Electro-Harmonix has been one of the biggest names in guitar effects units since not long after effects units were conceived and has surfed the waves of guitar FX fashion with real success - most notably in recent years with its pitch based effects. One of the company's recent forays into this area is the Pitch Fork pedal, a nice compact unit with some absolutely wonderful creative potential, as I soon found out!
The EHX Pitch Fork has a unique switching system, meaning you can either use it almost like an expression based pedal by either attaching an expression pedal via the expression input section of the pedal, or you can use the ‘latch’ switch which when activated the pedal will work like a normal stomp box, with the regular one click on one click off function. However, with the latch switch depressed you can hold the switch button down with your foot in order to activate the effect, letting go of the switch will deactivate the effect.
The pedal features two classic rotational knobs, the one on the top left controls the blend and the one on the top right determines the pitch that the pedal shifts up or down by. The blend control when fully counter-clockwise will give you your guitar signal as normal, turning it to 12 o’clock will give you a nice blend between your actual signal pitch and the pitch that has been selected with the right hand knob. At a fully clockwise setting the signal will be entirely the pitch you have selected. You can select several pitch settings: detune, minor 2nd, major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, major 6th, m7, 1 octave, 2 octaves or 3 octaves.
Already we have so many levels of options for sonic experimentation, however this pedal takes it one step further. Between the rotational knobs and above the latch button there is a three-way toggle switch which selects either ‘up’, ‘dual’, or ‘down’. This determines if the pitch effect is either up an octave, within the same register or down an octave from your pitch signal. We have now tripled the amount of sounds available from the pedal which creates a wide range of completely crazy pitch effects!
The first thing I did with this pedal when I got it out of the box was set the pitch setting to 2 octaves, the toggle switch to down and the blend knob fully clockwise. This would give my open low E string 2 octaves below, which is very low! However, what really impressed me was how well this pedal tracked what I was playing. I could even play chords, and despite how low and muddy 2 octaves below E can sound, it worked great!
This effect could be used whilst playing higher up the neck also to add range to your playing positionally.
The pedal has some extreme settings, for example 3 octaves in the ‘up’ toggle position gives us some sounds that maybe only dogs could hear due to the amazing high frequencies produced by playing an E on the 24th fret E string then shifting it up 3 octaves! So, I am very impressed with how well this unit tracks the pitch of what you are playing, even with quicker phrases and licks. Of course the harmonization area of the pedal where we can select 5ths etc. works a treat! This pedal can’t however track what tonality you are playing in, the intervals you select will remain exactly as set them, regardless of what key or tonality you are playing in. However, if you are looking for crazy Rock sounds, from Queens of the Stone Age to Rage against the Machine and beyond, this pedal has some fantastic crazy harmonization sounds for you to get your teeth stuck into.
Overall, I think this pedal is awesome for the creative Rock musician looking to add some new sounds to his pedal board. Also as a practical utility pedal for the guitarist in a function band wanting ‘bass’ like tones maybe! Or even for home recording when one doesn’t own a bass. If you are looking to add some range to your solos or if you a single guitarist in your originals band looking for some new places to go harmonically, this pedal is for you! It would be cool to see the pedal with a tonality function, being able to select key and tonality, however, I don’t think that is the nature of this pedal: it's designed to be simple and easy to use, for crazy rock sounds, it's not there as a substitute second guitarist for Thin Lizzy leads, it's there to melt faces and warp minds! Go check it out, it's crazy.