If you're guitar playing has been stuck in the same rut for too long, look into the Tremolo pedal. This innovative guitar effect pedal offers tone-shaping options right on the instrument's front panel. Learn more about this amazing new addition to your musical arsenal.
Tremolo pedals are designed to operate using a two-step process. The first step involves establishing a "clamp" or "bias voltage" on the input signal. The second step is the actual tremolo effect, where the movement of the foot pedal alters the bias voltage. Most guitarists don't think about tremolo until they hear it applied in a song. Tremolo is such an influential effect that some guitarists never think about it being used on their instrument until they hear it employed on a recording. Tremolo is just the sort of dynamic effect where you quickly discover that once you acquire a tremolo pedal, it completely creeps into your playing.
Tremolo effects utilize two different wave controls - a low-frequency sweep and a high-frequency sweep. The low-frequency sweep is typically used on acoustic guitars and vocals, while the high-frequency sweep is typically used on lead guitars and overdriven basses. Some common places to use these sweep controls include the whammy bar in a clean-bank tone or on the body of a guitar that is already sounding good. You'll also commonly see them on amp-style heads, such as those used in Mesa Bozett amp models.
The phase-shifter on tremolo pedals shifts the phase of the signal - literally changing the shape of the waveform. A typical tremolo pedal has three to seven different phase-shapes available. Some guitarists prefer to sweep the tremolo through all seven possible phase-shapes, while others like to sweep the tremolo only through one shape. It depends on personal preference.
Tremolo circuits allow guitarists to produce very intense sound effects. Many vintage styled electric guitars employ tremolo pedal effects. Some examples are thealozy tremolo (from the Levinson Bass Guitar Coaching Series by Tom Page), the aliased tremolo (from the Fender Stratocaster), the non aliased tremolo (Fender Thunderbird Stratocaster), and the rotary tremolo (Guitar Prodigy Bass Effects). The original J Mesa tremolo circuit was found to be so effective that many artists like Eric Clapton, Mickey Rourke and evenicks actually made cover versions of their songs using a tremolo pedal.
Tom Morello of AC/DC fame used a tremolo on their classic song "Thunderstruck." He played it in both the verse and the chorus, using a modified tremolo circuit. Rather than playing one note per string like most acoustic guitar players, Morello used two tremolo pickups in each string. When he played the song at full blast, it was clearly audible. The sound was so thick and distorted, it was difficult to tell which string was live and which was recorded.
There are a number of Tremolo Pedal Effects available. The simplest tremolo effect utilizes one control for both treble and bass, a third control for the volume of both pickups, and one for the tremolo itself. Other pedals commonly used with the tremolo effect include volume controls for individual sounds, such as a kick drum or hi hat solo, a twangy twang, and other special sound effects. These additional controls are not essential to the Tremolo Pedal, but they do enhance the sound produced by the unit.
If you really want to take your guitar playing to the next level, then you might consider investing in a good set of Tremolo Pedals. They offer the same types of sounds you would hear in a real guitar studio, with the added advantage of being able to control the sound and volume of the pedals. Boss stomp-boxes, Electro-Harmonics thunderstorm and even some Yamaha digital models come with Tremolo pedals. Whichever model you choose, remember to buy high quality parts, and always refer to the owner's manual for proper care and maintenance. If you are going to spend the money, don't make the mistake of not getting the best!