003 | DigiTech Whammy: A Closer Look at this Pitch Shifting Favorite | Transcript

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Scott Schwertly:
Welcome to another episode of the Sonic Renegades podcast, where we're exploring Renegade pedals that have changed the music landscape. For today's discussion, we're going to be exploring the influential Digitech Whammy, heard by some of your most favorite artists, including folks like Tom Morello, Jack White, and even David Gilmore. So glad to have you guys here with us. We'll see you on the other side.

Well, hello everybody. I'm Scott Schwertly, here.

Austin Bryan:
And I'm Austin Bryan.

Scott Schwertly:
And we're with Siren pedals, and we're happy today to be talking about... I know, personally, one of my favorite pedals, which is the Digitech Whammy, so-

Austin Bryan:
Whammy.

Scott Schwertly:
You got to love it. This thing has lived on my pedal board for quite some time. If you've heard from other episodes that we've done, I'm a huge Tom Morello fan, so it's not a big surprise to have this one on my pedal board. So, really looking forward to unpacking the history of this magnificent pedal.

Austin Bryan:
This is a cool one. If you have ever heard a guitar in your life, you've heard this pedal at some point. It's been used on about over, estimated, 700 million albums, so it's a very widely used pedal.

Scott Schwertly:
That's for sure. For those that are being exposed to this for the first time, or maybe you're a really... Nerd-out on the Digitech Whammy. You know more about it than we do. If you are new to this pedal, some songs that you might want to just keep on the back burner are songs like Killing In The Name by Rage Against the Machine, Like a Stone by Audioslave, the Ghost of Tom Joad. Obviously, a Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello sort of thing.

Austin Bryan:
For sure.

Scott Schwertly:
And even songs like Marooned by Pink Floyd. These are all songs that feature, really, the beauty of what this pedal is all about. So maybe you're starting to think of what that tone actually sounds like, and hopefully starting to connect the dots a little bit.

Austin Bryan:
Oh, man. In 1989 is when this pedal came out. It started out and there's several versions of this pedal, but from '89 to '93, you had the WH1, which was the first whammy. It has changed so much over the years in terms of all of the different features that have been added to it. It's one of the best pitch shifting units for self-expression on the market.
If you're really trying to find something out there to experiment with, to maybe do some crazy dive bombs, some harmony shifts, pitch bins, D tunes. If you're trying to do all of that, this is a good option for that, for sure.

Scott Schwertly:
There've been a total, I think... What? Five iterations, right?

Austin Bryan:
Five of them.

Scott Schwertly:
Since 1989. So, I think the one that we have in front of us right now is actually mine. I think, I actually have the fifth one, the latest model, and then you have version four, correct?

Austin Bryan:
I do. Yeah, I have version four, and then in between those, they had the DT, which was the drop tune and it had true bypass. But taking a look at the five, right here in front of us, it's very similar to my version four. It has a lot of the same features that mine does, but it definitely... It's got a little bit of a cleaner look, for sure. The enclosure feels different, but the same pedal, man. It's the same effect.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. All of them really have that classic... I guess what they call "Ferrari look", where it's that really bright red, a little bit of black accent colors, but they all retain that look. And, if you're curious about pricing on something like this, generally... I'm thinking about this version five here. I think this ran me about 199. So, you can find them for a fairly decent cost. They're not going to completely break the bank, but they're up there.

I mean, obviously, there are way more expensive pedals. But, I mean, it's in that mid tier, I would think as far as pricing is concerned. But, yeah. Thinking about iterations, I know Tom Morello, specifically, is probably the most famous Digitech Whammy user I know. He pretty much lives and dies by that first generation, or even second generation model. I think he's the first one. He actually likes it. It tracks slowly as compared to some of these newer models that actually were improved to be a little bit more efficient, but he actually, interestingly enough, prefers the slow tracking that comes with those older models.

Austin Bryan:
It's interesting how folks will prefer older models over the newer stuff. Even though the newer ones have a lot of improvements, some folks find something really special in the older model. So, that's really cool that Tom has stuck to the same model that he has and tries to continue to find those, because everybody's got their own thing, and that's really neat to know that little fact. That he's actually used it, because it tracks slower. That's really cool.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I guess he's just become accustomed to it. Well, speaking of Tom Morello, as we teased earlier, there's obviously a ton of musicians that are big, big fans of the Digitech Whammy. Obviously, Tom Morello being probably the most popular of that. I know when we were preparing for this episode, just jumping on different forums and whatnot, he was always that first name that's mentioned, but there are apparently, obviously, a lot of other users of this pedal. Both from the professional level, down even to the consumer level. Lots of fans out there. But, names that jump out to me when I'm thinking about famous artists that use this: Tom Morello, obviously. Jack White, Bucket Head, Noel Gallagher, David Gilmore. Many, many others.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. Matt Bellamy, Steve Vai, Dimebag Darrell. James Hetfield has one, and Billy Joe Armstrong was seen last year, towards the end of the year, actually using one and had one on his board. Prince had one. Nels Cline, Peter Frampton. So many players have had this effect, and have utilized it in live and in studio situations for recording. It's just unmistakable. I mean, if you've ever heard a track where you've heard that "woo", you know exactly what that's coming from.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, I really did. I mean, this sounds so generic to say this, but... Or even cliche. But, I mean, when I heard Like a Stone by Audioslave for the first time, and I heard that solo, that sound is just so unique, so different. I know it was obviously utilized before then, but that particular song, for whatever, just really makes the Digitech Whammy shine.

