One of the best things we’ve seen on guitar Instagram in recent weeks is While She Sleeps guitarist Sean Long using two DigiTech Whammy pedals at once.
Fans and fellow players clearly agree because the clips have gone viral and we’re told they have already had over two million views – which (complex math tells us) is almost a million for each Whammy.
Long and the UK metal stalwarts are currently working on their new album, the follow-up to 2021’s acclaimed Sleeps Society, and the ever-innovative Long has been using the studio time to experiment with his pedal setup.
In the clips, the guitarist uses each Whammy pedal differently, using the expression pedal with his left foot on one unit, while tapping the ‘Momentary’ footswitch of a second DT unit with his right foot – alternating between and combining the two with electrifying results.
The sound he creates is a leaping, euphoric synth-like tone that Long tells us is shaped more by electronic music than any guitarist – an influence that he says dates back to his earliest years.
“My mum used to play ’90s dance music a lot when I was a kid,” explains the guitarist. “And now it’s coming through basically all of my writing [for the new album]. I realised that a lot of the synths that were used back then were always bending note to note, so it has a huge nostalgic pull for me when creating these leads.
“I’ve been using the Whammy for years on multiple settings and I’ve always had a vision to be able to use the first octave setting and the second down together, so I finally went for it with this writing process.”
Long has both a regular Whammy and a Whammy DT on his pedalboard and says you need both to achieve the effect, as only the latter has the handy Momentary switch.
“I’m using the Whammy DT to stomp up the octave with the Momentary switch in a 4x4 beat,” explains Long, “whilst at certain intervals using my original Whammy to bend 2nd down, which is essentially a two-fret move.”
“It’s pretty simple stuff in terms of tone,” observes Long. “But I think it’s the note placement, rhythm and emotional backing that makes this piece so special and has resonated with so many.
“The bending of notes creates a sense of disharmony, which I feel we as humans get naturally drawn to. When we get to see a return to order from chaos within a piece, no matter how subtle, that is something very satisfactory for us.”
Long’s not the first player to experiment with two Whammy pedals – Jennifer Batten stakes a good claim to that honor. Indeed, she dedicated a tune to it –1992’s Whammy Damage – though her use of the effect is very different.
Long can perhaps rival that fixation. Indeed, fans have even started generating mock-ups of a signature Sean Long Whammy pedal, in his favored flourescent yellow.
Of course, Batten had to play Whammy Damage seated, which brings us to an obvious question for Long about how he plans to perform when touring the new record. Helpful Instagram nerds have suggested triggers and MIDI setups. Long seems more intent on playing it all live, though.
“I’ll figure it out – anything is possible,” he tells Guitar World. “Honestly, I prefer to just create in the studio and worry about these things later… Having said that, I think I’m potentially going to raise one of them up and place it behind me, so I can use my heel to do the bends and balance on both.”
Ultimately, that’s all semantics. The feel and the sound are what matter, and Long says it’s all proving fruitful in his writing and playing right now.
“The Whammy has always been a go to pedal for inspiration,” reflects Long. “It allows me to create things that sound impossible and in some cases are. More importantly, though, it’s just fun-as-fuck to use, which is really the main attraction for me.”
We look forward to hearing the final results of his labors when the album lands. While we wait though, you can read our full Sean Long interview from 2022, in which the guitarist discusses his striking Charvel signature, his anarchic approach to tone and his first ever Squier Strat – bits of which remain in his collection.