I had a gig with my classic rock cover band yesterday. On a whim, I decided to use my big board so I could use my Vox Big Bad Wah. I got this a few years ago and hadn’t really used it all that much, even though I love playing with a wah. But with my songwriting taking yet another turn to a highly reggae-influenced flavor, I’ve started taking stock of the effects that I use, and wah is certainly an important component.
But moreover, as with all my gig configurations, I put the effects on my board based on how I’m feeling, and yesterday, as I was configuring my board, I thought, Hmmm… I really feel like using a wah today. That meant using my big board because I prefer having all my pedals on a single unit, sharing the same power source. It’s an efficiency thing… 🙂
The picture above shows my board configuration for yesterday’s gig. I daresay that that will probably be my configuration going forward. I know… so simple. Just an overdrive, fed into a wah, then out to modulation effects and into my amp. Simple. I used to have 10 to 12 pedals on the board. In fact, the bottom half of the board sported three to four overdrive and distortion pedals. But the Soul Food – and to a lesser extent – my Timmy give me all I need for pedal-based grit. Admittedly, I’ll probably add the Timmy in there next to the Soul Food. But I love that Soul Food pedal so much, I could do with it alone.
Now with respect to my gig and using the wah pedal, in the middle of our first set I was thinking to myself, Why haven’t I been using this the entire time?!! I don’t know if it was fear, or maybe it was because I was so new to being just a lead guitarist. Who knows? I’m not going to spend much time in analysis. But what I do know is that I absolutely LOVE using a wah pedal. I didn’t use it for every song, of course, but I’d switch in an out of it a lot.
My favorite use of it was when we covered the Beatles’ “Come Together.” We have our female singer do this so we raise the key to Em. But I wanted to uglify it a bit, and since the focus is on the bass for that, I played an Em+9 and frequently added a 6th to that. I also added the wah to add a bit of a sinister twist.
When it came time for my lead, whereas I’d normally do that lead riff, I decided to dispense with it altogether, closed my eyes and let my fingers do the talking. With the wah providing that emphasis when I’d bend notes upon the fret board. I was having so much fun with the lead that I think the rest of the band just let me wail until I was done. I really don’t know how long I jammed. I just know that it was longer than normal, and when I finished I had a shit-eating grin on my face. Using the wah then was just an inspirational experience.
Frankly, I don’t even know how good I sounded. For all I know, I sounded like total shit. But I was just played with loose abandon, letting whatever was inside me come out through my fingers. But I think I did a good job because the audience were hooting afterward, and the lady who put on the event just looked at me and said, “Wow…”
The point to all this is that there have been times in my playing career where I find something – in this case, my wah pedal – where something just clicks. It’s strange, it’s new, and perhaps a bit weird feeling. But rather than run from it, I dive head first and immerse myself in the experience, wanting to discover where it takes me. That was yesterday. Now my wah-wah-wah isn’t because I’m crying. It’s a wail of pure inspiration!