Best Octave Pedals for Guitar – Buying Guide and Reviews

The octave pedal was one of the very first standalone effects pedals ever created, made by Jim Morris of Kelsey-Morris Sound – not to be confused with Jim Morrison of The Doors – in 1967. From there many more have been made, including the iconic Octavio pedal used by Jimi Hendrix, and they are now available in many different levels of sophistication depending on your requirements.

So what are Octave pedals used for? Why would you add one to your music collection? All this and more is discussed in this article, as well as our favourite pedals on the market that are worth your consideration.

guitar octave pedals

If you’re in a rush, here’s the products we review further down the article. For full effect, I recommend you read the whole thing as there’s plenty of things to consider when buying one of these gizmos.

At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Octave Pedals For Guitar on the Market

PREVIEW PRODUCT FEATURES

Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork Guitar Pitch Effect Pedal

Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork
  • Can shift up, down or both at the same time
  • Has a range of three octaves
  • Has expression pedal input
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Electro Harmonix Micro POG Polyphonic Octave Generator Guitar Effects Pedal

Electro-Harmonix Micro POG
  • Capable of both up- and down-shifting octaves
  • Has a dry/wet blend ratio
  • Polyphonic tracking
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Digitech Whammy 5 Multi-Effects Pedal Bundle with 2 Cables and Power Supply

Digitech Whammy 5 Multi-Effects Pedal Bundle
  • Built in expression pedal
  • Up and down shifting
  • More increments than just octaves
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Mooer Audio Micro Series Tender Octaver MK II Guitar Effects Pedal

Mooer Tender Octaver
  • Has three different EQ modes
  • Independent sub / up octave dials
  • Very small and light
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Boss OC-3 Super Octave Bundle with Power Supply, Instrument Cable, Patch Cable, Picks, and Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth

Boss OC-3 Super Octave
  • Multiple sub-octave levels simultaneously
  • Separate guitar/bass input
  • Adjustable polyphonic range
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

EarthQuaker Devices Organizer V2 Polyphonic Organ Emulator Guitar Effects Pedal

Earthquaker Devices Organizer
  • Built-in delay, chorus and high-cut
  • Separate up- and down- octaves with a 2 octave range
  • Dry volume dial
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Taurus Amplifcation White Line Dexter MK2 Polyphonic Octaver

Taurus Dexter
  • Transpose both up and down at the same time
  • Gain controls
  • Adjustable range
CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article. Jump to an area of interest, or better read the whole thing. By the end of it you’ll know exactly which octave pedal is best suited to you.

What is the ‘Octave Effect’?

Octave pedals fall into the category of pitch-modulation effects pedals, and are one of the easiest types of guitar effects to understand. As the name suggests, they work on the basis of copying the input signal from your guitar and shifting the pitch up or down by a full octave. The output signal is then heard as both the original note plus the pitch-shifted note, or just the shifted note on its own. For example, if you were to play the two open E-strings on a guitar at the same time you would have the same result as playing the E6 open with an octave pedal set to -2 octaves.

 

Benefits of the Octave Pedal

Provides a Hassle-free Bass Line to Accompany Your Guitar

One of the simplest roles an octave pedal can play is to provide a hassle-free bass line that plays along with your guitar. This can be useful for musicians who work alone, or if you’re practicing a particular track and need a way to fill in for the rest of your band you can use an octave pedal and a drum machine.

Helps You Play at a Much Higher or Lower Pitch

Another way you can use octave pedals is to allow you to play at a much higher or lower frequency range than normal and remove the original pitch. No matter what strings you’re using, there is only so far you can deviate from the standard pitch before you start to run into problems with the quality of the tone or breakage. This will be particularly beneficial if you are performing music which was originally written for instruments with a much broader range of pitches than a guitar.

Give Your Guitar a Fuller Tone

You may also wish to achieve a ‘fuller’ tone – and adding an octave up and/or down can be a good way to do this. Doubling up on notes in this way is an effective way to improve sections of music which sound underdeveloped or too quiet, similar to the ‘Wall of Sound’ recording technique developed by Phil Spector. This may be done for a whole song, or intermittently depending on what other instrumentation occurs.

