Overdrive Pedal




About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

An overdrive guitar pedal is kind of like a less harsh distortion pedal. Technically speaking, whereas a distortion pedal clips an amplified waveform at a particular height, the overdrive pedal actually rounds the top of the clipped wave. While this still makes it a bit fuzzy when you crank up the gain, it sounds less extreme than a distortion or fuzz pedal. What is cool about this pedal is that it adds a little extra warmth to your signal when you are strumming gently, but when you really strum hard, the audio spikes up into crunchy distortion territory. While this is generally a very subtle effect, it is actually quite robust in terms of the different types of sounds that you can get out of it. It is great for adding a little something extra to any effects chain.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

(x1) 2N3904 NPN transistor (Radioshack #276-2016)
(x1) 0.1uF capacitor (Radioshack #55047557)
(x1) 0.047uF capacitor (Radioshack #55047555)
(x2) 0.01uF capacitor (Radioshack #55047551)
(x1) 100K logarithmic potentiometer (Radioshack #271-1722)
(x1) 100K linear potentiometer (Radioshack #271-092)
(x1) 10K linear potentiometer (Radioshack #271-1715)
(x1) 2.2M ohm resistor (Radioshack #55049482)
(x1) 33K ohm resistor (Radioshack #55049446)
(x1) 22K ohm resistor (Radioshack #271-1339)
(x1) 3.3K ohm resistor (Radioshack #271-1328)
(x1) 680 ohm resistor (Radioshack #55048032)
(x1) PC Board (Radioshack #276-150)
(x1) 9V battery snap (Radioshack #270-324)
(x1) 9V battery (Radioshack #23-853)
(x3) Knobs (Radioshack #274-415)
(x2) Stereo audio jacks (Radioshack #274-312)
(x1) Foot switch
(x1) BB project enclosure
(x1) 5" x 4" x 1/8" rubber sheet
(x1) 5" x 4" x 1/8" cork sheet

Step 2: Circuit

Build the circuit as pictured in the schematic, with the exception of the potentiometers.

The overdrive pedal schematic is largely based on two different circuits. The transistor stage of the schematic is based on the Trotsky Drive Pedal by Beavis Audio Researsch (itself based on the Electra Distortion module). However, instead of using a rare Russian NPN transistor, I used a 2N3904. All-in-all, this part of the schematic is largely just boosting the incoming signal, controlling the gain, and doing a little bit of filtering.

The lower half of the schematic is based on Jack Orman's page on tone clipping, and it is in this part of the circuit where all of the real overdrive magic is happening. Basically, there is a high pass and low pass filter in parallel, each of which is followed by its own pair of clipping diodes. Aside from the filters themselves having unique tone charachteristics, each pair of diodes also has its own clipping charachteristics.

The 10K potentiometer in the schematic sweeps between the two different filter / diode pairs. This potentiometer gives the pedal a very adjustable and unique sound. By swapping out the filter components and diodes for different values, you can experiment with the pedal and find your own perfect combination.

Step 3: Wire the Switch

Connect one pair of the switches outer terminals together.

Connect a 4" red wire to each of the central terminals.

Connect a 4" green wire to each of the outer terminals.

Step 4: Drill Guides

Print out the attched drill guides and affix them to the pedal enclosure.

Step 5: Drill the Top

Drill the three potentiometer crosshairs with a 1/4" drill bit.

Drill the center foot switch crosshair with a 1/2" drill bit.

Step 6: Drill the Sides

Drill both side crosshairs with a  3/8" dril bit.

Step 7: Clean

Remove the drill guides after all of the holes are drilled.

Step 8:

Use the attached template to make a spacer out of rubber or cardboard for the inside of the casing, and position it in place.

Mount all 3 potentiometers in place, with the 10K potentiometer being in the center, and the 100K logarithmic potentiometer being to its left (while the pedal is face down). Fasten them firmly in place with their included mounting hardware.

Step 9: Jacks

Insert the audio jacks into each of the side holes and mount them in place with their mounting hardware.

Step 10: Switch

Insert the stomp switch into the 1/2" hole and mount it firmly in place with its mounting nut.

Step 11: Connect

Connect each of the red wires from the switch to the signal tab on one of the audio jacks. This is the tab that has electrical continuity with the long bent peice of metal that comes into contact with the plug's tip.

Step 12: Wire the Pots

Solder a green wire between the center tab on the 10k potentiometer and the lefthand tab on the 100K logarithmic potentiometer.

