In this article we are going to be taking a look at the Octave pedal. We will be discussing the following;
- What is an octave pedal?
- Analog vs Digital Octave Pedal
- Monophonic and polyphonic Octave pedal
- The pitch shift effect
- The placement of the Octave pedal in the signal chain
- Recommendations of current products on the market
Before jumping into explaining the mechanism of an octave pedal, we will first learn more about the concept “octave”. An octave is also called an interval as it illustrates the distance between two of the same notes. For example, let’s take note C# as an example, then the next note of it will be the next following C#. It remains that same note but you can notice the difference in pitch, higher or lower. You can also think of it as a musical interval, with the next note doubling the frequency of its previous note, if note A is vibrating at 440Hz then the higher note A will vibrate at 880Hz. In total, there are 12 equal intervals, including: C; C# / Db; D; D# / Eb; E; F; F# / Gb; G; G# / Ab; A; A# / Bb; B. So that means with 1 octave, there will be 12 notes, but 2 octaves will have 24 notes and followed by the rest.
Now back to our main topic – the octave pedal! This pedal will take your original sound and add on the other signals from different octaves, one or two higher, even lower, depending on your needs. In the end, it will generate a whole new mix following your adjustment with the desired sounding octave effect. Eventually, the octave pedal also allows you to completely remove your original sound and pitch of the note.
With this device, you are now able to apply brightness to the leads or create funky guitar-shredding sounds, also the notes will sound more powerful with richer and so much fuller sounds. Also, this can magnify and synthesize a bigger sound, or mid-bass range with the lower octave. Like any other type of pedal, it will set your creativeness on fire with opportunities to have something truly unique.
Analog vs Digital guitar octave pedal
Firstly, we need to distinguish carefully between the analog and digital signal, before we look at the different pedals. So analog signals are always continuous, meaning that there are no breaks. Take your voice and ears for example, they are all analog. On the other hand, digital signals are those that when you try to represent them on a graph to illustrate data, they will show up as a sequence of separate values. The digital signal in general is made up of individual points. So guess which one is better? Actually, there is no perfect answer since each has its strengths and weaknesses. But one thing is for sure, the digital signal can never reach the level of the analog signal in capturing all the values.
However, the disadvantage of the digital signal mentioned above compared to the analog one seems to be a reason why many guitarists would pick the digital. For some of them, they want a clean octave sound, the digital octave pedal can acquire this easily and accurately since it is quite flexible when it comes to tracking. By contrast, the analog octave pedal is not as precise as the other type since, during the process of tracking (Tracking is the process in which illustrates the ability of your pedal to detect notes through the input signal), it can cause a bit of a fuzzy sound. This is also worth trying, but for those who can not stand this type of annoyance in their ear, it would be a bad choice.
Analog pedals used to dominate the market, but now due to the innovations of technology, digital pedals also show its competitiveness. The digital octave pedal is able to manage multiple frequencies at a time, while analog can only control a simple frequency at once.
Monophonic and Polyphonic octave pedal
“Monophonic” and “polyphonic” are two important textures that represent different types of the synthesizer. With monophonic, it relates to a concept of “single part only”, which means only a single vocal melody. While polyphonic illustrates the technique where you can include simultaneous notes at the same time with more than one part. If monophonic only allows one note to be played at any given time, then the other type is considered to be everyone’s favorite since now multiple notes can be played at once.
In today’s trend, digital synthesizers and pedals mostly are polyphonic, since it’s a lot more convenient, less time-consuming, and also less costly because monophonic has to route every single individual voice through the signal chain to create a sound. However, the monophonic is not totally “old-fashioned” and has not yet lost its place in the heart of guitarists or music producers. Some state that the sound that comes from monophonic seems to be fuller and harder for the polyphonic devices to recreate or try to mimic. In the end, there must be a reason for why the monophonic can only play one note at a time, it has an extremely larger tone.
Monophonic octave pedal, therefore, means that it is only able to process and add on the layer or effect for one frequency at once. Since it only tracks one string at a time, there will be some points that you might experience a little shaking if trying to play many different strings. But now, due to the innovation and all the technological stuff, that polyphonic bass octave pedal came into existence with the special feature to manage more frequencies at the same time.
This is a different concept compared to the octave effects. With the pitch shift, you can imagine that instead of having only one option to shift by the octaves, now you can choose any interval that you wish to try. It does not have to be 12 notes, it can be 6, 7, or even one note. Also, the pitch effect allows you to remove the original signal completely if you want. Freely choosing the suitable pitch, higher or lower notes.
Where should you place your octave pedal in the signal chain?
Normally with its features listed out above, especially the digital octave pedal, it is commonly placed at the beginning parts of the signal chain, after the tuner and volume pedal, and should come before the drive section (overdrive/distortion). The reason is that this can help to ensure that the signal will be as clean as possible to easily track all the notes and chords. However, if you are someone who prefers to shake things up with the powerful and abrasive, warped sound, then you can place the octave somewhere else.
So why not place the octave pedal after the distortion? What will happen? The answer is that the octave pedal can take the distorted signal and it will affect its ability to accurately track the notes or reproduce them clearly. The signal is better raw.
Another example, the position of the looper and the octave pedal. According to the basic definition and the mechanism of the looper, it should always be placed at the end of the chain. Staying at this position allows this pedal to record and loop the final signal after going through all the previous pedals and effects. The octave pedal, on the other hand, as we have already seen, should always be at the beginning of the chain in order to efficiently track the note. These two are quite different in its function: The looper records the overall signal while the octave pedal reproduces the note and pitch shift effects.
Some recommendations for the octave pedal on the current market
Boss OC-3 Dual Super Octave
This is a polyphonic octave pedal meaning opportunities for handling example chords and arpeggios. You won’t have to worry too much about whether you are playing two notes at the same time. Since it is allowed to play more than a single line at once. One additional feature is that it has the bass drive mode. Distorted effects can also be added to create a fatter sound. Your tone can be brought down with two octaves. Boss OC-3 Dual Super Octave is complete “like a dream” to anyone who would love to create a bassier sound and it is actually quite easy to use.
Joyo JF-12 Voodoo
If the first recommendation is an octave pedal that drives the tone down, then this Joyo JF-12 Voodoo will do the other way, it’s an octave up. One important thing to mention is that it also features the distortion effect! How cool is that? Imagine having two quite different effects in one device but together can combine to create such a pretty and unique sound.
Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer XO
We must not forget about our monophonic octave pedal! Let’s take the Electro-Harmonix Octave Multiplexer XO into consideration! This one can help to transform your bass amp notes into full and fat ones, extremely attractive to those who love the bass sound. Bass also will be the main focus as this is a monophonic type, it won’t allow you to do chords or arpeggios like the digital one.