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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jreinhold1 month 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?

jdelgadillo13 months ago
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?
noobypoo5 months 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.
jdelgadillo13 months ago
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.
rjohanson made it!3 months ago

I made it, used this wiring diagram

distortion pedal schema.PNG
kleonardo43 months 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.
mesiah674 months ago

Does it have to be a Mono or Stereo Potentiometer?

coooooooollllllll!!!!!!!!!!! I just don't understand why the gain insreases as the resistance increase too (shouldn't it be the opposite??)

axlalvaro5 months 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?

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

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.

dude21125 months ago

Is there any place i could download the video that is no longer on YouTube?

noobypoo5 months ago

Tried to make this, only get a clean sound out of the amp. Could you narrow down which components/connections could be bad? i am new to this sort of thing. Thanks

dragossh5 months ago

Is this the output or input jack?

Jtgg981 year ago
I have a practice amp that has a awesome distortion, can I take the diode (I'm assuming that s how the distortion is achieved in it) out of that and get the same distortion out of this pedal?

If the diode causes the distortion in your amp, it should work. Go ahead, but if I were you I would buy some different ones, try googling 'what diodes does the (insert amp name here) use for distortion. If you find out that it was different to the diodes listed on this instructable, please share what type, because they may have a different/better sound.

rajue_20006 months ago
I made this, but no distortion at all..............
............only clear sound
please help
pedaljunkie6 months ago
Does this project NEED a perfboard, or can I just build the pedal with all the wires and ends of the pieces loose?
ABHISHEK_1O17 months ago
hey, I did this project and it worked fine for a while but then it stopped working
i use 1n4007 diodes and bc547 npn transistor.
can you help me out
dragossh7 months ago
Are you sure this is for a distortion pedal and not a metronome? I hooked it all up on a breadboard and all I'm getting are constant "ticks". They get quicker as I play with the volume knob on the guitar.
radriff787 months 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
LionBlood1 year ago
Are the transistors on an old PC power supply all old?

The transistors I found on it say: C945 P 17E
but 2N304 is much cheap you can get it from any radioshack shop. If they don't have that then 2N2222 and KT312 are the good alternatives.
I failed at this project because I didn't know anything back then; I do now but maybe I'll try this one again. My first pedal was on "The Rattler", then I built a 1978 Pro Co RAT from (best pedals site by the way), then I built a wah pedal from so I'm not using recycled components anymore. Thanks for the reply though, and good luck. O yeah, one more thing, use veroboard instead of terminal strips on it saves A LOT OF SPACE, and make sure you earth everything nicely, enjoy.
Wow thats good that you have built the pedals before. I think that its a great fun to make pedals. Well when you'll start working on this project again let me know then ...So if it would be hard to fine 2n3904, BC547, 2N2222 or KT312 then i'll send you some. Have a great day
Well transistors aren't usually a problem. IC's are usually a problem. I want to make a delay but need a PT2399 IC, do you know where to get them?
Help! All I can hear is static! I can hear the guitar too~! but no distortion!
May be connection of R3 from C2 and D1,D2 to the ground isn't correct. Check your whole circuit. And also make sure that you're supplying at least 9v DC
You only need 1.5v actually.
sjakovonis1 year ago
Help! I can only hear clean sound. :(
there may be a connection problem or one of your circuit's component is not working
What voltage do the capacitors have to be? 10v 16v 25v or 50v? Thank you.
c1 is 16v and c2 is 50v.........and if you get capacitor of any voltage it will still work that's no matters here.
spôfper1 year ago
What about using the LEDs! The line of diodes is it the negative side of the LED? which stops the current?
The diodes are working for another purpose. The current will not stop because of the capacitor c2
fsissons1 year ago
When you say uf for capacitors, do you mean micro Farands?
Yes u is written for micro
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