Many of us can recall a time when if we wanted harmony between guitar leads, two guitarists would need to be playing simultaneously and hoping to the highest heavens that they could stay in perfect unison. We are far more fortunate today because of pitch-shifting or harmonization effects.
A lead melody can be sung by one guitarist. It can also be copied, pitch-shifted to a specific interval or octave, and then recombined with its original in real time.
We as instrumentalists have the advantage of a more appealing sound that draws attention to our performances. Our band also benefits from having an extra member of the band and a richer, more appealing soundscape for our songs.
Smart harmonizers of today can receive input and tell you which key you are playing. This will ensure that you always deliver a pleasant sense of consonance for your listeners.
Let’s look at what features and how to use your harmonizer. Next, we’ll look at our top picks from today’s latest lineup of pedals.
What is the Harmonizer Effect?
The harmonizer effect, a sub-type in the pitch shift effect that alters the pitch of a sound, is an example of the harmonizer effect. This can vary from a few cents to a lot when using software plugins. pitch shifting pedals transpose musical intervals into notes for ease-of-use.
Harmonizers are able to transpose music to any interval, not just up and down octaves like the octave meters. This effect was initially achieved by playing back sounds at different speeds than the original recordings, but it is not tied to time.
Harmonizers on the other hand preserve the original sound but combine it with a pitch-shifted one. If you set your pedal so that it harmonizes at a major third interval, the duplicated sound will shift up four semitones.
Smart harmonizers can now accept the key you are playing as input to ensure that your harmonies remain consistent. This results in a pleasant stacking of melodies which play in perfect timing together. It also helps to thicken the overall soundscape and tone of the song.
What are the Top Harmonizer Pedals?
This assumes that you are looking for harmonizers for your keyboard, guitar, or other instruments, rather than one for your vocals. Vocal harmonizers can have a lot of features that are not applicable to your instrument, and they can be quite expensive. It can save you a lot.
The main feature that I recommend you have in the current field is key track. The old harmonizers were not as smart as the new ones, so they would take your instructions too literally and sometimes play out of tune.
Dissonant notes popping out of places they shouldn’t is the worst thing. This is exactly how listeners who don’t understand music theory attempt to spot amateurs.
Smart harmonizers are able to accept a key as input. They can also understand that even if you tell them to harmonize at a certain interval, they should only use notes from the key. This is an essential feature. Smart harmonizer pedals can lock you into a musical key
Imagine the frustrations and expertise! These issues were not something that players could dance around in improvised solos.
How to use a Harmonizer Pedal
It is important to position the harmonizer in the right place in your guitar pedal signal pathway. In a moment, you will see why.
WHERE DO YOU PLACE IT IN THE SIGNAL CHAIN
Based on the natural order of things, there is a logical order to your guitar pedals. Anything else is unnatural and unpleasant to the ears. This is the order:
- Filters, Dynamics, and Pitch Shifters
- Boost & Distortion
Harmony can be described as a form of pitch shifting. It is achieved only after compression and equalization. To get harmony, you need to shape the waveform before it is duplicated. This will ensure that you get the best and most clear version.
You want it to be before any effects such as chorus, delay and reverb, so that you don’t feed other pedals too complex signals or ruin your clean sound. You wouldn’t harmonize delayed signals, but you would delay harmonized signals.
UNDERSTANDING KNOB SETTINGS
Smart harmonizers can now lock into keys for you, which is a wonderful feature in modern pedals. You’ll see many pedals with small LCD screens or multiple LED lights to help you navigate through different options.
These will vary from pedal to pedal, but they can help you decide which key to lock into and which voicing to use. Other people do this using knobs. Let’s take a look at some common knobs across all options.
You’ll often see the Harmony and Type knobs. Both let you select which voice to use. These are often labeled with octaves unison, high, higher, lower and low. If you don’t own a dedicated unit, many have an embedded Reverb knob that allows you to dial it in.
The Level knob, which allows you to adjust how loud your harmonized line sounds in relation to your lead, is another important knob. This will often be labeled Blend or Mix. You’ll also find buttons to save presets. The Tone knob is another common option. It controls the brightness of the output signal, similar to reverb.
You’ll also find the Key option on a knob and a screen to choose the musical key that you want to play so that your harmony is always in tune with the ear.
The Best Harmonizer Pedals
Note: Every image and text link takes you to Amazon.com, where you can read additional reviews, view technical details, view additional product sizes and options, and make your order.
After we have covered the features you should be looking out for and how harmonizer pedals can be used in general, now it is time to look at the market to determine the best options for your money.
These are not arranged in any particular way. However, we do highlight our top pick and two other “best-in-class” options in the table comparison at the end of the article. Each one is worth considering, as if they make the list they will exceed our expectations.
