The music industry is one that demands the use of modern engineering technologies, such as effects pedals, in order to achieve a customizable tone for a unique style. Using effects pedals such as distortion, delay, reverb, and many more, a musician can create a specific tone with distinct characteristics and adjust certain parameters of the sound to their own preference. This paper will focus on distortion pedals and the theory revolving around the design of a custom distortion pedal. Different kinds of distortion require different circuitry and different components. Certain types of guitar distortion pedals create distortion using simple transistor circuits and/or diode clipping. Others employ the use of operational amplifiers paired with diodes to create a “distorted” sound. Different musicians may demand various kinds of distortion, and certain types of distortion are used for different styles. For example, fuzz is a type of distortion which is very ‘messy’ in quality, but widely used for funk, blues, and rock music. There are two main classifications of distortion: overdrive (soft clipping), and regular distortion (hard clipping). Within these two categories, many different types of distortion can be produced. Using specific circuitry is imperative to attaining a specific tonality. By investigating and experimenting with different designs, this research paper attempts to explain and justify the theory behind the creation of distortion in a guitar pedal.

Publication Date


Document Type

Master's Project

Student Type


Degree Name

Electrical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Electrical Engineering (KGCOE)


Mark A. Indovina

Advisor/Committee Member

Sohail A. Dianat


RIT – Main Campus