This post I am sharing a historic moment in guitar history: a pedal that is not just another alteration of the clean guitar signal, but one that could actually change the way you play guitar in the context of your songs!
I just picked up one of these pedals for the modest price of $120 and I am so excited about it that I am calling my colleagues and playing it for them over the phone. Finally! A sustain pedal for guitarists, but a real one, simple and small, the size of a phase 90, one that takes us into the world that the pianists and keyboardists have enjoyed for so long.
This Electro-Harmonix Freeze pedal brings “piano sustain” to the world of the guitar. Depress the pedal after you play a chord or note and as long as you keep your foot on the pedal—as you would with a keyboard or piano—you get infinite, crystal clear sustain.
What you will immediately realize is that when we, as guitarists, play chords, we accept the arc of the deterioration of signal (even if we have a guitar that sustains a la the one belonging to Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap). In addition, we have gotten used to the sound of different frequencies (strings) decaying at different rates, something for which keyboard players may not have the full appreciation.
With the Freeze pedal, when you finally hear the quality of all frequencies of your guitar sustained indefinitely, it is an amazing palette of sound. And you have the added ability to tweak as you play. Play the strings harder and you will sustain brighter, organ-like sounds, then in the next measure, if you play softly, the tone will be darker with the quality of a Rhodes-pad. All of this in the same song! You can play dynamically, according to the energy of the moment. Add overdrive and a little rotary effect and you get the snarl that those B-3/Leslie luggers get when they turn that Leslie up to 11!
Since the Freeze pedal will sustain the sample at the moment you depress it, the entire frequency profile is sustained: hit the low notes and you get a dark pad, hit the high notes and it sounds as if you just pulled out those draw bars on a B-3. Here is a pedal that can be used in a very, very dynamic and musical way.
In addition, the amazing bonus: your original signal is still available, so you can play licks and lines over your sustained pad, choosing either clean or effects as you go along.
I am currently working on a power trio project—funky versions of Jimi Hendrix tunes—and we are in the studio, recording some of the arrangements. The timing of this pedal was just right, and I picked it up on the way to the studio. I was able to lay down lush inversions of chords, sustained and held through rotary effects, creating what, in some cases, sounded a little like a Hammond organ, or a synth pad. With this pedal, live shows with power trios will be elevated to a new level.
The possibilities, as you can imagine in your moment of excitement, are endless, depending on your order of effects.
I use my Allston Amps Dumbalina (I write about this amazing amp in not just one other feature on this site, but two) which has built-in overdrive. I can use the amp OD to get a nice edgy pad sustained and then solo using a wah wah pedal before the Freeze. Or I can use the clean channel of the amp to get a smooth pad happening, maybe using my Ethos (see previous post) before the pedal, to have an OD sound for soloing with a bite.
Try using a gradual wah on the sustained sound for an amazing voltage-controller-like effect, while you solo using an OD pedal placed before the Freeze. You can actually drive yourself crazy thinking of combinations! (Time to get the Cusack Pedalboard Tamer to help facilitate the combinations!)
The Freeze has a couple of different modes of use. You can use it the way a keyboard pedal works, or you can use it in Latch Mode. Latch Mode does exactly that, allowing you to release your foot from the pedal and keep the sustain going until the next chord/switch. In the meantime, you can solo indefinitely. This mode allows you to walk around with your wireless or simply focus on other pedals to enhance the sustained sound or maybe ramp up the brake on a rotary pedal to get the Leslie acceleration effect.
Fast or Slow modes are available with a toggle for different speeds of fading in the effect and decaying after you release the pedal. The Volume knob only affects the volume of the sustain, not the original signal so you can decide how loud you want the sustained pad to play under your subsequent licks and lines.
The Freeze uses a provided 9-volt power supply. No provision made for battery with this unit, but the standard 9-volt wall-wart, or power supply on your pedalboard will do just fine.
The EHX Freeze gets my highest rating on the “Cool Pedal” scale!!! AAAA++++
Here is an interesting YouTube demo of the pedal in practical action: