A wah-wah pedal (or simply wah pedal) is a type of electric guitar effects pedal that alters the tone and frequencies of the guitar signal to create a distinctive sound, mimicking the human voice saying the onomatopoeic name "wah-wah". The pedal sweeps the peak response of a frequency filter up and down in frequency to create the sound, a spectral glide, also known as "the wah effect". The wah-wah effect originated in the 1920s, with trumpet or trombone players finding they could produce an expressive crying tone by moving a mute in and out of the instrument's bell. This was later simulated with electronic circuitry for the electric guitar when the wah-wah pedal was invented. It is controlled by movement of the player's foot on a rocking pedal connected to a potentiometer. Wah-wah effects are used when a guitarist is soloing, or creating a "wacka-wacka" funk-styled rhythm for rhythm guitar playing.
An electric guitar is a guitar that uses one or more pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into electrical signals. The vibration occurs when a guitar player strums, plucks, fingerpicks, slaps or taps the strings. The pickup generally uses electromagnetic induction to create this signal, which being relatively weak is fed into a guitar amplifier before being sent to the speaker(s), which converts it into audible sound.
An effects unit or effectspedal is an electronic or digital device that alters the sound of a musical instrument or other audio source. Common effects include distortion/overdrive, often used with electric guitar in electric blues and rock music; dynamic effects such as volume pedals and compressors, which affect loudness; filters such as wah-wah pedals and graphic equalizers, which modify frequency ranges; modulation effects, such as chorus, flangers and phasers; pitch effects such as pitch shifters; and time effects, such as reverb and delay, which create echoing sounds.
The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal tract, such as talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, etc. The human voice frequency is specifically a part of human sound production in which the vocal folds are the primary sound source.
An envelope filter or envelope follower is often referred to as an auto-wah.
Auto-wah is a type of wah-wah effects pedal typically used with electric guitar, bass guitar, clavinet, and electric piano etc. The distinctive choppy rhythm guitar sound on many funk and disco recordings from the 1970s popularized the effect.
The first wah pedal was created by Bradley J. Plunkett at Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company in November 1966. This pedal is the original prototype made from a transistorized MRB (mid-range boost) potentiometer bread-boarded circuit and the housing of a Vox Continental Organ volume pedal. The concept, however, was not new. Country guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins had used a similar, self-designed device on his late 1950s recordings of "Hot Toddy" and "Slinkey". Jazz guitarist Peter Van Wood had a modified Hammond organ expression pedal; he recorded in 1955 a version of George Gershwin's "Summertime" with a "crying" tone, and other recordings including humorous "novelty" effects. A DeArmond Tone and Volume pedal was used in the early 1960s by Big Jim Sullivan, notably in some Krew Cats instrumental tracks, and in Dave Berry's song "The Crying Game".
The Thomas Organ Company is an American manufacturer of electronic keyboards and a one-time holder of the manufacturing rights to the Moog synthesizer. The Company was a force behind early electronic organs for the home. It went out of business in 1979 but reopened in 1996.
A prototype is an early sample, model, or release of a product built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from. It is a term used in a variety of contexts, including semantics, design, electronics, and software programming. A prototype is generally used to evaluate a new design to enhance precision by system analysts and users. Prototyping serves to provide specifications for a real, working system rather than a theoretical one. In some design workflow models, creating a prototype is the step between the formalization and the evaluation of an idea.
A potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider. If only two terminals are used, one end and the wiper, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat.
The creation of the modern wah pedal was an accident which stemmed from the redesign of the Vox Super Beatle guitar amplifier in 1966. Warwick Electronics Inc. also owned Thomas Organ Company and had earlier entered into an agreement with Jennings Musical Instruments (JMI) of England for Thomas to distribute the Vox name and products in the United States. In addition to distributing the British-made Vox amplifiers, the Thomas Organ Company also designed and manufactured much of the Vox equipment sold in the US The more highly regarded British Vox amplifiers were designed by Dick Denney and made by JMI, the parent company of Vox. Warwick assigned Thomas Organ Company to create a new product line of solid state Vox amplifiers called Vox Amplifonic Orchestra, which included the Super Beatle amplifier, named to capitalize on the Vox brand name's popularity in association with the Beatles, who used the JMI English Vox amplifiers such as the famous Vox AC30 (although the Beatles did use several American-made Super Beatle units on their 1966 US tour). The US-made Vox product line development was headed by musician and bandleader Bill Page. While creating the Vox Amplifonic Orchestra, the Thomas Organ Company decided to create an American-made equivalent of the British Vox amplifier but with transistorized (solid state) circuits, rather than vacuum tubes, which would be less expensive to manufacture. During the re-design of the USA Vox amplifier, Stan Cuttler, head engineer of Thomas Organ Company, assigned Brad Plunkett, a junior electronics engineer, to replace the expensive Jennings 3-position MRB circuit switch with a transistorized solid state MRB circuit.
