5 Reasons to Use a Wah Pedal

Look, we know that distortion is usually the center of everyone's signal chains. But none of this would ever be fun without some additional effects to enhance your tone. After all, you don't want to just go from clean to distorted tone all the time while sounding dry. Whatever genre of music you're into, there's got to be at least a few pedals involved. And while the importance of effects usually comes down to personal preferences, we would argue that there's a lot of great reasons to give some importance to wah pedals.

The effect was developed on accident back in the 1960s by a guy named Bradley J. Plunkett, who was working for Warwick Electronics. One thing led to another, and it soon became one of the essential pedals for all the famous guitar legends, with numerous companies giving their own twist to this effect. Knowing that it's a famous effect, we did some thinking and came up with the top 5 reasons why you should use a wah pedal. So let us see what this fun little EQ filter effect can do.

1. Fun times in lead sections

Some might say that wah and distortion are used to mask one's poor playing. But it actually takes a lot of skill to sound great and bring clarity with high-gain distortion and a wah-wah pedal. This is especially the case with lead sections where wah-wah pedals are sometimes of crucial importance.

There are so many ways for you to apply this legendary effect while playing solos. When you get to a certain level, it will become more than just a funny-sounding effect but rather a tool that will give you a voice-like structure in your lead parts. You'll be doing more than just pressing on and picking strings – you'll start stinging through your guitar.

2. More texture to rhythm sections

Aside from solos, wah-wah has many applications in rhythm sections as well. Of course, we have funk music where you can hear all of those clean guitars playing chords through wah pedals. And you don't need more than the first three or four strings to get that funky wah vibe going.

And some of the overdriven and heavily distorted riffs and rhythm parts can also be played with a wah-wah pedal. It's not as often as with lead parts, but wah definitely opens up new horizons in these territories as well.

3. Stuck positions for a complete change of tones

Most of the guitar players look at wah strictly as a rocking pedal. But the effect offers way more than just that. Over the years, some of the biggest heroes of the guitar world began implementing the wah in stuck positions, the so-called "cocked" wah.

You can just find your unique "sweet spot" and the filtered frequencies that you like, leave the wah in that position, and play your riffs or solos. In fact, it's a secret behind Mark Knopfler's great tone in the legendary hit "Money for Nothing," where he recorded most of the guitars with a wah pedal stuck in one position.

Knowing that there's a whole range of different tones from the open to closed position, the options become almost endless.

4. Replicating tones of famous songs

While we're at it, some of the best-known rock songs just can't be played without a wah. Just imagine that you and your band are covering Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" and that you don't have a wah. Wouldn't that sound awkward? The whole song loses its point without it.

And the same could be said about some other examples, like Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," Joe Satriani's "Surfing with the Alien" or even Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral." If you're planning to prepare an extensive rock and metal repertoire, a wah pedal should be an essential part of your signal chain.

5. Overall expressiveness

At the end of the day, it's the expressiveness that we get with wah-wah pedals. Whether you're doing lead sections, riffs, or something in between, the effect gives an abundance of different options and allows you to express yourself in different ways.

Aside from the standard rocking pedals, there are also automatic wahs. These can either work according to the set tempo or the dynamics of your playing. Dynamic wah pedals can be pretty exciting, especially for rhythm parts. These effects shift from "open" to "close" position tones depending on how hard you're playing. This gives new possibilities in expressiveness in different situations.

But whatever is the exact application you intended them for, wah pedals will always be there to give you a new voice and help you express yourself better as an artist and a performer. These days there are many different types of pedals with their unique frequency sweeps, so you'll always be able to find what suits your needs.

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1 comment

  • Thank you for the wah wah article. It was well thought out and of course, fed my ego a bit.
    Please add me to your mailing list.

    Bradley J. Plunkett

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