The great thing about the whammy bar is that it’s not hard to use at all. Despite this, there are two very easy, yet effective things you can do with it that often get overlooked.
The first approach is to use the whammy bar for vibrato. Yep, that’s right. Not a dive bomb or some other outrageous display of string wrenching but plain old vibrato.
One player who’s notable for using the ‘bar in such a way is Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith, particularly from the band's Somewhere in Time album.
It’s so easy to implement, but it does require a floating tremolo. Just make sure that you’re applying pressure in both directions, instead of just pushing downwards or upwards. The idea is that you need to make the note both flat and sharp, so you can hear the original pitch in between oscillations.
The second easy yet brilliant trick is what I call the ‘wailing baby’ sound used by Jason Becker. Whilst Becker isn’t the only player to adopt this sound, he’s one of the most prolific in its use.
Keep your bar in its regular position, facing towards the headstock, and yank upwards slightly when you perform a pull-off to another note.
That’s it. There’s nothing else involved apart from the bar and your fretting hand.
You might think these techniques are obvious but you’d be surprised how many whammy bar users don’t use them.
They don’t require much skill, just a bit of time invested, and the result is some cool sounding tricks that you can add to your repertoire.
Ben Higgins started playing guitar at age 10. He’s released five solo albums and continues to teach guitarists from around the world. In 2012, he released the YouTube video “30 Shredders in One Solo,” in which he emulated the style of 30 of the world’s greatest guitarists. He topped this in 2017 with “101 Shredders in One Solo.” In 2016, Ben developed his “Badass…” online courses, which are aimed at improving people’s technique in picking, sweeping and hand synchronization.