So for the people new to building your own guitar pedals, let’s talk Wah-Wah pedals. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Slash, 70’s porn, The voice of any grown up in a Charlie Brown cartoon. These are just a few places where you might have heard one of the most, if not the most popular guitar effects of all time. How does it work? Well to put it laymen’s terms (of which I mostly am one), most wah circuits, through a strange relationship between the wah inductor, a capacitor, and a transistor, create a resonant frequency peak. By moving the wah pedal up and down via the treadle connected to a potentiometer, you are moving the peak up and down the frequency spectrum, which creates the very vocal “wah” effect. If you want to get deep into wah technology, check out this article from R.G. Keen that will tell you more than you ever needed to know about how wah pedals work. Prepare for math!
So, what can you do to help out your wah pedal? A big step is giving it true bypass switching. Wah pedals are notorious tone suckers so true bypassing them can really bring the life back to your clean signal. I will cover all things true bypass in a soon to come blog, so be on the lookout for that.
Sometimes you can improve a wah by changing the pot. Changing the pot taper or value can have a big impact on sound. Many boutique wah pedals come with ICAR or “S” taper pots that have a sweep that emphasizes many wah circuits and is very popular. Our new Weeping Willow Wah circuit seems to sound the best (in my opinion) with a B taper pot. Vox wahs come standard with an A taper pot. Try out some different values and see which one works best for you.
A different inductor like our ME-6 inductor can give a circuit that little extra something it was missing. Other popular inductors are Fasel, Whipple, and Halo inductors. They all offer something a little different, although some are WAY more expensive than others. There are also those that say that the inductor really doesn’t matter that much at all and that the “magical” effects of certain inductors are all hype. I won’t get into that here but feel free to debate each other in the comment section below (be nice!).
So as you can see, if you aren’t that impressed with the $20 wah pedal you got at the pawn shop, there are several ways to spruce it up and tailor it to give you the sound you want. Or you can build your own wah pedal very easily via a wah kit that you can get at Mammoth Electronics, including the very versatile MoWah Kit from GuitarPCB, the rocking KWAWK wah kit from GrindCustoms, or our very own Weeping Willow Wah kit.
If you haven’t ever messed with a wah, give it a shot. There aren’t a lot of parts and most parts are pretty easy to replace and experiment with. I will have some in depth videos/blogs on how to replace wah inductors, pots, and true bypass wahs in the near future so if you are stumped, just hold on a bit!