Watch the Pitch Modulation online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Funk Fission
whammy bar (properly known as, yet mistakenly named the tremolo bar) for advanced pitch modulation duties. This is one of my specialties and definitely one of my favorite electric guitar tools. For the uninitiated these next two segments will serve as a great start to a life of ultra-cool whammy-filled madness, for those of you with a fair amount of experience with the wiggle stick you may be surprised to see there’s more to the bar than you expected, and for those without a trem system of any kind—what you see and hear throughout this course may merit a trip to Guitar Center for a new axe!
My bridge is set to float by default, meaning: there’s a rout underneath my bridge that allows me to not only depress the bar lowering the pitch, but also pull it back to raise pitch. No rout? No problem. You can have your guitar tech set your bridge to a faux floating position by adjusting the bridge to sit forward, lifting the back end off the body thus allowing you to pull back (this is how the undisputed heavyweight champion of whammy antics, Jeff Beck, has it set up). I have a Hipshot bridge on the ’73 Strat I play throughout these next two segments. To ensure tuning stability with the absence of a locking nut system, the guitar is equipped with Graph Tech hardware at both points of string contact—the bridge saddles and nut—to allow the strings the best possible anti-friction environment. This allows me to stay in tune pretty well, even in heated battles with the bar, while creating an environment for a better sounding guitar all together since locking nuts are notorious sustain burglars. For those of you who really get into specs, I use four medium tension springs to connect the stock Hipshot’s tone block to the claw with a gap in the sequence from the first to third slots from the top if you’re looking at the guitar from the back.
As for the notation seen in the Power Tab charts, you may find some symbols and procedures that are new to you if you’ve never studied whammy bar techniques. Looking in Fig. 1 you’ll at the upbeat of beat 1 the notation displays the pitches of an E9 chord, though you never see those notes fretted in the tab staff below. This is indicating what pitches are approximately being heard at the point in time as a result of the whammy work at hand. Another instance of this is seen in Fig. 2 where I have what I call a pre-dip with the bar at the fourth 16th of beat 2, which is notated with what looks like a sideways checkmark. In the notation you’ll see the pitch A, but I’m actually fretting the 6th fret Bb. This is a result of my pre-dipping the bar a half step below the note I’m fretting before I strike it with the pick, which by the way does eventually return to Bb at the upbeat of beat 3. Jumping over to Fig. 4, at bar 2 you’ll notice a pre-dip at the fourth 16th of beat 1’s 5th fret G that rises to the pitch intended by the fretted note and then a descent back down to the pre-dipped pitch. All this action is seen in the notation under the umbrella of a bend hat. So be sure to pay close attention to both staves when studying written music that involves whammy bar antics.Hipshot