Overdrive, distortion, and fuzz are synonymous with rock ’n’ roll. They add texture and attitude to countless classic songs, and each has its own way of doing so. As a player, how do you distinguish one from the others? The easy answer is to say that overdrive, distortion, and fuzz are on a spectrum with each more intense than the last. That’s alright for listeners who don’t play.

If you’re a player who likes to use dirt boxes, though, you’ll need a deeper understanding of how overdrive, distortion, and fuzz can help you craft the best version of your musical vision. To really dig into the dirt, we need to consider what each effect was designed to do, and how you intend to use them.

Leo Nocentelli is perhaps the greatest rhythm guitarist ever, and damn sure one of the funkiest. Guitar Player made it official by counting him among its 50 Greatest Rhythm Guitarists of All Time, the Grammys honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and countless hip-hop artists have sampled Leo’s licks to power their hits. Nocentelli laid the funky framework for modern New Orleans music in the ‘60s and ’70s as a founding member of the Meters, crafting stank-o-pated riffs to anchor classics such as “Cissy Strut,” “Fire on the Bayou,” and the wah-wah wonder “Just Kissed My Baby.”