Gain pedals such as overdrive, distortion, and fuzz are staples of the modern player’s pedalboard. The range of tones and textures that they produce can be heard in just about every form of music, and they each have their own way of saturating your tone with rich harmonic content at varying degrees off combustibility. But what happens when you stack—or combine—them together? With the right pedals and settings, you can create a whole ’nother spectrum of shades and overtones that’s greater than the sum of its parts. This article will explore some of the ways that you can do just that, complete with examples to feast your ears on.

First, Some Tips

Gain is an unruly beast that’s always looking to break free. With multiple sources in your signal chain, you’ll need to be more attentive to various other elements wrangle the best sounds possible from your setup. A clean amp will make your job easier, for example, so that you can control all of the gain at the pedal level. And some pedals are just sound better together than others—if you find yourself spending hours trying to make two specific pedals play nice with each other, it might be time to swap one of them out and try a different combination. When you do find pedals that sound great together, remember that the last pedal in the gain stack is going to have the biggest impact on your tone and volume level.