Category Archives: Video Demos

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Legendary Pedals: Videos in French

Guitar slinger friends, I have just launched a separate Youtube channel dedicated to videos in French!

The reason for it: there is a large offering of demos or general guitar and effects talk in the English speaking world, but not much so in the French speaking world.

To kickstart this new channel, I have released three videos in a new series dedicated to what I call “Legendary Pedals”: the Proco RAT, the Boss DS-1 and the Ibanez Tube Screamer.

In a departure from all my other videos, there is some talking before the demo bits. I recount the history behind the pedals and their famous users and I give some tips as well. If you don’t speak or understand French, jump to about half way on each video to hear some tones!

ProCo RAT:

Boss DS-1:

Tube Screamer:

 

 

 

 

Wampler Pinnacle

After hearing so much about Wampler, I bought a Pinnacle a few months back. Wampler’s offering is of course not limited to drive pedals and it carries the whole gamut of effects. The Pinnacle is a “brown sound” pedal meaning it aims at reproducing Eddie Van Halen’s tone.

It’s capable of much more though as I am trying to show in this video. I especially like its amp like compression, it even gets Clapton-esque in position 2 or 4 on a Strat. I go through all the settings in this demo and give an example of how well the pedal stacks with some tasty delays or reverbs coming from my also newly acquired Eventide H9 (more about this amazing piece of gear in another post).

Harmonisers and Pitch-Shifters: Tips and Tricks

Pitch-Shifters are not very common on pedal boards these days, possibly because there aren’t that many Pitch-Shifting pedals around. On the other hand, they are found in virtually every multi-effect units since the 90s, so chances are you have already come across one.

Apart from the obvious “Brian May harmonizing effect”, Pitch-Shifters are full of tricks and can be used to simulate a number of other effects, or even instruments, as I have attempted to show in the video below: octavers, octavias, 12 string guitar, chorus, etc.

Before we go into the settings used for the demo, let’s dive a bit into the history of Harmonizers and Pitch-Shifters.

PS5

Harmonies

As is often the case with effects, Pitch Shifters were invented to reproduce a very common musical practice: in this case, harmonising, very common in orchestras where one set of instruments plays a phrase while another set plays the same phrase but at a different pitch, say one fifth above for instance.

Guitarists have taken advantage of multi track recording techniques to record the same phrase at different pitches and thus obtaining that “harmonising” effect. Brian May, Queen’s guitarist in case you don’t know him (I suggest you pick up another instrument if that’s the case), is famous for his harmonised guitar parts, used on more Queen tracks that we can count. On live recordings, you can listen to his “Brighton Rock” solo piece where he uses long delays to “super impose” different guitar parts played at different pitches, brilliant stuff.

80s metal guitarists pushed harmonising to new levels. In Iron Maiden for instance, the two (now three) guitarists often play harmonised guitar parts, listen to “the seventh son of the seventh son” for a good example.

The Pitch Shifting Effect

The problem with harmonising is that you need at least two guitarists in live situations. Early analog “Pitch Effects” such as the Tycobrahe Octavia used by Hendrix were not really good enough to reproduce the sound of two or more instruments playing together, but they opened up new areas in tones. Analog Octavers like the Boss OC-2 allowed for an octave or two octaves down. Still limited but great for beefing up single note guitar lines.

A bit later, thanks to the advent of digital technologies, Pitch-Shifting effects which could actually “play” what you are playing at any pitch with good accuracy were invented. Eventide is probably one of the first brands to have solved the problem and Steve Vai made good use of their gear back in the 80s, on Passion and Warfare for instance (listen to Ballerina 12/24 for an extreme example).

And of course, let’s not forget the Digitech Whammy, now in its 5th incarnation. The red pedal took the guitar world by storm in the 90s as a pitch-shifting pedal geared towards “real time pitch effects”, thanks to its integrated expression pedal. I went to see Rage against the Machine in 1994 and the whammy was very prominent in Tom Morello’s rig, the sound was completely outlandish at the time.

