Dave Mustaine has said that most people do not really know how to use a whammy bar, citing only two exceptions to the rule – and you can probably guess who they are.
The Megadeth man recently sat down for a generously lengthy interview with Canadian DJ Jeremy White and discussed everything from working with Gibson, to his changing gear habits (musical and substance-based), plus his surprisingly stringent views on the use of whammy bars.
“I used it on a couple songs,” says Mustaine, of his personal whammy bar history. “I used it on When, I used it on Wake Up Dead and that's about it… For me, my personal belief is that whatever you do on the guitar with the whammy bar you should be able to emulate with your fingers.”
To add some context, we’re assuming that Mustaine is talking specifically about using the tremolo bar to bend to the correct pitch – that is, in key with the melody – as you would intend with a string bend.
The Megadeth icon seems to regard this in contrast to the hit ‘n’ hope approach adopted by many players. [Not that you’d find anyone on the GW staff doing that, no siree… – Ed]
Indeed, Mustaine has a very short list of guitarists who he thinks actually do it well – and, sadly, one of them is no longer with us.
“Somebody that, for example, who was a master with the whammy bar – who we recently lost – was Jeff Beck,” says Mustaine.
“Jeff was the guy that I liked to listen to his technique with the whammy bar more so than anyone else. Most other people – besides David Gilmour – do not really know how to use a trem bar.”
On the latter, the Megadeth man points out his role in shaping the firm’s metal credentials as a brand ambassador – a relationship that has also led to new Mustaine-endorsed Kramer and Epiphone guitars.
“It was just a love affair from the very beginning,” says Mustaine of his first Gibson signature models.
“Then going through the other lines with Epiphone and Kramer, it wasn't really that difficult to make these lines all of a sudden have serious metal credibility. Because somebody said to me when I first went to Gibson they said, ‘Gibson isn’t a metal guitar company.’ I said, ‘It is now.’”
So there. If you do one thing after reading this piece, though, it should probably be to check out his brief but beautiful Spinal Tap accent that comes when discussing the British blues movement (around the 21.50) mark.
It’s time well spent in our book. In the meantime, we’ll be practicing on our hardtail Strat. Though it should be noted that, when it comes to people getting the whammy bar wrong, Donald Trump’s NFT trading cards take the crown.