Austin Bryan:
It takes the player's ability and goes just... It's that aspect of going to 11. It really is. Using the pitch shifter to go and take your solos to that next peak is really cool, and Tom Morello, for sure, is one of those guys to really take something and push it to its limits and as far as it can go, and to hear him actually put this pedal into use for so many different projects and so many bands. It goes to show you that if you considered going and experimenting and trying something new, this is a fantastic pedal to put into your board, for sure.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. I mean, it's so versatile. I mean, even... Again, I don't want to beat the subject to death, but we'll keep staying on the topic of Tom Morello. But, even if you think about just the variety that you get with a pedal like this. Again, if I think about Like a Stone where he's one octave up, you get that classic Like a Stone solo sound, but if you go one octave down, he's able to do things like the helicopter intro that you'll hear in Cochise, where again, it's just two completely different tones all coming from the same pedal, which is just so much fun. I mean, that's just the best way to describe it. It's so much fun to use. You could spend hours just playing around with it.

Austin Bryan:
Well, it's crazy, because like I mentioned earlier, there's like 700 million albums and about 60 Grammys plus have been actually won because of this pedal. So, it has a place for sure in the hall of fame of effects, for sure, and it's a classic.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Well, speaking of it being a classic, I mean, this has been the pedal that's been around for... What? A little over 30 years now. It came out in 1989. Obviously, it does have some flaws. It's not perfect. Again, we've always talked about... There's no perfect pedal out there. So, we'll just maybe highlight just a few of the flaws that we see within the Digitech Whammy.

Austin Bryan:
It's got a lot of features. For somebody that's new, starting out... They've heard a lot of these Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave tunes, and they really want to go and jump into that. There's a lot of features on the Whammy and it can be a little overwhelming. Earlier true bypass models can color the tone, which some folks like and some folks dislike.

So, something important to keep in mind: Calibration on the pedal. For some folks, if they're not keen to reading the manual, you'll need to get this pedal calibrated just so that you can make sure that, "Hey, like..." You're able to get the full sweep on the expression pedal the way you need to. Really getting to spend time to know it, I think, is a really big part of overcoming some of those flaws, but it's a lot of stuff.

The last thing I could say is that the power supplies is an AC, as opposed to a DC. So, some folks out there are trying to find the right power supply and they can't find it, and oftentimes, it's sold out, or trying to find the adapters. So, those are a few things I could definitely speak on there.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. And, I know even from a beginner's standpoint, if you're wanting to be the next Tom Morello or playing Rage Against the Machine songs in your bedroom. As much as we think that there are a lot of people that do own this, there are a lot of people that don't, so even if you're on YouTube and you're trying to find tutorials or lessons that can mimic that whammy sound or get you to sound like Tom Morello.

Sometimes it's hard to find material that actually show you how to maximize this pedal and actually truly dial in that specific tone that you're looking for. It's hard to find good stuff online about it. It's so popular, yet it's also so unpopular in the fact that it is hard to find good content about it.

Austin Bryan:
It's like riding a bike. You got to spend time with it. You're going to fall off a couple of times, but once you figure it out and you've learned how to use the gears and everything else, you can have a smooth ride, for sure, and I think that that is one of those same comparisons with the whammy.
Because, once you figure out if you're going to use two octaves up, or you're wanting to go [inaudible 00:10:50], or you're wanting to go into the harmony mode, whatever it is. If you can figure this pedal out, you'll essentially find countless ways to use this on different tunes and different songs. If you're in jam sessions, just throw it on the board. Go get it, throw it on the board.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. And once you get to that state of comfortableness, where you feel one with this pedal, there's so much to gain from it. I mean, I've already mentioned this theme earlier, but... I mean, I find this pedal just incredibly fun. Once again, you get comfortable with the dial and all the different options that you can choose from, from octaves up and octaves down. There's a classic mode, the chords mode. There's so much that you can do. You could literally, easily, kill an hour just fooling around with it.

Austin Bryan:
Two hours, three hours, enjoyable. "Enjoyable" is the word for this pedal. There is no wrong answers when you're playing with this thing. You just spend time with it, mess around with it, and... Yeah. When you look at the clock, it will go by.

Scott Schwertly:
Well, I'm guilty of it this weekend. I think I probably spent maybe two hours with it on Saturday and just... I mean, it's so easy to just get so engulfed in it, because there's so many different things you can experiment with.

Austin Bryan:
Yeah. I mean, really, the dive bomb option... If you want to go and have a Floyd Rose for your guitar, this is a way to do a good dive bomb, so... Even with the de-tune and everything. You've got a lot of experimental options and just countless ways you can make this pedal uniquely yours as you're going along with it.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah, definitely. It's definitely one to have in your arsenal, if you don't have one already. So, couldn't highly... I mean, couldn't recommend it enough from what we've already outlined here for you guys.

Austin Bryan:
Well, let's take a listen to it. We've been going around this pedal in circles, just talking about all the great things it can do, so let's take a listen to it and see what it sounds like.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. So, what we're going to do here is: Austin's going to connect to the Whammy. We've got just a generic stock [Telly 00:00:12:51], here. We're going to connect all this stuff. Yeah, let's give it a listen.

Austin Bryan:
That ladies and gentlemen is the whammy. Whew. "Wee woo", that's the sounds that this pedal can do. It's great.

Scott Schwertly:
I never get tired of it. It's so good.

Austin Bryan:
It's a fun one. It really is. You could spend so much time with this thing, and you can add so much to your songs just by, basically, playing with this expression pedal, and in turning the knob and dialing in the sounds you want.

Scott Schwertly:
Yeah. Awesome. Well, thanks guys for joining us on this episode. In our next one, we're going to be covering the popular Vertex steel string. I know this pedal is raved about quite a bit, and you can find plenty, or just a plethora, of positive reviews about it online. It's a fantastic overdrive pedal, and we look forward to unpacking this one in our next episode.

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