When it comes to guitar effects, few pedals are as unique or recognizable as a pitch shifter. Pitch shifters have been immortalized by guitarists like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Dimebag Darrel of Pantera.

In the past, pitch shifters were considered somewhat of a novelty. While the premise of a pitch shifter is cool, early models had difficulty tracking notes, could only track one note at a time, and couldn’t account for different musical keys, which is a must for players looking to use their pedal for more than just shock value.

Today, that’s all changed. Not only do pitch shifters provide significantly improved tracking, but they also allow players to tap into a litany of other effects, such as harmonization in any major or minor key, and modulation effects. Some pedals even allow you to alter the tuning of your guitar without ever touching a single tuning peg, allowing you to functionally turn a 6-string guitar into a 7 or 8-string.

Depending on the features you need and your budget, you should have no problem finding a pitch shifter that’s perfect for your style. After all, there are more pitch shifters available today than there ever were in years past.

But, with so many excellent options available today, it can sometimes be difficult to narrow the field and find the best pedal for the way you play. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into everything you could ever need to know about pitch shifters and how to shop for one, and we’ll also take a closer look at some of the top pitch shifters that are currently available.

What is the Best Pitch Shifter Pedal?

What exactly is a pitch shifter and what does it do?

A pitch shifter is a guitar effects pedal that takes processes your guitar’s signal, and then pitches it up or down based on set intervals. The average pitch shifter can pitch your original signal up or down 5-10 different intervals, while high-end pedals provide up to two octaves of pitch shifting ability in either direction.

Some pitch shifters, such as the perennial favorite Whammy Wah from DigiTech include an expression pedal, which allows you to control the pitch with your foot, similar to a wah pedal. Guitarists like Tom Morello, Dimebag Darrell, and even Jack White of the White Stripes have used this pedal to incredible effect on some of their most iconic recordings.

Some effects also provide a blend parameter that allows you to dial in the amount of dry signal you’d like present in your wet mix, which allows you to effortlessly create harmonies without needing another guitarist.

More still, the best pitch shifters provide polyphonic operation, which allows you to shift the pitch of chords as well as single notes. These pedals can be especially useful as they can allow you to experiment with different tunings without actually changing the tuning of your guitar.

What makes a great pitch shifter pedal?

In just a moment, we’re going to cover some of the best pitch shifters on the market. Most players will find that one of those pedals is a perfect fit for their needs, but even if you go with a pedal we haven’t covered at all, you’ll want to evaluate the different pedals you come across based on this criteria.

  1. Accurate tracking
  2. The ability to blend your dry and wet signal
  3. Polyphonic operation
  4. An expression pedal

Accurate tracking

When it comes to pitch shifters, by far the most important thing to evaluate is how accurately and quickly the pedal can track your playing.

Inside of each pedal is a digital signal processor (DSP) that analyzes your dry signal, sends it through the effect engine, and out to your amp, all at incredibly high speeds. A pedal with a quality DSP will process your signal at such high speed that it will respond in real time to every note you play.

Lesser quality pitch shifters that don’t track quite as quickly still respond fast enough to be a viable choice for most players. But, if you’re a bonafide shredder, you’ll want to go with a pedal that provides the fastest tracking possible.

Beyond speed, tracking comes into play with polyphonic pitch shifters as well. Fast and accurate tracking is necessary if you’re going to be playing chords, or experimenting with alternate tunings with the help of your pitch shifter.

Another critically important consideration that’s an extension of accuracy, whether a pedal provides smart tracking is incredibly important if you plan to use your pitch shifter for harmonization effects.

The way western music is constructed, the intervals present in harmony aren’t necessarily a direct transposition from note to note. Two consecutive notes that are a half step away in your original phrase may be a whole step away as a harmony of the original notes.

Less advanced pitch shifters aren’t able to account for this, and as a result, a note or two within the harmony is usually out of key. The best pitch shifters allow you to select the key of the harmony being played, which ensures that the effect is in perfect harmony with your original phrase.

Polyphonic operation

Another key factor to consider before buying your pitch shifter is whether it features polyphonic or monophonic operation.

Pitch shifters that offer polyphonic operation can process multiple notes at once. This allows you to shift the pitch of single notes as well as chords. Perhaps most notably, it also allows you to experiment with alternative tunings without ever having to change the tuning of your guitar.

This feature can come in especially handy for metal players who are looking to unlock the sounds of a 7 or 8-string guitar without having to invest in a new instrument.

