Ambrose Li

The clueless owner of a new... distortion pedal

On my way back today, at Spadina, the driver helpfully announced that there’s no service on Line 1 between St. George and St. Andrew. Since there’s no point for me to go all the way to McCaul, I stepped out.

I figured, since I’m at Spadina and Queen, I might as well go to Lush or Steve’s but Steve’s closes at 5, no? I quickly checked my phone. No, 5:30. That changed things.

So I went in, looked around at their selection of electric guitars, then asked for “a basic distortion pedal”.‍[Note 1]

I don’t even have a proper electric guitar; I have an acoustic with a pickup.

I plugged it in, then realized I needed an instrument cable.

After a few minutes of fumbling, I grabbed one from my dismantled WhatsApp setup in the living room.

So I plugged the second cable in, and started plucking some strings. I could only hear the high E and B strings.

Apparently, soundhole pickups for acoustic guitars are “balanced” so that they would pick up more signal from the other four strings.‍[Note 2] A few days ago I reinstalled my pickup the other way. I obviously installed it backwards.

So I’m now the clueless owner of a new distortion pedal. Other than now knowing I can’t install my pickup backwards, this whole experience has also taught me two other things I didn’t know before:

First, distortion pedals are actual pedals: you press the on-off switch with your foot. I never knew this.

And second, distortion pedals boost the signal. (On my pedal the knob says “level” but it’s really a gain knob.) Before I had the pedal I couldn’t tell if what I heard was from the pickup or from the guitar itself; now, with the distortion and the extra gain, I can clearly tell when I installed my pickup backwards. Haha....

The pedal also has a Tone knob. But what does it actually do? I have no idea. It does change the tone, but if I plug the output to my guitar tuner, it doesn’t seem to detect any changes in pitch.


  1. So I conveniently forgot about the metronome I suppose I can make do with jack_metro(1). I also forgot to ask if there’s such a thing as a clip for guitar tuners. (I was sort of in a self-imposed rush because I thought I could head off to McQuade’s afterwards, which I later found out was not the case.)
  2. Marty Banner, “The Difference Between Electric And Acoustic Guitar Strings,” The Acoustic Guitarist (blog), https://​theacousticguitarist​.com/​the​-difference​-between​-electric​-and​-acoustic​-guitar​-strings/​.