The Wha Pedal: An Endless Source Of Sounds

by Andrea Basiola
When we think of guitar effects, we think of devices that can enrich our sound, embellish it,
or simply create different tones in order to make a song more interesting and captivating.
Sometimes musicians keep on looking for the perfect tone, they get loads of effects
thinking that the more pedals you have the better you are at playing guitar.
The most effective, simple and reliable pedal that a guitarist can show on his pedal board is
without doubt the Wha pedal.
From Jimi Hendrix,to Eric Clapton, to Zakk Wylde, to Van Halen, each of these musicians
used the wha wha to build their own sound and each of them had their own way of using it.
If we think about it, the concept is fairly simple, when we engage the pedal and push it
down, we basically alter the tone, getting what we call the “wha” sound.
It looks quite easy and we might think: “is that it? is that the only sound we can get?”
The answer is no, in fact this can be one of the most versatile and complete pedals, if we
know how to use it correctly and how to get the most out of it.
That’s exactly what I’m going to do you in this demonstration.
I will give you some examples of different ways of using the wha, and you’ll notice that by
doing that, not only you’ll give expression and dynamics to your playing, but also the fact
of creating new tones will inspire you in creating more music (at least that worked for me).
The first example is done by playing on a clean sound.
Let’s take a famous riff, like the one in “Superstition”by Stevie Wonder.
We can move the wha while playing the riff, pushing down
the pedal on every beat, like if I we were stomping the foot to the beat.
This is probably the most common of the techniques of using this pedal,
and you can do that also while playing a rhythm part, in this case we take a
Em7 chord voicing. The wha will make it a lot more funky and groovy.
The second example is about finding what they call the “sweet spot”.
This works best with a distorted and gainy sound.
A lot of famous rock guitarists, including Michael Schenker and Zakk Wylde
use this method, which consists of slowly pushing down the pedal and
leave it in a stable position once we found the tone that we like.
By doing this, you can get the tone you want and also you will considerably
cut through the mix of the band when playing riffs or solos.
Be careful though, because the wha is very responsive, and if you move it
slightly you will immediately change your tone, so you need to be very
accurate and precise. That depends, of course, on the sound you want to
Another interesting way of using the pedal is to move it very fast in order to
get a vibrato effect.
Let’s say you are playing a chord and you would like a bit more of
expression, but you don’t have a tremolo effect.
By moving the pedal quickly up and down you can get a very similar sound
to that.
On the other hand, if you are playing a riff and while doing that you move
the pedal up and down very slowly, you get something very similar to a
flanger, with the advantage that you can control your tone.
This is probably every guitarist’s favorite use of the wha wha.
The guitar solo is the moment where we shine, where we want to cut
through and get heard.
By using the wha , we change the frequency of the sound,
getting more middle or treble and consequently emerge from the band.
If we do this we can make our solos really “scream”.
These are just 4 examples, but you can create more and more, depending on what style
you play and what tone you want to get.
Don’t worry the if you don’t have many effects,sometimes you don’t need them (unless you
are playing a specific style of music), you can always get good tones out of a few pedals;
you just need to know how to use them properly and take advantage of every little nuance.
Remember to keep experimenting! In order to create your sound and voice, you have to
play and play until you are satisfied with that. It might take time, but at the end of the day
music is a never-ending journey, there’s always something new to learn.

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