What Is Harmonic Tremolo
If you’re like me, you may feel as though you know most types of guitar effects out there. You may even think you know pretty much all there is to know when it comes to simple effects like tremolo. Well, if you are in either one of those boats, this article might just be for you. That is, if you are indeed wondering, what is this harmonic tremolo?
In order to really understand what this type of effect is doing; you must take a step back. Why don’t we look at the part of this that many people will already understand, tremolo. Put simply, tremolo is the effect of altering an audio signal’s amplitude (or volume) up and down. Now that said, it is important not to get tremolo confused with vibrato. Thanks to some inaccurately named knobs on early Fender amps, many people will use these two terms interchangeably. However, they are actually quite different. Just remember that tremolo is only affecting the volume of the soundwave, while vibrato is altering the pitch (slightly in and out of tune). Think of guitar whammy bars, using them is accurately called vibrato, you're altering pitch when moving the bridge. If it helps, I like to picture vibrato pedals as acting like a more time-based chorus effect.
Now on to what you came here for, harmonic tremolo. You might be thinking this point… tremolo + harmonic properties = vibrato. Right? While that logic is sound, it is not quite the case. Sonically speaking, harmonic tremolo filters the high and low frequencies of the soundwave and then modulates the remaining signal in opposite paths. So basically, it is a pretty unique and lush form of modulating sound. The most comparable effect to this would be that of rotary/leslie speaker emulation. Honestly, though, that is really the only descriptor I could think to give to someone who hasn’t heard a harmonic tremolo before. There is little to no examples when it comes to the use of this effect in popular music (other than maybe some CCR). In fact, most players that I know have yet to even hear of this effect. Harmonic tremolo is definitely one of the lesser-known and underrated guitar effects.
This is one type of pedal that I want to encourage more guitar players to look into. It is in no way just another wild modulated sound developed by a scientist in a lab somewhere. In fact, you can actually find this exact effect in some older Fender Brownface amps. While very uncommon, in my mind this is one of the most pleasing mod sounds to the ears. Now that you know how I feel about it, make up your own mind. Below I have listed a few awesome, modern options for those interested in this hidden gem.
- Walrus Audio – Monument
o One of the more popular options for players in recent years, the Monument has made somewhat of a name for itself in the harmonic tremolo world. Sporting too many features to discuss here, this is one you need to play with for yourself. But one thing is for sure, this one will not disappoint your inner craving for crafting harmonic bliss.
- EarthQuaker Devices - Night Wire
o This is a great pick for all of you who want all of the harmonic trem all of the time. One of the coolest features of this one is the frequency knob, which alters the central frequency at which the effect will be based. With even more well-rounded features to boot, this is a fantastic pedal with a lot of tonal variations.
- Drolo - Twin Peaks