DigiTech HarmonyMan Intelligent Pitch Shifter
Originally published in Guitar World, Holiday 2008
Three-part harmonized guitar solos sound incredible, but who wants to share the stage with two other lead guitarists unless you’re in a southern rock group or a Blue Öyster Cult tribute band? Intelligent pitch-shifting effects eliminate the need for other guitarists, but to effectively use these scale-based harmony processors onstage you need to either do a lot of tedious pre-programming or master some Fred Astaire–like foot moves.
The DigiTech HarmonyMan Intelligent Pitch Shifter is the perfect solution for freewheeling harmony-loving guitarists who don’t like to be tied down by set lists or who have to change key during a song. Its unique musIQ feature analyzes chord progressions and automatically determines the ideal scale and key for harmonization. Yet, while it does all the hard work for you, it’s stomp-box simple to use.
The HarmonyMan has four types of pitch-shifting effects: triad-centered (major or minor scale with three-part root, third and fifth voicings, as well as inversions), scalic (key harmonies), fixed (a constant chromatic interval such as a fifth up or an octave down) and detune (for natural chorusing effects). Individual knobs for each of the two pitch-shifted voices let you select the type of harmony you’d like, with the settings displayed on a simple but effective alphanumeric LED display. A Harmony Key display indicates which key is selected and doubles as a note indicator for the built-in chromatic tuner. The musIQ button engages the automatic-scale/key-sensing function, and the store key allows you to save up to four harmony presets.
Because the musIQ feature works best when fed a clean guitar signal, the HarmonyMan has a clean guitar input. If you want all of your pitch-shifted parts to have distorted tone, distortion send and return jacks allow you to apply distortion to the signal before the pitch is shifted but after it is processed by musIQ. The sidechain input and thru jacks let your rhythm guitarist control the musIQ feature, allowing you to play harmonized leads that follow the rhythm guitarist’s chord changes without changing the rhythm guitar’s pitch.
Other features include a programmable mix knob that lets you adjust the balance between the original guitar part and the harmonized parts, mono/stereo outputs and true analog bypass.
While the HarmonyMan is very easy to use, it won’t instantly turn you into Brian May, the Allman Brothers, Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden unless you’ve already set up the proper pitch-shifting intervals. You’ll still need to have a general idea of what type of harmonies you want to use before you take the HarmonyMan onstage, but once you’ve done that, it’s smooth sailing (or jamming) the rest of the way.
The musIQ feature works exceptionally well for solo guitarists, but it’s absolutely mind blowing when you have a rhythm guitarist plug into the sidechain input. The rhythm guitarist can venture into uncharted chordal territory and the HarmonyMan will keep up faster than Dickie Betts and Duane Allman could ever have dreamed of.
The sound quality of the pitch-shifting effects is first class, and the effect’s tracking is exceptionally fast and accurate. Octave-up shifts still possess a bit of that artificially trebly, chipmunk shimmer, but the tone is smooth, with none of the grainy warble common to lesser pitch shifters. The octave-down shifts are especially impressive, tracking tightly to even the fastest lines and sounding almost identical to a bass guitar with a rich, full roundness and warmth.
About the only features this pedal is missing are separate outputs for each harmony part and the original guitar signal. When using the stereo outputs, the harmonized signals are panned hard right and left with the original signal panned to the middle, but it would have been nice to have separate outputs for each so each part could be processed with separate effects or sent to different amps.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The HarmonyMan pedal takes a lot of the headache and guesswork out of using an intelligent pitch shifter. You no longer need to be a music theory and programming expert to create great-sounding three-part harmonies on the fly—the HarmonyMan does it for you.
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