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Vibrato vs. Tremolo FX Pedals - What's the Difference?

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Postby Gabba Gabba Hey » August 8th, 2009, 1:30 pm

As the subject says, what is the difference between a "vibe" effect and "trem" effect? I also see some two-in-one pedals like the "Trem O Vibe" and "Vibratrem" and it all seems so confusing. So what's what?
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Postby notes_norton » August 8th, 2009, 3:29 pm

A lot of things in the guitar world are misnamed so be careful.

For instance, the tremolo bar on the fender strat (and clones) should be called a vibrato bar.

Vibrato is the periodic, rhythmic variation in pitch. When you wiggle the string on the fretboard with your fretting finger, you are producing a vibrato. The pitch goes up and down. When you wiggle the misnamed trem-bar on the strat, the pitch goes up and down.

Tremolo is the periodic, rhythmic variation in volume. The tremolo knob on many amplifiers (especially old ones) gives that effect.

But guitarists aren't the only ones who get it mixed up. The flute vibrato is really more of a tremolo.

But with acoustic instruments, there is usually a little tremolo mixed with the vibrato, and a little vibrato mixed with the tremolo. So there is always a lot of debate on the subject.

So I guess what I'm saying is, do you want the pitch or the volume to go up and down? Don't listen to the name, but listen for the effect.

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Postby Scrybe » August 8th, 2009, 3:56 pm

If it helps any....

My Marshall has Tremolo. When you switch the tremolo on, you can hear it coming through the amp before you play anything. It's a tube amp, so there's a little hum and this hum gets the tremolo treatment. I also find that turning it up beyond mild tremolo can induce a seasickness feeling in listeners. Which may be the desired effect.
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Postby Gabba Gabba Hey » August 9th, 2009, 5:26 am

Ah, many thanks. So generally speaking, vibrato = pitch modulation; tremolo = volume modulation.

(Thinking out loud: vibrato seems closer to a chorus effect then ... and thus the Uni-Vibe, Mind Bender, etc. ... )

Funny that Leo, or whoever invented the "trem" bar on a guitar, named it wrong.

Anyway, I think tremolo is what I'm looking for. Thanks!

Edit: Here's a video demo of the Boss TR-2 tremolo (after he gets done with the blues driver):
http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/m ... 151381.mov
Yes, that's what I want. 8)
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Postby notes_norton » August 9th, 2009, 12:20 pm

Gabba Gabba Hey wrote:<...>
Funny that Leo, or whoever invented the "trem" bar on a guitar, named it wrong.<...>


According to a book I read (I think it was called "Ultimate Guitar") Leo is responsible for getting it wrong. Leo was a guitar builder, not a musician, and that explains it. So we are stuck with calling it a trem bar. I call it a whammy bar instead, since I don't like to use the wrong term, but I don't correct others who call it a trem bar.

Since the guitar can product both tremolo and vibrato, I try to keep the terms separate.

Same for when I'm playing the wind synthesizer.

But when I play my flute, I go ahead and call it vibrato, just like all the other flute players do, when in reality, flute "vibrato" is really about 90% tremolo and about 10% vibrato.

The only reason why I'm picky about the terminology when an instrument is capable of both vibrato and tremolo is to try to make sure the listener hears what I mean to say.

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Postby Gabba Gabba Hey » August 9th, 2009, 2:38 pm

notes_norton wrote: wind synthesizer.


:shock: Dare I ask?
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Postby notes_norton » August 9th, 2009, 3:36 pm

Gabba Gabba Hey wrote:
notes_norton wrote: wind synthesizer.


:shock: Dare I ask?

It's a synthesizer made for wind instrument players. Fingering is about 90% saxophone, the "reed" senses pressure, it responds to how much air you push into it, and it can do things a keyboard synthesizer cannot do. I find it much more expressive because you can modify the sound after the note is played in many different ways.

Here are some low-fi clips of me playing the wind synth:

emulating a saxophone....
http://www.nortonmusic.com/mp3/_sunshinesax.mp3

http://www.nortonmusic.com/mp3/_capecodsax.mp3

emulating a guitar....
http://www.nortonmusic.com/mp3/_oldtimeguitar.mp3

http://www.nortonmusic.com/mp3/_personalchoice.mp3

Why do I emulate sax and guitar when I play those instruments? For the same reason a piano player might play the Rhodes piano instead of a grand. For the differences and to exploit the things I can do on the synth that I cannot do on the sax or guitar. When I want to do the things on sax or guitar that I can't do on synth, I'll pick up the sax or guitar.

