Your Effects Chain: Wah

Welcome to one of the most used effects in all modern music!

This little guy was well established by Jimi Hendrix and if you read the advertisements, every modern day wah claims to be able to recreate this trademark sound.
What is a wah? Its basically your tone knob on your guitar, but in a foot pedal. Rotating your foot causes the frequency to change and creates that classic sound “wah”. This is the reason that the first major wah is called the “crybaby.” It sounds like…. um… crying?Wah

How to use the wah:

1) Play a individual note, rock on the foot pedal and listen to the sound. This takes timing to get it to sound right!

2) Play barre chords or power chords to get a funky feel. Add reverb for sweeeeet sounds.

3) Find the tone you like, and leave the wah stationary to listen to just that range open. You will get an interesting “squashed” kinda sound. They call this the “cocked wah.” I use this on some power chord-type riffs. Very effective.

The major thing to remember about the wah is it is almost an instrument in itself. It does take practice. You cannot expect to buy one and then jump right in. If I haven’t practiced with mine in a week or so, I make sure I have a couple of goes with my part to make sure my foot remembers what my hands do.

For a fun ambient sound, I run the wah into the compressor, followed by a mid to long delay (wah-ah-wah-ah-wah) with a largish decaying reverb (on my Verbzilla, the “hall” setting mimics a concert hall). You get a wonderful soft effect that can fill slow spells. I use this sometimes as we slow down a song to prepare a prayer, or in the segway between two songs.

The notorious crybaby wah has one downside. It negatively effects your clean tone when off. You can definitely hear some of the high end GONE with just the wah between your guitar and amp. Most wahs I have played do this. Thats why those guitar snobs talk and talk about “True bypass.”

I love true bypass, but its a bit overrated in my opinion. EXCEPT with a prominent problem as extreme as the wah’s. You should be able to find a pedal modder who can put a new switch into your wah for around 20-30 bucks and immediately cure this problem. You will not be affected at all!

I recommend: CMATMODS for the work. He was local to me once. Good guy. Email him and ask.

I’ll speak more of true bypass later.


Why is this at the beginning of my chain? Because I generally want whatever the wah does to affect all the other effects. I want the “wah” noise to be prominent into my overdrives/distortions. I want reverb on my wah at times. Most importantly (depending on the song) I want the wah compressed with my compressor. You see, the wah, though a tone effect, does affect volume. Sometimes the range that is active is a bit “clapped” in volume and harsh for the song. By using a compressor after, this is fixed and you get the wah sound, but all in equal volume. Even without a compressor, that clap is mellowed out a bit by my TS9 (Tubescreamer) following it. Again, the best part of effects is experimentation!

Other theory shows the wah after the overdrive (the wah Hendrix is associated with it). This puts a bit more harsher sound in my opinion- great for rock, not for church styles as I do. I need to be a bit more flexible and in front works best for me. Try it for yourself and see how your sound is affected by the effect!

Next post title: The Infamous TS9 (or the most moddable stompbox ever!)


One Response

  1. […] I did a previous post on the wah HERE (click for post). So I won’t repeat details I already wrote in this post. However, I have […]

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