Learn to wrangle the whammy bar with these slick tremolo tricks

Learn to wrangle the whammy bar with these slick tremolo tricks
(Image credit: Future)

If your guitar’s equipped with a whammy bar, you sure as hell should learn to use it – and crikey can it be tricky! A little vibrato here and there is simple, but there are three other techniques, too. 

First, the scoop: quickly dip the bar down and release it back to pitch as you play a note. Doops are similar, but you dip the bar after you play the note. Finally, there’s the more challenging note-change technique where you use your bar to target specific notes. 

Once again, break our riffs down phrase by phrase and you’ll see rapid improvements.

1. Scooperman

(Image credit: Future)

Use hammer-ons and pull-offs to alternate between the 5th and 7th frets and dip your whammy bar before each note in order to scoop in from below. You don’t need to bend to a specific pitch here, just whatever sounds good.

2. Han Valen

(Image credit: Future)

This one’s not hard, as such… It’s just tough to remember exactly where to scoop or doop. Practise super slowly one note (or whammy bar move) at a time until you get a feel for it.

3. Vai-brato!

(Image credit: Future)

We’re stepping up the difficulty level here – aside from the doop in bar 2, every whammy bar bend is targeting a specific note.

That means you need to check the tab for the relevant notes and listen closely as you adjust the bar. If your whammy bar only lowers the pitch (i.e., it doesn’t bend upwards), try targeting the 16th, 14th and 12th frets in bars 1 and 2.

Start at 60-90 BPM, work on the basics and don't worry too much about small errors. Move up to 90-120 BPM. Now you should be getting an ear for it, nailing those note changes. Finally, at 120-150 BPM, if you can stay accurate with every dip of the bar you are officially a Whammy Bar Whizz.

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Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.