Pitch shifters completely change the rules when it comes to guitar. A single guitarist used to face standard limitations. Pitch shifters now open up a world of expansion possibilities. They can add rich, textured harmonies to your melodies and solos, they can create wild sweeps across vast musical scales, or they can add just enough oomph to your tone, so it cuts through the mix.
Although there are dozens of variations, all pitch shifters share a common purpose: to create a note other than the one coming from the guitar. Most pitch shifters allow the guitarist to set a specific interval for the pedal to generate.
Beyond that common purpose, pitch shifters set themselves apart by offering a wide variety of features. Here are some essential things to consider when shopping for a pitch shifter pedal.
Our favorite pitch shifters
With the plethora of different features available on each pedal, choosing can be tough. Keep in mind. There is no perfect pedal. There’s only the ideal pedal for you. With that said, here are some of our favorites.
DigiTech Whammy 5 – Best overall pitch shifter pedal
- Classic Whammy Sound
- True Bypass
- 10 Whammyv-01, 9 Harmony and 2 Detune Settings
- Standard 9V DC power (included)
The Digitech Whammy 5 offers extreme versatility, unrivaled performance, and classic pitch-shifting sounds.
Tom Morello and Jack White can’t be wrong. The Whammy has been around for a couple of decades now and revolutionized guitar playing when it first came out. Tom Morello was one of the first to blow minds with the sonic possibilities this pedal offers, and he certainly wasn’t the last.
The Whammy features a built-in expression pedal that makes it stand out among others. It interacts with the guitar for unique sounds depending on whether set to “classic mode” or “chord mode.”
Classic mode creates the signature “dive bomb” sound of single notes made famous by those Rage Against the Machine solos. In this new 5th edition of the Whammy, the expression pedal is capable of bending entire chords.
The Whammy features a massive range of intervals to choose from, including multiple octaves, with the simple twist of a knob.
Lightning-fast tracking creates almost unrivaled performance. The Whammy has no problems processing harmonized intervals across blazing solos or even chords.
One of the most remarkable features is the ability to simulate changing the guitar’s tuning. Without dropping any strings or pulling out a capo, you can adjust the overall tuning up or down with the click of a button.
- Stellar tracking across notes
- Built-in expression pedal
- Huge range of intervals
- Alternate tuning
- Midi capabilities
- Very large
- Intervals aren’t based on the musical key
Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork – Best value pitch shifter pedal
- Transposes over a +/- three octave range.
- Three shift modes: up, down or dual.
- 11-position Shift knob selects the transposition interval.
- EXP input lets you control pitch shift or glissando via optional expression pedal.
- Latch and Momentary modes affect how the footswitch and EXP input behave.
- Comes with EHX 9.6DC-200 mA AC Adapter, can also run off a 9V battery.
The Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork offers a massive range of features in a small package for an affordable price.
If you’re considering the Whammy but aren’t ready to go all-in on the size and the price, the Pitch Fork may be for you. It fits many of the same features in a small package made with the durable build quality Electro-Harmonix is known for. When you’re ready, you can easily plug an expression pedal into the Pitch Fork for extra control.
The Pitch Fork features a wide range of 11 intervals across 3 octaves. The addition of a 3rd octave takes the Pitch Fork well beyond the scope of almost any other pitch shifter or octave pedal. The detune setting creates an unmodulated chorus-like effect that widens your tone and helps fill out big rooms.
Navigating the pedal’s two-knob design is very intuitive. The left knob controls the blend between the dry guitar signal and the interval. The right knob selects the interval. A toggle switch determines whether the intervals are higher or lower than the guitar’s natural note.
- Some of the best digital tracking technology available
- Huge range of intervals and octaves
- Simple to use controls
- Input for expression pedal
- Intervals aren’t based on the musical key
- No included expression pedal
Boss PS-6 Harmonist – Best harmonizer in a pitch shifter pedal
- Four effect modes in one stompbox: Harmony, Pitch Shifter, Detune, and S-BEND (Super Bend)
- 3-Voice Harmony, Detune, and Pitch-Shift
- Super Bend across a 7-octave span
The Boss PS-6 Harmonist is the best pedal for anyone looking to create melodic harmonies that fit with a song’s musical key.
The PS-6 stands out from the competition with its intelligent three-voice harmonizing. Guitarists can easily dial in the musical scale and be confident that added intervals will stay in key with their performance.
In addition to standard pitch shift and harmonizer modes, the PS-6 also offers a detune mode for beefing up your tone with a wide chorus-like sound.
Not satisfied with only creating beautiful melodies, the pedal’s “super bend” mode allows you to sweep across a wide range of octaves for that classic dive bomb effect. An expression pedal input jack expands the range of possibilities with this effect.
- Three voice harmonies based on user-defined musical keys
- Four pitch shifting modes
- Expression pedal input
- No built-in expression pedal
- · Digital tracking may not be quick enough for faster players
Eventide PitchFactor – Best premium pitch shifter pedal
- 10 of Eventide's signature stereo or mono pitch and delay effects
- Studio quality performance and tracking
- · 4 voices of polyphony
The Eventide PitchFactor is the perfect pitch shifter for people with a bottomless pool of creativity and equally deep pockets.
The PitchFactor provides enough versatility for a lifetime of exploration. Thankfully, it can store up to 100 presets to quickly recall the sounds you or others online come up with.
The PitchFactor can create any interval with quick precision across 4 voices of polyphony. It can keep up with the fastest, most demanding players out there.
What sets the PitchFactor on a higher level than other pitch shifters are the 10 customizable pitch and delay effects.
