Pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals are not for everyone but can be invaluable tools for those of us who get to know and love their sound.
Whether we’re looking to extend the range of our instrument; harmonize to create interesting harmonies, or to add unnatural glissando to our playing, a pitch-shifter or harmonizer is for us.
In this article, we’ll discuss the top 9 best pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals in the world.
Before we begin, I should mention the subjective nature of these types of posts. The “best” of anything is hard to define objectively but the 9 pedals mentioned here are definitely top performers and worth your attention!
The top 9 best pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals for guitar and bass are:
- DigiTech Whammy 5
- DigiTech Bass Whammy
- TC Electronic Quintessence
- Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork
- Boss PS-6 Harmonist
- Eventide PitchFactor
- TC Electronic Brainwaves
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- Meris Hedra
Let’s discuss each pedal on this list and the reasons why they are the best.
What Are Pitch-Shifting Pedals & How Do They Work?
Pitch-shifting, as the name suggests, is an audio effect that shifts the pitch of the input signal.
These pedals work by altering the pitch(es) of the input note(s) upward or downward in pitch. Combining the pitch-shifted/effected sound with the dry signal can yield harmonization, which we’ll get to in the next section.
There are several pedals dedicated to pitch-shifting while others utilize pitch-shifting circuits in their design to further their versatility. A common example is the shimmer-type delay pedal.
Dedicated pitch-shifting pedals can typically be set to output a completely effected/wet signal or a combination of the wet and dry signals (to yield harmonization).
What Are Harmonizer Pedals & How Do They Work?
Harmonizer pedals are pretty much the same as pitch-shifting pedals but their main purpose is to harmonize with the dry/input note to create diads or chords.
Perhaps the most common harmonization is the octave, which stacks octave(s) above and/or below the inputted note.
Other intervals can be achieved as well, depending on the pedal.
With harmonization and octave pedals, the dry note is duplicated one or more times and shifted in pitch. The output is then a combination of the input dry signal and/or a combination of the pitch-shifted voices.
Both pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals will generally work best near the front of the signal chain. The pitch altering circuits will typically work best with a clean input signal (before distortion, modulation or time-based effects).
Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)
With that being said, let’s talk about some pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals!
For a more in-depth article on pitch-shifting and harmonizer pedals, check out my article What Are Pitch-Shifting Guitar Pedals & How Do They Work?
DigiTech Whammy 5
Let’s begin the list with the beginning of pitch-shifting pedals. The DigiTech Whammy 5 (link to check the price on Amazon) is the modern version of the legendary Whammy pedal that started it all in terms of pitch-shifting guitar effects.
The DigiTech Whammy was my first introduction to pitch-shifting pedals. I’m sure it was for many other guitarists as well.
The Whammy 5 offers the classic Whammy sound heard from those before it. It has been updated with a Chordal setting for improved polyphonic tracking (it still has the Classic tracking setting as an option). It also now has true bypass if you’re into that!
The Whammy’s track record includes its use on over 60 Grammys® and its presence on countless pedalboards around the world.
The built-in expression pedal and bright red paint job make this pedal stand out among all the others.
The various pitch-shifting settings of the Whammy 5 are listed below:
- + 2 octaves
- + octave
- + perfect 5th
- + perfect 4th
- – major 2nd
- – perfect 4th
- – perfect 5th
- – octave
- – 2 octaves
- Dive bomb (– 3 octaves)
- – octave | + octave
- – perfect 5th | – perfect 4th
- – perfect 4th | – major 3rd
- + perfect 5th | + major 7th
- + perfect 5th | + major 6th
- + perfect 4th | + perfect 5th
- + major 3th | + perfect 4th
- + minor 3th | + major 3rd
- + major 2nd | + major 3rd
The Whammy section will produce the maximum pitch-shift at toe-down position and sweep back to an unshifted effect at heel-down position.
The same idea is utilized in the Detune section, where heel-down will produce no effect and detuning will increase as the pedal is swept to toe-down position.
