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Modulation pedals come in many varieties. Chorus, tremolo, phaser, flanger and vibrato all fall into this category. What ‘modulation’ means is that a pedal is taking a certain characteristic and continuously changing it. This means modulation pedals can give your guitar a fluid, engaging tone that is never static.
Chorus is the slowest and perhaps most often used: lots of guitar sounds in the 80s used chorus for a thick, shifting clean sound. Chorus pedals are enjoying a renaissance thanks to a number of new designs and reissues of classic effects.
Not far behind in terms of popularity are phasers. Phaser pedals have a very characteristic sweep that was an almost 'underwater' sound that lots of rock legends have used in the past: 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 high pitched and audible compared to the other modulation types, leading to lots of comparisons with aeroplanes! They can be devastatingly effective though, as heard on tracks like '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.
A vibrato pedal manipulates the pitch and constantly bends the note up and down in the form of a wave.
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. We stock all of these, along with scores of pedals from boutique manufacturers from across the world. Modulation is what gives guitar tone personality - it could be the missing ingredient in your signal chain...