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Bluesyzep

Choosing a distortion pedal

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What distortion pedal did Jimmy use then and/or now? Does it really matter or are they all the same? Up to this point I haven't needed a pedal so don't know anything about them.

Mikes Guitar Page is down so couldn't find it there.

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Beyond the Tonebender that he used early on, Jimmy's not really a distortion pedal guy. He used the TB mainly when he was using the Telecaster in the early days - it's all over the first album - and he kept it in his live setup for a while after he got the Les Paul, but once he got his amps sorted out & settled on first his Hiwatts & then the Marshalls the Tonebender mostly disapears.

What Jimmy used most was power amp saturation, from having the amps running loud. It's a different sound to either pedal distortion, or pre-amp saturation. Plus if you listen, particularly to some bootlegs, where you hear the real sound of the amp & not a produced studio sound, he isn't all that distorted much of the time. Especially not by modern standards.

Try this simple recipe: Start with a valve amp: - power amp volume up high, pre amp gain low to medium. Cut the bass to way lower than you'd expect it to be, bang the middle up more than you'd expect it to be (try it about the same level as the treble), and don't use any chanel switching: control the tones & gain from your guitars volume & tone pots.

Edited by huw

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I've used an MXR distortion plus and a Marshall Guv'nor...I did like the Guv'nor. Like HUW, however, I don't typically use them. I don't even like "modeling patches" in multi-effect units (although in the studio, I do use them). I prefer true tube preamp distortion that you can only get by driving the 12ax7's in the preamp section of your amp. :D

Edited by JimmyPage1977

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Beyond the Tonebender that he used early on, Jimmy's not really a distortion pedal guy. He used the TB mainly when he was using the Telecaster in the early days - it's all over the first album - and he kept it in his live setup for a while after he got the Les Paul, but once he got his amps sorted out & settled on first his Hiwatts & then the Marshalls the Tonebender mostly disapears.

What Jimmy used most was power amp saturation, from having the amps running loud. It's a different sound to either pedal distortion, or pre-amp saturation. Plus if you listen, particularly to some bootlegs, where you hear the real sound of the amp & not a produced studio sound, he isn't all that distorted much of the time. Especially not by modern standards.

Try this simple recipe: Start with a valve amp: - power amp volume up high, pre amp gain low to medium. Cut the bass to way lower than you'd expect it to be, bang the middle up more than you'd expect it to be (try it about the same level as the treble), and don't use any chanel switching: control the tones & gain from your guitars volume & tone pots.

Interesting. I'm kind of at an impass right now on what type of pedal or whether to get one at all.

I probably should explain my situation. I've been working on my first electric song on the Les Paul. My instructor and I settled on Stairway. Been playing it on acoustic mainly. Anyway I've been playing the acoustic part clean on a VoxAD30VT. When I got to the solo it just sounded weak. I learned that I needed more gain so was looking for either a distortion pedal or a channel switching pedal. I'll be moving up to a Marshall tube early next year and am looking for something that will work out in the long run.

Are you saying that I can go from the clean to heavy sound just by using the volume and tone controls on the Les Paul? Set the amp for heavy and clean it up with the volume/tone controls? In the case of Stairway what should I be doing? Can you explain a little more about using the controls? Been curious about how Jimmy used that for awhile and may turn out to be the answer. Thanks. Been a big help. B)

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If you don't want to play at head blast levels just stay set on your clean channel and dirty it up with a Boss Overdrive or a Pro Co Rat pedal. Not to where the pedal's volume is way over your clean sound but to boost it during solos. Or engage the pedal with your guitar volume low in the neck pickup selection for a cleaner sound, and when you solo flip to the bridge position with higher volume output. You'll have to experiment to find the sound suitable for your amp and guitar configuration.

Jimmy Page's use of his pickup selection should be observed to maximize the tonal variance available via the Les Paul.

Edited by Chicago

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Are you saying that I can go from the clean to heavy sound just by using the volume and tone controls on the Les Paul?