Even if you aren’t interested in shifting the tuning of your guitar, polyphonic pedals are simply more versatile than their monophonic counterparts, and you’ll be able to squeeze more unique sounds out of a polyphonic pedal that you’d be able to do with a pedal that is only monophonic.

The ability to blend your dry and wet signal

Another feature to consider is whether or not there’s a blend control that allows you to incorporate your dry signal in with the pitch-shifted signal. This feature is especially important for players who would like to be able to use their pitch shifter to harmonize with themselves.

Not only will this parameter allow you to create lush harmonies without an additional instrument, but it will also allow you to get more creative with the tones you create with the pedal. Even if this isn’t a feature you’re especially keen on; it’s just one way to add increased versatility and usefulness to your pitch shifter.

An expression pedal

Another cool feature you may want to consider is an expression pedal or an output that allows you to connect an external expression pedal to the pitch shifter.

An expression pedal is reminiscent of a wah or volume pedal, and it will allow you to control a parameter of the effect with your foot, so you can incorporate it into your playing in real time without having to fiddle with the pedal at all.

With an expression pedal, you’ll be able to capture some otherworldly tones that a pitch shifter without an expression pedal won’t be able to accommodate. Pedals like the DigiTech Whammy Wah or Electro-Harmonix Slammi are well known for their expression pedals, and they’re among the most useful and well-loved pitch shifters on the market.

Pitch Shifter Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

Digitech Whammy DT

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

The Whammy has been the industry standard pitch shifter for three decades now, and the DT model adds extras like true bypass wiring, and selectable dropped and raised tunings that allow you to alter your tuning up or down seven half steps or a full octave with a single control.

  • Dropped and raised tunings
  • Expression pedal
  • Three independent footswitches for on/off, momentary, and drop tune effects
  • True bypass wiring

Since 1989, the DigiTech Whammy line has been the catalyst that’s pushed pitch shift effects forward. After five different generations of the Whammy pedal, the new DT model provides additional functionality that was previously unseen on any of the Whammy pedals.

Most notably, the Whammy DT allows you to alter the tuning of your guitar up or down seven half steps and an octave. This intuitive effect allows you to change your guitar’s tuning in an instant without having to switch guitars. A single knob allows you to select your tuning, and an independent footswitch lets you control the detune effect, allowing you to use the rest of the pedal with the detune effect engaged.

The Whammy DT also offers ten different whammy effects and nine different harmony effects, while the familiar Whammy expression pedal allows you to get even more creative with how you apply the different effects this impressive pedal is capable of.

What Customers Like

  • Most full features pitch shifter on the market
  • Change your tuning, not your guitar
  • Detune effect and whammy/harmony effects are separate

What Customers Dislike

  • Expensive
  • Tracking could be better

Morpheus Bomber

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

The Bomber is the only gig in town for players looking to unlock the functionality of an onboard expression pedal without breaking the bank. This pedal offers an effective expression pedal, a five-octave range, and polyphonic harmonies, all at a very middle of the road price.

  • Polyphonic harmony
  • Ten different pitch shift effects
  • Independent footswitches to engage effect and select different modes
  • Expression pedal

The Morpheus bomber provides an impressive selection of ten different harmony and pitch shift effects. The front panel provides an easy to read screen with LED lights to indicate which of the ten effects you’re using, and footswitches to toggle between the effects, and turn the pedal on or off. To the right, a full-sized expression pedal allows you to exact total control over the different effects.

With polyphonic harmonies and ultra-smooth and fast tracking, the Morpheus bomber is a worthy competitor as one of the best pitch shifter pedals available. While it doesn’t pack quite as much functionality as our overall favorite, it’s perfect for players looking for a powerful pitch shifter that’s more affordable than the top of the line options.

What Customers Like

  • A comprehensive selection of pitch shift effects
  • Easy to control with your foot
  • Includes power supply

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t offer dropped or raised tuning effects
  • Adds some noticeable artifacts to your tone

Boss PS-6 Harmonist 

What Makes It Special?

An exceptionally compact, yet full-featured pitch shifter with expression pedal input, the PS-6 Harmonist provides five different harmony and pitch effects, and three voice harmonies, which aren’t available with most other pitch shifters.