The Harmony section will mix the dry signal with a harmonic interval above it or below it. Each setting of the Harmony section offers two defined intervals (one at heel-down and one at toe-down) and sweeps in between.
The pedal also has MIDI functionality that allows us to control the pedal remotely via a MIDI controller.
The DigiTech Whammy is a classic for a reason. It’s one of the best pitch-shifting/harmonizer pedals to ever be produced!
DigiTech is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
DigiTech Bass Whammy
Can we get some pitch shifting on the bass, too? The DigiTech Bass Whammy (link to check the price on Amazon) is designed specifically to affect the lower notes and tone of a bass guitar signal at its input.
The DigiTech Bass Whammy looks nearly identical to the aforementioned Whammy 5 and performs very similarly.
The input and inner circuit is better suited for bass guitar signals, as are the pitch-shift settings. They are:
- + 2 octaves
- + octave
- + perfect 5th
- + perfect 4th
- + major 2nd
- – major 2nd
- – perfect 4th
- – perfect 5th
- – octave
- Dive bomb
- + octave | + 2 octaves
- + octave | + major 10th
- – octave | + octave
- – octave | – perfect 4th
- + perfect 5th | + octave
- + perfect 5th | + major 6th
- – perfect 5th | + perfect 5th
- – perfect 4th | + perfect 5th
- – perfect 4th | + major 3rd
The control of the Bass Whammy is the same as the Whammy 5 (yes, it even has MIDI functionality). It sounds just as great (on bass guitar) and is completely deserving of a spot on this list!
TC Electronic Quintessence
Third on this list is the highly-musical TC Electronic Quintessence (link to check the price on Amazon).
Compared the Whammy series of pedals, the Quintessence is a new kid on the block. This is partly due to its 2017 release date and partly due to its small footprint. That being said, there’s a ridiculous amount of functionality packed into this compact unit.
This intelligent harmony pedal will latch into any key you’d like (in Western 12-tone equal temperament). The Key dial effectively selects a starting note for the following Scale dial. With the scale dial, we have access to 6 of the 7 modes of the major scale (no one uses Locrian anyway) along with a customizable option in which we can program more exotic scales.
Once a scale is locked in, we can choose from a variety of intervals to harmonize with.
Let’s have a look at the various scales and harmonies the Quintessence offers:
- Ionian (Major): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
- Dorian: 1, 2,♭3, 4, 5, 6,♭7
- Phrygian: 1,♭2,♭3, 4,♭5,♭6,♭7
- Lydian: 1, 2, 3,♯4, 5, 6, 7
- Mixolydian: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,♭7
- Aeolian (Minor): 1, 2,♭3, 4,♭5,♭6,♭7
- + 3rd
- + 5th
- + 6th
- + 3rd + 5th
- + 3rd + 6th
- Toneprint 1
- Toneprint 2
- Toneprint 3
TonePrint allows us to beam signature settings into the pedal wirelessly through an iPhone or Android with the free TonePrint App. We can design our own scales and harmonized interval effects from scratch with free TonePrint Editor for PC, Mac and iPad.
TC Electronics’ proprietary MASH technology effectively turns the footswitch into a pressure-responsive expression controller while the pedal is turned on. The MASH footswitch lets you easily pitch-bend harmonized notes up to the next interval within the scale.
In addition to the MASH technology, the footswitch can also allow us to momentarily harmonize just a few bars or notes.
The Mix knob adjusts the wet/dry mix at the output of the pedal. Analog-dry-through circuit keeps the direct signal completely analog while the digital circuit affects the dual pitch-shifted voices.
Though all TC pedals are true bypass, the Quintessence has an optional buffered bypass mode to help reduce signal loss in long cable runs.
The pedal also has stereo inputs and outputs!
The Quintessence is a super powerful and versatile harmonizer pedal in a compact and durable form factor. It’s relatively easy to use, offering awesome sonic quality without the need to take our mind off of playing.
TC Electronic is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork
The Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork (link to check the price on Amazon) is small but incredibly versatile in its functionality.
