, I can never get into that effect! Go listen to U2′s ‘Numb’. The flange just kills that song. Wow! This is a first in my posting life! Talking bad about a U2 song! Get ready, folks, the world just might be coming to an end right now.) More specifically, the germanium transistor ones. There are also silicon transistors, which tend to be a little more straight up and down, and dryer. And they sound great, too. The germanium ones just really seemed to fit me.
Now, fuzz can be really daunting, because it reacts to everything. That’s fair warning, because you have to find the one that reacts right to your rig, and you’ll think you’ve found it, and then you haven’t. I know that sounds odd, but that’s just how they work. It has to be first in your effects chain, it doesn’t like certain effects, it reacts to how loud your amp is, it’s picky about what overdrives you stack with it, and it’ll give you different harmonics for different stacked notes and for different octaves. Really interesting pedal, but really, really fun. And you just can’t substitute the fullness and sustain that those crazy harmonics give you. Granted, most of the time you will still want to use an overdrive pedal, but for some of the most killer tones, it’s really nice to have a fuzz every once in a while.
So I made a few videos of using fuzz in modern music, and you’ll notice that most of the chords I play over are worship-style chords. The fuzz used is a germanium transistor Hartman fuzz. And my apologies in advance for youtube’s video compression, which takes away some clarity when I have a couple loops going.
Video 1. This one runs through the obvious, upfront and aggressive fuzz tones. It also goes into how to use fuzz in conjunction with some modulation pedals to use the fullness of fuzz to just fill up the mix in the background. And lastly, it will hit some swells. Swells with fuzz are really, really cool because of the harmonics and sustain.
Video 2. This will pick up with the swell tones, and do a couple more synthy-type things, and then go into using fuzz a little more aggressively, but without going into vintage or blues sounds. More so getting out of what we think fuzz is, and into looking at it as a full, harmonic, and unpredictable effect that can offer a really cool tonal palette that will really drive the parts you want to take to the next level. (Oh, ya, and there’s an unplanned tuner plug in there somewhere.)
Video 3. And this one ends by doing some more driving stuff, and also noting how the fuzz can offer some vintage blues tones by rolling off on the guitar’s volume knob.
So hopefully those give a little flavor of what fuzz can do to modern music (hehe in a good way), and more specifically, how it can really drive those parts of worship songs that need bringing up, and can really sit in the background without drawing attention to your guitar. Both of those techniques can really, really help in worship music.
And just for fun, here’s the one U2 song I can’t stand. What were they thinking.
But of course, because I have such large big boy crushes on them, or maybe just one huge collective big boy crush on the band in general (whichever one you want), I can’t end a post with a horrid song by them. So here’s the song that first got me thinking ‘what in the world is he using for that sound’ and then finding out it was a fuzz. Well, a fuzz, a vintage guitar, great amps, and a bit of talent. But, you know. And oddly enough, this is from the same concert as the above song. This is one of my all-time favorite songs by them. Just emotionally compelling…forever. Just like fuzz. I like fuzz. Fuzz. Fuzz and U2. U2 and fuzz. Doesn’t get much better than that. Here it is:
- For Worship
- Live Ambient Looping, Studio Recording Tips, & Tone Walkthrough (Wexford Carol)
- Christmas Album, Charity, & a New Addition
- Baring My Soul in Music
- Twelve Things I Believe about Worship Music
- The Future of Christian Music is That Band I Listened to in Junior High While Playing Wolfenstein
- Worship Leading Choose Your Own Ending (Part 8)
- When God Says…Something Else
- A Guitarist’s Answers to Life’s Questions