IN THE WOODSHED
This month Charlie Griffiths works the whammy bar to utilise a diverse collection of effects, from subtle vibratos, to bombastic dives, to singing melodies.
Charlie Griffiths demonstrates a variety of ways to use and abuse your whammy bar.
You can play all of these examples with either a more vintage Strat type trem, or with a Floyd Rose if you have one. The tuning stability is usually better with a locking nut, or locking tuner equipped guitar. If you don’t have those, just keep checking your tuning throughout.
We will be using the whammy bar to both lower and raise pitch, so you will need to be able to pull the bar up as well as down. If you have a Strat type guitar, the tremolo cavity might not allow for pulling up on the bar, so you may need to grab a screwdriver to loosen the springs in the back and bring the tremolo plate away from the guitar body. Aim to be able to pull up a tone on the second and third strings as this shouldn’t compromise playability too much.
The first technique we’ll use is the scoop. This means pressing the bar down slightly to manipulate the pitch of the note momentarily. The scoop doesn’t have a specific pitch, but should be no more than a semitone. You can add this to a note that is already sustaining. Example 1 shows how you can apply the scoop to already sustaining notes and is a cool way of adding something rhythmic, without re-picking the string.
You can also add the scoop to the beginning of a note as shown in Example 2. This gives the effect of the note coming up to the correct pitch, which adds a bit of tension and release to a melody. Both of these examples also employ a staple of hard rock and metal players like Van Halen or Dimebag Darrell: the dive-bomb, which means dropping the bar down as far as it will go, so the slack strings bounce and rattle against the frets in an explosive way.
Example 3 demonstrates a more subtle use of the bar which could be used in most genres. Adding vibrato to chords is a nice way of creating character and also disguising any slight intonation problems that inevitably occur on our fretboards. Rather than gripping the bar tightly in the hand, try holding it loosely in your fingers, so any hand movements are made all the more subtle. You can apply this to single notes too; fusion players like Allan Holdsworth and Scott Henderson are well known for using their
we will be using the wham my to raise and lower pitch, so you will need to be able to pull the bar up an d down
bars to add a vocal like quality to their playing.
Using the whammy bar to play melodies is one of the trickiest techniques to get right, but Jeff Beck and Mattias Eklundh show just how effective this idea can be. The result is very atypical for guitar and is more similar to using a pitch wheel on a keyboard. This technique is tricky to get right and requires pinpoint accuracy to move the bar to the exact position and perfect tuning. With practice you should get a feel for where the semitones and tones reside on your particular vibrato system.
Play each example slowly and focus on playing the notes accurately and integrating the bar as seamlessly as you can. Once you are comfortable, try these ideas playing along with the backing tracks to hear how they sound in a musical setting.
NEXT MONTH Charlie shows how to achieve good intonation and vibrato when Playing Slide
Mattias Eklundh: video masterclass coming in GT soon