Making Music with Marshall

Mastering the whammy bar

Posted: 2 June 2020

Bend and dive with the best. Our whammy bar guide will soon have you adding drama to your playing and mastering these trippy techniques.

Also known as the vibrato bar or tremolo system, the whammy bar is an arm-shaped bar connected to the bridge of some guitars (primarily Stratocaster-type guitars) that allows you to bend the notes without having to use your left hand. The whammy bar comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as Floyd rose, Bigsby and many others, and can be used to create unique, ethereal effects that barely sound like a guitar at all!

Read time - 2 mins

The Vibrato

The vibrato technique is commonly used in surf, jazz and neo soul, this is where you play a chord (for example, a major or minor 7th) and then whilst the chord is ringing out you take the whammy bar and gently shake it, if you have a floating tremolo system you can move the bar up and down, this creates a nice, natural tremolo effect. If you do this faster and very lightly on fretted notes it is referred to as a ‘flutter’.

The Divebomb

A very famous technique, a divebomb is where you push down on the whammy bar significantly to create a huge ‘dive’ in pitch, then slowly bring the bar back up. It’s most commonly used with a heavy distortion tone and on open or low strings. You can also create a ‘Reverse Divebomb’ effect by having the whammy bar pushed down before plucking the string, this creates an almost car engine style noise and is frequently used in 80's hair metal.

The Squeal

This is a tricky one to master, commonly used with high gain and most famously used by Dimebag Darrel, who discovered the technique while trying to imitate the screams of Pantera’s vocalist, Phil Anselmo. He said “I love that sort of vocal stuff, but there's no way in hell I can do it with my voice - I don't have that kinda range! So, harmonic screams are my way of ‘singing out’, using my guitar instead of my throat.

In order to perform the squeal technique, first play a harmonic note and pull the whammy bar up extremely high, creating an intense squealing sound. You’ll need patience and a lot of distortion to master this technique!