Stuff in my guitar rig: Boss OC-2

For the first in a new series of Stuff In My Guitar Rig, I thought I’d blab a little about what I consider to be my secret weapon, the Boss OC-2 Octave. I’ve had this pedal for 13 years now and I love it to pieces. I use it in several key points during gigs by my band The Upperhand (scroll down to the bottom of the post to see it on my pedalboard), and it’s just fun to have around to add a bit of low-end girth to random moments. It’s also fantastic for adding a lower octave to guitar solos for something a little bit different.

The OC-2 is an old-school analog octave pedal which generates a tone one octave, two octaves or both simultaneously underneath whatever you play. The lower octave tones aren’t actually a pitch-shifted version of your real guitar note, but rather an electronic tone triggered by and following your guitar. As such it sounds very different to digital harmonizers and pitch shifters. If you turn down the original guitar note and just listen to the octave sounds, they’re kind of muffled and reedy, like a 20-tonne bassoon or something. And that’s a pretty cool sound by itself. But the real magic happens when you blend the octave note in with the straight guitar sound. I like to use about 60% of the 1-octave-down sound and about 10% of the 2-octave-down, along with a 100% setting for the original guitar. This gives you a nice fat low end but doesn’t overwhelm the original note. Then again, sometimes you want to overwhelm the original note, and you can do that too.

To get the most out of the OC-2 it really helps to use the middle or neck pickup (and it works even better if you roll down the tone control). It doesn’t track too well if you use a bridge pickup. You learn pretty quickly how to control the pedal, but I’d definitely mess around with it a little bit before taking it up on stage if you’re a first-timer. You really don’t want your crushing OC-2 riff to be castrated by dropped lower-octave notes.

The OC-2 is long discontinued, replaced by the very capable OC-3, which I will definitely upgrade to if my OC-2 ever craps out on me[geo-out country=”Australia” note=””] (You can buy the OC-3 from Musician’s Friend)[/geo-out]. But my OC-2 has always been incredibly reliable and I don’t except it to give up the ghost any time soon.

If you want to hear the OC-2 in action, check out the chorus and solo of the first song of this full Upperhand gig. The camera sound is a bit dodgy but if you squint your ears you’ll get the idea.