Helps You Play Octaves More Easily

Guitarists without a good grasp of music theory can benefit from octave pedals as you won’t have to spend as much time hunting around on your fretboard for the right note if you’re looking to play two octaves at once, and this can also help to accommodate those who struggle with the fretting of certain combinations of notes.

Beefs Up Your Solos

Using an octave pedal in a solo will also be a very practical way to fill the sudden emptiness that comes from having the rest of the band suddenly going much quieter. Using an octave pedal in this way is a very subtle way to avoid a huge dip in the sound levels that may leave a solo feeling underwhelming in comparison to the rest of a track.

Adds a Synth-Like Tone to Your Guitar

Octave pedals are also prone to adding a synth-like tone to your guitar, and this can be used intentionally to create a smooth and full sound, or even just to add some variety without going overboard. Octave effects pedals will often have extra controls for additional purposes such as EQ and dry/wet ratios (more on those later) which can be particularly relevant when an octave pedal is being used in this way.

For Matching Pitch

If you’re a guitarist who plays in a band with a more unusual lineup, you may also find that an octave pedal is the only way you are able to reach the same pitches without sacrificing the use of half of your frets. Furthermore, having the ability to easily play any note across a range of octaves simultaneously can help your sound to come through when you’re playing alongside instruments which are just naturally more dominant or ensembles.

 

How Do Octave Pedals Work?

When you play a note on your guitar, the vibrations of the strings cause the surrounding air to vibrate at the same particular frequency, which can be measured in Hertz. If we were to draw out this vibration of sound waves, it would contain a number of peaks and troughs, with one of each representing one complete cycle. Sounds with a higher frequency have a higher number of cycles per second.

The key to understanding how octave pedals work is that you can find the next octave of any frequency by doubling it, or halving it in the case of finding an octave down. Octave pedals use different methods to accomplish this, depending on whether a pitch is being shifted up or down, and on whether the pedal in question is analogue or digital.

Because of the numerous ways in which the pitch-shift can be achieved, it means that you can get very different results from one octave pedal to the next, and you can expect at least some alteration to the tone of the output signal as well.

For example, an octave-up effect can be achieved by converting the input signal into a sine wave, taking the negative part of the wave and reversing it, so that there are now two positive peaks within the same amount of time, doubling the cycles per second, or Hertz. However, if you take this method and try to apply it to a three-note chord, or a note which has already been processed through another effect such as an overdrive pedal, the end result can be very poor.

More advanced digital octave pedals will use different algorithms to determine what the desired end result should be, and you can choose between many octave pedals are now able to easily hurdle over different challenges.

 

How to Use an Octave Pedal?

When you’re playing with an octave pedal, you must ensure that you are playing in a way which the pedal can handle. If you have a monophonic octave pedal – that is, one which can only track one note at a time – you will need to make sure that each note is articulated clearly from the notes both following and preceding, otherwise the pedal will struggle to apply the effect to the correct note. In addition, you will not be able to play any kind of chord without the pedal reacting unpredictably.

One technique that can help to keep an monophonic octave pedal on the right course is to use palm muting, and keep the pedal off for sections which will require rapid sequences of notes.

You will also want to keep octave pedals as one of the very first pedals if you will be chaining several effects together at once in order to make the incoming signal as easy for the pedal to process as possible. The more complicated the input is, the more likely it is that an incorrect note will be used for the output, or for the effect to not trigger at all.

Another trick to help get the most out of an octave pedal is to keep your guitar pickup switch in the neck position, as the stronger signal will translate into better performance from the pedal.

