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What can you do with the Whammy Bar?

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(@fredramsey)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 128
Topic starter  

What can you do with the Whammy Bar?

I've seen it used, of course :)

Does it replace vibrato that you would normally do with your finger?

Break it down for me...

Learning requires a willingness to be bad at something for awhile.


   
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(@dogbite)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348
 

Jeff Beck is a genius with the whammy bar. he bends it to hit notes both up and down. he also makes them sing a bit by using it for vibrato, although the way he masterfully uses it I would not call it vibrato in the way we manage it.
whammy is great for dive bombing or major de tuning. I have seen players wobble the notes or 'nod' them. Merle Travis did that alot with his Bigsby equipped guitars.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

And one can apply the pitch change to multiple strings at the same time (hence Leo's synchronous tremolo moniker for the Strat whammy). Listen to rockabilly, country swing and surf to hear shimmery chord vibrato.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@fredramsey)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 128
Topic starter  

So if I were playing a Blues solo, I could use it to bend or vibrate a single note as opposed to using my fingers, right? Except I guess that would only work if you could let go of it and get your pick back to the strings fast enough...

Learning requires a willingness to be bad at something for awhile.


   
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(@rahul)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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You could bend the notes down their normal pitch.

Besides you can sound cool till you get out of tune. :mrgreen:


   
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(@ignar-hillstrom)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349
 

And if you get out of tune, use a wah pedal.


   
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(@hyperborea)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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So if I were playing a Blues solo, I could use it to bend or vibrate a single note as opposed to using my fingers, right? Except I guess that would only work if you could let go of it and get your pick back to the strings fast enough...

If you're doing a lot of whammy bar usage you don't want to go back and forth. You hold onto it while you are playing. Watch Jeff Beck and see what he does. Now, he's using fingers instead of a pick but it's the same idea - hold the bar lightly and still play.

Watch some of the closeups here as Jeff Beck plays Goodbye Porkpie Hat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ej3BdMpgZw He lets it go when he's not going to be using it for a while but when he's going to use it soon he keeps a hold of it while he plays.

Pop music is about stealing pocket money from children. - Ian Anderson


   
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(@gnease)
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Joined: 20 years ago
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So if I were playing a Blues solo, I could use it to bend or vibrate a single note as opposed to using my fingers, right? Except I guess that would only work if you could let go of it and get your pick back to the strings fast enough...

yes -- but if your fingers work, why bother? you should develop a good finger vibrato anyway. you will need it. the whammy may give you instant vibrato gratification, but in the long run, you'd be lost on any guitar without it if all you do is learn vibrato on whammy.

as pointed out already, it's possible to hold the bar and pick or fingerstyle. takes a little practice.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 21 years ago
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Well, if you want to see how to use a whammy bar, you have to check out Hendrix, he is the Master.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFLy8eGtSYo

And in my opinion, the most mind-blowing use ever of the whammy bar was Jimi Hendrix playing live with the Band of Gypsies playing Machine Gun.

This video is long, but highly worth watching. Listen to Jimi's whammy bar from precisely 5:17 through 5:40 of this video. Absolutely incredible. :shock:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TV74PsUo1dc

Learn that lick and you will be a guitar god.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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(@vic-lewis-vl)
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Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264
 

About 4 years ago, I didn't have an electric guitar, so I got a Squier Strat ( came with a Fender Frontman 15W amp) which came with whammy bar. I can tell you exactly what I did with mine.

I tried it once - for about 30 seconds. I'd just tuned up, and in the space of that 30 seconds the whole guitar went horribly out of tune. So I tuned it back up, tried it again, and again the guitar was so far out of tune it was unbelievable! So off came the whammy, went in a drawer somewhere and it's never seen the light of day since.

So I had to learn vibrato and note-bending the old-fashioned way - learn the correct technique.

Whammy bars are OK for some people, but they're just not for me. I like a guitar that stays in tune for more than half a song!

BTW, I don't know if this is true, or how true it is, but I have heard that Hendrix frequently had to stop mid-song and re-tune because of all the whammy bar dive-bombing - anyone shed any light on this?

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

I'm with Vic on this one.

I have two Strats and neither of them have the bar on.

Whammy Bar stuff is good for extreme pyrotech stuff.... Personally I prefer a disciplined finger vibrato.
All the 'vibrato' greats used their fingers:
BB King
Clapton
Paul Kossoff

It sounds more natural.

As far as I know, Jimi was out of tune a lot.... was an 'in tune' freak and frequently tuned his guitar WHILE playing.
(He also had impecable timing)

Ken

EDIT: How could I forget Danny Kirwan in the list of finger vibrato greats!
I think he just might've had a better vibrato than Koss! :shock:

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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 Nuno
(@nuno)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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I tried it once - for about 30 seconds. I'd just tuned up, and in the space of that 30 seconds the whole guitar went horribly out of tune.
It depends on the tuners. For example, my Strat has blocking tuners that help to maintain the guitar in tune. In fact, I think I tuned the guitar a couple of times in three or four months (yes, I know, I have to change the strings!) and always I review if it is out of tune when I start to play. Some Ibanez, Music Man, and other 'shredder guitars' have more complex systems for the vibrato bar and tuners or blocking systems.


   
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(@gnease)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5038
 

I tried it once - for about 30 seconds. I'd just tuned up, and in the space of that 30 seconds the whole guitar went horribly out of tune.
It depends on the tuners. For example, my Strat has blocking tuners that help to maintain the guitar in tune. In fact, I think I tuned the guitar a couple of times in three or four months (yes, I know, I have to change the strings!) and always I review if it is out of tune when I start to play. Some Ibanez, Music Man, and other 'shredder guitars' have more complex systems for the vibrato bar and tuners or blocking systems.

Reasonable tuners are important, but most people blame them when in fact they wrap strings incorrectly, have a poorly set-up nut or sticky string trees. It's a system. And all parts, including the pilot have to be working correctly.

And I will disagree with Wes: Jeff Beck has always been the whammy king. Adrian Belew also has it over Hendricks on whammy. Where would Jimi have gone with it? Well, maybe further ... but speculation is useless. He didn't.

Vic and Ken: Can't do a good, five or six string chord shimmer without a trem or FX unit or really wailing on the neck (SG works til it snaps!). Does everyone need one? Nope. But there are beautiful flourishes that only a good whammy can do. I will always keep at least one guitar with a floating trem for that purpose. Single note and double stop vibrato? -- yeah, I'm with you on that. Should usually be finely-honed finger magic.

-=tension & release=-


   
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(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

The whammy bar belongs to all guitarists :D

Don't forget the great Surf music bands. Check out this old video of The Ventures. There is a great whammy bar starting about 1:03 in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGPSnB93vo4&feature=related

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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(@citizennoir)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

Wes,
Good point.
I don't play surf music, though I do enjoy listening to it.

Greg - Yeah, that's just the thing.... for the limited use I would get from a whammy bar with what I play,
I could just as easily bend the neck on my Fender (no breakage there! :twisted: )
(My 60's SG neck would've snapped like a toothpick though! Luckily it had a vibrola tail piece!)

OR

I could just start pushing/pulling strings behind the nut.
(Or on my hollow body with the trapeze tail.... bend the strings behind that or just use the traptail itself)

I do however LOVE the way trems look on guitars.
Although I don't ever use the ones on my Strats, I wouldn't ever consider a hardtail Strat.

And Bigsbys on a hollowbody just get me all weak in the knees!

And of course there's the old Koss trick of grabing something like an open A chord and sliding a half step lower....
Kind of a whammy hold sound.

Ken

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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