The EHX Pitch Fork has a pretty cool design. We can use it to pitch our signal up, down, or up and down simultaneously. The shifting options are accessed via the toggle switch on the pedal.
The Blend knob acts as the wet/dry output control. Turning the Blend all the way up will effectively rid of the direct signal in the output.
The Shift knob sets the interval of the pitch-shift/harmonization. It has the following settings:
- ± minor 2nd
- ± major 2nd
- ± major 3rd
- ± perfect 4th
- ± perfect 5th
- ± major 6th
- ± minor 7th
- ± 1 octave
- ± 2 octaves
- ± 3 octaves
The Pitch Fork, like many pedals, has two basic modes: momentary and latching. With momentary, the effect is only activated so long as we hold the footswitch down while latching mode either turns the pedal on or bypasses and keeps it that way when the footswitch is pressed.
To really unlock the pitch-shifting magic of the Pitch Fork, we need to make use of its expression input. By connecting an external expression pedal, we can control the pitch-shifting of the unit with a treadle-type pedal. This gives us much more dynamic control of the pedal.
Overall, the pedal sounds great and is rather versatile. Get yourself a quality expression pedal and you’ve got yourself a very expressive pitch-shifting effect!
Electro-Harmonix is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Boss PS-6 Harmonist
The Boss PS-6 Harmonist (link to check the price on Amazon) is one of many performing Boss pedals and fits perfectly on this list.
The impressively versatile PS-6 from Boss is effectively 4 intelligent pitch-shifting effects in a single compact stompbox unit.
These four effects modes are:
- Harmony: a monophonic effect that adds one or two harmonized voices to the direct signal. The key is selectable along (via the Key|Fall Time knob) as are the harmonic intervals (via the Harmony|Shift knob). The harmony options can be set to either major or minor keys and the following intervals:
- +1 octave & –1 octave
- –4th & –6th
- –1 octave
- +1 octave
- +3rd & +5th
- +3rd & –4th
- Pitch-Shifter: a polyphonic effect that outputs a sound that’s been pitch-shifted up or down by up to two octaves. The amount of pitch-shift can be altered (via the Harmony|Shift knob) in the following semitone arrangements:
- +7 & –5
- –24 (–2 octaves)
- –12 (–1 octave)
- +12 (+1 octave)
- +24 (+2 octaves)
- +12 & –5
- Detune: adds a sound that has been shifted only slightly to the input sound. Again, the amount of detuning can be selected on the pedal (via the Harmony|Shift knob). The detune is set in cents:
- +15 & –15 cent
- –20 cent
- –15 cent
- –10 cent
- –5 cent
- +5 cent
- +10 cent
- +15 cent
- +20 cent
- +5 & –5 cent
- +10 & –10 cent
- Super Bend (S-Bend): a timed pitch up/pitch down effect similar to a Whammy pedal, only automatic. The interval is set via the Harmony|Shift knob while the time it takes for the pitch shift transition to take place is set via the Key|Fall Time knob. This is a momentary effect (is only engaged when the footswitch is pressed and resets once the footswitch is released). The interval options are:
- +2 chromatic
- Falling (–2 octaves) with vibrato
- –3 octaves
- –2 octaves
- –1 octave
- +1 octave
- +2 octaves
- +3 octaves
- +4 octaves
- Rising (+2 octaves) with vibrato
- Dual pitch-shifting (–2 octaves & +2 octaves simultaneously)
The pedal also has two outputs. We can choose to only use output A and have all voices outputted via one output. Using both outputs will cause the PS-6 to output two different signals, the contents of which are dependent on the effect mode. This additional routing capability can come in handy in studio and live scenarios.
Pitch can be controlled via an external expression pedal. This is particularly useful in the Pitch-Shifter mode where a static effect may not be the most interesting.
The PS-6 Harmonist is a one-of-a-kind combination of superior sound quality, ease of use, and 4 powerful pitch effects. You get all of this in a compact and durable pedal at a reasonable price.
Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Eventide PitchFactor (link to check the price on Amazon) is a rather intimidating pedal to look at and its functionality is the reason why.
Eventide’s propriety “Multi-Voice Intelligent Pitch Shifting” makes their PitchFactor a unique and superb option when it comes to pitch-shifting pedals.
The User Manual is a lengthy 68 pages long. There’s tons of functionality in the pedal, which makes it equally awesome and intimidating at the same. We’ll cover the basics of the PitchFactor in this article.
This pedal features a whopping 10 pitch/harmonizer algorithms that pretty well offer everything you could ever need (and stuff you don’t even know you need yet)!
PitchFactor features 10 of Eventide’s signature stereo or mono pitch-shifting and delay effects:
- Diatonic: tracks the notes played and shifts the pitch by the selected harmonic interval based on the selected Key and Scale.
- PitchFlex: pitch-shifting via an expression pedal or the Flex Switch.
- Quadravox: similar to Diatonic but delivers up to 4 pitch-shifted voices (A, B, C, D) instead of 2.
- Octaver: creates a pair of sub-harmonics (–1 and –2 octaves) below the note that you’re playing It also adds an Octave FUZZ generator.
- HarModulator: combines twin chromatic pitch shifters with modulation. The pitch-shifters offer a six-octave range (three up, three down)
- Crystals: twin reverse pitch-shifters with independently-adjustable delays and feedback with added reverb.
- MicroPitch: fine-resolution pitch-shifter for subtle detune plus delays for interesting slap back effects.
- HarPeggiator: creates dual 16-step arpeggios that combine three elements:
- dual 16-step pitch-shift sequencer
- dual 16-step rhythm sequencer
- dual 16-step effect sequencer
- H910/H949: emulates the sound and functionality of Eventide’s legendary H910 and H949 Harmonizer effects units.
- Synthonizer: generates a synthesized tone at the same pitch. Voice A is an additive synthesizer useful for creating organ or Thereminstyle sounds; Voice B is a subtractive synthesizer for creating classic analog-style synth sounds.
The PitchFactor features two independent pitch-shifting circuits (A and B). Each channel has its own parameter controls.
The built-in envelope control can produce dynamic effects modelled after the transient information of the guitar/instrument signal.
So we have up to 4 voices of diatonic pitch-shifting and up to 1.5 seconds of awesome stereo delay with tap tempo functionality.
There are also 100 preset patches within the pedal and unlimited patches through MIDI. We’ve also mentioned the use of an external expression pedal, which can further control the 10 knobs and additional parameters in real-time.
The pedal is capable of mono and stereo operation and can handle instrument of line level in both input and output.
The pedal is built very robustly. Oh, and the pedal has a built-in tuner.
Eventide’s H9 Control app provides remote control access of parameters, presets and settings with an easy to use interface. The program is available on Android, iOS, Mac and PC.
There’s tons more to know about the PitchFactor but this covers most of the basics. It’s a ridiculously powerful pedal and is certainly deserving of a spot on this list!
TC Electronic Brainwaves
TC gets its second mention here with its awesome TC Electronic Brainwaves (link to check the price on Amazon).
This is a state-of-the-art polyphonic pitch-shifter pedal. Like the aforementioned TC Electronic Quintessence harmonizer pedal, the Brainwaves pitch-shifter has MASH technology that makes its footswitch double as a pressure-sensitive expression control.
With the MASH footswitch, we can alter the pitch-shift amount by altering the pressure we apply over it.
It features 2 completely independent voices that can be pitch-shifted from unison to ±2 octaves from the direct signal. The Mix knob controls the relative wet/dry mix.
With the TonePrint Editor (PC, Mac, iPhone, Android and iPad), we can craft our own settings and download other settings from the community. These settings can be uploaded to the Brainwaves via its USB port or wirelessly via beaming technology.
In the FX Type control, there are 3 TonePrint slots to be filled. The other FX types are:
- Detune: changes the pitch by a few cents, which can then be blended with the dry signal to give a double-tracked/chorus-like feel.
