You might recognize the wah pedal from classic songs like “Voodoo Child” by Jimi Hendrix or “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, also “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, the wah-wah effect was all included. In general, this is a very popular effect that most guitar lovers are in love with.
In this article we will be looking at
- What is a Wah pedal?
- How the Wah Pedal functions
- Where should you place your tremolo pedal in the signal chain?
- Some recommendations for choosing a suitable wah pedal
- What is the Wah Pedal?
Now let’s get into the details of how this device can affect your guitar tone. First of all, the wah pedal is a team member of the expression pedal group. This pedal changes and drastically alters the tone of your signal, the frequency is also moved up and down reaching the peak. With your signal entering the pedal as input, a wah will act as a moveable peak, transforming your bass sound into a treble one. The result may sound as if something is interrupting in the middle but in a very strong and sharp way. Moreover, with the wah pedal, you can boost your sound as it’s created to try to recreate the midrange boost feature that an amplifier has.
An important part of the wah pedal that must be mentioned is the rocking plate. This is controlled by your foot, therefore, it’s more convenient for the guitar player to adjust. It has the shape of a plate that your foot can fit perfectly into, with the part where your toes lay manipulating the treble-y tones. And where your heel lays will control the bassier sounds.
So anyone curious about its name – “wah”? This kinda awkward name comes from the fact that this type of pedal manipulates and creates a sound which is like initiating the human vocal voice – “wah-wah”.
How the wah pedal functions?
We all know that the wah pedal effect is created by using your foot to actively adjust and alter the sound. By moving your foot from the open to the closed position, you will sweep through a layer of the filter into the sound. A closed position is when you use pressure in the toes and step hard on that part so that the toes are on the ground, a treble effect will arise becoming a high-pass filter. While with the open position, it’s when your heel is close to the ground, serving a low-pass filter with low frequencies passing through and the higher ones will be blocked.
The speed with which you move your foot back and forth affecting the pedal itself also creates different sounds. Moving it back and forth quickly will generate the perfect “wah-wah” crying sound.
The wah pedal’s structure contains a potentiometer and an electrical resistor that goes with a rotating contact. The rotating contact switch divides the pedal’s internal voltage level, which is connected directly to the rocking plate. By altering the voltage level the “wah-wah” effect is created.
2.The diverse types of sound that a wah pedal can generate
Similar to any guitar pedal, the wah effect can help you to alter and change the tone of your sound anyway you want. It all depends on your personal taste and how you want your sound to turn out to be, which type of genres, songs, or position you are playing, taking advantage of the guitar effects will help you to show your true musical personalities.
The Standard Wah-Wah Sound
This is considered to be the most widely played style when it comes to the wah pedal, also it’s quite easy and interesting to try. With the first note that you hit, starting from the open position, you then rock it down to the closed position. Then before moving to the next note, remember to return the pedal to the open position again, back it up, then repeating that same process by rocking the pedal back and forth on every single note that you play. Then the result is that every note can experience a “wah-wah” effect.
The Wah Filter
Another playing style using the wah pedal that you should take a look at is to use it as a filter. The wah pedal is now kept at a fixed position, without continually rocking it back and forth. For example, some guitarists tend to leave the wah pedal in the closed position to boost their tone when playing as a solo. There are plenty of spaces and options to choose between the range of opened and closed positions, therefore, many exciting and unique colors can be generated to add to your tone.
The Wah Sweep
This is quite similar to the normal “wah-wah” effect generated by rocking the pedal back and forth. Instead of doing that at a faster speed, this time we try doing it slowly, moving your foot from the opened to the closed position. By gradually altering the tone of your sound, it will make room for some amazing sounds.
The Funk Rhythm
The funk rhythm is quite a complicated and tricky technique for any guitarist. You can only master it by practicing all over again many times. But once you get used to it, it will be worth your efforts. Similar to the standard wah, you also move the foot pedal back and forth constantly, but not with the note, this time it’s about your beat. Starting from the open position with the first beat, then you move to the closed position. Then repeat that process for the other parts upcoming.
For those who are still confused with the phrase “funk rhythm”, it consists of 4 notes per beat.
As mentioned above, besides creating the wah-wah effect by rocking the pedal back and forth, the wah pedal can boost your signal, emphasizing the notes. If you wish to highlight some of the notes, the wah pedal is worth trying.
3.Where should you place your tremolo pedal in the signal chain?
Just like all other types of the pedal, where to place it in the signal chain will always be a hard question. It’s because it’s hard to give the most objective answer to it, the final call depends on the guitarists and how they want their sound to come out from the end of the signal chain. Two options: placing it first or keeping it at the end.
With the wah pedal, most people will recommend you to place it somewhere at the beginning of the signal chain. This is because this will help the wah effect to stay at its classic vibes and original effects. The process of altering your sound using the wah pedal should come before the overdrive and distortion. It helps maintain the sound at its natural and wildest sweeping sounds. Also by boosting the sound using the wah effect first, you can reach and affect your range with higher levels of distortion.
The second option which is to put it at the end of the signal chain, it will exaggerate the sound at an extremely high level. It can make the tone in which you have adjusted sound off and may disappear by filtering their sound too much. However, there’s no bad and good option, it comes down to whether you like it or not.
- Some recommendations for choosing a suitable wah pedal
Dunlop Cry Baby
Some guitarists are all over this Cry Baby legendary wah pedal, screaming countless times to earn this amazing pedal. This is the one that started it all, as being the first-ever version of the wah pedal that came to exist. It’s also being used in thousands of records and appeared on many stages since the early rock and roll era. With this pedal, you can reproduce that classical tone or try a new direction that you favor.
This Boss PW-3 is a wah pedal that owns 2 different modes, with the first one generating the classic wah sound – as if in the Dunlop Cry Baby. And the second mode allows you to leave behind a majority of low frequencies regardless of the current position of the pedal, closed or opened.
Vox V847-A Original
This wah pedal is a version that has many similar features to the original Vox in 1966. Instead of the usual vocal sound of a human – “wah-wah” crying sound, the Vox tries to mimic the effect of a mute used on a trumpet by wind players. It is also considered to create an effective closing to the original classic wah sound.
Mooer the Wahter Mini
Unlike the Cry Baby, Wahter generates quite a different voice compared to the Cry Baby. But this wah pedal is cheaper and also quite small, kinda tiny. This can cause inconvenience since the rocking plate is not big enough for your foot to fit in perfectly for easier sweeping on the sound. However, some might find it not that difficult to use this Wahter Mini and importantly it’s more affordable.