As guitar players, we are constantly looking for new and creative ways to express ourselves, with most of us turning to pedals to help us achieve weird and wonderful new sounds. Investing in one of the best pitch shifter pedals opens the door to one of the most dramatic effects you can apply to your electric guitar, giving you the ability to change the pitch of your input signal on a dime - resulting in some killer tones!
Many of the world's greatest guitar legends have used pitch shifting to devastating effect, with the likes of Tom Morello, Jack White, Mike Kerr and Joe Satriani taking full advantage of this powerful effect to create some of the most monstrous riffs of all time.
So if you're looking to beef up your riffs with a thick lower octave, take your lead lines to a whole new level, or add expressive dive bombs to your playing, then this guide to the best pitch shift pedals is most definitely for you.
Best pitch shifter pedals: Our top picks
If we're honest, the Digitech Whammy is still our top pick for the best pitch shifter pedal. With the option to choose a modern, less glitchy tone, or the classic mangled sci-fi squeal of its ancestors, it's versatile in that regard even before you consider all the intervals and modes on offer. With the Digitech Ricochet, there's also an incredibly affordable and expressive option for those that don't need or want the rocker footswitch of the bigger unit.
If money is no object, you're not as bothered about momentary or expression modes, and you have the pedalboard real estate, the Eventide Pitch Factor is another of our top picks for the best pitch shift pedal.
Eventide has led the market in studio and rack effects for decades, and the company’s stompboxes distill this excellence into powerful live performance tools. If you have the patience to master it, the Pitch Factor is cracking.
Best pitch shifter pedals: Product guide
Since Tom Morello showed its expressive power, the Whammy has been used again and again to define songs, albums and even whole discographies. Guitarists like Johnny Greenwood, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Matt Bellamy and Joe Duplantier use it in radically different ways.
Besides its pitch-shifting mode,the Digitech Whammy V has a whole host of harmony modes, a detune mode that's in practice more like a chorus effect, and a dive-bomb mode that simulates a Floyd Rose being pushed until the strings are slack.
It's polyphonic as well, in the modern, 'chords' mode. Though we prefer the glitchier, old school Whammy timbre of the 'classic' mode.
If you want a pedal where the only limit is your imagination, the Whammy V is it. It's a blank canvas for you to define with your guitar playing as you see fit.
Read our full Digitech Whammy review
If you're talking standard octaves rather than expressive pitch shifting, and doubly so if you're looking to add additional bass, the EHX Micro POG has long been a favorite of players in two- and three-piece bands.
As soon as the Micro POG came out, it became a staple on math and post-rock pedalboards, as it was polyphonic, low-latency, clean and relatively affordable. The introduction of an even smaller version, the Nano POG, was a hit as soon as it was released.
If your bassist can't, or won't, turn up to practice, get one of these pitch shifter pedals and don't look back.
The EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine is a pitch shifter that most definitely promotes creativity. Using digital oscillators to create surreal and out-of-this-world sounds, the Rainbow Machine is the perfect pedal for those looking to experiment.
At the heart of this blushing pink pedal is the DSP pitch warping engine, which is designed to embrace the imperfect - resulting in magical glitchy tones.
This pedal is not for the faint of heart and most certainly not for the tone chasers, this is a pedal for guitarists who think outside of the box.
TC Electronic is well known for its affordable, feature-heavy pedals and the Brainwaves pitch shifter proves just how much they can pack into a single stompbox.
This clever little pedal houses four frequency-altering effects such as classic octaves, dual pitch shifting, harmonizer and doubling/chorus effects.
With dual voice controls, the Brainwaves allows you to dial in power chords, tri-octave leads, and stunning doubling effects easily and quickly - perfect for those looking to thicken up their sound.
The Mash switch allows pressure-sensitive expression that gives you access to everything from Rage Against The Machine style Whammy tricks to pedal-steel full step bends, as well as gravity-defying two-octave dive bombs - this cool feature is also programmable via the free TC TonePrint app.
If you're specifically looking to drop tune a guitar with as little latency as possible, then the Digitech Drop is probably what you're looking for. At its less extreme settings it's pretty much artefact-free.
The tracking is very good on the whole, and it's not even that expensive – we're continually trying to work out what the catch is, other than that it only does one thing. That said, it does do that one thing incredibly well.
While the PS-6 is marketed primarily as a harmoniser, with the S-Bend, or 'Super Bend' mode it can perform the same ballistically-controlled pitch shifts as the Whammy Ricochet. It can also take an expression pedal, and, like the Whammy, it's monophonic.
In general, we've always found the artefacts on the more recent Boss pitch shifters like the PS-5 and PS-6 to have a pretty musical, almost flute-like quality in any case, so the fact the PS-6 tracks better isn't all good news in our book. Still, from a technical standpoint, if not an artistic one, it's an improvement on its predecessors.
If you want the harmonising and shifting features of the big Whammy but either don't have the pedalboard real-estate or don't need the rocker footswitch, then the Ricochet, with its smaller size and nifty LED display, is just the ticket.
The left-hand display lights up in the direction it is moving, showing the current note being sounded. It sounds like a gimmick, but it's genuinely useful, not to mention cool as hell.
