Get a wah-wah pedal if you want to play like Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix used a wah-wah pedal
Jimi Hendrix was the first of the great musicians credited with making the wah-wah pedal an essential tool for rock guitarists. He used the pedal that really does make a "wah-wah" sound on his song Burning of the Midnight Lamp .
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd fame are two more guitarists who have used wah-wah pedals in their performances and on recordings.
The original wah-wahs were Jim Dunlop Cry Baby pedals. The sound they made was extreme and distinctive and rock fans loved it.
But there are many other types of effects pedal or effects unit that all the legendary rock guitarists have used.
Using a wah-wah pedal
If you want to sound like your rock music heroes or simply want to create a unique style for yourself you will probably need to get some effects pedals or effects units. Then play around with them and find out what you can do!
All music shops sell effects pedals but you can also, of course, shop around for them on the Internet now too. Sites like eBay and Amazon have plenty of effects pedals for guitarists for sale.
To use these pedals you simply plug your electric guitar lead into the input hole of the pedal and have another lead from the output that goes to your amp. Turn the pedal on and activate it with your foot.
The wah-wah effect is controlled by the amount of movement you make on the pedal. A wah-wah can be combined with other sound effects such as distortion. Distortion pedals are also known as fuzz boxes because they break the sound up making it loud and fuzzy.
You need to experiment to find the sort of sounds you are looking for, and how to make them again. It is easy to get excited by sound effects though and end up using too much or too many pedals at the same time.
I know because I have done it. I used to be so fascinated with all the weird sounds I would have a whole collection of pedals on stage with me and sometimes overdid it! I have been known to have a wah-wah, a flanger, a phaser, a distortion pedal and a delay pedal all on stage at the same time. The trouble is you can end up so taken by the strange sounds that you forget about your skills as a guitar player.
Some electric guitarists choose to use an effect for all its worth and their playing sounds clearly altered by whatever pedals they are employing whilst other use them but subtly, so only an experienced musician or producer could spot what effect was being used.
Demonstration of a Boss flanger FX pedal
Other types of effects (FX) pedals
Other popular effects pedals are chorus pedals, flangers, phasers and delay pedals. A well-known and trusted manufacturer of these pedals is Boss.
Their pedals come in a range of flashy colours. I remember having a plum-purple coloured Boss Flanger, a pale blue Chorus pedal, a grey-olive Phaser with orange control knobs and a silver Delay pedal. They look almost as good as they sound!
If you have a lot of different pedals it is possible to connect them all up using short jump-leads. These little leads come in arrange of flashy colours too.
They all have tone and volume control switches on them at the top solid part and a movable pedal you stamp you step on to switch on and off when you are playing and want to use its effect. An LED light shows if the pedal is on on many models too.
The pedals are usually battery operated and it is always wise to carry spare batteries in case yours wear down and need replacing. I have known rock guitarist at local gigs having to call out has anybody got a 9v battery here?
I remember getting a Boss Heavy Metal pedal after finding out that singer-songwriter Roy Harper, who is one of my favourites, was using one. Putting my foot down on it gave increased volume and a fuzzy distortion and a different sort of energy to a song.
Delay pedals basically echo the notes you are playing and repeat sequences. They can be set to different speeds and produce some amazing and very impressive effects.
Flangers flange and the best way I can describe what that means is to include a video below in which a Boss Flanger pedal is demonstrated.
DOD pedals are another very popular range. DOD stands for Division of Digitech by the way, and amongst their range of sound effects is the Grunge pedal, which the company like to boast was used by the late great Kurt Cobain to get his sound. Other versions of this story claim that he actually came to hate the pedal and on one occasion threw it into the audience in disgust and as a gesture.
Once you become acquainted with the range of sounds these pedals create you can easily end up hearing them in use on pieces of rock guitar and songs you like. But that shouldn't spoil your enjoyment! It may actually inspire you if you are a musician yourself to try emulating the sounds in some of your own music and writing.
As well as pedals there are combined multi-effect processors. These units are usually a bit more costly but mean you just have one 'box' to put on the stage instead of a whole array. Some guitarists like to show off their collections of vintage pedals though!
© 2010 Steve Andrews