I love the sound of a guitar played through wah wah as much as the next guy, but I have some problems picking that skill up. I would love if anyone can either give me some tips on how to start using the pedal properly or refer me to a book, dvd, article that shows exercises, especially on funky licks, including strumming muted stirngs.

3 Answers 3


People use Wah in lots of ways; for me I find that the most effective way to use it is to wah with the feel of what your doing. I have seen many people just rock back and forwards on the things at the same speed (usually fast) no matter what they are playing, that what you don't want to do. Remember its an expression pedal.

Here's a few examples:

If your bending a note up a step; try rocking forward on the wah at the same speed as your bending the note.

If you change the speed of a bend or double bend try matching it with the wah,

Try strumming the with the strings slightly dampened with your fretting hand, rocking on the wah to the rhythm.

Pretty much anything really but stay expressive; try trilling a note or two while doing different things with the wah.

Or just find a sweet spot on the wah and leave it on there (no rocking) while jamming.

You'll soon get the hang of it.

  • 3
    "Or just find a sweet spot on the wah and leave it on there (no rocking) while jamming." -- I'm sure I read somewhere Frank Zappa liked to do that.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 20, 2011 at 14:32
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    The half-cocked wah tone is all over the place. I'm sure if I went through my music collection and listed the songs and artists that utilize it you'd be very surprised at where it turns up. It's a very versatile sound and cuts through the mix pretty well in lots of applications.
    – Jduv
    Jan 20, 2011 at 15:00
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    +1 good ideas. Try them out on a particular tune. Voodoo Chile makes use of a lot of these techniques.
    – yossarian
    Jan 20, 2011 at 15:10
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    @jeebs; Your probably right; Zakk Wylde is another one.
    – Bella
    Jan 20, 2011 at 21:48

To counter the Tin Man (who gave a fine opinionated answer, but one that I feel needs to be balanced!) a wah works very well as a rhythm device, and I personally love the sound of it as heard on many funk and disco classics. In fact the most recent song I've finished used a wah in exactly this way.

Although I admit it helps to not just alternate it open/closed metronomically. But if you work out a rhythm pattern and repeat it, and combine that with some delay, it can be hypnotically groovy. To make dance music, you have to be effectively "dancing" as you play, so your foot becomes part of that motion.


A wah is not a rhythm device, but instead is a tool to bring out a vocal quality in the guitar's sound. This is in spite of what was played on a lot of motown and disco hits. :-)

In his Derek and the Dominos days, Clapton used his wah a lot. Listen to what he plays on the "Live at the Fillmore" album, for how one should be played. No one song is a better choice than another because each time he stepped on it it was talking.

Jeff Beck is another one who I think uses it the way it should be used. The intro to "Hammerhead" from the "Live and Exclusive at the Grammy Museum" album talks away.

  • Excellent followup answer!
    – Jduv
    Jan 20, 2011 at 23:39
  • I was learning guitar when Clapton was playing that album, and, at the same time was playing in a band with a guitar player who just rocked his wah back and forth in rhythm to the music. It was so painful to hear I wanted to throw it out the window. I tried getting him to listen to Clapton's work to no avail. It was hell I tell you! Then came disco and it was almost the death of me - wakka wakka wakka wakka. Now days I'll step on one just to show I know how to use it right - take that y'all whippersnappers! I do have an original Cry Baby in my pedal case still for that real growl. :-)
    – Anonymous
    Jan 21, 2011 at 0:00
  • I cannot let this stand! :) Okay, so a plain wakka-wakka-wakka-wakka is annoying, but surely a good wakka-okka-wukka-okka has its place?
    – Anonymous
    Jan 21, 2011 at 0:10
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    Well, it depends. Are there pretty women in calypso outfits and lots of colored lights?
    – Anonymous
    Jan 21, 2011 at 3:22
  • May the funk be with you!
    – Bella
    Jan 21, 2011 at 13:20

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