Wah-Wah Techniques

by Mark Starlin

The Wah-Wah pedal has been around for over forty years and it continues to be a popular effect for many guitarists. Essentially a tone filter pedal that sweeps from bass to treble and back creating a vocal-like “wah” sound, this simple device can be heard on thousands of hit records.

Jimi Hendrix was one of the early users who popularized it among rock guitarists. Clapton, Trower, Santana, and numerous others also jumped on the wah bandwagon. That’s not to say that rock musicians were the only ones using the Wah-Wah. In fact its inherently “funky” sound can be heard on countless R&B, Soul and Funk songs of the 60s and 70s. Let’s take a look at some the techniques that can improve your “wah-ability.”

Adding Spice To A Riff

Many rock riffs could be improved with the help of a little wah. Here is a short riff played without wah:

Riff - No Wah (mp3)

Now here is the same riff played with wah added:

Riff - Wah Added (mp3)

Not all riffs sound better with wah, but many do. If your riffs are sounding a little too pedestrian, try a little wah.

Muted Wah

Muting the strings as you rock the wah-wah pedal can give you a cool percussive effect. Here is a sample:

Muted Rhythm With Wah (mp3)

To create this effect place your finger gently across the strings of the guitar fretboard to dampen (or muffle) the strings. Now rock the pedal back and forth as you strum out a rhythm. This can be a great intro or second guitar part.

Now let’s take it one step further and add some chords to the mix:

Muted Rhythm With Wah And Chords Added (mp3)

In this example, I play a chord and then lift my fingers up to mute the strings while I rock the wah and strum. This gives you that great “chucka — chucka”’ sound.

In Tempo Rhythm Guitar

If you use a clean tone and rock the pedal in tempo with the music, you can get a great funk sound:

Clean Rhythm With Wah (mp3)

Experiment with different rhythms and see what you can come up with.


Looking for a unique intro or ending to a song? Try some waves:

Waves Effect (mp3)

Simple play a chord once and rock the pedal quickly back and forth.

Tone Pedal

Ever wish your amp had more tones? With the help of a Wah-Wah it can. Simply rock the pedal until you find a tone you like and leave it there. You can get some really snarly tone doing this, here is an example:

Tone Pedal Effect (mp3)


Place the wah at the start of your effects chain and you will get a more subtle effect. Place the wah at the end of the effects chain and it will quack like a duck!

Wah-Wahs can make your playing more expressive and personal, something every player should strive for.


  • Recommended Wahs
    Available at Guitar Center
  • Here are some wah pedals that have received good reviews and/or high ratings by players.
  • Mxr Mc404 Cae Dual Inductor Wah Guitar Effects Pedal Black
  • MXR MC404 Wah
  • Bob Bradshaw of Custom Audio Electronics designed the MXR MC-404 CAE Dual Inductor Wah Pedal with the Cry Baby design team to create a highly versatile wah-wah with top-grade components. The MC404 CAE Wah features dual Fasel inductors with 2 distinct voices (high-end emphasis or low-to-mid resonance), and a built-in MXR MC-401 Boost/LineDriver that adds even more flexibility.
  • Dunlop 95Q Crybaby Wah Pedal Standard
  • Dunlop 95Q Crybaby Wah Pedal
  • Dunlop has taken the original Crybaby and added the three most popular and requested upgrades: the famous Q" control, which varies the intensity of the wah effect by adjusting the effect's bandpass shape; the volume Boost, for up to +15 dB added gain; and Dunlop's Auto-Return function that automatically engages the effect when you place your foot on the pedal. The 95Q is a flexible tone monster that retains the original Crybaby's fast-reacting characteristics. Heavy die-cast steel construction. Q dial. Made in the USA.
  • Dunlop Original Cry Baby Wah Pedal
  • Dunlop Original Cry Baby Wah
  • If you play the real thing—the Dunlop Original Cry Baby wah pedal—you get the real sound. The heavy die-cast steel construction of this classic effect can take all the stompin' you've got in you. Totally smooth, silent, consistent, and easy to control. Made in the USA. Uses optional ECB03 power supply.
  • Vox V847a Wah-Wah Pedal
  • Vox V847a Wah-Wah Pedal
  • The Vox V847A Wah Pedal is a reissue of the wah that changed electric guitar sounds in the '60s. The effect pedal is built to the exact specifications of the original one used by the most influential rock guitarists of all time — totally authentic from its classy chrome top to its legendary growl.

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