Phasers, flangers, delays, oh my! It’s cold outside, so why not ‘Freeze’ those notes?
The world of guitar effects is undoubtedly one of the most prolific smorgasbords of accessories for any instrument. In fact, of all the instruments, it’s hard to find one that has so many ‘aftermarket’ effects add-ons that are all so easily available and in so much quantity. Whether it’s stomp boxes, rackmounts, or full-on luggage-sized units; this world of guitar effects has just about any sound you could imagine, and plenty more that you could never concoct, even in your wildest dreams. This universe is also chock-full of clones, many of which claim to be the ultimate re-issue or ‘modernization’ of some classic pedal. Finally, there are those WEIRD ones...the ones that players either must have or avoid like the plague. This String Thing falls somewhere in the middle. Picture a delay/echo that got a bit weird and read on my stringed amigos.
Many of these very weird pedals have names that are truly befitting of their sounds (and the focus of today’s String Thing is also no exception). These are pedals like the DOD Gonkulator, Dr. No’s “The Turd” or even the Metasonix Butt Probe! Don’t worry, the String Thing does not judge you for being “curious.” Many of these crazy names (like the Frinkahedron (a flanger+delay), or the Way Huge Swollen Pickle (a fuzz)) are just new iterations of staple effects. So, in this recurring segment, we’d like to shine our spotlight of tone on those pedals in the outermost regions of the tone universe. These are pedals that do their own thing, something different, and boldly go where no pedal has gone before.
Have you ever been in “Tom Morello mode” with your delay pedal and cranked all the knobs up? Tom is well-known for using copious amounts of delay to create a whirlwind cacaphony of noise, and we must admit, it’s quite fun. When some players prefer ‘just a taste’ of delay, Morello is known for maxing out all the knobs to create sonic chaos. The only problem is, if you bump the repeat knob or the mix knob, your sonic whirlwind will get even more out of hand, changing pitches and speed, and possibly changing the idea you originally wanted to create. Sometimes, this is desired- after all, that is how Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger achieved the iconic delay-laden chaotic guitar intro for the 2004 single “Megalomaniac.” After experimenting with enough delays on infinite repeats, what if you could take this idea of ‘crazy infinite sustain’ and make it a bit less crazy- perhaps give yourself total control over what is (and isn’t) sustained. What if you could achieve even better sustain than Nigel Tufnel’s ‘59?
Enter the Freeze pedal, created by the one and only tone wizards over at Electro-Harmonix. The Freeze pedal allows players to hit a chord or a note on their guitar and with a simple press of a foot-actuated button- freeze a musical sound of their choosing in time. Best of all? Guitarists can then play more music over the top of their frozen tones. This allows players to lay down a chord base and then solo over the top. Conversely, one could lay down an ‘overlay’ note structure, and then play chords under that. Or one could play a melodic passage, and then harmonize with yourself. The possibilities are truly vast.
This unique pedal gives guitarists the power of a delay set on infinite repeats/sustain, but without the chaotic loss of control or terrifying feedback loops of doom. After all, every guitarist knows how truly dangerous and world-ending it can be to make a mistake whilst using delay:
The EHX Freeze is also like a looper that gives players far more ‘on the fly’ adjustability and ease of use: one button, one toggle, one knob; no fuss. This pedal is almost like hiring a clone of yourself as a backup/accompaniment guitarist- a player that does what you want, when you want, and can be turned off at any time; all while taking up negligible real estate on your pedalboard! Deal of the decade, String Thing approved.
Finally, let’s talk about how this pedal works. Players control the main operation of the pedal via a footswitch, leaving your hands free to play the right parts and not be bending over to alter knobs on the fly. The footswitch is tied directly to a 3-way toggle which changes the behavior of the footswitch from “Latch” to “Fast” to “Slow”. What the hell does this mean? Let’s find out!
If you’ve spent any time around channel switchers, or have a background in electric piano/synth, you may have heard the terms: latching and momentary switches. These two switch styles describe how the switch ‘feels’ during use. A momentary switch remains “on” only as long as it is being compressed. Once the user removes the compression of the switch the device is no longer on. An example you may be more familiar with is the trigger on an electric drill. Once the compression of the switch is removed the drill stops rotating. A latching switch needs to be pressed once for ON and again for OFF. A common example of this would be a light switch. Once the lights are on, the switch can be left until they need to be turned off.
The EHX Freeze allows users the choice of both. You can set the pedal to fast or slow to have the pedal "grab" your notes for you (momentary) - so you would play a chord while hitting the footswitch, and that sound will sustain forever until you click the footswitch again. The fast and slow setting is indicative of how quickly the pedal both “picks up” as well as “lets go” of the notes you want to be frozen. The third and final setting puts the Freeze into latching mode, where the freezing of notes will only take place WHEN your foot is ON the footswitch. This may give your performance a more organic and real time feel, and as feel is so subjective to all players in creating music; it is amazing that EHX gave users the choice of how the pedal operates and feels.
So without further ado (and since a 2021 Polar Vortex appears to be headed our way), let’s see the EHX Freeze in action as Electro-Harmonix founder and president Mike Matthews puts this wonderfully unique pedal through its paces!
And what would a pedal demo be without adding a few more pedals to the mix? Let’s see how the EHX Freeze sounds with some other iconic EHX stompboxes layered in, along with the insane playing of Bill Ruppert (you might even forget you’re listening to a guitar!) Electro-Harmonix Effectology 'Freeze Tricks" Special Edition "Expanding the Freeze Effect"