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Our guide to the DigiTech Whammy pitch-shifting family
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Our guide to the DigiTech Whammy pitch-shifting family

Of all the pedals to make it out of DigiTech, none are more distinctive than the DigiTech Whammy, and that often raises the question, which DigiTech whammy is best?

Being the first foot-controlled pitch shifting effect on the market meant that it was a bit ahead of its time when first released, but once Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine began to use the effect prominently on the band’s debut album, it’s safe to say that its popularity took off exponentially! With notable users including Dimebag Darrell, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jack White, and David Glimour, the Whammy is a truly unique effect and songwriting tool.

Whilst established in 1991, the Whammy technology has developed a lot since the original Whammy I. Now up to its fifth generation and with a handful of pedal variants, the pitch shifting range from DigiTech is stronger than ever.

In this guide, we are going to be taking a look at each pedal in the range, explaining their key differences and which ones are more suited to particular applications. 

Whammy (5th Generation)

The 5th generation Whammy is very much the same beast as the first. It features the same enclosure layout with a built-in expression pedal, a selector matrix displaying the available pitch shifting options, as well as a bypass switch.

With 18 available options, each pitch selection changes the pitching of the heel and toe positions of the expression pedal from –2 octaves to +2 octaves and everything in between. The selector matrix also has two sides; Harmony and Whammy.  

Harmony has a pitch assigned to both the heel and toe positions of the expression pedal, whilst also allowing the dry signal to pass through – the idea being that you can use the expression pedal to harmonise with your dry signal and change your heel/toe to change the interval of the harmony. The Whammy side of the pedal on the other hand is 100% wet and moves from your dry, standard pitch in the heel position, to the selected pitch in the toe position.

The classic ‘Whammy’ sound that you hear in the hands (or foot!) of Tom Morello is the Octave Up position in the Whammy mode. This raises the pitch up by an octave when the expression pedal is in its toe position.

The new feature of the Whammy 5 is the Classic/Chord switch, which changes the character of the Whammy effect from the trademark monophonic pitch shifting of the original Whammy I, to a new improved Polyphonic setting called ‘Chords’. The setting is smoother and allows for multiple notes to be shifted without introducing strange and off-putting artefacts into the signal.

Drop

The Drop is quite a different beast to the Whammy however it is developed from the same internal technology. Rather than dynamically altering the pitch like the Whammy does with its expression pedal, the Drop instead drops the pitch of the guitar signal by a preset amount – from 1 semitone down to an octave.  

The Drop is designed less as an ‘effect’ but more as a tool for guitarists in the studio and on stage to drop the pitch of the guitar for certain songs in the set, down from E standard to A standard (which is pretty low!), without having to touch a tuning peg! It also features a momentary mode so that the pitch can be dropped momentarily to make for some interesting effects.

Using the newer, ‘Chord’ algorithm, the Drop tracks chords and other double stops very effectively with minimal artefacts and glitching, even as you drop the pitch lower and lower and lower and lower...

In this video, Elliott uses the Drop to slowly pitch down a repeating riff, allowing you to hear how each position reacts with your guitar!

Whammy DT

The Whammy DT is the biggest pedal in the range with the most features and it essentially combines the Whammy V and the Drop to create a complete, pitch shifting solution. The left side of the pedal is the same as the Whammy V – Whammy & Harmony modes with 18 pitches all controlled using the built-in expression pedal. The right side of the pedal is very much the same as the Drop – but with some extra features.

The Whammy DT can not only drop the pitch of your guitar in the same way as the standalone ‘Drop’ pedal, but it can also raise it up to an octave higher for some even more pitch shifting fun. You can also use the Drop and the Whammy elements of the pedal at the same time; the Drop to adjust the standard pitch of the guitar and the Whammy to continue with your dynamic Whammy shifting business from there.  

Here is our video of the Whammy DT in action! In this example, Elliott uses the Drop function to drop the tuning of the guitar from E standard to Db and then uses the Octave, Whammy, and Harmony options of the Whammy effect for some interesting, imaginative, and musical pitch shifting examples!:

Whammy Ricochet

The Ricochet is the newest and most compact addition to the Pitch shifting quartet. Replacing the expression pedal with a simple footswitch, the Ricochet features a greatest hits collection of popular ‘whammy’ effects that are triggered by pressing and holding the footswitch. Two ‘Ballistics’ controls adjust how long it takes the pedal takes to shift and return to and from the selected pitch. What would ordinarily be ‘how long it takes for your foot to move from heel to toe’ on the bigger Whammy pedals, is now set with these two intuitive controls. Set the Shift fast for instant pitch shifting or set the return slow for divebomb-esque effects. This unique functionality means that the Ricochet is the same size as a normal, compact DigiTech pedal and will easily slip into your gig bag or pedalboard.


The available pitching options are slightly more limited in comparison to the other pedals in the range, however it does feature the most popular pitches such as 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th, Octave, Double Octave, as well as an Octave + Dry setting. Each position can be set to go up or down in pitch, as well as either be momentary or latching.

 

Many would feel that the absence of the Expression pedal makes the Ricochet feel a bit empty, however the addition of the LED bar graph meter to the side of the pedal allows you to see the current pitch drop/rise status of the pedal and how quickly the pedal is shifting your pitch.

So that’s it! That’s our guide to the four DigiTech Whammy products. It feels as though they have come a long way since 1991, but they still deliver the Whammy sound that is just as unique now as it was back then. 

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