Harmonizer or Pitch-Shifter

Although Harmonizer and Pitch-Shifter pretty much both means the same thing, there is a bit of an accepted rule that Harmonizers are more “intelligent”. What this means is that Harmonizers will Pitch-Shift by staying “within a scale” whereas Pitch-Shifters will always shift by the same amount of semitones. Let’s take an example. If you set an intelligent Harmonizer and a Pitch-Shifter to a third up, you will end up with the intervals shown on the following table:

Original Input C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B
“Intelligent” Harmonizer One 3rd Up E E F F# G A A B B C C# D
“Dumb” Pitch-Shifter One 3rd Up E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D#

The “dumb” Pitch-Shifter will always play 4 semitones up while an Intelligent harmonizer will modulate to stay within the scale, here C Major. Playing a D for instance, will trigger the “intelligent” Harmonizer to ‘ play’ an F over your D which is a minor 3rd (3 semitones), which stays within the C scale. Obviously, “intelligent” Harmonizers work on single note lines, not on chords but that is quite true of any Pitch-Shifter effect. The Boss PS-5 pedal that I demonstrate in the video below can act as a Pitch-Shifter or an intelligent Harmonizer depending on which mode is selected.

Tips and Tricks

The following video shows how to use a Pitch-Shifter/Harmonizer in a traditional way but also how to use it to “emulate” other effects, or even instruments. For this, I have used my trusty Boss PS-5 (now replaced by the PS-6 in the Boss line), one of the only full blown Harmonizers in compact pedal form.

In summary, the emulated tones I am showing in this video are:

  • Chorus: the detune mode of the PS-5 allows for a nice chorus emulation. Actually, a lot of big guitarists have been using a slightly detuned pitch-shifter as a chorus. Mike Stern comes to mind but also Eddie Van Halen in the 90s thanks to his Eventide H3000.
  • Octavia Emulation: pitch-shifter mode, one octave up (12 semitones) and mix quite high (past 12 o’clock) to have a lot of Pitch-Shifted signal. Sounds better with a distortion or fuzz before the pitch-shifter.
  • 12 String Emulation: almost the same setting as before but the mix is back down to around 10 o’clock to allow less pitch-shifted signal. It sounds better with a clean tone
  • Octaver emulation: Pitch-Shifter set one octave (12 semitones) down, mix around 12 o’clock. Sounds good with either a clean or distorted signal. Note that if you set the mix on maximum (only pitch-shifted signal), you can almost emulate a bass. The tracking can make it hard to use on fast licks
  • 2 Octave Octaver: same setting as before but with the pitch-shifter set 24 semitones down.

Conclusion

Pitch-Shifters are a lot of fun and can actually be used to generate a variety of tones and effects, not jus the classical “Brian May” effect. As always, experimentation is the key, there are hours of fun to be had.

Small Selection of Pitch-Shifting/Harmonizing Pedals

As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a huge array of Pitch-Shifting pedals to choose from, the most notables are:

  • Boss PS-6 Harmonist: the latest in the PS series, does pitch-shifting, intelligent harmonising, detune and more in the classic compact boss form factor
  • Boss OC-3 Super Octave: will only do one and/or two octaves down, perfect to fatten any line.
  • Eventide Pitch Factor: not cheap but this is the real deal from the inventors of Harmonisers
  • Digitech Whammy: although not a “regular” pitch-shifter, the whammy is a classic
  • Electro-Harmonix has a full range of pitch-shifting products from the small Micro-POG to the insane HOG2. Although they rather fall in the octaver or synth categories, they are nonetheless interesting. The super fat tone in the intro to “Super Colossal” by Joe Satriani was made with the original POG.
  • Most multi-effect units will carry a Pitch-Shifter and some of them are small enough to fit on a pedal board.

This post originally appeared on www.guitartoneoverload.com.

Boss DS-1X and OD-1X

The Boss DS-1X and OD-1X pedals were presented at NAMM last January and they have created quite a buzz since then. Thanks to Roland Australia, I have been able to test them and, well, the buzz is justified!

