The tremolo effect is one of the “oldest” effects that has ever come into existence. It is a modulation effect that controls and adjusts your signal’s volume.
What are the types of tremolo pedals? There are THREE main types of Tremolo pedals. These are categorized by the waveform they produce which includes the triangle, sine, and square wave tremolo pedal type.
In this article, we will be looking at the Tremolo pedal and understanding how it works. We will also look at where to place the pedal in your signal chain and look at some of the products on the market.
Let’s get started!
1. What is a Tremolo Pedal?
A tremolo pedal attaches to your signal and creates a vibrato effect. Instead of a true vibrato like bending of a string where the pitch changes. The tremolo pedal creates a vibrato by adjusting the volume.
The speed of the volume can be customised by adjusting the settings. This is good to experiment with as it will change the whole dynamic of your sound.
2. How it Works?
The tremolo effect is a modulation effect that works by adjusting the volume using LFO (low-frequency oscillation), creating waveforms, and then manipulating the guitar’s volume.
So the tremolo pedal will eventually increase or decrease the volume of your signal.
3. Tremolo Bridge VS. Tremolo Pedal
There are two types of tremolo effect for the guitar. This includes the Tremolo Bridge and the Tremolo Pedal.
These two may sound quite similar, but in fact, they function in separate ways.
- The tremolo bridge (also known as tremolo arm or tremolo bar) actually works like a vibrato effect, by adjusting and varying the pitch
- The tremolo pedal generally work by altering the volume up and down.
Hopefully, the above gives you some overview of what a tremolo pedal does… Now, below we will look into the volume changes and controls in more detail!
4. Vibrato Controls
There are two knobs on the pedal that you must get to know: Depth, Rate and Wave.
The Depth is the most important control that you need to fully understand.
The depth determines the range of your vibrato volume.
- Low Depth – If you decide to pick a narrow range between the low volume and maximum volume (the maximum and minimum volume change will be similar). The low depth will turn the volume up and down subtly, and it won’t be that obvious for the audience to realize the effect that you are using.
- High Depth – For a higher depth control, the effect will sound more obvious as the pedal will manipulate the volume from muting to the maximum level of volume.
To wrap up, the depth knob refers to how much you want to apply the LFO waveform to your original sound.
The Rate affects the timing of the volume fluctuations.
- Low Rate – for the low rate control, the timing of the volume fluctuations will happen over a longer period of time. Making the effect seem slower and almost like an ambient sweep.
- High Rate – for the high rate control, the timing of the volume fluctuations will happen over a shorter period of time. Making the effect seem faster.
To sum up, the rate determines how fast the volume fluctuations (set by the depth) will happen.
Triangle Wave Tremolo is considered to be the most popular type of wave form.
The effect of a triangle wave tremolo is known for its precision, rising and following a linear fashion, creating a very smooth and pleasing sound.
When the effect triggers it will gradually apply in equal patterns, expressing clearly the peaks and lows of your signal. And one interesting point that is mentioned a lot is that Fender amplifiers also use triangle wave tremolo type (Twins, Deluxes, or even Supers).
The Boss TR-2, has its reputation as being one of the top tremolo effect pedal. Some would even go to far as saying that Boss is the leading name in creating quality standards for the whole industry.
The design and function for this pedal include rate, wave, and depth controls, using the LFO waveform. It also combines the techniques of the triangle wave and square wave (which we will discuss later on), which will guarantee you diverse options to adjust your volume as well as its speed
You might think all types of tremolo pedal, are the same in its functions and mechanisms. But with the Sine wave, this will be a little different from the triangle type.
The Sine-wave tremolo is also considered to be the most basic type of wave form. Almost like the modulation effect – overdrive, sine-wave tremolo brings less precise sounds. Constantly adding and decreasing power, the sound, in the end, will be softer and more subtle due to no harsh lines in between low and high peaks.
Unlike the triangle or square wave type, the sine wave does not follow a specific linear fashion. Its shape has peaks and troughs, creating a unique kind of pattern. And for this reason, some people comment that the sound from sine-wave is more impressive, bringing the raw vibes and character.
Let’s pick the Mad Professor Mellow Yellow Tremolo as the “center” in the sine wave tremolo pedal section. It’s quite easy to use and adjust using speed, depth, and level controls. Also, this brings the vibes of the old Fender amplifier tremolo, fitting in perfectly for the slow, bluesy rhythm guitar. Modulating using a sinusoidal oscillator, this device delivers a musical tremolo effect that is suitable for many different styles from clean to distorted tones.
Some other references for the sine wave tremolo pedal include Basic Audio Throbby, Walrus Audio Monument V2, and Behringer UT300.
square wave is more of a chop because the effect comes in and out instantly (unlike the triangle wave). For this reason the difference is that it generates an even more extreme/harsher level of effect.
You are able to adjust and push your volume to the point where it is possible to create an on-off pattern. And with this feature, the square wave tremolo creates many tough and abrupt sounds volume cuts in and out harshly. The closest representation would be the example of sounds that come from the chopping sound of helicopter propellers.
Some other references for the square wave tremolo pedal: Catalinbread Valcoder, the Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird, and the Flickinger Vicious Cricket, Wampler Latitude, Diamond Pedals Tremolo.
6. How the tremolo pedal Functions
There’s a circuit that will help to magnify and adjust your volume, with the certain changing frequencies depending on how you want it to be. The circuit also generates a wave carrying signal that adapts towards and adjusts the amplitude of your guitar’s raw (input) signal. As mentioned above, the signal first experiences a lower volume, then being brought back again to a higher point. That process creates a type of oscillation then a wave is formed.
Also, there are different types of circuits being used today in the tremolo pedal. The two most common types are VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) and LFO. VCA will alter the amplitude of your signal, with the distance between the highest and lowest level of the sound during a wave.
The most common advice is to place your tremolo pedal at the end of your signal chain as you want it to magnify and vary the volume of the entire signal. But there are no limitations to the options that you can select for a suitable position. The tremolo pedals can be placed to satisfy your own needs.
In general, the tremolo should go last in all the modulation effects, after chorus, phaser, or flanger.
By placing the tremolo before both the delay and reverb pedal, it will only affect the dry part of your sound, leaving the delay and reverb to sound even wilder. The other option can be placing the tremolo after the delay and before the reverb pedal, adding on some shimmer effects. Another thing you can choose to do is to place after both the delay and reverb, which means at the end of the signal, the tremolo pedal then will affect the whole chain, adjusting your overall sound in and out of volume, up and down.
In this article, we covered the different types of pedals available in the market!
This included the triangle, sine, and square wave tremolo pedal type.Even they work very similar they produce a slightly different output sound, giving you more variety to transform your guitar tone!