Modulation Pedals

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About Modulation Pedals

Modulation pedals cover a lot of ground in terms of sounds. Modulation, and by that we mean phaser, flanger, chorus and vibe pedals, create movement in your sound, from a subtle shift in tone to a dramatic jet-engine noise depending on effect. All of these effects achieve different results be doing largely the same thing: they split the guitar signal into two parts, delaying one and gradually changing before feeding it back into the first one to create a blend that was elements of filtering going one, all relating to linear natural frequency changes.

Of the three types, chorus is the slowest and perhaps most often used. Lots of guitar sounds in the 80s used chorus for a thick, shifting clean sound.

Phasers have a very characteristic sweep which is an almost 'underwater' sound that has been used by a number of rock legends. Two prime examples are the main riff to 'Aint Talkin' 'Bout Love' by Van Halen and 'Breathe' at the beginning of Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'. Classic stuff indeed.

Flangers have an altogether more dramatic tone: the sweep of a flanger can be relatively high pitched and audible compared to the other modulation types, leading to lots of comparisons with aeroplanes! They can be devastatingly effective though, as evidenced on tracks such as 'Barracuda' by Heart, 'Station to Station' by David Bowie and the middle section of 'Are You Gonna Go My Way?' by Lenny Kravitz. Subtle use can yield great results, too: The Police's Andy Summers used a flanger on most of his tones to subtle, tasteful and influential effect.

It surely goes without saying that modulation is a big deal in the pedal world: every major manufacturer has their versions of these classic effects and we stock them all, along with scores of pedals from boutique pedal manufacturers from across the world. If you are in any way interested in broadening your palette of effects, you need to visit your nearest UK guitarguitar store where we have an unbeatable selection ready for you to try.

Frequently Asked Questions about Modulation Pedals

A Uni-Vibe is a modulation effect that is often labelled as a Chorus/Vibrato but is in fact a phaser. The difference lies in how it's done: the uni-vibe uses a series of staggered filters that are phased, rather than aligned filters like you'd find on a standard phaser. Uni-vibes also do not use op-amp circuits for their sound. The result is that incredible swampy, pulsating effect that you hear on songs such as Jimi Hendrix's 'Machine Gun'.
Popular consensus would dictate 'after', since the distortion will be flanged, (rather than a flanger being distorted, if you see what we mean) and will therefore sound more obvious and dramatic. If you are using a flanger, this is how you'll achieve those 'jet engine' noises. Not every one does this, though: one very influential moulation user, Eddie Van Halen, had neither a distortion pedal nor an effects loop and so he simply put all of his MXR pedals into the front end of his end and turned everything up. He changed history with his guitar sound so who are we to argue?
You can use literally as many as you can get your hands on! Blending modulations and stacking them up can be interesting and rewarding but there does come a point where, without sounding too facetious about it, four flangers doesn't really sound that different than three. With modulation effects, less is very often more, especially if big sonic gestures are being made. Don't let us stop you though: experimentation is what it's all about!
Whether you want that awesome 'Eruption' sound or the haunting Pink Floyd 'Shine On' tone, your Phase 90's rate control should be set between nine and ten o'clock. Perfection lies therein.
Andy Summers' famously effected sound is responsible for lots of guitarists buying up chorus pedals left, right and centre in a quest to nail that tone. It's a shame for them all because that is most definitely a flanger on Summers' pedalboard. Namely, an Electro Harmonix Electric Mistress. Unlike the Deluxe model which had both Flanger and Chorus settings, Andy's regular Electric Mistress was a Flanger only. Medium settings on most vintage-styled flangers will get you close and, as ever, listen with your ears and not your eyes!