 

Using Octave Pedals With Fuzz

Although it is generally a good idea to keep your signal clean prior to the octave pedal, they have often been combined with a fuzz effect for a warmer and richer tone. In fact, Octave/fuzz pedals are relatively common, and this goes back to the pre-digital era when it was more or less impossible not to introduce some kind of distortion when raising or lowering a pitch artificially. Octave pedals with inbuilt fuzz mimic the vintage sound of analogue pedals, but as digital pedals they can take advantage of extra functionality thanks to being polyphonic (multi-note).

Again, using the neck pickup will help with these, as the bridge pickup will be to weak to use effectively, and keeping your playing as technically accurate as possible will prevent excess muddying of the sound.

 

Examples of Octave Pedals in Popular Music

The track ‘Seven Nation Army’ is probably the best demonstration of an octave pedal in the history of popular music. As a two piece-band, an octave pedal was the perfect way to bring in a bassline to round out their sound. The slow and deliberate rhythm makes it easy for the pedal to track which note needs to be processed. The end result is a warm, almost lo-fi production that has enduring popularity and is one of the most commonly learnt songs by beginner guitarists.

Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine often uses different pitch-shifting pedals, and octave shifts are frequently featured amongst those. For a very obvious example of an octave pedal being used, the intro to ‘Calm Like A Bomb’ is hard to beat, but there are many other examples of octave pedals through their discography.

More recently, ‘Uptown Funk’ is also a popular track which showcases how an octave pedal can be used to great effect. There is a solid bass underpinning this track, and an octave pedal is an ideal way to recreate this without much effort – although the original track wasn’t actually performed this way.

You may also want to listen to ‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel, for an example of an octave pedal being used with a bass guitar to brighten up the tone. In fact, the use of an octave pedal to shift a bass guitar up may be even more common than using them to shift a regular 6-string guitar down.

 

Buying Guide – What to Consider When Buying an Octave Pedal

Analogue vs Digital

Analogue and digital are the simplest distinction between octave pedals, although not always the most useful. Analogue octave effects were the most commonly used until relatively recently, and they were demonstrably effective, although it should be noted that they did tend to introduce a certain level of ‘fuzz’ and inaccuracy to the end result.

Octave pedals which rely on analogue circuitry can be prohibitively expensive and take up a lot of space, as the effects are achieved through physical components. The sheer variety of both analog and digital pedals means there are many excellent models of either type, so a better way to consider octave pedals is breaking them down by what they can actually do.

Polyphonic vs Monophonic

A much more useful way to differentiate between octave pedals is whether they can track multiple notes at once. If you’ll need something that can handle chords or even just double-stops, then a polyphonic octave pedal is going to be the only way forward. On the other hand, if you’re only using the octave pedal single-note sequences then there’s no need to splash out for a pedal that does more than you need it to. Bass guitar players will be able to get more out of a monophonic pedal, as well as those guitarists who are looking to fill in for a bass player if one isn’t available.

Number of Octaves

These days you will find that most octave pedals will allow you to choose between shifting between one or more octaves. This is a very basic consideration, and knowing in advance how far you’ll need to move the frequency of a note by will make this choice much easier if you’re trying to decide between a pedal that allows shifting by more than two octaves or an extremely basic model which only allows for shifting by one octave.

Up or Down

Not all octave pedals will allow you to apply the effect in both directions, and again this decision will be informed by how you intend to use the pedal. With pedals that allow for shifting in both directions, you should carefully test the pedal to ensure that the quality is equal in both directions. You may find that a pedal which allows for shifting both up and down does not do so by the same number of octaves.

Blend

Many octave pedals will allow you to set a dry/wet ratio (how much of the processed signal is heard alongside the original signal). Having this option ensures that you can hear both the original note and the one which is shifted by an octave at the right levels giving you the ability to emphasise one of them at any particular moment. An octave pedal without this control may only output the pitch-shifted note and not the original one, so be sure that this is good enough for your purposes if that is the case before you buy.

However, depending on what additional controls are available on an Octave pedal, your dry/wet blend settings may refer to those instead.

