5 reasons to add distortion to your guitar practice
It can seem that distortion just makes your guitar playing sound worse – especially for beginners.
Start by adding a moderate amount of distortion to your guitar sound (roughly half on the dial) and then work from there. You don’t need to have it on full (but there is no problem with that if you prefer that sound).
Adding distortion to your guitar tone isn’t only useful to give it a more rock sound, it can also help to tidy up all your playing in a clean tone as well.
Generally people think of the electric guitar when they think of distortion, but if you have an electro-acoustic you could also add some distortion to your sound as well if you play it through an amp.
Here’s 5 reasons why you should consider adding distortion to your guitar practice:
#1: It amplifies everything – both the notes you want and the ones you don’t!
Using distortion during your guitar practice helps to amplify everything you are playing. All the intentional notes will be louder, but also all the open strings you don’t want or any buzzing notes are going to be amplified too.
Use distortion to help you find the notes that shouldn’t be there or aren’t pulling their weight (you may need to press down harder on the strings).
#2: When practicing bends
Distortion is going to help you hold your guitar bends for longer as they will keep ringing with less volume.
When practicing unison bends distortion is going to highlight the differences between the ‘guide note’ and the note you are bending much more than using a clean tone. By using distortion to help you to hear when your bend has reached the correct pitch it will also mean your bends are that much better in a clean tone as well as a distorted one.
#3: When practicing chords and tidy up your clean tone guitar playing
Distortion can help you clean up your chords. If your open chords and 5 string barre chords sound a bit off, you could be hitting some extra strings that you don’t want to be hearing.
Turn your distortion down to around a quarter on the dial so that it isn’t hiding your mistakes and it helps to highlight any extra ringing notes.
Try playing some open chords in a strumming pattern. You might find after a few chords it starts to sound a bit muddy and the chord aren’t as defined as you would like. You are probably hitting some extra low open strings. This will make your chords less defined and make them sound messy. The distortion will help to sustain these notes so you can hear these extra notes more easily. You can then work on missing them out. This will improve your chords with a clean tone as well.
#4: You have to work harder to make your guitar playing clean with a distorted sound
With more distortion comes more string noise.
You will have to get better at muting out any extra strings with both your left and right hand as they will continue to ring much longer than in a clean tone. After practicing with distortion and tidying your playing up you will continue to use the same techniques with your clean tones. After some practice you will find that your clean tone guitar riffs are much crisper than before.
#5: It helps with sustaining notes
While some guitarists use volume and sustain pedals to help keep their notes ringing, even a small amount of distortion can help with sustaining your notes for longer. This can be useful when learning guitar solos or melodies.
So go ahead, try adding some distortion to your guitar practices. You may even find that using distortion can help to speed up your progress in a short amount of practice time as you can hear those extra notes much easier than before.