One of the coolest effects I have purchased for my collection of guitar effects is the Whammy Pedal by Digitech. The Whammy Pedal was revolutionary when it was first released in 1991 and the new updated version can do even more than the original. It can be heard on recordings by The White Stripes, Buckethead, Radiohead, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, David Gilmour and Pink Floyd, Jimmy Page and many more. So what is it that this pedal does that has such famous and great guitarists using it?
What this pedal does is change the pitch of the note that you play on guitar. You can play a note and then either raise the pitch up to 2 full octaves or drop the pitch down 3 full octaves. It’s quite a broad range of pitch bending. It’s very simple in theory and when you start using it you begin to understand the possibilities that the Whammy Pedal opens up. Have you ever been playing a guitar solo and wished you could play even higher notes? With the Whammy Pedal that’s no problem at all. You can raise the guitar up 1 or 2 octaves and that solo will really scream out over the top. Jack White from the White Stripes really uses this to great effect.
Another way to use the Whammy Pedal is playing an octave or two below the standard guitar tuning. If you’re making a recording or playing live and you need a bass line but don’t have a bass player, the Whammy has your bass parts covered. A really cool effect is to double the bass guitar line on guitar using the Whammy Pedal dropped an octave lower than the bass. You can really make things rumble with all those low frequencies. The whammy will drop 3 octaves down but it does tend to get muddy at the lowest frequencies.
The Whammy Pedal will also drop tune your guitar down to D tuning allowing you to play drop tuned riffs without having to re-tune your guitar. It’s really handy if you’re covering one or two drop tuned songs and you don’t want to have to re-tune your guitar to do it.
The Whammy Pedal also has Harmony presets that will play a harmony note simultaneously with the note that you’re playing. The pedal will allow you to change pitch between the actual note and the harmony note. There are some interesting possibilities with the harmony section. I haven’t explored them much as I use mine mainly for octaves and detuning.
Speaking of detuning, the Detune section will create a copy of your original signal and slightly shift the pitch of the copied signal and mix it back with the original signal. This gives you a chorusing effect that can be very subtle using the Shallow setting. The Deep setting will allow you to really knock the copied pitch way out of tune for some wild effects. When you rock the pedal back and forth the detuned signal will be mixed in with the original allowing you to do some really good modulation effects.
The only weakness of the Digitech Whammy Pedal that I’ve encountered is it doesn’t handle chords well when you raise the pitch an octave or more. The detune setting handles 2-note chords just fine and it’s passable on more complex chords. The higher or lower you raise the pitch the more noise and wobble you get when playing chords. It tracks single note lines perfectly though.
Last but not least, the Whammy Pedal has built in MIDI control. If you use a sequencer live you can control several parameters on the Whammy Pedal. You can control preset selection, turn the effect on and off and control the pedal position. If you’re good with MIDI sequencing you won’t even need to touch the pedal as the sequencer will do all your switching and control for you. It’s like having your own roadie.
The Digitech Whammy Pedal is a really great effect for creating new sounds with your guitar. I’m always looking for ways to get out of the same old guitar rut and the Whammy Pedal has really added some good options to my playing. I highly recommend purchasing a Digitech Whammy Pedal.