DS1X_OD1X_2

Based on Boss’s MDP technology (for Multi-Dimensional Processing), they are modern digital re-creations of the über classic DS-1 distortion and OD-1 overdrive pedals, the very first of their kind in the Boss line, both released in the late 70s. The DNA of those seminal stompboxes can be heard in those ‘X’ versions, but they go much further in terms of gain and EQ capabilities, these are 2014 pedals, not some sort of vintage simulations (and this is a good thing).

I will cut to the chase, here is where I think they shine and this applies to both of them:

– At full blast, they offer more gain that most Distortion or Overdrive pedals while retaining an excellent articulation. My Stratocaster has Kinman noiseless pickups which are not very hot (by design, it’s the blues set) and I often feel the need to use an overdrive to boost my distortion pedals. Not with the DS1-X or even the OD1-X, there is plenty of gain and sustain on tap, even with “vintage output” pickups.
– They clean up quite well when rolling off the volume on the guitar, except maybe at the highest gain settings with the DS-1X but that is to be expected. I have tried to demonstrate this in my videos.
– They have a very efficient 2 band EQ with a Low and a High knob, a plus compared to a lot of overdrive or distortion stompboxes which only have a tone knob.
– The tonal characteristics of the guitar still go through. I have tested them with a Fender Strat and a Gibson SG 61 Reissue, they clearly sounded different, even on high gain settings
– There was a time when mentioning “digital” and “distortion” or “overdrive” in the same sentence would make guitarists having instant fits but I suspect we will get none of that with the new Boss offering.


As I mentioned earlier, the remarks above apply to both models I think, let me go into what differentiates them.

OD-1X

Yellow Boss pedals are usually overdrives, the OD-1X is no exception, with a hint of sparkly finish. It sport four knobs: level for the output volume, low and high for EQ and drive for the amount of overdrive.

The drive is quite progressive going from a gritty not-so-clean tone to an all out nearly Van Halen-esque big rock tone. I find that with the gain at 3 o’clock (i.e 75 % or so), there is a sweet spot between clarity and sustain, it’s a very pleasing lead tone. Coupled with the aforementioned efficient 2-band EQ and a good dose of volume boost under tap, the OD-1X is a very versatile overdrive.


Tonewise, it is definitely related to the OD-3/SD-1/etc., it’s a Boss overdrive so if you are looking for something totally different, you might be disappointed (although it wouldn’t hurt to try it would it?). Apart from that, it is a top notch overdrive and it is hard to believe it is digital.

DS-1X

The sparkly orange DS-1X recalls the DS-1, the first distortion released by Boss and adopted by people like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Gary Moore (his early 80s strat Marshall tone was boosted by a DS-1), Kurt Cobain, etc.

It has four knobs: level for the output volume, low and high for EQ and dist to change the amount of distortion. And distortion there is, believe me, this would almost qualify as a metal pedal.

At low distortion (as shown in videos scattered around this post), it is already quite grittier than the OD-1X. At 3 o’clock, it’s already in the realm of high sustain, searing leads. At full blast, it’s very distorted which makes it a very versatile little beast. The EQ section is very efficient and my little Fender Champ has never been capable of generating so much bass!


Despite the amount of distortion on tap, I found that a Strat remained a Strat and a Gibson remained a Gibson. It also cleans up quite well depending on your guitar and pickups, akin to a good amp. The tone is reminiscent of the DS-1 but with more body and a more amp-like quality (rather British if you follow my drift). As such, this is quite a different beast and you might like it a lot better than its venerable ancestor.

Conclusion

I was reasonably impressed with the pedals released by Boss in the last few years (especially the BC-2) but not entirely enthralled. Well, they definitely have their mojo back with the DS-1X and the OD-1X, it pains me to have to give them back! Even if the vast majority of boutique stuff is analog nowadays, a few companies have started pushing the digital envelope a bit further recently, and I must say that Boss has just joined them in a spectacular fashion.

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