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BOSS Guitar Pedal Overview: Pitch/Modulation

Effects pedals serve an important role in achieving your optimal guitar tone. With over 30 years in the music industry, BOSS has developed some of the most loved effects pedals.

The BOSS range of practice pedals provide you with classic BOSS overdrive, distortion and delay effects. You can use those to supplement your existing setup. But the effects mentioned don’t end there, because BOSS has plenty of variety to choose from!

a guy wearing black shoes is using BOSS stompboxes on his guitar

They give your guitar many options -- from pitch-shift to modulation. With these pedals, you can change your sounds and experiment with different effects. Whether you're looking for a synth-like tone or a bit of grit to add to your lead work. The pitch and modulation pedals deliver those and many more sounds.

If you're a beginner at playing electric guitar and you're looking for pedals for your first setup, you must check out the BOSS Pitch/Modulation effects pedals. 

What are Pitch-Shift Stompboxes?

While the name may be a bit misleading, stompboxes that can shift the pitch of your instrument are an amazing tool. They're adding some wacky effects to your music. And offering some wild surprises no matter what instrument you're playing.

Pitch-shifting pedals are great for guitar, bass, and other instruments. They can open a whole new realm of sonic capabilities. They help to add nuance and bring a new personality to the instrument. Pitch-shift stompboxes are a way for guitarists to explore their creativity and expressive capabilities.

Most of the time, you can use pitch-shifting to copy the sounds of synth players and keyboardists.

The Pitch-Shift Stompbox is a fun and versatile way to expand the range of your instrument. It lets you overdrive your sound through harmonics and replicate the sound of an entire band.

Why You Should Get A BOSS Pitch-Shift Stompboxes

Do you love playing guitar or bass? And have ever tried to recreate the wailing vocals of  Eddie Van Halen, David Bowie, or Joe Satriani? Then you've spent some time using pitch-shifting effects! Pitch-shifting effects create harmonies and often mimic the sounds of singers. You can apply these stompboxes to guitar (fuzz pedals) or bass pedals that allow many bands of pitch-shifting to be stacked together. Let's take a look at how pitch-shifting effects work.

How Do Pitch-Shift Stompboxes Work?

You need a pedal like the BOSS Pitch-Shifter that operates in real time. What's the big deal? Being able to change the pitch of a guitar in sync is useful for all sorts of different things.

A pitch-shifting stompbox is a guitar/bass pedal that changes your tones. These alter the frequencies and note values. Yet, modern pedals won’t shift your input tone in any direction. Instead, it will alter the harmonic content. By trying to get as close to the melody as possible for each of the notes you play on your instrument.

Pitch-shifting pedals make it easy to find the perfect key for your music. Especially helpful if you're playing music with a band. It also works well with vocals. Making it easy to change performances during a show or adjust them to a musical setting.

You'd be surprised at how many subtle changes one small adjustment can make.

Kinds of Pitch-Shift Stompboxes

There are two ways you can pitch-shift an audio signal. These methods fall under two branches: polyphonic and monophonic. It may be confusing how there is a distinction between these two terms. Especially since they both apply to pitch-shifting. Here’s what you should know:

  • Monophonic

A monophonic pitch-shifter changes the pitch of a signal by only one semitone at a time. So, it works best on sustained sounds like vocals and electric guitar. A lot of DIY boxes are monophonic because it's easier to build them and because they sound quite nice. But, if you want true harmony and chords, then you need to go with a polyphonic pedal.

  • Polyphonic

A polyphonic means that one processor is capable of analyzing multiple voices at once. Like polyphonic means, you can play more than one note at a time on a synthesizer. Polyphonic processors can analyze up to 6 notes and shift them. This provides big opportunities for achieving unique effects.

A polyphonic pitch-shifter also allows you to change the pitch of several notes at once. It works well for creating harmonies or for making your bass guitar sound like a cello. You can think of a polyphonic pedal as a tool to process chords and chord progressions. Rather than individual notes, or monophonic signals. This can be helpful if you play in a band with different keys (or modulates between them).

What Are The Types of Pitch-Shift Stompboxes?

Here is a quick overview of the types of pitch-shift stompboxes you might encounter.

1. Octave Stompboxes

The octave pedal was the first type of “pitch-shifter” to surface. It is still the most popular type of pitch-shift circuit to this day. It's as simple as it sounds, these pedals add an octave above and below your input signal. They act as a bass line when placed before your amp, or a lead guitar line if placed after your amp. You can have many sets of octaves if you have one in a higher register than the other.

Adding octaves to a guitar or bass signal can bring us close to the sound of an organ. By affecting these octaves, one can get a synth-like sound. In short, Octave pedals add harmony to a melody. Used correctly, two octaves can sound like a second bass line.

