Tone, texture and madness: The Whammy

One of the benefits of listening to a wide variety of music across the years, is that you get to hear musicians using all sorts of different effects. Some are so essential to the player that they become a big part of their signature sound.

There are many guitarists who have made the Digitech Whammy their own - Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, the late Dimebag Darrell from Pantera, Kirk Hammett from Metallica, the Edge of U2, and of course Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Today we're going to be talking about a couple of players who you may or may have not heard of. Their Whammy work has been inspiring.

If you're unfamiliar with the Whammy, it's a pedal similar to a wah (in that it's a foot controller) that makes the pitch of the guitar go up or down 1 or 2 octaves. Depending on the model, it'll also have built in harmonization, wah, chorus and even dive bombs as presets.

There have been 5 models of the Whammy put out by Digitech so far. Different variations on the pedal are beneficial and collectible for various reasons, but most folks would be fine with the current Digitech Whammy V that typically goes for about $199 retail.

Without further ado, here are five guitarists who use the Whammy that you should check out:

Carl Bell (Fuel)

Bell is a perfect example of putting the Whammy through all of its paces, and more. Take a listen to Fuel's Something Like Human album, and listen to the track Down - where Bell utilizes the pedal throughout the verse, weaving between vocals to create awesome landscapes of notes and noise, to the bridge of the song where he gets almost heavenly with the Whammy, and to the solo where it's an all out assault.

He also uses it differently in the song Empty Spaces. In some spots as a sound effect that doesn't sound particularly guitar-like, in and out of verses, and towards the end to provide the outro for the song.

I was able to work at the same studio where Fuel's first two albums were recorded (Skyline Studios), and I learned a lot from the folks who made those albums behind the glass. 

Bell contributed heavily to the songwriting on Something Like Human and many other Fuel albums. His riffs are really catchy, and the albums he's played on all have unique guitar work peppered throughout. He's a fan of wah, chorus, trem, and delay as well. If you're looking for really great rock guitar playing, look no further.

James "Munky" Shaffer (Korn)

I remember seeing Korn's pedalboards onstage, and there were tons and tons of stompboxes laid out. While Brian "Head" Welch uses a ton of effects too, I've always been a fan of Munky's weird sounds. 

Alongside Vai, Korn pioneered the 7 string in metal. As for Whammy effects, Munky uses the Whammy for more than just pitch shifting octaves up and down. He also uses 4ths, 5ths and more. Listen to songs like Freak On A Leash, Good God, Here To Stay, and many more, and stay for the other cool effects they create!

Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave / Others)

I had to include Tom Morello on this list.  Tom's influence on the popularity of the Whammy is undeniable. His effects setup is minimal, and he loves to try and emulate a DJ in many of his solos.

Listen to his Whammy work on tracks like the instantly recognizable Killing In the Name, the laid back Like A Stone, and the incredible Calm Like A Bomb just to name a few. Tom uses the effect better than any other guitar player I've heard use the pedal. He uses it not by just rocking it back and forth to create the pitch shift effect, but to turn his guitar into an entirely different sound creation machine.

Coupled up with Tim Commerford, Rage and Audioslave's bass player, the heavy doubled up sound they create is awesome to listen to. They're masters of the riff.

Say Anything / Motion City Soundtrack

This may be cheating using two complete bands, but I feel like they fall somewhere under the same category when I'm talking about their use of the Whammy pedal.

Say Anything and Motion City Soundtrack have multiple spots on albums when they use the Whammy as a complete and total noise machine, to end solos, or to shift pitches uneasily (check out the awesome Whammy work on Say Anything's song Baby Girl, I'm A Blur).

They also have moments when they use the Whammy to emulate what the synth player is doing (there is a little synth style action on My Favorite Accident by Motion City Soundtrack). 

These two bands are some of pop punks all time greats. Check them out if you're into that style of playing to get a ton of inspiration.

Jack White (White Stripes/Raconteurs/Dead Weather/and more)

When Jack White was in the 2 person White Stripes, he used the Whammy pretty effectively to emulate bass on their song Seven Nation Army. He's used the Whammy live and on albums on many occasions to emulate bass or to add harmony to his existing guitar sound.

The funny thing about White is that he's typically a guitar straight into amp type of guy. If you watch the movie It Might Get Loud, you can see him being the complete opposite of say, the Edge, who has a 2 enormous racks full of effects. That's why I chose to include White in this Whammy article, because he's using the pedal to just get the job done, and make a bassier tone. 

This was one of my favorite articles from Guitar Player mag, where Jack talked about all the sounds that make up the White Stripes, Raconteurs and Dead Weather. 

Who did I miss?

From melodic lines and noise, to synth related goodness, the Whammy is a unique pedal. Who's your favorite guitarist who uses the Whammy?

This article is part of an ongoing series called The Effects Series. I'll be going over various effects, and how certain songs, artists, or even full albums use effects tastefully or in a not so obvious way. Is there an effect you'd like me to go over? Reach out to me on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo: Jason Burmeister / Creative Commons