Yes. It'll change your life... B)

Of course, if your dirty sound is a realy high-gain modern type of sound then you may find it difficult, but at "classic rock" levels of gain it works a treat.

For a Les Paul all you need to do is set up a sound that meets these two criteria and your tonal world is right at your fingertips:

1 Set the gain level so that 10 on your guitars volume control gets you a nice crunchy dirty sound but rolling down to between 3 & 5-ish gets you a nice warm clean sound

2 Set the tone controls on the amp bright enough so that your neck pickup is useable (ie not just mush!) then roll back the bridge tone control so that pickup isn't too trebly

That's it - you're set. Two useable pickups. You can preset one quieter than the other to do virtual "channel switching" with your pickup selector switch, or just continually vary the gain & tone as you play.

I've had MIDI switching rack systems, effects processors, etc etc... all sorts of amp setups over the years and doing things this way, particularly with a Les Paul, is the most versatile setup you can get. It can take a little effort to balance things right to begin with, but trust me - it's worth it.

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This is good stuff! Thanks to all. I never found much use for the LP controls before and wondered what Jimmy was doing. I'll start experimenting. Thanks again. B)

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Beyond the Tonebender that he used early on, Jimmy's not really a distortion pedal guy. He used the TB mainly when he was using the Telecaster in the early days - it's all over the first album - and he kept it in his live setup for a while after he got the Les Paul, but once he got his amps sorted out & settled on first his Hiwatts & then the Marshalls the Tonebender mostly disapears.

What Jimmy used most was power amp saturation, from having the amps running loud. It's a different sound to either pedal distortion, or pre-amp saturation. Plus if you listen, particularly to some bootlegs, where you hear the real sound of the amp & not a produced studio sound, he isn't all that distorted much of the time. Especially not by modern standards.

Try this simple recipe: Start with a valve amp: - power amp volume up high, pre amp gain low to medium. Cut the bass to way lower than you'd expect it to be, bang the middle up more than you'd expect it to be (try it about the same level as the treble), and don't use any chanel switching: control the tones & gain from your guitars volume & tone pots.

He used a fair amount of preamp distortion as well. A stock Marshall superlead doesn't have a master volume control, but I know Page's did and he had an extra preamp tube in there as well. Idk when he switched to KT-88s, but in 1972-73 at least, he had a fair amount of grit to his sound that certainly couldn't have come from KT-88s which seem to have quite a bit of headroom.

There was a picture a while back of Jimmy's main superlead that he used with Led Zeppelin that shows the master volume and additional preamp tube.

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I was re-reading the 1/08 Guitar World and came across a couple of quotes from Jimmy:

"All I had to really work with was an overdrive pedal (Tonebender on Zeppelin 1?), a Wah-Wah, an Echoplex and what was on my guitar. And I had to create the entire range of sounds found on the first five zeppelin albums."

"First you have to be lucky enough to have an amp that operates on the threshhold of clean and dirty, so that it can interact with the controls of the guitar. Once you have that, then you can start really playing with the volume and the control."

I may be limited with my current amp but will try "HUW"'s suggestions.

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He used a fair amount of preamp distortion as well. A stock Marshall superlead doesn't have a master volume control, but I know Page's did and he had an extra preamp tube in there as well. Idk when he switched to KT-88s, but in 1972-73 at least, he had a fair amount of grit to his sound that certainly couldn't have come from KT-88s which seem to have quite a bit of headroom.

There was a picture a while back of Jimmy's main superlead that he used with Led Zeppelin that shows the master volume and additional preamp tube.

I know the pic you're talking about, no doubt there is an added preamp tube, a master volume and KT88s. The extra preamp tube is actually for an effects loop, that's what the additional jacks on the back of the chassis were for. That amp was actually a Super Bass too. The problem with it though is Page's Zeppelin heads were US export amps with the polarity selector on the front which is what the 3rd switch was for and no voltage selector on the back. The pic you're referring to has a voltage selector on the back which would point to it being a European export, only 2 switches on the front. It's really hard to say if that was actually a Zeppelin-era amp.

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