How To Find The Best Tremolo Pedal For You
Tremolo is an effect many guitarists never consider until they hear it used on a song. Tremolo can turn a plain guitar tone into something that instantly stands out. It can be used to give an entire song a unique feel or it can be used as an effect you turn on and off. Tremolo is the type of effect where once you buy a tremolo pedal, you find it creeps into your playing.
As a minimum, there are three controls you want to see on a tremolo pedal:
- Rate/Speed: this controls how fast the tremolo modulates
- Depth: this controls the depth or intensity of the modulation
- Wave: this controls the shape of the tremolo waveform
With these three controls, you can access most types of tremolo you’ll hear in songs. Some pedals offer more control to access different types of tremolo effects and some offer less control. What you need to decide is how far you want to be able to move away from the standard tremolo effect.
If you’re planning on using a tremolo pedal on occasion in a basic way, look for a simple pedal. On the other hand, if you know tremolo will be an important part of your sound and you want to experiment with tremolo, look for a pedal that offers you more control.
Tremolo is a fairly basic guitar effect, but the right tremolo pedal can give you plenty of inspiration. The best tremolo pedal is the one that suits your needs. There isn’t one tremolo pedal that’s better than every other. So read through this guide to get a feel for what type of tremolo pedal is best for you.
Best Tremolo Pedals Shortlist
There are quite a few popular tremolo pedals available today. Here is a shortlist of the pedals featured in this guide:
There are other alternatives mentioned throughout the guide so keep reading if you want more options.
Songs Using a Tremolo Pedal
Not sure what a tremolo sounds like or how it can be used? Have a listen to the song below and listen closely to the guitar:
You might notice the guitar have a wobbly or shimmery sound throughout the entire song. That’s a subtle tremolo in action. Play the above song without a tremolo and it will sound dull. It’s the tremolo that brings the guitar to life.
Check out some of the below songs for more examples of a tremolo pedal in action:
- Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
- Born on the Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Crimson and Clover – Tommy James & The Shondells
- The Bends – Radiohead
- Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Greenday
- Howlin’ For You – The Black Keys
Some of the above songs use a tremolo pedal throughout the entire song. This can give a song a distinctive feel compared to other songs. Other songs use tremolo as an effect to make a small part of the song stand out (check out the intro to the Greenday song). Tremolo can be used in subtle ways, or it can grab the listener’s attention.
Another good example of tremolo in action is in a lot of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave songs. Tom Morello uses a killswitch on his guitar to produce a tremolo effect. If you want like playing RATM songs but don’t want to install a killswitch on your guitar, a tremolo pedal is the next best option.
Check out my Guide on Tom Morello from RATM here to learn more about his style of playing, gear, and effects. Check out the songs I mention where he uses a killswitch and try to recreate the effect with a tremolo pedal.
Best Tremolo Pedal for Flexibility & Control
The EHX Super Pulsar is the most impressive tremolo pedal I’ve seen. It looks overwhelming compared to the other tremolo pedals in this guide. The amount of knobs, buttons and jacks crammed into this pedal is crazy. It’s the type of thing you would expect to see from a boutique pedal company, yet I haven’t seen any boutique tremolo pedal come close to this one.
This is the only stereo tremolo pedal on this list, which is surprising because tremolo can sound impressive in stereo.
Have a listen to the variety of different sounds the Super Pulsar can create in this video:
If tremolo is an important part of your sound, it’s worth considering the Super Pulsar. If you want to be able to control every aspect of tremolo such as the waveform shape, phase, rhythmic patterns or even dynamic control with an expression pedal, there isn’t any other pedal that gives you this level of control.
Whether this pedal suits you or not depends on what you want out of a tremolo pedal. If you take a look at the above pedal and don’t need that level of control, check out the rest of this list.
Best Tremolo Pedal for Simplicity
Like many other BOSS pedals, the BOSS TR-2 gives you a classic three knob control layout. When it comes to tremolo, three knobs is the minimum I recommend. There are some tremolo pedals that have two knobs, but I don’t recommend those as it restricts the range of sounds you can get out of the pedal.
The TR-2 gives you the essential controls needed and can even blend between the different types of waveforms (some pedals only allow you to toggle between waveforms). If you’re after a basic tremolo pedal it’s hard to go past this one.
Best Budget Tremolo Pedal
Tremolo is an easy effect to produce compared to many other guitar effects. This means there are quite a few cheap tremolo pedals that sound perfectly fine for most guitarists’ needs.
If you’re interested in adding a tremolo pedal to your rig but don’t like the idea of spending a lot of money, you can get a decent tremolo for under $40 that will do the job.
Joyo have created a decent tremolo with their JF-09 Tremolo, but in this guide we’ll take a look at the Kmise Belcat TRM-507.
It’s similar to the BOSS TR-2 as it gives you the same controls: rate, wave, depth. The Joyo doesn’t let you control the waveform which is why the Belcat edges it out as the pick for this category. At almost a third of the price of the BOSS, this is a very cheap way to start experimenting with tremolo on your guitar.
Best High-End Tremolo Pedal
There are a few good boutique options for tremolo, but not as many as I thought would be. The Fulltone Supa-Trem ST-1 is a very popular option, although it does lack a waveform control. The Diamond Tremolo is another very popular option that can produce a nice variety of tremolo effects. But the pick for this category is the Wampler Latitude Deluxe Tremolo.
It gives you an excellent level of control over the effect and can produce some really interesting rhythmic effects not possible on other tremolo pedals.
This is the most expensive tremolo pedal on this list, but for many guitarists it will suit their needs perfectly. If you’re considering this tremolo pedal, compare it against the EHX Super Pulsar. They’re close to the same price so the big question is what features you want from the pedal.
Getting Started With a Tremolo Pedal
To get the best results out of a tremolo pedal, it helps to understand exactly how they work and what they do to your tone. The Guitar Effects Course explains tremolo in full as well as use diagrams and sound clips to show how the effect works.
The course also explains how the position of the tremolo pedal in your rig changes the effect and how to combine tremolo with other effects for some unique sounds.
Check out the Guitar Effects Course here to learn more about tremolo as well as every other common type of guitar effect.