How to Understand Tremolo Pedal Settings

Learn about tremolo pedal settings from Broadway musician Michael Aarons in this Howcast video about guitar pedal effects.


So I have three tremolo pedals here. All three of them I use quite frequently. They all sound and do slightly different things. The one I love maybe the most is this Fulltone Supa Trem. I love the ease of use, two knobs you can't go wrong. The knobs are big so you can actually move them with your foot. In the middle of playing you can actually manipulate the settings. So one of the things that is cool about this is you have these two buttons here.

You have a hard and soft, which gives you a really dramatic dip in the wave form, so that the volume really cuts. The floor really drops. So I believe this is on the soft setting. Click hard, you'll hear that it's almost-- the volume is actually dipping almost to the point of being off. So it's like and on/off with the volume as opposed to just a dip in the volume, which is really more like a classic tremolo. It's much more dramatic than the soft setting.

Then you have the mix and the rate. The mix is the amount of tremolo that you're sending into your amp signal. The rate is the speed. Rate is right here at about 1 o'clock. Obviously, the more you slow it down, the slower the tremolo. You can really-- the variance on this tremolo is pretty dramatic. I mean you can go from super, super slow to very, very fast. I've found that the comfortable spot is around 1 o'clock for me.

Then you have this other button here, speed. Which doubles up on what this knob can do. You click it and I didn't even move the rate knob and you're already double what it was before. If you hit the hard and soft again, you can really almost get almost like a helicopter sound. You can go nuts with this. The other two that I have here, I'll start with one of the older ones is this Boss tremolo, a Tr-2. This is the wave form, the middle knob, and then the rate or speed is all the way on the left.

So we'll hear how that sounds. So you turn the wave button and basically, what that does if you picture a triangle wave versus a square wave, it basically the arc of the wave it softens or hardens that. And then the rate, obviously the speed. Finally we have this Strymon Flint pedal, which is a new one that I've found recently, which I really love. You have three presets here and they're all emulating classic amps.

The 61 'Harmonic setting on the tremolo almost is borderline vibrato. It alters the pitch slightly, which is a little bit of a grey area, as far as tremolo and vibrato is concerned. But it's still a tremolo, but just having that option is very cool. 63 Tube setting, just doing that, it's just emulating a '63 Tube amp. Classic fender amps, classic box amps. And the third setting is this '65 Photo, all different colors, all different variations, intensity and speed, same as the other pedals, and the possibilities again are endless.

It's all just what you like, what sounds good to you. And there you have tremolo, so all three of these pedals have very similar settings. They all sound, as you can see, very different. It's all what you like. It's all what sounds good. Experiment with reverb. Experiment with delay. Experiment with overdrive and you'll see that they all achieve very different tones. Some are very natural and organic and some can be really wild and crazy, depending on what you're trying to achieve.

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