The wind synth also does great clarinet, harmonica, trombone, trumpet (straight and muted), a few other guitars, quite a few pure synth sounds, and hundreds more.

and although the wind synths come in dull grey color, I put some shiny "skins" on mine:

Image

If you want to know more, just ask ;)

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Postby Scrybe » August 9th, 2009, 4:17 pm

Oh notes, you've just given me total GAS. I gotta remind myself that I have no clue how to play regular wind instruments and thus could not utilize these at all, but............I still want them! :roll:
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Postby notes_norton » August 10th, 2009, 6:11 am

Scrybe wrote:Oh notes, you've just given me total GAS. I gotta remind myself that I have no clue how to play regular wind instruments and thus could not utilize these at all, but............I still want them! :roll:

The picture is of the controllers, half the magic is in the synth module.

The Yamaha VL70, uses physical modeling software to create the sounds. In layman's terms (the only kind I understand) basically it's computer models of sound generation devices (single reed mouthpieces, double reeds, plucked strings, cup mouthpieces, bowed strings, etc.), resonators (tubes, cones, boxes) and dampers (bells, bridges) and they are all assembled in the module (I do get to tweak the settings though).

So on the guitars, if I tweak the settings right I can do hammer-ons, pull-offs, and bends that affect the tone while the "string" is being bent just as a "real" guitar does. It will only pay one note at a time though.

In the sax models, I can do throat distortion, flutter tongue, tonal changes similar to a sax player changing the shape of his/her mouth, and a vibrato that changes tone with pitch just as a real sax does.

In the brass modes I can do lip slurs, wah wah mutes, flutter tongue, and other brass expressive devices.

And so on for each patch.

They do not replace the instruments that they emulate though. I would say that roughly they can do 80-90% of what the "real" instrument does, but they can also do 10%-20% of things the "real" instrument cannot do. So in my duo, where I bring a sax, flute, guitar, percussion controller, and wind synth to the gig I use the synth sax and guitar to do the things the "real" sax and guitar can't do. Plus it gives me the opportunity to sound close enough to a trumpet, trombone, clarinet, harmonica and other instruments I cannot play. This gives the duo a variety of sounds that if done well (and I try to do it well) keeps the listener entertained. http://www.s-cats.com

I'm a music junkie. I started on drums, switched to sax in a few months, picked up limited parts on bass, guitar, and keyboards while in bands when doubling was needed, bought a flute and taught myself (it's similar enough to the sax to do that), and later wind synth. I started seriously practicing keyboards in the 80s when I decided to learn how to sequence music in a software sequencer, but although I can get around on the keyboard, it really doesn't speak to me like the sax, flute, wind synth and guitar does. But it did come in handy, I learned to write Band-in-a-Box styles and created an aftermarket business http://www.nortonmusic.com

Almost 2 years ago, after years and years of doubling on guitar (mostly barre chords) and a year of playing bass in a band (when saxes fell out of favor) I finally decided it was time to get serious with the guitar so I started putting in 2 hours a day of practice (I don't watch TV so I have the time) and in a few months I was playing simple leads on stage. Now I am competent but definitely not an advanced player. I can do a decent blues/rock/country lead - the year on bass and the knowledge of music theory I already knew (thanks to a livelong study of music) paid off so I got competent quickly.

The more I learn about the guitar, the more I appreciate what a wonderful instrument it is.

What I'm trying to say is while you may have wind synth GAS, I ended up with guitar GAS so put the time in it and got the rewards.

If you like the wind synth clips, get a wind synth (I recommend Yamaha WX5 controller and the Yamaha VL70m sound module). Your second instrument is always easier to learn than the first, as you don't have to re-learn all the things about music that you already know.

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My guitars:

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Postby Gabba Gabba Hey » August 10th, 2009, 7:22 am

The look of those synth saxes made me think of the "keytar." :lol: But very cool!

If you don't mind my steering us a hair closer to the original topic, would a tremolo pedal be best placed in an amp's effects loop, or is it something better put in front of the amp circuit? I'm thinking the loop, as the volume modulation would surely interfere with the preamp gain if placed in front, right? Though that could be an interesting effect ...
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Postby notes_norton » August 10th, 2009, 10:12 am

Sorry about the thread hijack ;)

If you don't have the owners manual (if there is one), I'd look for one on-line. I've found quite a few manuals for used gear I've purchased.

Sorry, other than that I can't answer your question.

My FX/Direct-Box/Amp-Simulator pedal has the tremolo built into the pedal, and I from there directly into the PA system. Being a multi-instrumentalist I don't carry an amp for everything so I plug everything I can into the PA mixer (less gear to shlep, set up and tear down).

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Postby Hyperborea » August 10th, 2009, 1:51 pm

Gabba Gabba Hey wrote:If you don't mind my steering us a hair closer to the original topic, would a tremolo pedal be best placed in an amp's effects loop, or is it something better put in front of the amp circuit? I'm thinking the loop, as the volume modulation would surely interfere with the preamp gain if placed in front, right? Though that could be an interesting effect ...


In the amps that have tremolo built-in it is either in between the pre-amp and the power amp or in the power amp itself (a tube bias wiggler like my 70's Traynor). So, the best place might be in the effects loop.

As for putting it before the pre-amp, give it a try and if you like it then it's all good.
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