  • Five different effect modes
  • Polyphonic 3-voice harmonization
  • Expression pedal output
  • 5-year warranty

The PS-6 is perhaps the best pedal available for players who don’t have space on their pedal board to dedicate to a full-sized pitch shifter with an expression pedal. Instead, the PS-6 offers many of the most sought after effects available in more expensive pitch shifters, while still providing the option to add an expression pedal to your setup if you wish.

The PS-6 provides five different modes, including major and minor harmony, pitch shift, detune, and super bend. The detune effect provides a lush and musical chorus effect while the super bend mode allows you to unlock Whammy-like functionality.

With accurate polyphonic harmonies, the PS-6 is easily one of the most effective and useful pedals for players who are looking for a pitch shifter pedal primarily for it’s harmonizing capabilities.

What Customers Like

  • Compact and pedalboard-friendly
  • Compatible with external expression pedals
  • Well-built and reliable

What Customers Dislike

  • Tracking could be better
  • Noticeable artifacts in your tone

TC Electronic Brain Waves Pitch Shifter

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

Perhaps the most innovative pedal on our list, the Brain Waves pitch shifter features the TonePrint app, allowing players to save pedal presets and download new tones from a growing library of settings. The Brain Waves pedal is also one of the only on the market that offers stereo operation, and a revolutionary pressure sensitive footswitch provides expression pedal-like functionality in a smaller package.

  • TonePrint compatible
  • Stereo I/O
  • Two independent harmonies for three total voices
  • Three effects types, plus three TonePrint presets

One of the most functional and innovative effects in recent memory, the Brain Waves pitch shifter is the size of an average stompbox, but it provides functionality that’s usually reserved for pedals twice or three times as large. Instead of an expression pedal, a pressure sensitive footswitch allows you to unlock similar functionality without adding bulk to this pedal’s tiny frame.

Controls include a mode selector that allows you to choose between three effect modes and three TonePrint presets a mix control to blend the effect with your dry signal, and independent controls for two different harmony voices. Mini switches allow you to select how the pressure-sensitive footswitch responds for each independent voice.

What Customers Like

  • TonePrint app
  • Completely independent harmony voices
  • Mash footswitch

What Customers Dislike

  • Tracking could be better
  • No expression pedal output

TomsLine Harmonizer/Pitch Shifter

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

Providing an impressive range of functionality despite its tiny nano-sized housing, this pedal from TomsLine is well under half the price of most of the popular pitch shifters on the market. Three different effects modes, independent blend knobs for the wet and dry signal and true bypass wiring.

  • Pitch shift or harmonize across an entire octave, plus 1 and 2 octaves up/down
  • Independent signal level controls

The TomsLine Harmonizer/Pitch Shifter provides an impressive amount of features despite its bargain price. This tiny pedal is true bypass and provides independent level controls for your wet and dry signal. The pedals main dial allows you to harmonize up or down a full octave in half steps, as well as provide one or two octaves up or down.

While it doesn’t offer polyphonic operation, an expression pedal, or any of the other bells and whistles that other, more expensive pitch shifters are known for, this pedal from TomsLine is ideal for players who need an affordable yet functional pitch shifter.

What Customers Like

  • Affordable
  • Gets the job done

What Customers Dislike

  • Poor tracking
  • Not polyphonic

6 More Really Good Pitch Shifters

DigiTech Whammy V5

The latest version of the one that took pitch shift effects from novelty to necessity, this all-new Whammy provides useful functionality and additional features that were absent in previous iterations of this popular pedal.

This impressive pitch shifter provides a total of ten pitch shifter effects, nine harmony effects, and a switch that allows you to toggle between monophonic and polyphonic operation. True bypass wiring, MIDI input, and the heavy-duty build quality the Whammy is famous for complete this wildly popular pitch shifter.

Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork

This full-featured pitch shifter is another viable option for players who are seeking a mid-priced pitch shifter that provides all of the most popular functions that high-end models are known for.

The Pitch Fork can shift pitch over a three-octave range and features an eleven position transposition knob and a blend knob to adjust how much of your dry signal comes through. A mini switch allows you to toggle between whether the pitch is shifted up, down, or both.

An expression pedal input allows you to add additional functionality to the pedal, and a latch/momentary button allows you to set how the footswitch or expression pedal behaves when pressed.

Earthquaker Devices Rainbow Machine

Quickly becoming one of the go-to effects brands on the market, Earthquaker Devices makes boutique-quality guitar effects at fair prices, and many guitarists are beginning to take notice of their well built and incredible sounding effects.

