July 31, 2023
We all know pedals are almost as much a part of a guitarist’s essentials as the guitar itself – even more so than amp cabinets, probably. And there are some pedals every guitarist should have in their arsenal as a default. Stuff like a tuner, overdrive, and chorus. But there’s also a world of creativity out there, and there are a few pedals we think every guitarist should try at least once. Here are the top five.
Starting with the obvious: Octave pedals shift the pitch of your guitar up or down by one or more octaves, which can be pretty insane. Usually, octave pedals achieve this by digitally generating a signal that's either an octave higher or an octave lower than the input signal. The resulting signal can then be mixed with the input signal to create a range of sounds, from fat and thick lead lines to surreal, synth-like textures. It’s a super versatile tool, and it can give you the opportunity to sound like a curious amalgam of synth-based and rocky – and no one at the show will necessarily know how you sound like this.
This pedal is all about lo-fi goodness. Bit crushers down sample to reduce the bit depth of a signal, resulting in a gritty and edgy sound that can add character and depth to your playing. Plugin versions are pretty widely used in various productions but doing it in real-time is just wholesome good fun.
The bit crusher uses an analog-to-digital converter to break down the signal into smaller chunks, and then combines them into a new digital signal. The compressed, degraded sound is often described as "8-bit" or "16-bit" sounding, but don’t confuse that with a Mario Brothers sound. Think glitchy digital distortion that sounds like Max Headroom tried to invent the guitar.
Ring modulators aren’t for the faint of heart. They create harmonic overtones by multiplying the frequency of your guitar signal by a waveform oscillator, resulting in dissonant, metallic, and otherworldly soundscapes. The ring modulator multiplies two signals together, generating new frequencies that can be tuned to create interesting and gritty textures. It can create everything from bell-like tones to thunderous clangs and is used often in experimental and avant-garde music. The ring modulator adds an entirely new dimension to your playing, making it an indispensable pedal for anyone looking to push their sound further. Translation: you’re going to destroy your brain. Also, watch out for expanding feedback uncontrollability.
Envelope filters are all about rhythm and funk. Basically, they respond to the dynamics of your playing, filtering frequencies accordingly, resulting in a kind of rhythmic wah-wah sound. This is essentially a wah-wah on steroids, with a lot more flexibility and finesse than a standard wah-wah pedal. It can produce smooth and subtle wah sounds or choppy, percussive rhythms, depending on how you set it up. With its responsive and dynamic filtering, an envelope filter is perfect for getting your groove on and adding movement to your playing. No brain melting, just silky groove.
Harmonizers generate harmonies in real-time which adds depth and complexity to your playing. They work by analyzing the pitch of the input signal and generating new signals based on intervals you choose. The resulting harmonies can be used to fatten up your sound or to create soaring, ethereal leads and double-tracked effects. Or nasty dissonant craziness. A harmonizer can make a solo sound like a full band and can add unresolved tension to your playing. It's a highly versatile and creative pedal that can elevate your playing to new heights – or becoming a muddy mess if you play too much into it – so use with care. Or don’t, depending on your goal.
Sometimes you just have to go beyond the fundamentals. You don’t want to throw away your solid, everyday pedals, of course, but it’s worth trying one or more of these more off beat options. Happy playing!
September 15, 2023
August 18, 2023
It’s not like the guitar is ever boring. But sometimes you just want to branch out and see what else you can accomplish. This is true if you’re in a noise band or hyper-experimental act, but it’s also true if you’re in a straight-ahead rock band looking to add a few crazy moments to your show or record. So, let’s look at a few advanced effects you can try for that experimental vibe.
July 28, 2023
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"Make a joyful noise unto the Lord all of the earth; make a loud noise and rejoice and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp and the voice of the psalm." - Psalm 98:4-5