You’ve probably heard a Wah pedal before. Like if you’ve listened to someone’s guitar make a funky rhythm sound or even a crying sound. You might not exactly know what a Wah pedal is though and may struggle with picking out the specific best Wah pedal for your guitar. Before you choose, think about which pedal you would like to add to your musical arsenal.
What is a Wah Pedal?
To put it simply: a Wah pedal is a pedal that you push, and that will change the tone of your signal. You push the pedal down to go from a bass tone to a treble tone.
The whole point is to add a boost of sound to the midrange of your guitar. To make it easier to adjust while playing, the pedal shape comes in handy.
In more technical terms, the Wah pedal is a filter that has a resonant peak at the low-pass roll-off frequency. This means that when you use it, you can move the frequency of the resonant peak. This is what makes the Wah effect that sounds like a trumpet or human voice.
How Does the Wah Pedal Work?
The Wah pedal looks just like a pedal, with knobs and adjustments to help the guitarist use it.
On any Wah pedal, you’ll notice the tone knob, a knob that a guitarist often won’t adjust while playing since they would need their right hand. When the Wah itself being depressed, it will act as a low-pass filter to block those higher frequencies.
When you have only the toe end depressed, it will be a high-pass filter and let the treble come through. Rocking the pedal back and forth will create the Wah noise, thanks to that spectral glide.
In essence, wah pedals work just like standard pedals: you press down or lighten the press to produce the desired sound. Of course, some will require more force than others, but when they’re rocked, the resistance and movement of the pedal will produce the signature wah-wah effect.
All Wah pedals are therefore built with the same idea. They all contain some filter that will remove some of the signal’s content and produce a specific sound. The main difference comes with their specific parameters.
Different Types of Wah Pedal
Nowadays, the Wah pedal is quite common for many guitarists. You’ll see it used on stage for all different types of music, but the pedals themselves are often different.
Some have a physical connection to the guitar, while others are considered switchless. They all have different specs too, which makes choosing one a little complicated.
Dunlop Cry Baby Series
The original Wah is the Cry Baby Wah, made into multiple variations in the Dunlop series. You might see some of these modeled for specific players, and others are more variable and capable of providing many available filters.
For example, there’s the 95Q that has volume control to it, so you can adjust the Wah sweep and boost the output. This is a switchless pedal, so you’re able to get it working as soon as you start moving it.
Then, other options like the 535Q will provide you with lots of controls if you like to adjust your sound to your specifications.
Vox Wah Pedal
The Vox wah pedals are another old brand with a really vintage feel and sound to them. They’re quite simple to use as well, not to mention reasonably affordable compared to some other options. These pedals are light to carry around and have many similarities to the versions that Hendrix originally used in the 1960s.
If you’re looking for something with great attention to detail, you can’t beat the classic Vox pedals.
Mini Wah Pedals
Many guitarists today are looking for more portable pedals, so of course, there are mini Wah pedals on the market too. Unfortunately, these smaller pedals aren’t as versatile as others due to their size, meaning that they lack some of the tone-shaping that you might be able to find on other models. This doesn’t mean that they won’t make the classic Wah sound though.
You might even find some unique features in the mini pedals, like an internal switch that will make the sound more old-school and produce some subtle sounds. These little pedals shine with the vintage sounds to them.
If you’re looking for a mini pedal specifically, try out a pedal from Hotone and Mooer. Or you might also take a look at the Soul Press from the Dunlop series.
Based on the classic Cry Baby Wah, the Soul Press functions as a Wah, a volume pedal, and an expression pedal to control other compatible pedals. Even a mini pedal can have a ton of usage for any guitarist.
Budget Wah Pedals
You can buy an expensive pedal from a top brand, and that’s never a bad idea if you want to ensure you’re getting the best sound possible. If you’ve never used a Wah pedal or if you’re simply looking for a more affordable option, you might want to try out some of the Wah pedals underneath $100.
Try out brands like Electro Harmonix, or The Wailer, both of which have a natural sound to them. The Wailer is made of a lightweight material that might be exactly what you’re looking for if you want to keep yourself sounding good.
Premium Wah Pedals
On the other hand, premium Wah pedals are high-end with many controls to shift your pedal’s tone. These are pedals with some serious versatility, like the Clyde Wah that has a Vox sort of sound.
With the quiet operation of these pedals, you might find that the extra price is more than worth it—especially since pedals like the Clyde has a built-in booster that can make the sweet more natural as you use it. With more control, you’ll be able to get your sound exactly as you want it.
This type of Wah Wah pedal is less popular, but it’s still worth mentioning if you’re looking through your options. An automatic pedal will provide a more constant sweep of sound, which may be good if you’re a little more inexperienced in using a Wah pedal.
However, many guitarists don’t necessarily like it since it doesn’t allow you much control as a traditional Wah. They also sound pretty different than your traditional Wah, though, so if you want to try out one of these pedals, you might not get the sound you’re looking for.
Tips When Using Wah Pedal
You can pick out a great Wah pedal, but to use it properly, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind. Wah pedals can be used in many different ways, after all, to produce a unique sound.
When you’re playing, remember not to overuse it. You don’t want to have an entire song of Wah pedal sound—instead, you can add to the pedal’s effect by picking the best moments in your music to add that unique sound.
Sync up your hands and feet when you’re using your pedal. You can get a lot of expression from playing your notes in sync with your pedal, like rocking when you play a new note. But, really, this depends on how you like to play and what type of playing works best for you.
Use your Wah pedal to the rhythm of the song. It’s a part of your music, so integrate it properly—as long as you try to keep the pedal towards the front of the pedal chain. Keeping the Wah pedal near the front of the chain can get you a better sound overall, although you might also want to try out some experimentation first.
Try placing your Wah Wah pedal in a stationary position. You can get a different sound like this and make the sound of your guitar pop during certain swells of the music.
Be careful about making the sound of your Wah pedal too piercing. Too much might end up harming the sound of your song, so take a minute to think about using a selective EQ as well right after you use your pedal.
Ultimately, there are many ways to use your Wah Wah pedal, and you might find that there’s a way for you to use it that works best with your sound. These tips may end up going a long way, though, for any guitarist.
The right Wah pedal can truly add much more character and articulation to your music. So take the time to find the best wah pedal for your needs, and you’ll never look back!