Unlike other pitch shifters, the Rainbow Machine focuses more on the incredibly far out sounds that pitch shifters are capable of while providing unprecedented control over how the effect behaves. This pedal provides controls for pitch, as well as dry and wet blend controls, a magic control, tone, and tracking controls.

An additional footswitch allows you to turn the magic parameter on or off, and an expression pedal input allows you to use an external pedal to exact even further control over the pedal.

Electro Harmonix Slammi

Perhaps the wildest and most innovative pitch shifter since the original Whammy, the Slammi from Electro Harmonix offers an innovative design and approach to pitch shifter design.

This pedal features side controls for the dry/wet mix and an 11-position pitch selector switch. A tiny button allows you to toggle between whether the pitch shifts up or down, and there’s also a calibration control to set the expression pedal for optimal operation.

An optical-style rocker design provides full expression pedal functionality that’s only available on pedals like the Whammy or Morpheus Bomber. For players leaning towards a Whammy from DigiTech, you may want to consider this pedal as well.

DigiTech Luxe DeTuner

Offering the same highly advanced polyphonic effect engine of the more expensive Whammy pedal, the DigiTech Luxe allows you to alter your pitch +/- 50 cents, allowing you to create innovative and far-out sounds with a simple, easy to operate stompbox.

This pedal features controls for level and detune, true bypass wiring, and eye-catching graphics. The detune control provides a wide range of detuning either up or down, and the effect can be dialed in as subtle or as over the top as you like it. While this pedal isn’t a pitch shifter by the purest definition of the world, it’s a unique pedal that’s worthy of a second look.

Mooer Pitch Box

For players looking for a sub-$100 pitch shifter, there are hardly any options on the market. Thankfully, Mooer’s Pitch Box provides all the functionality you need in a pitch shifter without breaking the bank.

This diminutive pedal features a nano-size housing, which is perfect for cramped pedal boards. A single center control allows you to choose from the sixteen different effect options, and a three-position switch allows you to toggle between harmonization, detune, and pitch shift modes.

This tiny pedal can’t run on batteries, but it’s compatible with virtually any pedal power supply, and it’s so affordable and tiny, that many pedal users will want to consider adding one to their board for these reasons alone.

5 FAQ’s About Pitch Shifters

How to use a pitch shifter?

In the past, many guitarists considered pitch shifters to be novelty effects with little to offer beyond entertainment value. This was partially because older models had some drawbacks, such as the inability to harmonize notes in key with the phrase you’re playing. Another reason was that many players had difficulty learning how to use the pedal effectively.

The best pitch shifters these days are far from a novelty, and many of them provide additional effects which can be exceptionally useful, especially for rock and metal guitarists.

Many pitch shifters provide multiple modes that allow you to apply different pitch effects to your signal. Beyond a standard pitch shifting mode, there is usually a detune mode, which can produce a lush and full chorus effect.

Most pedals also feature a harmonizer mode, which allows you to create perfect harmonies along with your original notes. Some even provide multiple voices of harmony so that you can sound like three or even four guitars at once.

Of course, if you plan on using the harmonizer mode, it’s critically important that the pedal you select provides smart tracking and can automatically adapt to the key you’re playing in to provide a perfect harmony.

Every manufacturer has its own bells and whistles that make their pitch shifter unique, so it’s difficult to nail down how to use your new pitch shifter without knowing the model you selected. The best way to get acclimated with all the different features your pedal has is to read the owner’s manual.

Not only will the owner’s manual familiarize you with the different controls and functions of the pedal, but most manufacturers also include some helpful tips and tricks for using the pedal, as well as some recommended settings to get you started. Those settings usually provide the best blueprint for you to base your custom tones off of.

Where do you place a pitch shifter (in the chain)?

While it comes to signal chains, the way you should set your pedal chain up is anything but arbitrary. The best way to get started is to follow these basic guidelines for the order of your pedals.

It can be helpful to think of your effects in four different categories. First, you have dynamic and filter effects followed by gain effects. Then comes modulation effects, and finally, time-based effects. If you use a tuner pedal, you can go ahead and place that at the very beginning of your signal chain.

Dynamic and filter effects include things like a volume pedal, compressor, graphic EQ, wah, pitch shifter, or instrument emulator. Gain effects include pedals like distortion, overdrive, or fuzz. Modulation effects include chorus, flanger, phaser, and other similar pedals. Time-based effects are going to be your reverbs and delay pedals, and they go at the very end of your signal chain.