Though money isn't everything, it's also worth saying that the Ricochet is pretty affordable. When we picked up one a little while ago, it was cheaper than both the Boss and EHX competition, so it pays to shop around for a deal.
It should come as no surprise that Electro-Harmonix would make sure they had a foot in the door of the pitch-shifting game, and the company’s Pitch Fork pedal is a solid enough offering that some players have ditched the Whammy to use it instead. Imagine!
It's got a wider range than the Whammy, a controllable blend knob and a much-reduced form factor. Though it's roughly the same size as the Ricochet, the side-mounted jacks of the Ricochet are more inconveniently placed, meaning that the Pitch Fork often comes out smaller in practice. It's also polyphonic, unlike some of its competitors.
Though it has the option to be used in both momentary and latching modes, the Pitch Fork does not have a dynamic ballistic option for its momentary shifting like the Boss and Digitech units do, although it does have an expression input, unlike the Ricochet.
Read our full Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork review
The Pitch Factor is Eventide's big-box pitch processor, and across its one hundred patches there's a huge amount of pitch effects, from the basics – up and down, in various flavors – to the incredibly exotic.
Whether or not you need all of these is another question, though. Most players don't even use all the harmony intervals and functionality on the Boss, EHX and Digitech pedals, so in that respect the Pitch Factor is pretty niche.
With arpeggiators and pitch-shifted delay modes as well as polyphonic tracking, the Pitch Factor is a studio-level piece of kit, although there are slight latency issues with the polyphonic modes.
At the same time as octave units like the Roger Mayer Octavia were adding extra octave artefacts to the guitar tones of players like Jimi Hendrix, others were experimenting with dropping the pitch of the guitar, which was much easier to do with analogue pedals.
The Blue Box is a very simple octave fuzz pedal that enables you to blend in a note that's pitched two octaves below the input signal. It's lo-fi, glitchy, but kind of unmistakeable, if that's the tone you're after. The canonical example is Jimmy Page's solo on Led Zeppelin's Fool In The Rain, so check that out to get an idea.
Well, if you are going to call your pedal company Gamechanger Audio, you better have some genuinely revolutionary designs - and boy does this pedal deliver on that promise! The Plasma Coill is a collaboration between the Latvian-based pedal makers and Jack White’s Third Man Records - and well, the results are… game-changing.
Combining a six-stage octave circuit with their very popular Plasma distortion, this rather unique pedal gives you access to vintage-style octave fuzz as well as modern heavy low octaves that are simply inspiring to play.
The addition of a switchable momentary/latching switch for the pitch shifting allows you to add this killer effect to specific notes and gives you complete control over the octaves. So if you are looking for a powerful high voltage distortion pedal as well as a sweet octave effect, this is the pedal for you.
Read our full Gamechanger Audio Plasma Coil review
Best pitch shifter pedals: Buying advice
Choosing the best pitch shifter pedal for you
You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Even though there have been analog octave pedals since the 1960s, the pedal that started the whole pitch party was the glorious Digitech Whammy. As soon as digital delay pedals came along, it became theoretically possible to repitch a note by messing with sample duration, but it took some time to iron out the bugs. Obviously, the result was still a glitchy, strange sound – the correct note, yes, but in a mangled, digitized form.
With modern technology, it's now possible to get much cleaner-sounding pitch shifting without the digital artifacts, but some players prefer the glitchier sound for artistic reasons.
If you're using the pedal to drop-tune your guitar, for example, you probably want as clean a sound as possible. But if you're playing in a math-rock band and are looking for melodramatic two-octave pitch jumps, a glitchier pitch shift would suit you better – and we have you covered in our picks for the best pitch shifter pedals in this guide.
As a general rule, polyphonic pitch shifter pedals that can accurately shift more than one note tend to be less glitchy but, again, your playing style and artistic goals are as relevant here as the tech 'under the hood' of the pedal.
Every manufacturer's pitch shifting technology has a different character and different artifacts that make up its tone or timbre. The Whammy sounds like a warble, the Boss sounds like the envelope of a flute, and the EHX sounds a bit like a bitcrush, with a clinical edge. Or that's what we think, anyway.
Besides how glitchy it sounds, whether it has a harmony function is a useful question. Although pedals like the Whammy and Pitch Fork primarily are for shifting the pitch of your guitar, they can also operate as harmonizers.
Do I need to think about control when choosing a pitch shifter pedal?
Yes! So your next decision when choosing the best pitch shifter pedal for you will be over how the pedal actually works. The Whammy is controlled by a rocker, like you'd find on a wah pedal, but that's far from the only control on offer…
The next most common control is a latching footswitch, where actuating the footswitch instantly shifts the input pitch to the target pitch and keeps it there until the pedal is disengaged. Most pedals that offer a latching mode also have a momentary mode, where the effect will only be active so long as the footswitch is held down – this is obviously a very expressive option.
More recently, pitch shifter pedals have added a 'ballistic' option that enables you to change the speed your input pitch changes to, and returns from, the target pitch.
Finally, the range of the pitch shifter is important – though plus or minus two octaves from the input note is the de facto standard, some pitch shifter pedals offer more or less, including additional modes like the Whammy's Dive Bomb.
Find out more about how we make our recommendations and how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides.
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