The ultimate guide to guitar FX: pitch

23rd Oct 2012 | 15:21

The ultimate guide to guitar FX: pitch
The Ultimate Guide To FX: Pitch
Pitch shifters, harmonisers, octavers - what's what in the world of pitch?

PITCH effects are often seen as being a bit confusing, and the units of yore weren’t always the most authentic.

What used to make your guitar sound like it had been fiddled with by chipmunks has evolved into a useful group of effects incorporating pitch shifting, harmonisers, octavers and DigiTech’s pitch-bending classic, the Whammy pedal. But what are the differences?

The ultimate guide to guitar FX: pitch
Select a key, and clever little demons inside the box will play along at specified intervals to create harmony parts and unique effects

A pitch shifter transposes the pitch of your guitar either up or down, while a harmoniser blends your original signal with a pitch-shifted interval to create dual guitar lines.

The ultimate guide to guitar FX: pitch
Pioneering players from Jimi Hendrix to Jack White have experienced the highs and lows of octave effects

An octave pedal is basically a harmoniser that’s fixed to produce notes an octave or two octaves below your original, and DigiTech’s Whammy uses a wah-style rocker pedal to bend your note within a given range.

The ultimate guide to guitar FX: pitch
Step on it for expressive pitch-shifting fun

However, it’s not quite as black and white as that, because many of today’s pitch-based pedals, such as the DigiTech Whammy (5th Gen), offer a combination of all of these effects.

Until a few years ago, pitch-shifting more than one note at a time (polyphonic) didn’t really work, but the latest breed of pitch-altering effects enable you to shift all six strings at once for electronic drop/capo tunings.

The ultimate guide to guitar FX: pitch
Pitch Shifter
From Gilmour-mellow to drop-tuned metal, the pitch shifter can elevate your lead playing to the stratosphere and beyond

Regardless of which pedal you own, most pitch pedals operate in a similar way.

For harmony effects, you select the key you’re playing in, set the interval you want the pedal to create, and blend the signals together.

For pitch-shifting effects, you simply choose the interval (usually in semitones), and for whammy effects, you set the maximum bend range you’d like the pedal to achieve, then use the pedal to bend your notes up or down.

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