Vox is a musical equipment manufacturer founded in 1957 by Thomas Walter Jennings in Dartford, Kent, England. The company is most famous for making the Vox AC30 guitar amplifier, used by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Queen, Dire Straits, U2 and Radiohead, the Vox Continental electric organ, the Vox wah-wah pedal used by Jimi Hendrix, and a series of innovative electric guitars and bass guitars. Since 1992, Vox has been owned by the Japanese electronics firm Korg.
An instrument amplifier is an electronic device that converts the often barely audible or purely electronic signal of a musical instrument into a larger electronic signal to feed to a loudspeaker. An instrument amplifier is used with musical instruments such as an electric guitar, an electric bass, electric organ, synthesizers and drum machine to convert the signal from the pickup or other sound source into an electronic signal that has enough power, due to being routed through a power amplifier, capable of driving one or more loudspeaker that can be heard by the performers and audience.
Jennings Musical Instruments is a manufacturer of musical instruments, and the original owner of the Vox brand. The company was founded by Thomas Walter Jennings.
Plunkett had lifted and bread-boarded a transistorized tone-circuit from the Thomas Organ (an electric solid state transistorized organ) to duplicate the Jennings 3-position circuit. After adjusting and testing the amplifier with an electronic oscillator and oscilloscope, Plunkett connected the output to the speaker and tested the circuit audibly. At that point, several engineers and technical consultants, including Bill Page and Del Casher, noticed the sound effect caused by the circuit. Page insisted on testing this bread-boarded circuit while he played his saxophone through an amplifier. John Glennon, an assistant junior electronics engineer with the Thomas Organ Company, was summoned to bring a volume control pedal which was used in the Vox Continental Organ so that the transistorized MRB potentiometer bread-boarded circuit could be installed in the pedal's housing. After the installation, Page began playing his saxophone through the pedal and had asked Joe Banaron, CEO of Warwick Electronics Inc./Thomas Organ Company, to listen to the effect. At this point the first electric guitar was plugged into the prototype wah pedal by guitarist Del Casher who suggested to Joe Banaron that this was a guitar effects pedal rather than a wind instrument effects pedal. Banaron, being a fan of the big band style of music, was interested in marketing the wah pedal for wind instruments as suggested by Page rather than for the electric guitar as suggested by Casher. After a remark by Casher to Banaron regarding the Harmon mute style of trumpet playing in the famous recording of "Sugar Blues" from the 1930s, Banaron decided to market the wah-wah pedal using Clyde McCoy's name for endorsement.
An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave. Oscillators convert direct current (DC) from a power supply to an alternating current (AC) signal. They are widely used in many electronic devices. Common examples of signals generated by oscillators include signals broadcast by radio and television transmitters, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and video games.
An oscilloscope, previously called an oscillograph, and informally known as a scope or o-scope, CRO, or DSO, is a type of electronic test instrument that graphically displays varying signal voltages, usually as a two-dimensional plot of one or more signals as a function of time. Other signals can be converted to voltages and displayed.
Del Casher is an American guitarist and inventor. He invented Wah-wah pedal, the Ecco-Fonic, and the Fender Electronic Echo Chamber. He was the first to introduce the Roland Guitar Synthesizer for the Roland Corporation.
After the invention of the wah pedal, the prototype was modified by Casher and Plunkett to better accommodate the harmonic qualities of the electric guitar. However, since Vox had no intention of marketing the wah pedal for electric guitar players, the prototype wah-wah pedal was given to Del Casher for performances at Vox press conferences and film scores for Universal Pictures. The un-modified version of the Vox wah pedal was released to the public in February 1967 with an image of Clyde McCoy on the bottom of the pedal.
Universal Pictures is an American film studio owned by Comcast through the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group division of its wholly owned subsidiary NBCUniversal. Founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle, Mark Dintenfass, Charles O. Baumann, Adam Kessel, Pat Powers, William Swanson, David Horsley, Robert H. Cochrane, and Jules Brulatour, it is the oldest surviving film studio in the United States, the world's fifth oldest after Gaumont, Pathé, Titanus, and Nordisk Film, and the oldest member of Hollywood's "Big Five" studios in terms of the overall film market. Its studios are located in Universal City, California, and its corporate offices are located in New York City.