Latency and Tracking

Although not actually a ‘feature’ as such, it is important that you look carefully at how well the octave pedal tracks your playing. If the tracking is poor, then the pedal will not be suitable for anything other than low tempo music played through a clean channel. The better octave pedals are able to handle faster sequences of music and correctly gauge what the output should be. Latency is similar, but refers to what delay there is between playing a note and the output signal. If latency is very poor, it can make it difficult to keep in time and may compound any existing issues with tracking inaccuracies. This should be your first priority, as no amount of additional features will improve a poorly made octave pedal.

 

Extra Features Worth Considering

There are some octave pedals that are as basic as turning them on and off, with no extra input needed. However, if you prefer your pedals to give you as many additional options as possible for shaping the final sound, you can find a few such pedals that come with extra features such as the following:

Fuzz / Distortion / Overdrive

Many octave pedals are actually combined with another effect such as these three, giving the pedal a little more practical use and also helping to save some space in your setup. The quality of these additional tone colouration options may not be as good as that which can be achieved by a dedicated pedal on its own, but if you’re using an octave effect at the same time this is also a useful way to avoid additional tracking problems.

Expression Pedal

If you’re the type of musician who insists on absolute control, then finding an octave pedal with either a built in expression pedal or an input jack for one can be beneficial. However, due to the nature of octave pedals this is unlikely to be the biggest draw, so your choice of pedal shouldn’t be influenced by this particular option too much.

Gain / Overdrive

The inclusion of gain / overdrive controls on an octave pedal allows for the primary effect to be combined with the characteristic ‘roar’ that tube amplifiers have when pushed hard. This is a good because it adds another layer of authenticity to the post-processed signal, making it sounds less synthetic and this can also help to disguise any issues in tracking by muddying the overall sound.

 

Where to Put an Octave Pedal in Your Signal Chain?

Octave pedals tend to work at their optimum level when placed as early as possible in the signal chain, as the addition of distortion, overdrive, phasers or any other effects that can alter the pitch of a note will result in far more frequent errors. If you have a wah-pedal, you will be better placing this before an octave pedal in most cases, but this is one of the only effects pedals that this would apply to.

 

Product Round-Up and Mini-Reviews

 

Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork

Electro-Harmonix Pitch Fork Guitar Pitch Effect Pedal

This pedal has a very high three octave range in both directions, and is unusual in the sense that it can be used in both at the same time, making it very good for those who are looking to create a chorus style effect. It also has an expression pedal jack with two different modes, allowing for a lot of creativity. Getting the hang of these can be quite difficult, and pushing the settings past a certain point will result in the tone being altered in a noticeable way. You can use it as a standard octave pedal as well, but this packs much more utility, although you’ll also need to purchase a separate expression pedal to make the most of it.

PROS

  • Can shift up, down or both at the same time
  • Has a range of three octaves
  • Has expression pedal input

CONS

  • Expression pedal modes can be difficult to master
  • Requires an expression pedal for maximum utility
  • Imparts a synthetic tone when pitch-shifting at higher degrees

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

 

Electro-Harmonix Micro POG

Electro Harmonix Micro POG Polyphonic Octave Generator Guitar Effects Pedal

A very straight forward polyphonic octave pedal, allowing for the simultaneous adding an an octave up and down at different levels. This feature, along with a stereo dry/wet output, makes it a very versatile octave pedal which is only undercut by the fact that you cannot go beyond one octave in either direction.

PROS

  • Capable of both up- and down-shifting octaves
  • Has a dry/wet blend ratio
  • Polyphonic tracking
  • Stereo output

CONS

  • Can only shift by one octave

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

 

Digitech Whammy 5 Multi-Effects Pedal Bundle

Digitech Whammy 5 Multi-Effects Pedal Bundle with 2 Cables and Power Supply

Another polyphonic pitch-shifter rather than a pure octave-pedal. A rather unusual feature is the option to switch to monophonic mode, although whether this would be of any use for most guitarists beyond the sheer novelty of it will be very subjective. The built in-expression pedal means you can use it as a whammy bar, and it has a helpful series of lights to show exactly how far you’ve shifted the pitch by. Pitch shifting in either the whammy or harmonising mode can be done both up and down. This does make it a rather larger pedal than most, and there are no options for controlling the blend.

