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How to choose the right guitar octave pedal effect


Octave is a guitar effect that's often misunderstood. But once you have the right pedal for it, then it's actually a usable effect.

Above is the Donner Harmonic Square. It's an octave effect done right for two main reasons. First, it has both wet and dry blend controls. You totally need that. Second, it's very easy to get which type of octave effect you want with a big knob right in the middle; it is definitely an octave effect done right.

I would actually recommend the Donner over the BOSS OC-3 Super Octave for the reason the Donner is easier to use. However, the OC-3 does have one huge advantage over the Donner. It can be used for guitar or electric bass. Yes, bass guys do use octave sometimes, and only certain octave effects work with it. The OC-3 is one of them and can handle the higher frequencies of electric guitar and the lower of the bass.

But if you don't play bass, the Donner is the better option unless you absolutely need a pedal that can operate by battery, which the OC-3 can.

The worst octave pedals...

...are the kind that are "1-down" only. Fortunately, almost nobody makes these anymore. These are very basic octave effects that only have a single octave down option and no "top" option.

The best octave pedals...

...are the kind like the Donner where you can not only quickly choose the octave you want but also have it act as a harmonizer.

It used to be that harmonizer and octave pedals were two totally separate things. BOSS in fact still makes the PS-6 pedal, which is specifically designed as harmonizer-only. It's not easy to get along with but it does do the harmony thing very well. In fact, it does it too well. Most players want something much simpler. And that's where pedals like the Donner are much more usable.

Octave works very well for...

Distorted/Overdriven/Fuzz Guitar solos. If you specifically use the neck side pickup on your guitar, a guitar solo that uses overdrive or fuzz with a 20 to 25% octave effect has a very nice sound to it.

Muted "thumpy" single-note rhythms. You can get that baritone-guitar-like sound without the need for a baritone electric guitar with an octave effect. It takes some tweaking to do this, but it is doable.

'60s inspired guitar sounds. When you start experimenting with octave, you'll find sounds you never knew your guitar could do - and it will sound like it came straight out of the 1960s era. That's not a bad thing.

If you haven't tried the octave effect, try it

Just make sure you get the right octave pedal. The Donner is a great example, but of course there are many others.

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