Warwick Electronics Inc. assigned Lester L. Kushner, an engineer with the Thomas Organ Company, and Brad Plunkett to write and submit the documentation for the wah-wah pedal patent. The patent application was submitted on February 24, 1967, which included technical diagrams of the pedal being connected to a four-stringed "guitar" (as noted from the "Description of the Preferred Embodiment"). Warwick Electronics Inc. was granted U.S. Patent 3,530,224 ("foot-controlled continuously variable preference circuit for musical instruments") on September 22, 1970.
Early versions of the Clyde McCoy featured an image of McCoy on the bottom panel, which soon gave way to only his signature. Thomas Organ then wanted the effect branded as their own for the American market, changing it to Cry Baby which was sold in parallel to the Italian Vox V846. Thomas Organ's failure to trademark the Cry Baby name soon led to the market being flooded with Cry Baby imitations from various parts of the world, including Italy, where all of the original Vox and Cry Babys were made.Jen, who had been responsible for the manufacture of Thomas Organ and Vox wah pedals, also made rebranded pedals for companies such as Fender and Gretsch and under their own Jen brand. When Thomas Organ moved production completely to Sepulveda, California and Chicago, Illinois these Italian models continued to be made and are among the more collectible wah pedals today.
Some of the most famous electric guitarists of the day were keen to adopt the wah-wah pedal soon after its release. Among the first recordings featuring wah-wah pedal were "Tales of Brave Ulysses" by Cream with Eric Clapton on guitar and "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience,both released in 1967. Hendrix also used wah wah on his famous song Voodoo Child, in intro and in soloing. Clapton, in particular, used the device on many of the Cream songs included on their second and third albums, Disraeli Gears (1967) and Wheels of Fire (1968) respectively. Clapton would subsequently employ it again on "Wah-Wah", from his good friend George Harrison's solo album All Things Must Pass , upon the dissolution of The Beatles in 1970. Another prominent use occurred in the recording of "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and the Shondells in late 1968, with the single version eventually reaching number one in early 1969. Terry Kath, lead guitarist for the band Chicago, used it on many of their early recordings as well. Martin Barre, lead guitarist for the fledgling Jethro Tull, also employed it to great effect on their second album Stand Up , particularly on "We Used to Know" and "Look into the Sun". Jimmy Page featured the wah-wah pedal on several songs from the final Yardbirds album Little Games , as well as the solo on the Led Zeppelin song "Custard Pie", and throughout "Trampled Under Foot", both from Physical Graffiti . Tony Iommi used it on the songs "Black Sabbath", "The Wizard" and Geezer Butler (Bass) "N.I.B." from their self-titled debut album, "Electric Funeral" from Paranoid album. He also employed it on later recordings, such as "Shock Wave" on Never Say Die! (1978), "Lady Evil" from the first Ronnie James Dio-era album Heaven and Hell (1980), and "Turn Up the Night" on the subsequent Mob Rules (1981).
The wah-wah pedal was revived in the British music industry in the late 1980s by John Squire of The Stone Roses whose squelching licks graced most of the Roses songs from 1988 to 1990, particularly "Elephant Stone", "Waterfall" and in particular "Fools Gold". By the late 80s Squire had tired of the overly angular guitar riffs which dominated British music and had bought a wah wah pedal to soften the Roses sound. The wah would also be used by the Roses contemporaries such as the Happy Mondays and The Charlatans [UK], and became one of the defining sounds of British guitar music in the late 80s/early 90s, only for Grunge from Seattle and later Britpop to diminish its status.
In addition to rocking the pedal up and down to crest a spectral glide, another function of the pedal is to use it in a fixed position. A guitarist using the wah in this way selects a position on the wah pedal and leaves the pedal there. Depending on the position of the pedal, this will boost or cut a specific frequency. This can be used for emphasizing the "sweet spot" in the tonal spectrum of a particular instrument. One electric guitar player to use the pedal in this way was Jimi Hendrix, who revolutionized its application by combining a Fender Stratocaster with stacked Marshall Amplifiers (in both static and modulated mode) for lead and rhythm guitar applications unheard of before then. According to Del Casher, Hendrix learned about the pedal from Frank Zappa, another well-known early user.
Milestones of this signature guitar and amplifier combination include songs such as "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" as well as the "Star Spangled Banner" which was played by Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969. Mick Ronson used a Cry Baby for the same purpose while recording The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars .Michael Schenker also utilized the pedal in his work.