You may want to experiment with how you place different pedals from the same group together. For example, if you use a chorus, flanger, and phaser, feel free to order those three pedals in any order you like provided you place them before your time-based effects and after your gain effects, dynamics, and filters.

Maintaining this basic order can help you avoid issues with noise or feedback as well as pedals behaving strangely or not functioning the way they’re supposed to.

What are the top pitch shifter brands?

When it comes to different pitch shifter brands, we’re enjoying a bit of a renaissance of sorts, with more brands producing quality options than ever before. A few of those brands stand out as the most popular and well-regarded pitch shifter brands.

DigiTech produces the iconic Whammy and DropTune series of pedals, and they’ve been a pioneering force in the effects world since they were founded in 1984. In the late ‘80s, DigiTech released their flagship effects pedal, the Whammy Wah, and it’s gone on to inspire countless rock and metal guitarists looking to push the envelope of what sounds were possible with a guitar.

Now in its fifth generation, the Whammy is still the industry standard pitch shifter, and the new Whammy DT model allows you to leverage the pedal’s powerful processing capabilities to experiment with alternate tunings in addition to classic pitch shifting effects.

Boss is another top pitch shifter brand, and they specialize in a full complement of guitar effects that are reliable, fairly priced, and highly capable.

Through the years, Boss has produced several different pitch effects, and today, their most popular model, the Boss PS-6 Harmonist pedal provides four different pitch shift effects, as well as incredibly lush and realistic three-voice harmony. All of their pedals are backed by a rock-solid 5-year warranty that covers you in the event of something going wrong with the pedal.

TC Electronic is another brand worth checking out, as they produce some of the most innovative and sought after pedals on the market. Their breakthrough app and connected technology allow savvy guitarists to tap into a broad range of different additional effects, as well as tone settings from a growing community of guitar players. This feature is called TonePrint, and it’s unique to this brand.

Their Brain Waves pitch shifter provides multiple highly musical pitch shifting effects and includes the TonePrint app, which allows you to tap into tons of additional functionality.

Beyond these brands, new boutique pedal companies seem to pop up all the time, and many of them offer some of the most unique and innovative take on classic effects you can find today. So, just because you’ve never heard of a company before, you shouldn’t rule them out before taking their pedals for a test drive.

How much does a good pitch shifter typically cost?

When it comes to pitch shifters, you’ll find pedals available for anywhere from $40-300. While even the cheapest pitch shift effects can be useful, but they provide significantly less functionality than the higher-end options that are towards the more expensive side of the price spectrum.

If we use the DigiTech Whammy as a benchmark, a top-of-the-line pitch shifter costs around $250, pedals in this price range usually provide the absolute most functionality of any of the pitch shifters on the market.

Many of the pedals in the $100-150 range also provide an incredible range of tones but usually sacrifice some useful features like an expression pedal to make the pedal more affordable. If the features these pedals are missing aren’t that useful to you, you’ll probably be thrilled by any of the pedals in that price range.

Pedals below $100 usually provide fairly limited functionality and lack the bells and whistles of more expensive pedals. That said, you may find that a pedal at the lowest end of the spectrum still provides exactly what you need from a pitch shifter.

Where can I learn more about pitch shifters?

Sweetwater is best known as a popular online music store, but they’re also one of the best resources for researching different pedals. Sweetwater does an impeccable job of providing demo audio and video of virtually every product they sell, so it’s the perfect place to go to hear different pitch shifters in action and learn more about the best pitch shifters on the market.

Sam Ash is another solid resource for learning about these effects, and this article provides an easy to understand overview of effects like pitch shifters, octaves, and harmonizers. Their product pages also usually feature product audio and video demos to give you an idea of how different pedals sound.

For our friends across the pond, Andertons is a music store similar to Sam Ash and Sweetwater, and they also provide tons of useful information about pitch shifters and other similar effects. The article linked above is a great 101 level crash course in everything you’ll need to know as you begin shopping for a pitch shifter.

Conclusion

While they’re often misunderstood, a pitch shifter can become one of the most useful and versatile pedals on your board. With so many different great options on the market, you should have no trouble finding a pitch shifter that’s perfect for your style of playing.

As you shop for a pitch shifter, make sure that the model you select is going to provide the range of features and versatility you need to apply the pedal in your playing.

Do you already use a pitch shifter to craft your sound? Let our readers know what you think in the comments below!

When shopping for a pitch shifter, guitarists also may consider pedals like:

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