It can provide an extra layer to the sound, or it can change the whole tone for a unique effect.

2. Harmonizer Stompboxes

A harmonizer is an effect that produces harmony for a given note or melody line. This is achieved by pitch-shifting the input signal and adding two more notes. A perfect fifth above the original pitch, and a perfect fifth below (a perfect fifth is 7 semitones).

Harmonizer pedals produce music harmony. They can even turn a simple chord into a beautiful and rich sound.

3. Transposition-Style Stompboxes

In a nutshell, a transposition stompbox shifts the pitch of your entire instrument up or down by some number of octaves. This means that instead of having to cope with a capo positioned somewhere on our fretboard, we can use a transposition-type pedal to lower or raise the pitch of our entire instrument so that it lies within the desired pitch range. The only thing you need to do when using a transposition-style pedal is to double-check your work (and maybe even retune) before you hit the stage or at least mute the open strings.

4. Pitch-Bending Stompboxes

Pitch-bending is a form of time-based pitch shifting. In contrast to the others which are frequency-based pitch-shifting. Most pitch-bends use a continuous system of gears that adjusts the speed of the shift.

Pitch-bending pedals let guitarists mimic this effect by controlling speed. Also, trying out different modes (some even allow you to reverse the effect) and parameter groups as well as mimicking real-life effects such as Vibrato. These pedals have very vibrant sounds, rich in character. Because they get through a continuous system of gears and not through samples or bits of sound.

A pitch-bender can make the initial shift from one pitch to another at a constant rate. Thus, creating a pitched bend.

Listen as Johnny DeMarco shows us that a pitch-shifter stompbox can do wonders for our guitars.

BOSS Pitch Shifter Stompboxes

  • MO-2 Multi Overtone
  • OC-5 Octave
  • PS-6 Harmonist

TOP BOSS Pitch Stompbox: PS-6 Harmonist

product image of BOSS PS-6 Harmonist

Add a bit of flavor to your guitar parts while you're performing live with the PS-6 Harmonist from BOSS. It combines familiar effects such as chorus and octave. With a multi-voice harmony generator to produce rich full “ensembles” and soundscapes that are sure to please.

This pedal has four controls, but you won't need to juggle them too much. You can dial the majority of sounds in here, such as flange and chorus, and use the shift knob for control. You need to adjust this knob to find the perfect pitch change interval that suits you.

It also works with stereo guitars and mono bass lines. So as a guitarist you’re getting a wide range of uses from one device. If you like to be able to think outside the box for your guitar sounds, then this is the pedal for you.

What Are Modulation Stompboxes?

Have you ever considered what exactly distortion, overdrive and fuzz are doing to your signal? You may have heard that they're "grungy" or can add some bite but what if you want to get a little more specific? That's where modulation comes in. Modulation pedals aren't just for tremolo, phasing, and chorus. There are tons of ways to use these pedals to inject some interesting flavors into your rig.

In guitar effects, modulation is the process of adding more sounds to components in your signal path. Modulation isn't the guitar vibrating. It's the waveform in the cabinet or amplifier. Those circuits have been very common in amps and effects for decades. Because they offer unique sounds that cannot be completed any other way.

Why You Should Get A Modulation Stompboxes

Modulation is one of the three basic effects used in music after distortion and delay. Its purpose is to add an effect on top of your notes to filter and color your tone.

You can define modulation as a change in frequency, level, and/or waveform. Or, a change in similar parameters that produce an audible effect. 

On the guitar, it refers to anything to create a unique sound beyond your guitar itself. We can use modulation effects to take our dull-sounding guitar through a chain of pedals which sounds great with our amp.

How Do Modulation Stompboxes Work

Modulation is a good term that describes a variation in the output volume of an electric guitar. And other electronic sound devices as well. You can use this to help produce certain complex sounds without distortion and is achieved via electronics. This effect changes the speed at which the guitar's volume sweeps across the listener. 

Modulation stompboxes are great for expanding your tone. They add depth, dimension, and movement. Most modulation pedals can be very specific in what they do. As with other guitar effects, the parameters of the effect control show it affects your tone to make it unique. These pedals are excellent for experimentation and exploring new sounds.

What Are The Types of Modulation Stompboxes?

There are several different types of modulation and every pedal will have high-level controls for it.

1. Flanger

In a flanger, the original volume of the audio is not changed by boosting or attenuating frequencies. But instead, by adding a slight delay to the signal (along with a harmonic-rich carrier wave). In this way, there are no changes in pitch. Rather, a continuously shifting modulation like having several guitars playing at once.

You can apply these types of modulation pedals in several ways. One of the most common uses is to add this effect to a lead instrument tone. A guitar lead that has been run through a flanger will give it a characteristic sound. Where high frequencies fade in and out. While lower frequencies follow the same path but with a much more noticeable volume change.