PROS

  • Built in expression pedal
  • Up and down shifting
  • More increments than just octaves

CONS

  • Physically large
  • No dry/wet blend controls

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

 

Mooer Tender Octaver

Mooer Audio Micro Series Tender Octaver MK II Guitar Effects Pedal

Polyphonic octave pedal with three different EQ modes, which adds much more versatility to this pedal which would otherwise be very basic due to its single up and down octaves – although these can be controlled by dial, along with a dry/wet blend. Rather than relying on pitch range as a selling point, the best thing about this one is that you have a lot of control over the character of the sound. It’s also one of the thinnest octave pedals around, making it great for travelling musicians or those who have a lot of gear already. Online reviews suggest that quality control may be an issue, with several units being returned due to unwanted noise.

PROS

  • Has three different EQ modes
  • Independent sub / up octave dials
  • Very small and light

CONS

  • Only one octave available
  • No expression pedal input
  • May create a loud buzzing noise

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

 

Boss OC-3 Super Octave

Boss OC-3 Super Octave Bundle with Power Supply, Instrument Cable, Patch Cable, Picks, and Austin Bazaar Polishing Cloth

A sub-only polyphonic octave pedal, giving it somewhat reduced application. However, if you only need to add a bassline, this is an excellent choice due to the wide range of features packed in. You can have up to three notes playing at once, the original, one down and two down. It also includes distortion and has separate inputs for guitars and basses. There is also an option to select what range of notes are processed by the polyphonic octaver, allowing for some to be skipped.

PROS

  • Multiple sub-octave levels simultaneously
  • Separate guitar/bass input
  • Adjustable polyphonic range

CONS

  • Sub only

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

 

Earthquaker Devices Organizer

EarthQuaker Devices Organizer V2 Polyphonic Organ Emulator Guitar Effects Pedal

This polyphonic octave pedal is touted as one which can accommodate a huge range of instruments, including vocals, which makes it very useful for those who will be recording tracks that will require many octave effects throughout. It also has additional chorus settings, delay and adjustable high-cut.

PROS

  • Built-in delay, chorus and high-cut
  • Separate up- and down- octaves with a 2 octave range
  • Dry volume dial
  • Compatible with many other instruments and vocals

CONS

  • Second octave must be used with both up- and down- at the same time, not individually.

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

 

Taurus Dexter

Taurus Amplifcation White Line Dexter MK2 Polyphonic Octaver

A polyphonic octave pedal with both up and down transposition to 1 level in either direction, controlled by separate dials and with an additional gain dial, and a range control which limits the highest frequencies which will be affected.

PROS

  • Transpose both up and down at the same time
  • Gain controls
  • Adjustable range

CONS

  • No expression pedal
  • Limited to one octave

CHECK PRICE ON AMAZON

 

SUMMARY

Since we’ve included a few pedals which are not pure octave pedals, but are technically transposition pedals with multiple increments, the first decision will be as to whether you need these extra options. If you like having as much flexibility in your pedal as possible, it’s hard to go wrong with the Digitech Whammy.

On the other hand, if you want something that will cost the bare minimum, while getting the job done, the Mooer Tender is a great way to go, and the slim profile makes it ideal for travelling or fitting onto cramped pedal boards.

The Boss pedal brings insane levels of bass, and this is fantastic for solo guitarists who don’t have a bassist to work with, but it’s also built from the ground up to work with bass guitars as well if you really need to shake the foundations. It’s also the only one with a stereo output, so it’ll be excellent for more complex speaker set ups.

If you need a pedal which has multiple effects built in, then the Earthquake Devices Organizer is a great option, and it will help save you from needing to chain additional effects together – although bear in mind that they cannot be used without also triggering the octaver effects.

 

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.

Leave a Comment