Everything You Need To Know About Octave Pedals

everything you need to know about octave pedals

Musicians are always searching for ways to enhance their sound. One powerful tool to try in your arsenal is the octave pedal. An octave pedal, or pitch shift as it’s also known, is an effect that shifts the note being played up or down by one or more octaves. 

This creates a unique sound that adds depth, richness, and complexity to any guitar performance.

An octave pedal works by taking the pitch of the input signal and doubling or halving the frequency to create higher or lower octaves. This is achieved by altering the input signal and outputting a signal that’s shifted up or down.

What Do Octave Pedals Do?

There are two main types of octave pedal types: analog or digital. Analog pedals use simple circuits to shift the pitch of the guitar signal. Digital pedals use digital signal processing to achieve the same effect. While both can produce high-quality sound, digital octave pedals offer more versatility and customization options.

The technical aspects of a digital octave pedal can be complex, but the basic concept is fairly simple. When the pedal receives the guitar signal, it analyzes the input signal. The DSP then calculates the frequency shift required to create the desired effect. It then alters the signal and outputs a new waveform that’s been shifted up or down by one or more octaves. This new signal travels to the amplifier or other effects pedals in the signal chain.

Analog pedals use a simple circuit to shift the pitch of the guitar signal. When the pedal receives the signal, it passes through a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) that generates a higher or lower waveform than the original signal. The VCO output is mixed with the original signal, creating the octave effect. The mixed signal then passes through a low-pass filter to remove unwanted high-frequency content. Finally, the filtered signal is amplified and sent to the amplifier or other effects pedals in the signal chain. While analog pedals may not offer the same level of customization as their digital counterparts, they have a warm, natural sound that many guitar players prefer.

How To Use An Octave Pedal

Using an octave effect is relatively simple but requires some tweaks to get the sound you want. 

The first step is to connect the pedal to your guitar and amplifier or effects chain using the appropriate cables.

Once connected, turn on the pedal and adjust the settings to find your desired level of octave up or down. Most pedals will have controls for adjusting the effect level and the amount of octave up or down. 

Experimenting with these controls is the best way to find the pitch of the note that works best.

Start with simple chord progressions and scales before incorporating the octave into more complex pieces. 

With some practice and experimentation, you can master the octave pedal and add a new dimension to your guitar playing.

Uses For Octave Effects

One of the key features of an octave pedal is the ability to adjust the level of the shifted signal. This allows you to blend the effect with the original guitar sound to create unique and interesting sounds. For example, if you want a thicker, more complex sound, you can increase the level of the octave effect. 

Alternatively, if you want a more subtle effect, you can lower the level of the octave signal.

The octave pedal also has the ability to adjust the tracking. Tracking refers to how accurately the pedal tracks the pitch of the guitar signal. If the tracking is poor, the effect may sound out of tune or produce unwanted artifacts. However, if the tracking is accurate, the octave effect will sound natural and seamless.

One of the primary uses for octave pedals is to create a thicker, more complex sound. When used with other guitar pedals, such as distortion or overdrive, the octave pedal can create unique tones that aren’t possible with just the guitar alone. 

Another use is creating bass guitar sounds. By shifting the guitar’s pitch, you can create a deep, rich bass sound that can be used in various musical styles. This technique is prevalent in genres like funk and R&B, where a strong bassline is essential.

Famous Guitarists That Used An Octave


Numerous famous guitarists have used pitch-shifter pedals to create unique sounds. One of the most notable is Jimi Hendrix, who famously used an octave pedal in his iconic intro to “Purple Haze.” Eddie Van Halen was also a big fan of octave pedals and used them extensively in his solos, most notably in the song “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.”

Other notable guitarists who have use them include Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jack White, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine. These guitarists have used octave pedals to create everything from thick, layered sounds to deep, rich basslines, demonstrating the versatility and power of this essential effects pedal.

Popular Pedals

  1. Electro-Harmonix POG2: The POG2 is a polyphonic octave generator that allows players to create up to four octaves of harmonies. It also features a range of other effects, including filter sweeps and overdrive.
  2. Boss OC-3: The OC-3 is a classic pedal that can produce both octave up and down effects. It also features a polyphonic mode that allows players to play chords with the octave effect.
  3. MXR M288 Bass Octave Deluxe: Designed specifically for bass players, the Bass Octave Deluxe is a versatile pedal that can produce both octave up and down effects. It also features a midrange boost control for added flexibility.
  4. TC Electronic Sub ‘N’ Up Octaver: The Sub ‘N’ Up is a polyphonic pedal that allows players to create both up and down effects, as well as a range of other harmonies. It also features a TonePrint function for accessing additional effects.
  5. EarthQuaker Devices Hoof Reaper Octave Fuzz: The Hoof Reaper is a unique pedal that combines octave up and down effects with a fuzz pedal. It allows players to create a wide range of distorted and octave-heavy tones.
  6. Joyo Voodoo Octave: The Voodoo Octave is an affordable and versatile pedal that can produce both octave up and down effects. It also features a range of controls for adjusting the tone and level of the effect, making it a great choice for beginners and experienced players alike.

A Worthy Upgrade To Your Signal Chain

An octave pedal is a powerful tool that can add depth, richness, and complexity to any guitar performance. Whether you want to create a thick, layered sound or a deep, rich bassline, an octave pedal can help you achieve the sound you want. 

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