Guitarist, singer and songwriter Jenny Tuite has an awesomely experimental, do-what-works and DIY attitude and an intimate understanding of the relationship between tone and mood, which she wields to great effect both with her band Dirty Dishes (who released their debut LP Guilty in 2015 via Exploding in Sound), and in her solo project, Cloud Cover.
Tuite is also a great resource for anyone looking to deepen their fuzz explorations. Any fuzz fanatic knows it takes hours upon hours of experimentation to figure out which fuzz effects to use in different contexts, what order to use for multiple fuzzes on one board, which fuzz to drive when you have more than one, and a dauntingly long list of other tone questions and concerns that come up among the infinite possible combinations of guitar/pickups, pedals, and amps.
She Shreds recently spoke with Tuite about her process in crafting the perfect tone. If you’re looking to maximize your fuzz potential and gain confidence in what exactly to expect when you kick on any fuzz on your board, this one’s for you.
KNOW YOUR FUZZ: SOME ARE BEST FOR LEADS, OTHERS FOR TEXTURE.
Grab a guitar and run it through one fuzz at a time, holding all other settings constant. Take note: Which one has the richest, warmest sound? Which ones bloom with a slow attack, and which ones sputter and zip? Which one gives the best boost? If you want to fill up a room with harmonic texture, go for the thick, warm fuzz. Don’t want your volume to drop too drastically between a fuzz section and a clean section of your song? Avoid a fuzz that boosts too much; save that one for when you do want to be extra loud, like a lead. A sharper fuzz with greater attack can be great for choppy “rhythmic blasts” and leads alike.
“I love my Big Muff for textures. I add my OCD if I need something to come through for a lead.…The Fuzzgod I use more for rhythmic blasts, and I use my Clementime feedback looper similarly, but for a prettier, more harmonically rich sound,” Tuite says.
SOME FUZZ EFFECTS INTERACT DIFFERENTLY WITH DIFFERENT PICKUPS…
Try doing a shootout: systematically run each of your pickup settings through each of your fuzzes, one at a time. In general, the neck pickup will have a warmer tone and the bridge pickup will be brighter. If you’re going for a blooming, room-filling fuzz, you might have the best luck on the neck with the pedal you’ve chosen for the job. If you want to slice through the mix with a more pointed tone, see what happens when you bring the bridge pickup into it. “My Redwitch Fuzzgod is really responsive to different pickups: I find that on the neck pickup I get a warmer, fuller, synthy sound. On the bridge I get kind of a dry, splattery sound. Both sound awesome,” Tuite says.
…OR WITH OTHER PEDALS IN YOUR CHAIN.
Fuzz on Fuzz: If you have two fuzz pedals, try changing up the order of one that you like for rhythm and the one you like for leads. A fatter, super dirty fuzz before a cleaner one (like a Big Muff before a Tube Screamer) will give you a smoother sound, while the reverse order tends to yield more of a boost and a crisper breakup. In Tuite’s experience, “the biggest change that I have noticed with fuzz or overdrive orders is switching the Big Muff and Tube Screamer in my chain.”
Fuzz on Reverb: “Placing reverb before fuzz creates a sound that is very lush and heavy,” Tuite exaplains. “There is a beautiful mushy goodness that cannot be achieved the other way around: the fuzz slowly tears apart the reverb, creating a huge wall that blooms into chaotic sonic bliss. When placed before the fuzz, the verb does not add room ambience to the sound, how it usually would if were placed after the fuzz. It produces a way nastier sound—the best kind of nasty.”
Fuzz on Delay: “Delay before fuzz sustains much more than delay after fuzz, even with the same settings. A delayed signal is going into your fuzz produces crunchier, more dramatic delays. I prefer this order because it makes the delay sound more controlled and natural”
GAIN VS. SUSTAIN.
“Gain can be thought of as how loud the source (in this case the guitar) or effects are going to present themselves. Sustain can be thought of as how long the guitar or effects are going to drag on after completing their initial task of affecting the source signal.”
“Gain and sustain interact in a very interesting way, and can change your sound either quite subtly or to an extreme. High gain and low sustain yields a strong and sudden attack of sound that dissipates quickly. Low gain and high sustain creates a less intense initial attack, but the tone will linger and take longer to decay.”
GET COMFORTABLE WITH GAIN STAGING.
“If the second fuzz’s gain is higher, it’s amplifying the first fuzz. You can say you’re ‘driving’ the first fuzz. The sound is articulate and biting, with a strong attack. If the second fuzz’s gain is lower, it’s diminishing the power of the first fuzz for a more textural effect. You get less articulation and more of a round sound when you drive the second fuzz.”
DON’T FEAR THE FUZZ.
“Just kick on the fuzz and experiment. It’s awesome: you can’t not have fun. Try different settings. Experiment with getting a mild breakup to a full blown wall of fuzz. Get in front of your amp and experiment with feedback, too. You can get some of the prettiest sounds that way. Don’t fear the fuzz.”