Another famous style of wah-wah playing is utilizing it for a percussive "wacka-wacka" effect during rhythm guitar parts. This is done by muting strings, holding down a chord and moving the pedal at the same time. This was first heard on the song "Little Miss Lover" (1967) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. One of the most famous uses of this effect is heard on Isaac Hayes's "Theme from Shaft" (1971), Charles Pitts playing the guitar.The "wah-wah" and "wacka-wacka" effects are often associated with the bands on 1970s TV variety shows, like those of Sonny and Cher, Flip Wilson, or Donny and Marie Osmond; or with the soundtracks of pornographic films, the sound referenced in TV commercials for Axe body spray as "bow chicka wow wow."
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) used the pedal to create the "whale" effect during Echoes . He discovered this effect as a result of a roadie accidentally plugging his guitar into the output of the pedal and the input being plugged into his amp. The effect was first used during live performances of The Embryo during 1970 but was then switched into Echoes as it was being developed before being released on the Meddle album on 31 October 1971.
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Many bassists have also used the wah-wah effect, for example Michael Henderson on Miles Davis's album On the Corner (1972). Funk band Kool and the Gang, B.T.Express, and Jimmy Castor Bunch used Wah-wah pedal also. Bassist Cliff Burton of Metallica used a Morley Wah pedal (along with a Big Muff Distortion) extensively, including on "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth", which is primarily a bass solo recorded for Kill 'Em All (1983), and "The Call of Ktulu" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls", both recorded for Ride the Lightning . Geezer Butler, bassist of Black Sabbath, used it when playing his solo "Bassically", along with the bass line in "N.I.B.". Chris Squire of Yes used a wah-wah pedal on his solo piece "The Fish" on the album Fragile . While wah pedals are less popular as a bass effect, various companies now offer pedals designed specifically for bass guitars.
Many steel guitar players use a wah-wah, such as Robert Randolph from the Robert Randolph and the Family Band.
Melvin Ragin, better known by the nickname Wah Wah Watson, was a member of the Motown Records studio band, The Funk Brothers, where he recorded with artists such as The Temptations "Papa was a Rolling Stone", Marvin Gaye "Let's Get It On", The Jackson 5, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & The Pips, and The Supremes, Undisputed Truth "Smilin' Faces".He played on numerous sessions in the 1970s and 1980s for many top soul, funk and disco acts, including Herbie Hancock.
Keyboardists have also made use of the wah-wah effect both in the studio and during live performances. Garth Hudson famously used a wah-wah pedal on a clavinet in The Band's song "Up on Cripple Creek" to emulate a jaw harp. Rick Wright of Pink Floyd played a Wurlitzer electric piano through a wah-wah pedal in their song "Money" to give the impression of many consecutive chords being played. Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater made an extensive use of the wah-wah pedal on Dream Theater's album Train of Thought . John Medeski of Medeski, Martin, and Wood uses a wah pedal with his clavinet.
Many jazz fusion records feature wind and brass instruments with the effect - Miles Davis's trumpet being a well-known example. Davis first used this technique in 1970 (at concerts documented on Live-Evil and The Cellar Door Sessions ) at a time when he also made his keyboard players (Keith Jarrett and Chick Corea) play electric pianos with a wah-wah pedal. Napoleon Murphy Brock played a saxophone amplified through a wah-wah pedal in the Frank Zappa movie The Dub Room Special , as well as on some of Zappa's albums. David Sanborn can be heard playing an alto saxophone modified by a wah-wah pedal on the David Bowie album Young Americans . Noted saxophonist King Curtis was also known to use a wah-wah pedal. Dick Sims, the keyboard player with Eric Clapton in the late 1970s, used a Hammond organ in conjunction with a wah-wah pedal, placed on top of the organ and operated by his palm.
The effect is also extensively used with the electric violin. Notable examples are Jerry Goodman with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Jean-Luc Ponty, Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Shankar with Frank Zappa, all usually engaged in long wah-wah violin/guitar duels. Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band is known to use a wah-wah pedal live.
James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music".
Wah-wah is an imitative word for the sound of altering the resonance of musical notes to extend expressiveness, sounding much like a human voice saying the syllable wah. The wah-wah effect is a spectral glide, a "modification of the vowel quality of a tone".
Audio feedback is a special kind of positive loop gain which occurs when a sound loop exists between an audio input and an audio output. In this example, a signal received by the microphone is amplified and passed out of the loudspeaker. The sound from the loudspeaker can then be received by the microphone again, amplified further, and then passed out through the loudspeaker again. The frequency of the resulting sound is determined by resonance frequencies in the microphone, amplifier, and loudspeaker, the acoustics of the room, the directional pick-up and emission patterns of the microphone and loudspeaker, and the distance between them. For small PA systems the sound is readily recognized as a loud squeal or screech. The principles of audio feedback were first discovered by Danish scientist Søren Absalon Larsen, hence the name "Larsen Effect".
