The Woodshed

Instruction Methods or Videos on Using a “Whammy Bar”?

1

Okay, don't fall all over yourselves laughing, but I have always found Bigsbys to be awkward, and up until now have never even tried to use them. I'm 65, so I don't have a lifetime to figure it out, either. The Lonnie V and my old Country Club have made me determined to figure them out, but rather than just stab at the thing every now and then, I thought I'd ask if there are any learning tools out there that teach using Bigsbys in a methodic way. I want to shortcut this as much as I can, obviously, but when I thought about it, I don't remember ever crossing paths with any instructional material or video that actually taught the techniques of using them.

I know to some degree that this has to be intuitive, but man, using a Bigsby for me is like trying to speak Mandarin Chinese: I just don't know where or how to start.

2

You can use it in a myriad number of ways.

I use mine to briefly dip a single note in a run of notes. I also will use it at the end of either a run of notes or after a chord at the end of a line just to give it a little shimmer.

Two words of caution: A Bigsby can be overused and lose its impact when that occurs. So use it selectively. Also, I have seen guys use a Bigsby so vigorously where it looks like they are trying to shake the device off the front of their guitar. I have found that a more gentle approach is more musical and produces an effect that is more useful.

3

There are no "rules" about this. There are players who use a Bigsby only occasionally for a subtle effect every now and then, and others who keep their ring and pinky fingers on the bar at all times, using it to inflect many chords and notes.

I'd suggest watching YouTube videos of various players to get a sense of how they use it and what sounds "right" to your ears. Then it's just a matter of practice until your muscle memory locks in how much pressure (and with what frequency) results in the sound you hear in your mind.

4

Pushing down detunes/lowers the note (dive bomb); pulling up raises the note, and often eats strings. Smaller subtle movements work best to my ears---don't go overboard with it. Watch some videos of masters at work---Johnny A's "The Night Before" is one. There are many, many others. Simply, just play with it. You'll find something that works for you. Enjoy.

5

There are no "rules" about this. There are players who use a Bigsby only occasionally for a subtle effect every now and then, and others who keep their ring and pinky fingers on the bar at all times, using it to inflect many chords and notes.

I'd suggest watching YouTube videos of various players to get a sense of how they use it and what sounds "right" to your ears. Then it's just a matter of practice until your muscle memory locks in how much pressure (and with what frequency) results in the sound you hear in your mind.

– Parabar

I agree. Some youtube videos I would watch are those of quality solo playing by David Gilmour. He used it a lot and to know for the why or what reason is to watch him play.

6

You have to feel where in a song its use will add a little something. The best advice I can give dovetails into what others have said and that's to not overuse it. A very good example of the adage, "less is more."

8

This was the advice I was given:

You can hear a little sparkle in the harmonics by just lightly touching the bar.

If you have heavy distortion with feedback, you can change the pitch of the feedback. [I have not tried this].


I've got my pinky locked on the end most of the time, and I use it, I think, subtly pretty much whenever I'm holding more than one note, and sometimes with one note.

I'm moving that bar, mostly down, not up much at all, about 1/16" at the tip, 1/8" at the most, about the thickness of the handle, but my hand moves a lot more. Latent showmanship, I guess. Or maybe by design, I can be more precise by using a lot of movement to create a smaller movement.

A nice repeatable sine wave, about 5 or 6 times per second. Slower or faster depending on the mood of the song. A 3 cps song is pretty sad.

I seem to use the feedback from bar on my pinky to tell me when I'm at the top of the stroke, and reach a certain amount of pressure at the bottom of the stroke on the pad.

9

I played a Tele for a good 20 years before getting a Gretsch with a Bigsby, so I'm still adjusting. I am trying to break the habit of getting a similar effect by bracing the body against my hip and bending the neck itself in and out to raise and lower the pitch subtly.

In the world of "whammy bars", remember a Bigsby is intended for more subtle vibrato than the classic Fender Strat system (think Hendrix) or locking systems like the Floyd Rose (think Eddie Van Helen).

That said, I look to three main styles of Bigsby use. The above comments reflect the tasteful style of Chet Atkins. Compare that against Neil Young who uses his Bigsby almost constantly in soloing as early as his Buffalo Springfield days, but probably best exemplified in Like a Hurricane. On the far extreme is Kevin's Shields in My Bloody Valentine who invented the "glide guitar" style which rides the vibrato constantly in combination with other modulation effects to give a deliberately sonically disorienting sound. Anything on the Loveless album will show you this approach.

Here are some samples - watch their right hands:

And even if this sounds like sheer noise, do yourself a favour and watch all three minutes of this one... around 1:50 you see the glide guitar technique up close done by its inventor:

10

Gents, I have been away a few days and returned to all these fine tips and examples. Thank you all!!! I did find an instructional dvd called "Easy Whammy Bar Guitar" on Amazon. I'm trying to decide if I even need it. The videos were fun and helpful. Chet doesn't even seem to touch the bar until he needs it. Voodooholly's vid shows a technique pretty close to Lonnie Mack's, plus seeing that yellow over copper made me miss my Country Club.

I'll tell you this, it sure feels awkward to use it, at least so far. I just have to be patient!

11

You'll know you have it when you go to reach for it when it's not there.

12

You'll know you have it when you go to reach for it when it's not there.

– hammerhands

That says it all!

13

You'll know you have it when you go to reach for it when it's not there.

– hammerhands

I know I use it when I play my Super Axe and keep reaching for it and find it isn't there! Not a guitar I'm about to put a Bigsby on though.

14

I like the trem alot, Fender, Bigsby etc. I try not to go overboard with it's use as it sometimes becomes a crutch too often used. I'm on a StraitJackets kick right now, and it ain't happening on my PRS wraparound bridge.. Some songs like "Pacifica" demand a trem or else it's just plain guitar with no vibrato of any kind.

I notice that the Bloody Valentine guy has a house worth of teflon tape on his bar... I've got it on every Fender I have with a bar but it's inside the hole...

15

VoodooHolly, Duane and I watched your video and enjoyed your playing so much. He said that it really took him back to the days of the Rock and Roll bus tours, and watching Santo and Johnny from backstage. He also said that you have a beautiful tone. Thanks for posting.

16

VoodooHolly, Duane and I watched your video and enjoyed your playing so much. He said that it really took him back to the days of the Rock and Roll bus tours, and watching Santo and Johnny from backstage. He also said that you have a beautiful tone. Thanks for posting.

– Deed Eddy

Thank you Deed.You're kind words gave me goosebumps. What an honor ,to become a praise like that.That makes my day.Since I was 16, I tried to have a good idea for this song and how to immitate the steelguitar.Seems like the old dog now have found it!!! Thank you soooo much and greetings to Duane too from Germany !!!


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