I don’t know why, but I got a crazy notion to buy an octave pedal recently. The Danelectro Chili Dog is quite affordable. It goes for about 30 bucks brand new. I’m pretty cheap, so that seemed like a good deal to me.
According to a bunch of online reviews, guitar players seem to think that it does a decent job of tracking low notes. I wouldn’t have bought it if they thought it was a piece of crap.
The short version of this story is that it worked well on any amp I plugged it into at home with my Shure controlled magnetic microphone. It has three knobs on it, one for the original signal, one for one octave lower, and one for two octaves lower. You can set all of them individually, and the pedal comes with a sheet showing a suggested starting point for a “good sound”, whatever that means. Their idea was main and octave 1 all the way up, and octave 2 at about 1 o’clock. That sounded good, sort of like the guitar solo on Fool in the Rain by Led Zeppelin. I prefer it with main all the way up, octave 1 at about 1 o’clock and octave 2 at 10 o’clock. That gives it a funky sound, kind of like a synthesizer.
I had a lot of fun playing with this thing in my basement for a few hours. It sounds very cool with or without the reverb added, but be sure to put the octave first, and the reverb second. Also, it doesn’t know what to do with chords. If you want to play with one of these, play single notes only. It can follow you if you play fast notes, slides and bends, but stay away from chords. Even playing two holes will confuse it and it will sound like a bunch of noise.
It was tricky to use this device on a stage with a band. I took it to a couple of jams, which can get very loud. When I kicked the pedal on at the beginning of the song I had to keep fiddling with my microphone volume control because if I had it turned up where I wanted it, the sound of the band would feed through my mic and out the speaker with an octave effect, which sounded very bad. It was basically unmanageable under these conditions, and the addition of reverb made it worse, so I left it turned off most of the time. A couple of times when it was my turn to solo, the band brought it down a few decibels and I was able to kick the pedal back on and treat everybody to some funky tones. On one occasion I played sax through a stage mic on Brick House and switched over to an F harp with the octave effect for a solo, and everybody loved it. (Can’t play sax through the Chili Dog. Sax notes are too fuzzy.)
Note tracking gets a bit nebulous on super low notes and super high notes. The 1 hole on a low G harp gets weird, and anything above the 7 hole on most of the higher harps causes some tracking problems. I’m sure there are better octave effects, but keep in mind that you will never be using one of these things for a whole night, and you’re not going to build a musical career on it. If you want to throw some funky jive into the mix for one or two solos, and you don’t mind staying in the normal range while you do it, the Chili Dog is a nice little gadget for such a reasonable price. I played around with a friend’s Digitech Whammy pedal the other night, and it was more versatile, but with the higher price tag I didn’t really care.