Make an easy guitar distortion pedal (STEP BY STEP!)

Picture of Make an easy guitar distortion pedal (STEP BY STEP!)
So, I decided to make an instructable! this is my 1st one, please feel free to comment on anything and everything.   .... pleeaase comment!

Here's the video of how to do it!

Note: Please Read all steps and read them carefully (if youre just starting at this stuff that is!) if you want to make this right! It should be easy if you follow the steps well.  This is more of a beginners project, you could still make it otherwise!

If you have tried and tried to make guitar effects pedals and have not succeeded, this instructable is for you! Or if this is your very first one then this is definitely the place for you to be. I have not found one instructable or website that gives clear step by step instructions on how to make guitar effects pedals. I found one quite clear with the instructions, and all the comments helped out too. It just lacked the Step by Step part. This is it:
I am using the design (schematic) from this one as it is a very simple distortion pedal.

lets get started!


Okay so Amerinidiot1231 was kind enough to create the perf board layout schematic, so that is attached on this page if you would like to refer to it.
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hhimschoot made it!13 days ago

Hey Guys! So I decided to make this my first project and it came out sounding amazing! Here's my layout if you want to use it! Thanks for this awesome Tutorial!

Distortion Circuit png.png

Would be really helpful if someone could show me how to connect the Indication LED please :) Thanks

gdomantic9 months ago

I made mine, and it works. made it with 1n4007 diods, 47nF as 1c and 1m for 1r. but I can't get the distortion potentiometer work:/ great distortion, but I can't control it. anyone has the idea why?

okay, made another one and it works great!

radriff781 year ago
I tried this project 4 different times already using store bought stuff and stuff I pulled from a old radio and not one of the builds have yet to make any distortion First I used the 2n3904 with all the resistors and caps as in the schem..Lined up everything as shown and nothing only fart sounds as if a battery was drained tried a different battery tested the other and still the same even though both batts was tested on multimeter and shown good . I then tried adding a series of different resisters 100k then 220k with a few odds and ends together that could wrap around the sun 2 times They brought up the volume when the battery was connected but still no distortion . I have tried assorted diodes from radioshack ones pulled from a old stereo ...2 different sets of leds and yet no distortion . I did the no pots then tried the pots schematic then scrapped the 2n3904 and found a old transistor marked d1387 and I still get no distortion it will push a tiny bit of distortion out but only because its very bass heavy I used a cap marked 184k for c1 in my search to get this thing working
Try raising the impedance of r1

hi!!! do you think that we can use speaker directly (outpout)

BillyB54 months ago

What diods did you use? Will it work good with a bass guitar?

Will a 10k ohm linear work for distortion knob
axlalvaro1 year ago
thanks man it works great!!
I put a 1uF capacitor instead of the 100uF and
a 4.7MOhm resistor for ultra gain

can you tell me wich components did you use?

Sure: I used the same circuit as the one above but I added a third diode, I put a 2,2 MOhm resistor as R1 to get a lot of distortion and replaced C1 for a 47nF capacitor. I tried several diodes and found out that the best sounding combination was these three diodes in parallel and inverting their "polarity": 1N4003 (or 1N4001), 1N5819, 1N4003 (or 1N4001). By inverting the polarity I mean that, just like in the diagram above, every diode's mark (the little line thy have) should be facing away from the marks of the diodes on their sides. I hope I explained it decently.

Would the middle diode have the line up or the line down?

Oh and I did all this because the distortion coming out of the pedal above was too little and it didn't sound great..:)

I meant a tone knob
How would you add a tone pot ? Would you use a variable capacitor for c1?
aolson.lenon6 months ago

what is the Wattage of the resistors?and the voltage of the capacitors?