On the surface, the flanger pedal doesn't seem much different than a typical distortion pedal. After all, you can use both to heavily saturate and "color" your tone. But dig a little deeper and you'll find that flangers do sound different than their overdrive brethren and electronic cousins. Most experts argue that flanging is more like phasing than any other effect out there.

2. Chorus

One of the most common types of modulation pedals is your standard chorus pedal. Guitarists who use chorus pedals use them to achieve a thicker sound. Or, to create an illusion of multiple instruments playing the same line or chord. You can also combine a chorus effect with reverb, delay and distortion to create a textured, shimmery sound.

The chorus circuits in a chorus pedal split the signal of your guitar and slightly alter the pitch of the carrier signal. It is meant to fool your ear into thinking there is more than one guitar. 

The chorus pedal is an effect that splits your guitar signal into two identical copies. And slightly detunes them then blends them back together. The chorus pedal manages to sound like many instruments are playing the same thing. Creating a more interesting and complex tone.

For an interesting technique, try using a slightly detuned guitar with your chorus pedal set to an octave up. It sounds great on single-note riffs, power chords, and scales.

3. Phaser

A phaser effect is an interesting type of modulation effect. In short, a phaser splits your guitar signal into two different paths. One path acts as the original sound coming directly from your guitar to the amp. The second path acts as a delayed copy of the original signal. Then, as your phaser modulation wheel is turned back and forth, the wet/dry mix for each of these signals will change. This will add an extra layer of depth and motion to your tone.

Like flangers, phasers use a comb filter to split the signal into two. But, the bandpass filters in a phaser tend to be more selective than those used in a flanger. Also, the timed sweeping effect of a phaser relies on two parameters: speed and depth. A slower rate and higher depth produce a more prominent pulsing sound.

4. Tremolo

The tremolo effect creates a rhythmic, pulsing volume effect that can add great interest to your sound. It is like having another player in your band, playing in time with the music. Tremolo was modeled after a technique that appeared on several '60s recordings.

Tremolo pedals are devices that create a cycle of attenuation. It also creates gain in your signal to make sounds like your signal is shaking. When the tremolo pedal is on, your signal is not turned off. But, its signal flow is dramatically reduced by a series of controls known as amplitude, rate, and depth. Tremolo pedals are popular for making the already awesome sound of your favorite guitar playing even better.

Tremolo is often confused with vibrato. Which causes only a slight, rapid variation in pitch. While Tremolo causes substantial variation in volume. The intensity of the tremolo—the strength and speed of the pulsation—is adjusted by a user-controlled "rate" control.

If you’re confused about how these different types of modulations sound, let’s watch how Rabea Massaad demonstrates one of the famous BOSS guitar pedals: MD-200 Modulation.

BOSS Guitar Pedals Overview: Modulation Stompboxes

TOP BOSS Modulation Stompbox:PH-3 Phase Shifter

product image of BOSS PH-3 Phase Shifter

It is a small pedal, with a big sound. The Phase Shifter goes from a subtle shimmer to swirling madness. Add in some vintage BOSS guitar pedal and you can tweak your tone like never before. Making the PH-3 a secret weapon across genres and playing styles.

You can use phase shifters to generate chorus and flanging effects. The PH-3 has low-pass and high-pass filters. Plus, seven different types of phase shifting! You can get anything from throwback synth tones to cool effects that bring new life to old sounds. It offers a lot of features to amp users. Such as low pass filtering, modulation frequency, and depth control. With stereo inputs and outputs, and an expression pedal input.

The seven modes are each characterized by different speeds, depths, amounts, and types of phase shifting. The modern modes (Chorus, Flanger, Rotary) all have more complex sounds than Vintage or Analog modes.

BOSS Pitch-Shift And Modulation Stompboxes: What Are The Differences And Similarities?

Modulation and pitch-shifting effects do different things for your guitar signal. You should consider your needs and preferences to decide whether a pitch-shifting or modulation effect will work best for you in certain situations. But at their heart, both of these effects change the sound of your guitar in ways you may or may not have heard before.

The two terms, “pitch-shifting” and “modulation” refer to a range of effects produced by the same technology. The basic operation is the same. Inaudible electronic information is added to components in the signal path. Both pedals affect the pitch of the original notes played on the guitar/bass. And both types can also add extra notes. Or, alter an existing tone by adding harmonics and creating new overtones.

BOSS Pitch-Shift And Modulation Stompboxes: Conclusion

First, when using a pitch-shift or modulator, you are changing your guitar's sound. You can create a wide range of sounds. But, all have particular qualities to them that may not be desirable to all players. Some may like the trippy phaser effects, while others might find they sound too robotic. It is important to understand the sounds each pedal produces before applying it to your style.

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