Kirk Hammett explains why he uses wah so much: "I can't think of anybody who uses the wah pedal as much as I do – I'm not ashamed of it"

Kirk Hammett performs onstage with Metallica at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California on December 16, 2022
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for P+ and MTV)

Kirk Hammett, Metallica's longtime lead electric guitar slinger, certainly has some recognizable quirks as a player, one of the most well-known of which is his enduring love of the wah pedal.

Just as he is with his frequent reliance on the minor pentatonic scale, though, Hammett is entirely unapologetic about his love of the effect.

As he tells it, the wah pedal lets Hammett better express himself on the guitar, and with more depth.

"The wah enables me to mirror the inner voice in my head and in my heart," he recently told Guitar World. "That’s what I’m hearing. All these manipulated notes and tones, because that’s what the human voice is like. We cycle through all these different tones and frequencies when we speak. When I step on that wah pedal and hear that click... well, I’m hearing that clicking in my brain and in my heart at the same time."

Hammett added that he's all too aware of his association with the effect, admitting that he "can’t think of anybody who uses the wah pedal as much as I do".

Though folks on the internet – and even his Metallica lead guitar predecessor – have given Hammett plenty of grief about his consistent use of wah, the guitarist simply doesn't care. 

"I don’t care what anyone fuckin’ says," Hammett explains to GW. "If I feel like stepping on the wah pedal, I step on the fuckin’ wah pedal, because it brings me closer to what I’m hearing internally. And that’s the whole point of gear – to help bring the thing you hear internally out into the external world."

As a whole, Hammett has been more than happy to laugh off trolls lately, similarly shrugging off criticism of his solos on Metallica's new album, 72 Seasons.

"My friends down the street could probably play a better solo than Lux Æterna," he recently said of his lead break on the album's first single, "but what’s the point?”

To read Guitar World's full interview with Hammett – which also covers, among a number of other topics, that burned guitar on the cover of 72 Seasons, his musical chemistry with James Hetfield, and why he hates sticking to a script when it comes to playing solos live – pick up a copy of the June issue of the mag at Magazines Direct.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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