Does anyone have a proprer diagram for this setup with bypass and both potentiometers? Trying to build one with all three and piecing the 3 seperate schematics together is not working.
adam.soergel7 months ago

I put it together and more or less got what I'd call a "tone enhancer." There was no distortion, but it made a pretty nice booster pedal that made my solid state sound kinda tube-y... Asymmetrical clipping with both Silicon and Germanium diodes if someone's interested.

rjohanson made it!1 year ago

I made it, used this wiring diagram

distortion pedal schema.PNG

isn't the output jack wrongly connected to the bypass switch?

Which diods and transistor did you use, mate? :)

vresident9 months ago

diode could be around 1n914 or 1n4148.

agree to drakkn, the C1 and C2 should in nF not uF.

it's simple layout and works

DVD97 vresident9 months ago

You mean C2 should be arround 0.01 uF?

vresident DVD979 months ago

yes, and c1 : 0.1 uF. and they'r non-polar cap

based on that axial mylar looks at symbol layout, runs on 9v dc, and comparing to another distortion layout that i found.

And i think you can try modding the c1 value to smaller (eg. 0.01 uF) for brighter, or higher (eg. 1 uF non-polar) for fatter.

i cant understand... why is it that it has two layout.....

drakkn9 months ago

Works for me - made on a business card because no perf board available - will add a gain pot , volume pot and tone pot (I must have some knocking about .

The capacitors should be nf values not uf in my opinion.

marekgren11210 months ago

Hello! I'm very interested in making my own distortion pedal. I made a quick image showing my components wired. Could you please check if my electrolytic capacitors are wired in correct way and will my circuit work with shown components?


Hey. I was wonderring what software you have used to create this kind of image?:)

It is all done using Blender 2.71 :) - give it a go, if you're interested. :) It may be a little difficult at beginning, but it's worth learning.

dam37510 months ago

Be extra careful opening electrical components like computer power supply's, tv's, radios, things you do not no about with to start. BECAUSE capacitors can still have a charge inside of them that can hurt or kill you. Unless you know about the different things that are dangerous inside of electrical components, buy new and educate yourself first.

marekgren11210 months ago

I also wanted to ask if I wire my switch like in my drawing, will my pedal still work? I want to connect battery to circuit only when I'm actually running my input signal through it.

jreinhold11 months ago

I'm new to this, and this was my first build. When I tested the pedal without a battery it produced the normal sound you would expect from the amp, but when I put the battery on it cut the sound drastically and had no distortion. And when I took the battery back off I had strong distortion but it slowly faded away back to clean. I followed the schem above with out adding the bypass switch and I bought all my material from Radio Shack brand new. Any ideas on what's going on and how I can fix it?

Ok so I've made the circuit and I've tried several different configurations of diodes, resistors and capacitors but I either get a punchy warm fat sound or a light overdrive or a farty gated sound. In place of the variable components I currently have: capacitor 10uF, 1N914 type diode, led, and a 3.3m resistor.
And the resistor that is supposed to be "around 100k" is 120k. Also my transistor is taller than the rest of the transistors that I've found, and I can't find a designator on it, maybe I'll try to look closer at it with a magnifying glass.

Any help to get more of a distortion sound?
noobypoo1 year ago

hey, i've tried doing this pedal twice, both with no results. ive checked and double checked my connections. i have a feeling its the npn, i got it out of an old set of computer speakers. could it be in backwards? middle is base and from the flat side the left is connector and the right is emitter? do all npn's work or do i really need to use the one you've specified? i did manage to get a very weak signal that sounded awful, then nothing. there is power being drawn from the battery.

Actually with the flat side facing you pointing in the direction of the schematic, the bottom pin should be base. Double check online with keywords "transistor base"and it should clarify things.
Just thought I'd add that a good place to find transistors and diodes is in cell phone chargers that don't have a transformer inside. You can tell this by its weight. They will be relatively light.
kleonardo41 year ago
It would be great if the list of what I need it at the first page, and also where to buy them cause I usually don't get to look for the materials. :(( :) I haven't tried this though, so I might encounter some problems.
mesiah671 year ago

Does it have to be a Mono or Stereo Potentiometer?

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