Just when you thought every possible avenue of weirdness and tone bending had been explored, along come the Scandinavians. There must be something in the water along the northern European coast that makes its inhabitants relentless explorers. From Viking invaders up through renaissance upheaval to the boundless creativity of modern design, there is no frontier too intimidating for these powerful minds to cross. TC Electronic has been to the music world what The Bauhaus was to furniture design, consistently turning pre-existing thought on its head to see what else they can come up with. Their takes on classic distortion and delay sounds are concurrently more interesting and subtle than ever before, and it doesn’t end there. In their newest stompbox, the Quintessence Harmony Pedal, TC Electronic have found a way to stretch the outer reaches of pitch shifting technology in such a way as to leave just about every other iteration in the dust.
The bane of most musicians’ existence is the seemingly endless monotony of learning scales and modes. Practical as they are, these variations on the notational theme are not only tedious to learn by rote, but they run into each other like watercolours on cheap paper in the minds of many. Compositionally, however, they are indispensable insomuch as they lift music, particularly solos, out of the pentatonic doldrums. This is where Quintessence steps in.
There is a dial to choose the key you’re playing in, a switch to send it sharp, another dial to select from eight different modal presets, and yet another to find the interval your harmony lands on. Dial in your dry signal over the top and you have instant Iron Maiden solos in any and every key, scale, and interval imaginable. Never ones to down tools once the first job is done, TC make this pedal all the more ultimate by offering a momentary/latching switch as well as their new favourite toy (and the real jewel in their horned crown), their patented MASH technology behind the footswitch.
When I first started playing around with Quintessence, I struggled to latch onto a practical application outside of the obvious. Harmonised solos aren’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea these days, and I thought maybe this limited the device to a studio or compositional tool. In my exploration, however, I happened to lean heavy on the footswitch and heard the minor 5th I was fiddling with sail up a step relative to the pressure I applied with my foot. This is where this pedal really comes to life.
MASH allows you to use your lean like you would with an expression pedal; heave on your pivot foot while the effect is engaged, and the harmony bends like a pedal steel guitar would. It is quite sensitive in an intuitive and useful way, and takes the guesswork out of bending through the aforementioned troublesome scales and modes. Working in conjunction with the limitless possibilities that Tone Print opens up in TC’s designs, and there is definitely space on most players’ pedal boards for something this clever.
If you’ve ever felt stuck in the bog of boring melody and longed for a world full of chromaticism, then TC Electronic's Quintessence is the pedal for you. Far from being a one trick pony like some simpler, octave based shifters, this is a quick and easy way into a world of virtuosic colour and tunefulness.
Hits and Misses
Covers any and every scale, mode, and interval you could possibly find useful
A little digital in the tracking department; it couldn’t keep up with unusual chord shapes