If you just got a fuzz pedal or are interested in getting one, it’s a good idea to have a listen to songs that use fuzz for ideas on how to use it properly.
There are a lot of songs that make great use of fuzz distortion. In this list, I’ve pulled out some well-known fuzz songs from a range of different styles. Have a listen to the different ways fuzz is used in these songs then see if you can replicate the tone used in each song. It’s a great way to get used to your fuzz pedal and get the most out of it.
Fuzz became popular in the 60s so a lot of other lists will heavily feature songs from that time. With this list, I wanted to give you a broad range of styles so you can see the different ways fuzz can be used. Seeing how guitarists in different styles use fuzz is a great way to broaden the way you think about how you use your gear.
If you haven’t got a fuzz pedal yet, check out the Best Fuzz Pedals available here.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
The classic riff in this song is a great example of fuzz used well. Keith Richards wanted the fuzz pedal (he used a Gibson Maestro FuzzTone) to sound like a horn section. Listen carefully to the guitar and you’ll hear it’s a very clean tone compared to other fuzz tones that saturate the signal with fuzz.
If you try to replicate this tone, think about which pickups you use and try to keep your signal clean with some reverb. It’s a very bright tone so you may need to adjust EQ to help bring out those higher frequencies.
While you probably can’t get your hands on the Maestro pedal, a good alternative is the Electro-Harmonix Satisfaction Fuzz which was obviously created to try and replicate the type of fuzz used on this song.
Learn how to play this riff and other easy riffs in my lesson on Easy Guitar Riffs. The lesson includes TAB for Satisfaction as well as some other riffs that sound great with a fuzz pedal.
Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum
The tone in this song is so raw and you can hear the breaks in signal whenever the guitar is played a bit harder. Playing this with your fingers will give you the control needed to ride that line between a cleaner tone and full-on noise.
Listen closely to the intro as it gives you a clear picture of the guitar tone without other instruments. You might notice quite a bit of reverb and how clean the tone is when the notes are plucked softly. Try rolling your guitar’s volume down to find the point where you have the most control over the fuzz.
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix’s use of a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face helped give him that classic tone that has inspired generations of guitarists. Compare the studio version of Purple Haze to a live version and you’ll notice how clean his live tone is in comparison. The studio recording has more grit and edge which helped give it that punchy sound.
If you want to try and replicate Hendrix’s tone, check out this Guide on Jimi Hendrix’s Gear, Effects and Tone.
Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
This song shows how fuzz can be used in a modern song without being distracting. The fuzz is more controlled and consistently saturates the tone without any breaks like in Spirit in the Sky.
If you have a looper pedal (check out the Best Looper Pedals here), record the main riff on your looper, then play the second guitar part over the top. When you get the fuzz tone right you’ll hear the two guitars compliment each other. If the fuzz is wrong, you’ll hear them clash and produce a messy tone. The repeating riff is also a nice and easy way to jam over the top without it getting stale too quickly.
Time – Pink Floyd
The solo in this song is a great example of pushing the fuzz to the limit without it distracting from the song. Gilmour’s tone sounds highly saturated partly due to the fuzz partly due to the use of delay.
The challenge with this song is getting the fuzz tone right. Listen to covers on YouTube and you’ll find even experienced guitarists struggle to get the balance right between fuzz and excessive noise.
Find out more about David Gilmour’s Gear, Effects and Tone in this guide.
Rocket – The Smashing Pumpkins
The 90s saw a resurgence of fuzz tones and the album Siamese Dream made heavy use of fuzz throughout. The fuzz helped produce the wall of noise you’ll hear in this song:
Billy Corgan used a late 70s EHX Op-Amp Big Muff as well as an MXR Distortion II to produce extra drive. Combining a fuzz pedal with some other type of gain (pedal or amp) is a great way to produce different tones and add a different type of grit to your tone.
Plug In Baby – Muse
The opening screeching noise and riff to Plug In Baby showcases an incredibly popular fuzz pedal – the Fuzz Factory by ZVEX Effects.
The Fuzz Factory can produce some incredible fuzz tones as well as some crazy effects that border on unusable. Matt Belamy apparently loves the effect so much he had one installed directly into one of his guitars.
I built my own clone of the Fuzz Factory from a kit and it’s a surprisingly easy pedal to build. Most fuzz pedals are ridiculously simple circuits, but even something as complex-sounding as the Fuzz Factory is a fairly basic circuit.
If you are interested in building your own guitar pedals, check out my guide on how I built my Fuzz Factory clone here. Even if you don’t want to build this exact pedal, the guide gives you a good idea of what it’s like to build a pedal from a kit.
Blue Orchid – The White Stripes
Jack White is a fan of vintage gear and fuzz plays a big part in his tone. Blue Orchid combines fuzz from an EHX Big Muff Pi with an EHX POG to mix in a signal an octave down. This creates a raw and gnarly tone that works well for the single-note riffs:
While Jack prefers older gear, here are some modern pedals that can give you tone in more compact pedals:
The POG is a very easy way to blend in octave sounds higher or lower than your signal, but if you want to experiment with other intervals, you might want to consider getting a DigiTech Whammy DT (check out my review of the Whammy DT here) as it gives you a lot more flexibility and control for around the same price.
More Fuzz Pedals
Check out this guide on the Best Fuzz Pedals to help you figure out which pedal suits you the best. There is a lot of difference between the different fuzz pedals out there. Some fuzz pedals are very light in the distortion they produce while others can completely saturate your tone. Some give you barely any control while others can let you dial in some extreme sounds.
To learn how to properly place your fuzz pedal in your rig and how to combine it with other effects, check out the Guitar Effects Course. You’ll also learn the differences between fuzz, distortion and overdrive and how to identify them by ear.