This is when we get technical. Inside this category we’ll find pedals such as the volume controller: it’s very useful, specially when we’re connecting a bunch of pedals together. Generally speaking, each effect has its own gain, so the volume outcome it’s not always the same. It’s happened to me playing live, and you probably experienced it, too: different parts of the song need different pedals. When switching between them, the volume would go UP!! (specially with distortion effects) or down.
Before, I used to overcome this by manually adjusting the volume of my electric violin. Best case scenario, a good sound engineer would do this. To be honest, ideally we’d sort it out ourselves. For that, the perfect solution is the volume pedal. If you need one, don’t over think it – like tuners, for instance, this pedal is strictly functional. This means, any good brand will do, there’s no need to look for something too fancy.
I didn’t have the same luck with compressors. I just tried them, but I couldn’t get past the fact that you get harmonic sounds (even on an electric violin) and it loses much of the sound’s “body”, and it’s less dynamic. Guitarists usually use them to avoid noises when connecting too many pedals, for instance. Personally, I’ve had seven or more, and I’ve been fine. Otherwise, to get a better sound, an equalizer is my go-to pedal. If you had a better experience trying a compressor, then please share in the comment section!
Here comes the fun stuff! Last but not least, my favourite category: Pitch. These pedals modify the interval of a note, or add a second extra note to the sound. I use two pedals from this category: the Boss Harmonist PS-6, and the Mooger Pure Octave.
I looove the Harmonist. It’s my favourite effect, without a doubt, and it’s one of the two pedals I couldn’t play without (the second one will be on the 3rd blog post). The cool thing about this pedal is that the second voice is precise and is identical to the original violin sound – but we choose the interval. The Shift knob is used for chosing the interval. From the left to the centre, we go lower than the original note; from the centre to the right, we go higher.
Check out this example, my song “Comer o ser comido”. That bizarre melody during the first verse? Just a harmonist pedal on 4ths.
The good thing about this pedal is that it maintains the violin’s sound, so everything sounds perfect. To make a “bigger” sound, then a lower octave is the way to go. It won’t be as extravagant as the 4ths sound: instead, it’ll sound as having a line of violins playing alone, when it’s just one. Here’s my song Jeff; I use this on the last chorus:
There’s a downside to this pedal: if the violin is out of tune, specially on the higher-pitched notes, it will stand out! Remember to be in perfect pitch when using this effect (actually, try to always stay in tune!)
The Mooger Pure Octave is the pedal to go when you’re looking to, well, have everything in octaves. Even if it doesn’t sound as identical to the original as with the Harmonist, it has its advantages. Firstly, being a pedal specific for making octaves, it has a lot more variety. The combinations are pretty broad: two lower octaves; two lower octaves plus one higher; two higher and two lower; etc. There’s a wide range of options just by moving the central knob.
This pedal has a killer effect on the audience. When I play covers, I go for the option of two lower octaves + one higher octave, and it sounds like a freaking symphonic orchestra! Give it a try, the crowd will go nuts. I cannot recommend this pedal enough, specially for big events. On the other hand, it’s better to stick with the Harmonist for studio recordings with perfect pitch. Plus, the combination of both is possible… Rock’n’roll!
That’s it, for now
On the next post we’ll have fun talking about the rest of the pedals we’ve mentioned: the distortion and saturation pedals, the special effects, and equalization. I’m guessing you already know which cathegory is the most fun 😉
Any questions? Comments? What is your experience with these violin pedals? Leave a reply below and let us know!