A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band who provide the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band.
Morley Pedals is the name of a guitar effects pedal company, famous for manufacturing wah-wah pedals and other treadle type effects for guitar. Morley pedals use electro-optical circuitry rather than a potentiometer to control the effect. The foot treadle controls a shutter inside the pedal that in turn controls the amount of light reaching a Light Dependent Resistor (LDR). The advantage to this system is that there are no potentiometers in the signal path to wear out or become "scratchy sounding" over time. Electro-optical circuitry is used throughout the classic Morley pedal line, which includes or has included volume pedals, delay pedals, chorus and phaser pedals, and many others.
A fuzz-wah pedal is a stomp box containing both a fuzzbox and a wah-wah pedal in series allowing the user to distort "wah" and the "fuzz" sounds as an aesthetic affect on an electric guitar or bass. They were developed in order to combine the iconic sounds of the more psychedelic bands of the late 1960s and 1970s.
The Dunlop Cry Baby is a popular wah-wah pedal, manufactured by Dunlop Manufacturing, Inc. The name Cry Baby was from the original pedal from which it was copied, the Thomas Organ/Vox Cry Baby wah-wah, first manufactured in 1966. Thomas Organ/Vox failed to register the name as a trademark, leaving it open for Dunlop. More recently, Dunlop manufactured the Vox pedals under licence, although this is no longer the case.
Clyde Lee McCoy, was an American jazz trumpeter whose popularity spanned seven decades. He is best remembered for his theme song, "Sugar Blues", written by Clarence Williams and Lucy Fletcher, and also as a co-founder of Down Beat magazine in 1935. The song hit in 1931 and 1935, in Columbia and Decca versions, and returned to Billboard magazine's Country (Hillbilly) chart in 1941. It was also played with vocals, by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, Fats Waller and Ella Fitzgerald.
The Fuzz Face is an effects pedal used mainly by electric guitarists and by some bass players. It is a stompbox designed to produce a distorted sound from an electric guitar, a sound referred to as "fuzz," which earlier was achieved sometimes by accident, through broken electrical components or damaged speakers.
Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonly used with the electric guitar, but may also be used with other electric instruments such as bass guitar, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Guitarists playing electric blues originally obtained an overdriven sound by turning up their vacuum tube-powered guitar amplifiers to high volumes, which caused the signal to distort. While overdriven tube amps are still used to obtain overdrive in the 2010s, especially in genres like blues and rockabilly, a number of other ways to produce distortion have been developed since the 1960s, such as distortion effect pedals. The growling tone of distorted electric guitar is a key part of many genres, including blues and many rock music genres, notably hard rock, punk rock, hardcore punk, acid rock, and heavy metal music.
The Mark is an electric guitar made by Vox. The instrument is also known as the Vox Teardrop, but this is not the official name. The Vox Mark came in three variations, a 6 string, a 9 string and a 12 string
John Lennon's musical instruments were both diverse and many, and his great fame resulted in his personal choices having a strong impact on cultural preferences.
The Gibson G-101,, is a combo organ, a type of transistorized portable organ. It is one of many popular models of such a type of organ that was widely used in rock & roll bands of the mid- and late 1960s, designed for use on stage or in the studio, for players that transported them between frequent performances.
Keeley Electronics is an American manufacturer of effect units for electric guitars. The company, founded by Robert Keeley and operating from Edmond, Oklahoma, also sells modifications for effects by Boss and Ibanez.
Fuzz bass, also called "bass overdrive" or "bass distortion", is a style of playing the electric bass or modifying its signal that produces a buzzy, distorted, overdriven sound, which the name implies in an onomatopoetic fashion. Overdriving a bass signal significantly changes the timbre, adds higher overtones (harmonics), increases the sustain, and, if the gain is turned up high enough, creates a "breaking up" sound characterized by a growling, buzzy tone.
Vintage musical equipment is older music gear, including instruments, amplifiers and speakers, sound recording equipment and effects pedals, sought after, maintained and used by record producers, audio engineers and musicians who are interested in historical music genres. While any piece of equipment of sufficient age can be considered vintage, in the 2010s the term is typically applied to instruments and gear from the 1970s and earlier. Guitars, amps, pedals, electric keyboards, sound recording equipment from the 1950s to 1970s are particularly sought. Musical equipment from the 1940s and prior eras is often expensive, and sought out mainly by museums or collectors.