ELECTRO-HARMONIX PITC FORK
The ElectroHarmonix Pitch Fork is our “Best Budget Pick”. (Our vocalist pick can be found below). You won’t find a better pedal for instrumentalists.
After setting your Blend level between your signal’s dry and harmonized signals, you can choose the intervals that you wish to use. It’s dead simple. It’s so simple to do polyphonic harmonization. However, this is not an intelligent harmonizer. This means that you can’t input the key you are in.
This is a fairly new feature so it’s not too much. It is nice to have, but we were able to live without it. I don’t care about the accuracy and tracking of this pedal, but it’s worth the tradeoff. There are a few more features that I should mention.
You can choose from a harmony above or below. Or both. By holding down the Latch button, you can move the footswitch between Momentary and Latch modes. The second allows you to harmonize temporarily (like the length the chorus). The effect is turned off when you raise it.
The optional expression pedal controls pitch when you are in Latch mode. In Momentary mode, you can control the glissando speed. This defaults at 60 milliseconds, but you can change it to 4 ms or more than 2 seconds.
The magic happens at the Shift knob. The black numbers 1, 2, 3 are the numbers you would like to add (making it an octaver pedal). The Detune mode is the ‘D’ setting. This will thicken your tone and pitch shift down 17 cents.
The other settings on Shift knob let you choose the intervals that you wish to use. This is why we are here. There are seven options available: a major and major 2nd, minor 3rd, major 3rd and perfect 4th, perfect 5, perfect 6th, major 7th and major 6th. Dual mode allows you to mix and match these intervals using octaves. This mode allows you to do many things.
CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON Simple, inexpensive polyphonic harmony…
- LedgerNote Favorite
Eventide calls the Eventide Harmonizer a multi-voice intelligent harmonizer. This beast contains ten algorithms that provide the ultimate in pitch shifting, harmonization. Most of these algorithms are taken from the most sought-after pedals and effects like the Quadravox and Crystals.
The Synthonizer can turn any instrument into an unique synthesizer, and it even includes a HarPeggiator that generates arpeggios based upon your playing. You can even control all parameters via an app on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
It will be difficult to go through everything, so let me just highlight the highlights. There are 100 presets already built in. You can also add unlimited numbers through the MIDI connector, or save your own. A built-in tuner is included. You can adjust everything instantly by changing the knobs, MIDI, or expression pedal.
You can tap the tempo button to change the time and synchronize your MIDI clock so that all of your effects are in sync. The chassis is made of rugged metal and features true bypass, metal footswitches, as well as a metal chassis. Line level inputs and outputs are available for instruments in stereo or mono.
This pedal is used by a lot of professional musicians, including Steve Vai and St. Vincent. Eventide, who are still the original creators of this pedal, is the reason.
This harmonizer is not only a great one, but you also have access to an incredible number of effects that you will definitely use. There are many other effects that can be added to your harmony, including an octaver and pitch shifter, delay, reverbs, whammy, reverbs, reverbs, reverbs, whammy, and countless others.
You’ll need to dial in a key or scale for the harmonies. This is not possible with other pedals. You can then choose your intervals by dialing in a key and a scale. (Or four, if you use Quadrovox). All of this is possible via the knob selection and can be displayed on the LED screen. To confirm, you can hold down the “Learn” knob and play a chord. It is extremely fast and precise.
This pedal is undoubtedly the best harmonizer pedal available. This is the pedal for you if you are a professional who doesn’t want compromises.
The Best Algorithms & Fullest Featured…
TC HELICON HARMONY SONGER 2
The TC Helicon Harmony Singer II is the easiest harmonizer to use for a singer in a band, or one-man show. You don’t have to change the key every time you use “smart harmonizers”. The Harmony Singer records whatever instrument you plug into, regardless of whether it’s a guitar, bass or keyboard. That’s all.
You can now set your mix levels to match the instrument and add one of three types studio-grade reverbs. There are three types of reverb: club, hall and room. Each has a longer duration.
Now let’s get back to the harmony. You can choose from eight styles and the Harmony knob. These settings don’t have names because of the changing keys but they are essentially “above”, more above, lower, and more below”. You can mix and match them to get all eight settings. These are your standard 3rds or 5ths but with a twist.
This thing doesn’t sound static or locked in. You get lots of interesting harmonization options that follow the instrument. They sound much more musical and classy than the monotonous ones that just repeat the same thing every time.
The sweet preamp will automatically adjust the input gain to match the volume of your instrument. You can then add harmonies and verses with the foot switch to make your song stand out.
The Tone button is my favorite feature of this pedal. You can instantly get a noise gate and de-esser as well as subtle equalization and compression when you press the button. It’s almost like having a mix engineer at your fingertips. This is the right choice for vocalists who don’t need a lot of complexity and want harmonization done quickly and well. It’s a certainty. It’s our “Best Bang for the Buck!” pick!
CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON Vocal Harmonies: The Simple Choice
BOSS VE-2, VOCAL HARMONIST
The Boss VE-2 Voice Harmonist is another solid option for solo singers who play along with a guitar. It’s a complete effects package that can enhance your performance with minimal effort. It can also be used to record vocals to your PC.
This pedal, like the “Harmony Singer” above, features Boss’s “Auto-Harmony,” which means it can latch onto chords being played on your guitar and detect the key you are in. It will adjust your harmony instantly, even if you make a change during a bridge.
For acapella performances, you can set the key manually using the knob. You can even use the hybrid mode to keep your rhythm guitar in tune, or if it rips off a solo.
There are 24 harmony options available. These include 12 up and 12 lower versions of single or double voice harmonies. These can be selected using the Type knob. This provides visual confirmation by lighting up easily-seeable red LEDs.
You can also adjust the delay or reverb. You can adjust the volume and balance of your vocals and the harmony. The Enhance button allows you to apply subtle pitch correction to your vocals. You can add compression, EQ and noise gating by pressing it once. You can add auto-tune by pressing it again.
You can save any settings that you have created and enjoyed to be recalled later. This is an excellent, high-quality option that has a simple interface.
Auto Key-Tracking and 24 Harmony Modes…
TC HELICON VOICETONE HARMONY GO-XT
The TC Helicon VoiceTone HarmonyG-XT model is similar to the Harmony Singer. It follows the same design philosophy as the Harmony Singer. This model is not an “intelligent harmonyizer”, in that it selects a key on the knob. Instead, it listens on a keyboard or guitar to determine which key you are before harmonizing with you vocals.
This is much more convenient than constantly changing the knobs. If you are a singer without an instrument, you can manually set it. However, it is not on a knob. The LED readout will help you navigate to the desired option.
This is a processor for vocal effects, which focuses mainly on the vocalist. The instrumentalist (or you if you’re just following along) can also be used to support the vocalist. You don’t have to modify much thanks to the ability to quickly cycle through presets with A and B effects. You can also save your custom ones.
You get an array of reverbs and delays, as well as some modulation. You even get a built-in tuner to your guitar.
This is a great tool for singer-songwriters because it acts almost like an engineer in the box. The microphone runs through a low-noise preamplifier and can be adjusted to adjust the volume of the keyboard or guitar. There’s also a Tone button, which when activated, adds a compressor, de-esser and a noise gate to your voice.
You can also use the Auto-Chromatic pitch correction feature to correct any mistakes. You can add a delay or reverb to your mix and you’re good to go. This one is the more complex, involved brother of the TC Helicon Harmony Song above, but with a lot more options.
CHECK PRICE AT AMAZON For the Vocalist with an Instrument
BOSS PS-6 HARMONIZER PEDAL
The Boss PS-6 stompbox is a great tool for bass players and guitarists. You can choose from four modes: Harmony, Pitch Shifter and Detune. The Key selector knob allows you to create a three-voice harmony and sync into the right key.
The Super Bend allows you to pitch shift like a whammy or detune all your voices. It also provides four octaves of extreme pitch bend and dive bombs. You can also use the expression pedal input or stereo outputs.
This Boss case is almost indestructible and houses the entire package. The Balance knob adjusts the mix between dry and wet signals. It also acts as an S-Bend controller, rising time controller, and controls your pitch shifting intervals. The Shift knob controls pitch shifting intervals, but at extremes it becomes a voice harmony selector.
The Key knob contains all the keys laid out chromatically to make it easy to switch between songs. It also acts as a fall-time controller in S bend mode. The Mode knob allows you to choose between major or minor harmony keys and also has three other modes.
The input signal can be altered by the tune mode up to +/-20 cents. However, a range of 10 cents sounds better. Pitch shifting can be done in three, five, seven, or two octaves. We’re not here to harmonize, but there is no latency or tracking issues.
These “smart harmonizers”, however, require that your guitar be tuned at A-440. Otherwise the “intelligent” aspect of the instrument goes out the window. You can harmonize in the following order: a 3rd to 5th, 6th and octave; 3rd and 5th; -3rd and -4th; -3rd and -6th; -octave; -4th and -6th; and octaves higher and lower.
Boss has all the intervals you need, in the same high-quality that we have come to expect. The pitch shifting is polyphonic and not harmonization. Harmonizing is only for lead guitarists.
Powerful, Durable, Smart…
These are the best Harmonizer Pedals available
You need to decide if you are looking for a harmonizer primarily for vocalists or guitarists or any other instrumentalists when you search for one. These two types are the most common.
They create a pitch-shifted version of your original signal at the interval you choose and then recombine them. This allows you to mix the levels to your liking. We have included both options in our current list of the best harmonizer pedals.