- MASH to perform pseudo-bends up 30 cents for V1 and down 30 cents for V2.
- Wham: both Voice knobs will default to the unison setting until MASH is engaged.
- MASH will cause each Voice setting to bend gradually up or down toward the selected pitch, similar to classic whammy pedals.
- V1-V2: the Voice 1 knob will already be active, assuming it is set to something other than Off.
- MASH function shifts from the Voice 1 setting to the Voice 2 setting.
- Pitch: Both Voice knobs are always active in this setting as long as the pedal is engaged.
- MASH function works as a pitch bend up to 3 semitones.
Analog-dry-through keeps the direct signal 100% analog. The pedal can also be set to either true bypass or buffered bypass depending on what’s best for the setup.
The pedal also has stereo inputs and outputs.
The TC Electronic Brainwaves has a lot of functionality in a small package. It’s a superb choice if you’re looking for a versatile pitch-shifter at a reasonable price!
This list wouldn’t be complete without the legendary Electro-Harmonix POG2 (link to check the price on Amazon).
The Polyphonic Octave Generator is a fan favourite harmonizer pedal that borders on synth pedal territory. Its Voice Mix section allows us to blend the following 5 input-signal-dependent voices together:
- Dry signal
- Pitched 2 octaves down
- Pitched 1 octave down
- Pitched 1 octave up
- Pitched 2 octaves up
The voice mix is then sent through a series of effects including:
- Attack: adjusts the attack of the output envelope, allowing for sharper transients to slow-moving swells.
- LP Filter: adjusts the cut-off frequency of the built-in low-pass filter.
- Detune: detunes the voices slightly to achieve a chorus-like effect.
We can save up to 8 presets on the POG2. Recall is as easy as turning the dial (the LED will light up next to the selected preset) and pressing the Preset footswitch.
With this “harmonizer” pedal, we can achieve the jangle of an 18-string guitar; thick walls of symphonic sound, and so much more in between.
To wrap up the best pitch-shifting/harmonizer pedals, let’s talk about the wildly versatile Meris Hedra (link to check the price at Meris).
Meris pedals are awesome but they’re difficult to explain simply. The Hedra is no exception.
The Meris Hedra is a 3-Voice Rhythmic Pitch-Shifter. It offers everything from hard-stepped pitch corrective locking to smooth glide modes to micro-detuning and everything in between. The boundaries are loose with this pedal and the creative possibilities are practically unlimited.
Let’s stick with the basics. To learn more, I strongly suggest trying our the Hedra for yourself or checking out a demo.
First things first, the pedal has 3 voices and each of them can be pitched between –2 octaves and +2 octaves. Each of the 3 Pitch knobs doubles as time division for that voice’s delay path.
The Hedra will lock into a musical key. The “key” root note is selectable via the Key knob. This knob doubles as a Scale Type Selector with the following 7 options:
- Melodic Minor,
- Harmonic Minor
- Double Harmonic,
- Lydian Pentatonic
- Minor Pentatonic
The Micro Tune control will slightly detune all three of the voices. Its alternate function controls the pitch correction and glide of the pitch-shifting.
The Mix knob controls the mix of the direct signal and the 3 voices. It double a delay feedback control.
Tap tempo or MIDI synchronization allows us to lock in a tempo for the Hedra’s effects. The pedal off 4 delay configurations with Feedback control for a maximum of 520 ms delay time. Half time and momentary delay effects are also available.
The delays can be split into stereo with or without cross feedback and with or without the pitch-shifter in the feedback loop.
The possibilities really are endless!
The pedal features 16 internal preset locations (4 presets are accessible by a compatible 4-button footswitch and all 16 presets are accessible by MIDI).
Expression pedal control over all parameters simultaneously.
As mentioned, the pedal can sweep through intervals smoothly or in hard steps. The pedal can also be set up as a harmonizer. There’s so much you can do with this pedal, giving it a definite spot on this list!
Meris is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.