15 Best Pitch Shifter & Octave Guitar Pedals

While the super-famous Whammy represents the purest sense of pitch shifting – using the expression pedal to bend the pitch in a distinctive way – there are a number of ways to alter the pitch of the note you’ve played for any number of interesting effects. Octave pedals and harmonizers change the pitch while leaving the original signal in place, so you can build musical layers of your guitar tone. Choosing which of these you need all depends on the effect you’re going for. For on-the-fly pitch changes, dive-bombs, and even subtle harmonies, learn more about the 15 best guitar pitch shifter and octave pedals.

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What Is a Pitch Shifter Pedal?

The concept of shifting the pitch of a played note, either during performance or when working with recorded material, has been around for decades. Anyone who watched Looney Toons heard it on Mel Blanc’s voice for certain characters, and the same goes for any of the Alvin and the Chipmunks recordings.

This was originally achieved by playing a recording at a different speed than it was recorded, changing the duration, which in turn changes the pitch. The Beatles featured a lot of in the late 60s, too.

As a device for musicians, digital audio processors used to have to work with something after it had been recorded so that the device could analyze the pitch. Eventually, as the technology improved, so did the ability to pitch shift in real time. It was only a matter of time before someone harnessed this ability for guitar players.

Amazingly, it took until 1989 to engineer the first of these — the venerable DigiTech WH-1 Whammy. Tom Morello has used one to fantastic effect in virtually all of his projects. There are dozens of other examples, including Dimebag Darrell and David Gilmour, which means that the original pedal goes for between $300 and $500. Happily, you don’t need to spend that kind of money to get into pitch shifting.

Pitch Shifters vs. Octavers vs. Harmonizers

There are different types of pitch shifting, too. Pitch shifters change your note, as the name implies. Octave pedals add one or more voices at octaves above or below your note. These can add real depth and resonance to your playing, and with additional controls to change attack time, can give you organ and 12-string sounds.

Harmoinzers are just like octave pedals but instead of playing the octave, they play a note at a pre-set interval from the dry note. This gives you complex voicing options that can let a single guitar mimic having a bass or a second guitar for harmonized solos.

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