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In the late '40s, the first mass-produced standalone effect, the DeArmond Tremolo Control made its way into the hands of Bo Diddley, whose eponymous hit features the unit. Even before Danelectro and Gibson were adding tremolo to their amps, the effect had become intertwined with blues guitar greats, and all the music they would influence. See Muddy Waters’ “Flood” and Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser” for other examples.

Few effects have been deployed so strategically and recognizably as tremolo. Perhaps that’s because the deceptively simple effect, the decreasing and increasing of volume along a waveform, is unconventional and potentially distracting, especially when compared to more naturally occurring effects like reverb, overdrive, and vibrato (pitch modulation that’s often confused with tremolo).

However, it’s hard to imagine Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Run Through The Jungle,” The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now,” or Radiohead’s “Bones” as such romantic examples of rock guitar without their tremolo effects.

Most tremolo effects and pedals don’t use liquid to modulate the incoming signal, as the original Tremolo Control did. Some amp-based tremolos vary the volume by controlling the amount of bias for certain tubes. Others use an optical component. These, and other types of volume manipulation have been replicated and iterated on by pedal companies for decades.

These pedals and effects range from the choppy Vox Repeat Percussion to the smooth Boss TR-2. For an explanation of the different types of waveforms that can create starkly varied tremolo effects, read our article, The 6 Types of Tremolo Explained.

What is the best reverb and tremolo pedal?

Recent trends have seen builders combining reverb and tremolo in one pedal to replicate the experience of using a vintage tube amp. The Strymon Flint, with three varieties of each effect, stands out in that category.

What is the best harmonic tremolo pedal?

Harmonic tremolo effects have seen a revival in pedal form. Many builders add a harmonic or “harm” mode to their multifunction trems, but the EarthQuaker Devices Night Wire excels by focusing on the specific sound.

What is the best mini tremolo pedal?

Many users have spoken highly of the Mooer Trelicopter. Based on the classic Demeter Treumlator, the Trelicopter packs three controls into the company's standard small pedal enclosures.

What is the best stereo tremolo pedal?

Some trem pedals offer stereo outputs for panning. Since the classic Boss PN-2 and singular SL-20 are no longer in production, we recommend Mr. Black’s Pana-Trem. Along with stereo ins and outs, it offers expression control, preset recall, and two modes.

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