the difference between tremolo, vibrato and rotary?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by jomahu, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. jomahu


    Dec 15, 2004
    Bos, MA
    i'm new to these effects, but i can't tell the difference.

  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Tremolo is a volume effect. What you are hearing is the volume being dropped and boosted according to the rate of the tremolo. It can be done with your volume knob, a volume pedal, a tremolo pedal, or an amp with a tremolo built in.

    Vibrato is the sound of moving between notes. Many guitars feature tailpieces called vibrato bars to do this. The term "tremolo" bar was a misnomer by Leo Fender and it's stuck to this day. It can also be done by using your hands; think of it as a light continous bend - without actually bending the string.

    Rotary effects simulate playing through a Leslie cab. I imagine this effect would be greatly diminished if you weren't playing through a stereo setup.

    None of these effects are terribly useful for bassists in most normal settings, but for bassists in adventurous bands or solo bassists, they can add lots of color.
  3. Dash Rantic

    Dash Rantic

    Nov 12, 2005
    Palo Alto, CA
    I've mostly heard them called "Whammy bars", sometimes "tremolo bars", can't say I've heard "vibrato bar" yet but it makes the most sense out of them all.

    But yeah, the three effects are all pretty different--tremolo and rotary effects are probably the most similar of the three, though.

  4. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    The whole "tremolo/vibrato/whammy bar" labeling thing (for guitars and guitar amps primarily) is a debacle of the music gear world which we will all just have to grit our teeth and ignore, as it won't get resolved any time soon.

    For effects pedals, however, abark's definitions are correct. Tremolo is an up-down-up-down change in volume; vibrato is a similar change in pitch.

    A "Leslie" speaker is one that physically spins around inside the cab, creating a 3-D sounding combination of tremolo and vibrato. It's a very cool effect, but it's hard to really appreciate on bass, or in a dense band mix, or with only a regular mono bass amp/cab setup. It is the "signature" sound of the Hammond B3 organ, though, and if you love that sound then nothing else will do.
  5. Crabby


    Dec 22, 2004
    I bought a danalectro "mini" vibrator pedal for fun earlier this year. It was only $30. I think its called the "chicked salad vibrato"

    It actually sounds pretty damm good for a cheap pedal as long as I use an adaptor. Sounds really bad even thru a new battery but with the power supply plugged in, its not bad at all. Actually a very fun effect for bass. Makes me want to check out the EHX Pulsar which is supposd to be pretty good.
  6. Akami

    Akami Four on the floor

    Mar 6, 2005
    Again, Leo Fender (bless his soul) made the mistake also of labeling the tremelo effect on his amps "Vibrato".

    Anyway abark000 did a pretty thorough job of explaining the differences.

    I used to use a Fender Leslie cabinet and really liked what it did for my sound, but hated carrying all the gear I used to take and ended up selling it off. Wish I still had it!
  7. jomahu


    Dec 15, 2004
    Bos, MA
    thanks y'all.

    i've also been looking at the Pulsar (and the Dano tuna melt, 'cause i'm cheap). should be fun to mess around with.
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