There are a wide range of pitch related effects which can be used by players using electric guitars. One of these popular effects is the octave effect, often referred to as an octave. An octave takes the note being played by the guitar, or more accurately, the electronic signal, and then combines this note with a copy that is either one octave higher, or one octave lower, than the original. In some cases these units can also synthesise intervals as well as the octaves, and in these cases the units are more commonly referred to as harmonizers, or even pitch shifters. Very often these units are used by groups of performers who do not have a bass player, as the octave or harmonizer produced a sound which is richer, and spans more octaves, giving a fuller sound quality.
A number of pedals are available to purchase, which at their simplest level simply add a note that is one octave higher, or in other cases, one octave lower. If you are looking for such a pedal, particularly if your band has no bass player, then you may consider some of the most popular octave-up pedals include the Ampeg Scrambler and the Electro Harmonix POG (Polyphonic Octave Generator), and for the octave-down models there are the Boss OC-3 Super Octave and the Electro Harmonix Octave Multiplier. Perhaps you may have come across or seen these names, and wondered what they really meant. Understanding not only what they achieve, but why they might be used, is of great help to the enthusiastic beginner.
In some ways similar to the octave manipulating devices, the pitch related devices can also be used to affect the sound in a popular way. Pitch related devices will not take a copy of the note, but simply increase, or decrease its pitch, causing the note to rise smoothly in pitch, either rising or falling – not in octaves, but in smooth notes all they up through an octave. This is very much like a bend effect, which sounds a little as though the instrument is being tuned.
Typically these are used as foot pedals, and rocking the pedal one way will bend the note upwards, whilst rocking the pedal the other way will bend it down. Typically the pedals will be based on a spring system which will ease the pedal back to its central position once the pressure is released, so that there is no hit and miss in re-tuning the instrument during a performance. Some of the more popular pitch changers on the market at the moment include the Digitech Whammy and the Boss PS5 Super Shifter. Electro Harmonix also produce a pitch shifter which is called the Harmonic Octave Generator. Many of these pitch related accessories carry distinctly similar and confusing names, so it is helpful to have a clear idea of what you are looking for.
Also, with so many effects available to electric guitar players you might almost imagine that you’ll end up with half a dozen foot pedals, requiring the need to learn tap dancing at the same time as guitar playing. However, there are several pedals available which actually help to switch between effects, and although there is not an unlimited combination, there are many popular systems available. For this reason, before buying a particular pedal, it is best to have a good idea of what effects you will want, and look at the best way of combining those effects in a simple, straightforward setup.