Jul 12, 2008

To Wah Or Not To Wah

At some point or another a guitarist will start itching to purchase their first ever wah wah pedal, and for good reason too. The wah pedal is by far one of the coolest articles of gear that you could have in your own collection, and the reason for that, is because it has very diverse and dynamic properties. As you know, it has found a variety of uses in musical styles and has even been able to overcome its association with porno music, hehe.

You of course can pick up a standard Crybaby Wah for a reasonable price, online or at any music store or guitar center. However, when you get home, you may be surprised to learn that its not exactly what you had expected, that is to say, if you have never tried or owned a wah pedal before .

There are two types of guitarists who use wah pedals. Those who stand there and apply it like they would if they were Jake-braking, and those who really listen to what's going on. I would now like to focus on the ever conscious, wah user.

You should first understand, that there is a wide pattern of sound alterations at your disposal, when you have the pedal before you. Most people who are first timers with it, take it out of the box and have this preconceived idea that when they push down on the pedal with their foot, it has a spring and will spring back into place. This isn't true. It is totally up to you to control it. So lets take a look at what most guitarists are missing out on.

When you push down with your heal, pulling the front of the pedal up, you are in the low range.

My personal, aesthetic likes for this position are:

1. A smooth blending between the notes, especially when using the lower strings, E,A,D.

2. A quiet presence for when another instrument needs to be more prominent.

3. It also has an almost mechanical sound to it, which makes things like pick scrapes sound incredible.

When the pedal is pushed down all of the way with your toes, you will get your high range sounds.

My personal, aesthetic likes for this position are:

1. Sharpened clarity.

2. A nice boost for leads.

3. Removes the sound of most picking frequencies (if that is the desired effect).

4. Great for creating a rhythmic "swoosh" sound (the high end of the sexy porno sound)

5. Amazing pinch harmonics.

6. Makes tremolo picking of a double bend sound Godly.

The key to developing a great approach to the wah pedal is to experiment with what you like. I know that sounds like an obvious answer, and it is, but what I really mean when I say that, is that you should really do some test runs and pay close attention to the smallest nuances and how they react to what you're playing at that time, because its always different. With time, you can learn to control it and get the desired sound every time.

Zakk Wylde took a deck of playing cards, removed some to alter the thickness and then anchored them underneath the heal portion of the pedal. He had made up his mind about how much of the low end he liked, and rigged it so that the pedal could only come back so far.

You'll also notice that a guitarist like Zakk Wylde, will often times blast into a guitar solo, by "wah-ing" into the first notes or first few notes.

Also realize, that when using the wah pedal, speed has a lot to do with it. If you do a wah-ing motion quickly, it obviously has a completely different sound to it, as opposed to doing it slowly.

Now, don't get me wrong, some people like to just wah away, but I've jammed with a lot of these players over the years, and eventually started asking myself "do these guys know that they have options?". If you like that approach, great! and more power to ya, but just know that there is more than meets the eye, or ear.

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