Connect a 4" green wire to the center tab on the logarithmic potentiometer.

Connect 4" green wires to the outside tabs of the 10K potentiometer.

Connect a 4" green wire to the center tab of the 100K linear potentiometer, and a 4" red wire to the righthand tab.

Step 13: Wire Ground

Connect the remaining unused tab from the 100K logarithmic potentiometer to the tab on the closest stereo jack that is electrically continuous with the outer barrel.

Connect a 3" black wire to the same jack. This wire will later connect to the circuit board.

Connect the black wire from the 9v battery snap to the remaining unused tab on the stereo jack.

Step 14: Wire the Output

Connect the center green wire from the 100K logarithmic potentiometer to the switch such that it is connected next to the red wire which is connected to the stereo jack that is also connected to ground.

Step 15: Attach the Circuit

Attach the remaining components as appropriate to the circuit board based on the schematic.

Remember that the remaining green wire from the foot switch should connect to 'Audio In.'

Step 16: Insulate (optional)

To help prevent shorts, download the attached template and cut that shape out of a non-conductive material. I used cork for this purpose.

Glue the cutout to the inside of the lid.

Step 17: Power

Snap the battery into the 9V connector.

Step 18: Case Closed

Put everything inside of the case and fasten it shut.

Step 19: Knobs

Turn all of the potentiometer shafts all of the way to the left. Place the knobs onto the shaft and fasten them in place using their set screws.

Step 20: Use

To use the pedal, simply plug it in between your guitar and your amp.

If it does not sound like the pedal is doing much of anything, press the switch.

You should now be ready to rock and roll.



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74 Discussions


2 years ago

What the Hell.. I dont know what pot to use on the Gain cause the List said 100k but The circuit said 50k and the Resistor.. The circuit said 22k but the List said 22ohm.. Idk what to use.. And what color to use on LEDs ?

1 reply

Reply 2 years ago

As a general rules, always go by the schematic... anyhow...

It is listed between 33K and 3.3K, so it should be 22K. Thanks for pointing out the typo.

In terms of the potentiometer, I don't think it should matter too much. Start with 50K. If that doesn't make you happy, try 100K. There are not many hard rules to this.

Here are some potentiometers of different values:



3 years ago on Introduction

How long does the battery last? I mean since we are shutting the battery inside, will I have to screw it open every other day to change the power supply?

2 replies

Reply 2 years ago

Those circuits normaly have currents less than a mA. Its important to unplugg the input jack cable if you stop playing, since this cable serves as a connector to ground for the battery. If you unplugg the cable it's like turning the device off.


Reply 3 years ago

if you have a multimeter, you can check the current rating of the pedal and from there you can compute how many hours your battery will last.


2 years ago

The arrow part of the symbol is the middle pin of the pot. You can simply wire pins 2 and 3 of the pot to each other, or simply use pins 1 and 2 and leave pin 3 unconnected in this case. The circuit will operate the same either way.

This is a good guide:



2 years ago

how to connect this part?

螢幕快照 2016-12-11 下午6.58.19.png

2 years ago

In step 2 there is no image of the schematic!! Can you please re-uplode it :)


3 years ago

Unfortunately, I followed everything in this instruction but nothing seems to work. I don't know if it's correct to connect the barrel lug of the jack which is not connected to ground to ground. Have any ideas, guys? I'm stuck

2 replies

Reply 3 years ago

And i'm using a c2383 transistor instead. Is it good or do i have to change it?


Reply 2 years ago

Hello, I'm struggling to pin down the datasheet on your transistor, but one datasheet I observed showed a transistor with a turn on voltage of .45 to .75 while the transistor in this instructable turns on at .65 to .85/.95. Mayb your transistor isn't on. I'm sorry.


2 years ago

Is it possible to do this with DC instead of battery? Some circuits make a hum when you replace the battery for a DC converter (even the finest) :)


3 years ago

Are the grounds on the diodes only attached to the ones facing up, or to both diodes in each set?


Reply 3 years ago

if it's for a clipping diode, you can use a variety of diodes, you can even use an LED. If you want options, you can make it switchable


5 years ago on Step 20

This is a cool little circuit but do you know where this came from? I have forgotten who the group was but it was a pop group whose loudspeakers had a tear in one of the cones. They did not have the money or time to replace/repair this as it happened just before the gig. Their audience liked this new sound so much that they dared not repair this and this was then made electronically with tubes ( Early'60 's) New popular sound due to poverty we may add.

2 replies