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The Whammy Bar (Basics & Weird Effects)


OK, letĀ“s talk about the whammy bar / wang bar / trem system / vibrato. These days, it is not that popular anymore ( or should I say "hip" ). But the whammy bar is a great device and can even help you to express yourself better in your playing. And especially with a double-locking system ( FLoyd Rose and Floyd Rose-licensed systems ) you can create some really cool effects. IĀ“ll talk about and desribe some of these today... many of you will heard them being used already.

A bit of history
When Leo Fender licensed his vibrato system ( used on the Fender Strat ), it was supposed to be a tool to add some slight vibrato to single notes and chords, as it was an effect often used back then.

Those early vibrato system were not really the most reliable ones regarding the stability of the tuning. But no one ( despite guys like Sonny Sharock ) really did wild, divebomb-style stuff back then.

That was started by players such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, who used the vibrato system to create pretty extreme sounds ( just listen to JimiĀ“s "Machine Gun", off the "Band Of Gypsies" album, or his version of the "Star Spangled Banner" )

Even though you can do some things to get your regular, vintage-style vibrato to stay in tune a bit better ( i.e. by stretching the strings a bit while putting them on, and by applying graphite to the slots at the nut ), it was a problem for most players that their guitar would be badly out of tune after they did some "divebombs" and other stuff.

Eddie Van Halen tried to solve that problem by sawing his vibrato system apart right in the middle, between the G- and D-String. That way, only the upper three strings would be "whammied" and thereby would slip out of tune, while the bass strings staid in tune... and Eddie could finish a song by playing chords on those lower strings.

But that still was not a satisfying solution. Then Floyd Rose came up with a double locking system. The strings were "locked" at two different places ( the bridge and the nut ), and thereby there was almost no friction anymore ( which really was the cause for the tuning-instability of regular vibrato-systems ).

And from then on, some guys went really wild with the bar. Just listen to things like "Summer Nights" ( from Van HalenĀ“s "5150" album ), or Steve VaiĀ“s "Blue Powder" ( Passion & Warfare ). One of the most popular tunes ever to feature the whammy was certainly Joe SatrianiĀ“s "Satch Boogie" ( "Surfing With The Alien" ) with its extreme harmonic-divebombs.

OK, lemme try to explain some of those weird effects to you. I am not gonna give away any TAB, because it is quite difficult usually to show that kinda stuff with TAB sometimes , it actually is easier to describe it. Also, I included a bunch of MP3s so you can hear what I am talking about...

So, turn the page and check it out...

Basics and some weird stuff >>