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 Whammy Bar Lessons

The Whammy Bar

The whammy bar (vibrato bar) is the most powerful sound
altering tool of the guitar. Simply said, there are
sounds you can create "only" with a whammy bar.
Not even the whammy pedal can reproduce the sounds and
feel that are created by an inventive guitarist who may
choose to use this powerful tool.From the grooving sounds
of surf guitar (using minor chords) to gashtly hallows of
Heavy Metal .
Early inventions included the Bigsby which could be found
on the Epiphone ES-295 which was introduced in 1952 by the
legendary Scotty Moore who was Elvis Presleys guitarist.
The Bigsby is a large spring operated system which is
mounted on top of the guitar body. In the 70's, Floyd Rose
introduced the "locking" whammy system, where the springs
were mounted underneath, inside the body of the guitar.

Comparison In Performance

The 2 most common types of vibrato bar are the non floating
(standard) vs. the floating system. Difference being, the
standard you can only use to bend downward on the strings,
allowing you to lower the sounds of the strings.
These standard systems often go out of tune at the first
touch or use of the whammy system. Many beginner guitars
may be purchased with this type of system.
Most music store salesman will tell you "it's great for a
beginner". Incorrect.
One of the most important things for a beginner guitarist
is staying tune.


Over the course of time, guitarist have tried many different
remedies in attempt to keep these standard systems from
going out of tune. One of the best remedies which became
commonly known was 3 in 1 oil with No.2 graphite lead.
Many players made the attempt of crushing the lead from a
No.2 pencil, and mixing it with a drop of 3 in 1 oil,
creating a solution that could be applied under the strings
by the bridge, and under the strings by the nut of the guitar,
which eased the tension of the strings creating less stress
while using the vibrato bar, in thus, allowing the guitar to
stay in "somewhat" better tune. Problem being, it was also a
very messy solution.Not recommended for your best guitar.

The Floating System

The floating system differed by allowing a guitarist to not
only bend downward to lower the pitch of sound, but also to
pull upward to raise...the pitch of sound.
These floating systems became popular and used by Van Halen,
Judas Priest,Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and still exist as a
very important tool for players of the new era such as Dimebag
Darrell and many others.
These systems were designed with "locking nuts", which allowed
players to "lock" the strings in tune without having to resort
to messy 3 in 1 / graphite solutions.
A picture is worth a million words. To see just how well a
guitar with a floating whammy system and locking nuts will
stay in tune, as well to see just "how far" you can actually
bend the strings to complete slack, I recommend you watch the
movie "Crossroads" featuring "Steve Vai", which you can find
at most video stores. This incredible performance shows Steve
actually shaking the whammy bar with one hand, creating the
most incredible sounds.
If you go shopping for a locking whammy system there is a
difference in puchasing a quality name brand. Some of the
cheaper systems dont stay in tune well. On some you'll find
the parts are stiff and hard to turn, and others the parts
are loose and not constructed well resulting in loss of control
when attempting to remain in tune. A quality name you can look
for to make sure you're getting the best for your money would
be the Floyd Rose System.

Comparison In Price

Standard vibrato bars cost around $8.00 to $10.00 for the
vibrato bar, which can only be added to a guitar which is
built in design for this type of system.

The American Standard Strat Tremolo can be added to nearly
any guitar, yet will require "routing" the guitar body. This
should be done by a professional builder or repairman.
The price for the system alone may cost anywhere from $75.00
to $90.00. Professional installation prices may vary anywhere
from $50.00 to $100.00 or more.

Locking Systems can range anywhere from $175.00 to $200.00.
Rest assured, if you are serious about getting the sounds
you want, and staying in tune, the old saying "you get what
you pay for" applies to this item. Highly recommended.
This type of system can be installed in most any guitar
that has an existing whammy bar (some routing may be required)
or can also be installed professionally as stated above.

Guitarist In Whammy Bar History

Jimi Hendrix was well known for using the whammy bar to
create "out of this world" sounds. Jimmy would stand facing
his amps, creating feedback and sustain while creating whammy
dives and ghostly sounds. Choice cuts are: "Are You Experienced"
(side A-B) and the Woodstock Recordings. A prime video choice
is "Rainbow Bridge".

Ritchie Blackmore was one of the early pioneers of whammy bar
sounds. During a previous interview, Ritchie had accussed
Eddie Van Halen of stealing his fingertapping and whammy bar
technique. His playing style was extreme as a brilliantlly
trained classical guitarist, and there were no boundaries set
for his performance.
In the 70's , rock promoter Don Kirshner hosted a concert called
"California Jam" , where Ritchies performance with Deep Purple
caused several thousands of dollars in damage to stage gear and
television equipment as he pushed beyond the limit in the creation
of his sound. Choice cuts for listening to this whammy bar king
are: "Highway Star", "Burn", and "Smoke On The Water"

Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing and Glen Tipton were among
the top performers of whammy technique, which you can hear
throughout their various recordings.
Choice Cut: The song "Sinner" Live.

Randy Rhoads* Choice cut: "Suicide Solution" Live, Over The
Mountain, Little Dolls.

Others among the whammy bar kings would include :
Joe Satriani*Steve Vai*Dimebag Darrell*Nancy Wilson*
Yngwie Malmsteen*
George Lynch*Eddie Van Halen*Steve Stevens*David Gilmour*

Whammy Bar Technique

If you're interested in learning how to use the whammy bar,
guitar terminology you may want to become familiar with would
include: trills, dive bombs, open string pull-offs, ghost
bending(pre-bend), exageratted vibrato, pulling sharp.

Here are some beginning fundamental exercises for you to
explore that you may be familiar with in sound.

Exercise #1 Lead Guitar Trill
Key Of E

This technique is among the most common for a guitarist
who plays with a whammy bar. This technique ("trill")
is performed by picking the first note, then hammering-on,
and pulling-off in continous motion. This technique sounds
good using a downward whammy bend, or pulling sharp.

Example #1 is showing the actual technique, as example #2
clearly demonstrates the scale that was used to perform
this guitar trick.


h  p  h  p
e :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
B :-12-15-12-15-12--|-----------------|-----------------|
G :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
D :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
A :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
E :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|


E Pentatonic Minor "Box" Scale 
e :-----------------|-----------------|-------12-15-----|
B :-----------------|-----------------|-12-15-----------|
G :-----------------|-------12-14-----|-----------------|
D :-----------------|-12-14-----------|-----------------|
A :-------12-14-----|-----------------|-----------------|
E :-12-15-----------|-----------------|-----------------|

More on scales....

Exercise #2 Special Effect Guitar Trick
"Motorcycle Shifting Gears Sound"

This special effect sound is created by ghost bending
(pre-bending) the whammy bar downward. Step 2 is to use
the index finger of your frethand to "pull-off" to produce
the sound of the open string while (step 3) you slowly
release the whammy bar back to it's normal position.
By performing this technique on the open G, D, and A string
you can produce the sound similar to a motorcycle shifting
gears. You can hear this technique played by Randy Rhoads
on the "Ozzy/Randy Live Tribute" near the ending peice of
"Randy's Guitar Solo".

   ghost bend         ghost bend        ghost bend
pull-off pull-off pull-off
e :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
B :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|
G :-0---------------|-----------------|-----------------|
D :-----------------|--0--------------|-----------------|
A :-----------------|-----------------|-0---------------|
E :-----------------|-----------------|-----------------|

You Can Play Guitar

Posted By: Scott Morris

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