- Diatonic mode tracks the notes being played and intelligently creates harmonies based on the interval, key, and scale selected
- Quadravox is the same as diatonic mode but offers four voices of polyphony
- HarModulator combines two chromatic pitch shifters and modulates them for potentially wild effects
- MicroPitch adds very slightly pitch-shifted notes that thicken the overall sound
- The H910/H949 recreate the classic Eventide effects units of the same names
PitchFlex offers whammy-style shifting across a wide range of octaves using the onboard Flex footswitch or a separate expression pedal. The Octaver creates up to two sub octaves for deep bass Crystals is a signature Eventide effect that combines reverb, delay, and pitch shifting for unique sound design
The HarPeggiator creates dual 16-step arpeggios that combine a pitch-shift sequencer, a rhythm sequencer, and an effect sequencer.
Synthonizer is a two-voice synthesizer that tracks the pitch created by the guitar and recreates another pitch alongside it. Voice A is useful for creating organ or Theremin-type sounds. Voice B is a subtractive synthesizer for classic Analog sounds.
The manual for the PitchFactor is almost 70 pages long, demonstrating the vast possibilities it offers. Even so, using the pedal and dialing in sounds is surprisingly simple, and the factory presets alone are enough to satisfy most players.
- Studio quality performance and tracking
- Incredible versatility
- 4 voices of polyphony
- Very expensive
TC Electronics Brainwaves Pitch Shifter – Best pitch shifter pedal for beginners
- State-of-the-art pitch shifter pedal with innovative pressure-sensitive footswitch
- Completely independent dual voice pitch shifting from unison to 2 octaves up or down
- Studio-grade algorithms including polyphonic pitch shifting, whammy-style octave up and detune
- MASH expression control footswitch bends pitch-shifted notes and is assignable to any parameter of the pedal
The TC Electronics Brainwaves Pitch Shifter is a high-quality pedal accessible to beginners and useful for pros.
Don’t let its cute pink package fool you. The Brainwaves Pitch Shifter is a versatile, high-quality pedal with unique features.
The Brainwaves features 4 onboard effects. As with other TC Electronics pedals, more effects can be loaded onto the pedal wireless via their TonePrint mobile app for a total of 7 effects.
One of the features that sets the Brainwaves apart is its two independent voices of pitch shifting.
Additionally, the pedal features dual outputs to produce a stereo signal.
There’s no input jack for an expression pedal on the Brainwaves. But TC Electronics more than made up for this by creating a pressure-sensitive footswitch, which works wonderfully with the pedal’s “wham” setting to produce wide sweeps across the range of octaves.
- Two independent voices and outputs
- 4 onboard effects
- Pressure sensitive footswitch for “wham” effect
- Surprisingly fast-tracking
- TonePrint app opens up control
- No option to use a full expression pedal
- Intervals aren’t based on the musical key
Features to look out for
Range of intervals
If you’re looking for a pitch shifter, you’ve already decided you want to add a pitched harmony to your sound. The next question to ask is: how much do you need?
The most commonly used intervals for harmonies are the 5th and the octave. Basic pitch shifters don’t need to offer much more than that, and most guitarists would be happy with those two options. However, more options at your disposal mean you won’t find yourself shopping for another pedal when you realize that melody you just wrote needs a major 7th harmony or that 2nd octave up.
Even some of the smallest pedals offer a full scale of intervals, often across multiple octaves. A pedal that provides more creative opportunities is a worthwhile investment.
Pitch shifters can soar to new heights with the addition of an expression pedal. Soaring two octaves across musical scales in the blink of an eye while playing a single note is a trick that seems never to get old.
Tom Morello popularized the searing “dive bomb” sound in the 90s in his mind-blowing solos with Rage Against the Machine. Later, Jack White would use the same techniques to drive home his hard-hitting garage rock solos with The White Stripes.
Some pitch shifters feature a built-in expression pedal perfectly matched to the pitch shifter’s effect parameters. However, these pedals can be pretty large and expensive. More common are pitch shifters that feature an input jack for you to connect an external expression pedal. Even if you don’t plan on using it now, it’s an excellent idea to have this option available.
Pitch shifters need to do some complex work very quickly to produce notes that blend neatly with the notes you feed it. Each pedal contains a processor that does this work in the blink of an eye. As with all digital processors, some are faster than others.
In this age of advanced technology, even the slowest pitch shifters are fast enough for most guitarists. If you’re playing harmonized melodies, like those in “The Boys are Back in Town,” you won’t receive much benefit from the highest-end signal processors.
But whether you’re a super shredder or a technical noodler, you may need a pedal that can keep up with your fingers. Slower pitch shifters may fail to catch some notes, causing the effect to drop out seemingly at random. Even worse, it may produce wrong notes as it tries to catch up.
Intelligent or diatonic intervals
Initially, all pitch shifters only created parallel intervals. A parallel interval is when the pitch shifter produces the exact interval for each note played on the guitar. This isn’t a problem for some intervals, like perfect 4ths, 5ths, and octaves. However, sometimes the parallel interval falls outside the song’s key and sounds like a mistake.
Some newer pedals allow guitarists to specify a musical key and sometimes even a specific scale that the intervals will adhere to. When necessary, the pedal will shift the set interval over a semitone to stay within key for perfect harmonies every time.
As you can see there are a lot of options when it comes to Pitch Shifter pedals. We think for most situations the Digitech Whammy 5 offers the best set of features and value for the price.
Pitch shifters have redefined what’s possible to do with a guitar. They can help you cut through a mix or fatten up your sound. They can create symphonic harmonies that paint the illusion of multiple guitarists playing in unison. Best of all, they can spark endless creativity to fuel your love for the instrument.