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Ask Strymon: Recreating Our Favorite Phaser Sounds on Zelzah

What’s your favorite phaser riff? How about your favorite flanger or chorus riff?

Ever since modulation pedals started landing in music stores back in the late 60s and early 70s, we guitar players have been using them to add layers of dimension and depth to our tone. Whether it be 70s hard rock, 80s outlaw country, or 90s alternative, and all the way to modern indie and psychedelia, phasers have been an important part of the sonic landscape of popular music over the last several decades. 

With the release of our first stand alone phaser and latest addition to the Strymon family,  we wanted to take some time to shine the spotlight on Zelzah Multidimensional Phaser and share some of our favorite phaser sounds here at the Strymon office.

Since Zelzah is a Swiss army knife of a modulation pedal, we’ll also include some sounds that cross over into flanger and chorus territory, which are both easily in Zelzah’s ballpark!

As a bonus, we’ll do our best to nail the settings for these iconic songs and riffs on Zelzah. Keep in mind that these settings won’t be a 1:1 exact replica of what was used on each specific song, but rather our best approximation to get you near a ballpark tone — feel free to adjust any of them to your taste if you think you can dial them in closer! Now, let’s ask some of the folks here at the Strymon office and see what their favorite phaser sounds are:

“Skiptracing” – Mild High Club

This song was chosen by Josh, one of our engineers. It uses a nice, woozy chorus and is a great example of the modern indie chorus tone.

“Spirit of the Radio” – Rush

This iconic song was picked by Dave, one of our co-founders and firmware engineer. He told us how the flangered-out intro riff made a big impression on him when he first listened to it!

“That Lady” – Isley Brothers

This pick was brought to us by Darlene, our HR manager! She loves the way the whooshy phaser is paired with fuzz on this classic intro lead.

“Mayonaise” – Smashing Pumpkins

Hugo, our customer support manager, chose this 1993 Smashing Pumpkins track as his favorite phaser sound. It’s very subtle and you may even miss it if not paying attention, but compared to playing this riff clean, it makes a world of difference and adds movement and dimension to the intro chords and lead.

“Unchained” – Van Halen

There’s dozens of Van Halen songs that would make for great examples of phaser, flanger, and chorus effects, but if he had to pick just one, our head of product development, Mark, would choose this one.

The flanger on the main riff adds thickness to EVH’s singular guitar track, with the delayed sound from the flanger almost making one guitar sound like two.

“Just the Way You Are” – Billy Joel

Mark had a hard time deciding between two of his picks, so we let him pick both!

For his second pick, Mark chose Billy Joel’s use of phaser on his electric piano in the intro to this song off Joel’s album The Stranger.

While electric piano sounds beautiful even on its own, the 70s saw a lot of use of phasers with electric pianos for added lushness, and this song is a great example of that.

“Friday Morning” – Khruangbin

For my pick, I chose to go with something a bit newer but equally cool and vibey. I decided to choose this song off Khruangbin’s 2018 album Con Todo El Mundo.

Being a three piece instrumental band, this song serves as another example of how added modulation gives even the most sparse and minimalistic guitar work a sense of life and vividness. 

If you have questions about these or any other Strymon products, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].

Have an idea for a blog or a question about Strymon, our products, or effects in general? Let us know in the comments below!

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8 Responses

  1. Come on guys! I asked you already on facebook if you could recreate the sound of the schulte compact phaser used by Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple) on Mistreated and Sai Away (solo at the end)? If you manage this, I’ll buy one! (and I have already a Mobius today!)

    1. You could certainly get pretty close 🙂 The Schulte is going to have different controls than what Zelzah has, but using Zelzah on the 4-Stage side with a slower SPEED and a higher DEPTH, you can totally get that slow swooshy phaser like on Mistreated. Should work for Sail Away as well, although the speed of the modulation does sound faster for that song.

  2. I’ve been looking for the sound of the old Guild Rotoverb for many decades. Heard on many records by The Band, and Nils Lofgrin uses one with Bruce Springsteen. It’s an incredibly unique and cool sound. Can this do it?

    1. We’ve never had the chance to get our hands on a Rotoverb, but after listening a demo I found online, I’d say you could certainly get close using the 4-Stage side with the MIX set to 100% 🙂

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