ROCK SCHOOL

Char­lie Grif­fiths continues his A-Z with W for Wah-wah, Walk­ing bass, Waltz, Whammy bar and Whole-tone scale!

Guitar Techniques - - Guitar Techniques -

Wah- wah ped­alThe wah-wah is one of the most used ef­fects ped­als in gui­tar his­tory. The first wah-wah was de­signed by Vox in the late 60s and quickly gained in pop­u­lar­ity due to

Walk­ing bass is pri­mar­ily a jazz based rhyth­mic ap­proach which holds down the quar­ter note pulse. Rather than sim­ply re­peat­ing the same root note over and over, the ap­proach is to con­tin­u­ously keep mov­ing to a dif­fer­ent note, giv­ing it that wan­der­ing, or ‘walk­ing’ ef­fect. More mu­si­cal bass lines are based on the ar­peg­gio notes of the chord which is hap­pen­ing at that mo­ment. The idea is to make the chord changes as smooth as pos­si­ble, so scale notes and chro­matic pass­ing notes can be em­ployed to achieve this. On the gui­tar, walk­ing bass lines can be played on the bot­tom three strings to con­nect larger chord shapes to­gether.

Waltz­in­flu­en­tial play­ers such as Eric Clap­ton and Jimi Hen­drix demon­strat­ing its ex­pres­sive ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The rock­ing of the pedal con­trols a pot much like the tone con­trol on your gui­tar, which sweeps a fil­ter up and down the fre­quency range of the gui­tar to cre­ate the ef­fect. The wah of the name al­ludes to the sim­i­lar­ity to the hu­man voice; the heel down po­si­tion is equiv­a­lent to the mouth be­ing closed and the toe down po­si­tion opens the mouth.

Walk­ing bassThe term waltz dates back to 16th century Ger­many and de­scribes a tra­di­tional ball­room dance where the par­tic­i­pants spin and turn around each other in 3/4 time. Pro­nounced ‘three four time’, 3/4 is a sim­ple time sig­na­ture com­pris­ing three quar­ter­notes per bar, so can be said to be in ‘triple time’. As with any time sig­na­ture, the lower num­ber de­notes the type of beat you are deal­ing with: 4 is a quar­ter note, which we gen­er­ally un­der­stand as be­ing the ‘down­beat’ of a piece of mu­sic; that pulse at which you nat­u­rally want to tap your foot along with. The top num­ber shows you how many of those beats there are per bar. It is counted ‘one, two three - one, two three’ and so on.

Whammy barThe whammy bar or vi­brato sys­tem (usu­ally wrongly called a tremolo) is es­sen­tially a mov­able bridge which al­lows you to smoothly change the pitch of a note by ad­just­ing the ten­sion of the strings. Push­ing the bar down slack­ens the strings, thereby low­er­ing the pitch, and pulling up on the bar in­creases the ten­sion which raises the pitch. The de­sign of the sys­tem has evolved since the 1940s Bigsby style tail­piece which was best suited to a ‘flut­ter’ style tremolo. The 50s Fen­der strat trem en­abled play­ers like Jeff Beck to em­ploy pitch shift­ing more ac­cu­rately on tracks like Where Were You and Two Rivers. This paved the way to the Floyd Rose style float­ing sys­tems which reached the peak of pop­u­lar­ity in the 90s with play­ers like Steve Vai and Dime­bag Dar­rell pro­duc­ing in­cred­i­bly large pitch bends which were pre­vi­ously im­pos­si­ble on the in­stru­ment.

Whole tone scaleThe whole tone scale is ex­actly that - a scale made up en­tirely of whole tones, or the equiv­a­lent of go­ing up or down two frets. So if you start from an C root, then go up a tone, you ar­rive at D. Now go up an­other tone and you ar­rive at E. Keep go­ing up in tones and you get F#, G#, A# and fi­nally back to C. So we have six equally spaced notes in our hex­a­tonic scale, which is ex­actly half of the to­tal of 12 notes avail­able to us. This means that there are re­ally only two pos­si­ble whole tone scales: C and C#. The rest of the pos­si­ble start­ing root notes are es­sen­tially ‘modes’ of ei­ther of these, but since they all sound the same, in prac­ti­cal terms there are only two. The scale sounds cool over aug­mented chords.

Jeff Beck: mas­ter of the Strat’s vi­brato (whammy)

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