Lessons > Whammy Bar Techniques

Whammy Bar Technqiues

The whammy bar (otherwise known as the tremolo bar, tremolo system or vibrato bar) is a metal bar attached to the bridge that can be depressed or raised to create a drop or rise in pitch.

Leo Fender originally licensed the vibrato system for the Fender Strat so that players could add vibrato to chords or open strings. But when guitarists started to use the whammy bar for more extreme effects they found that the guitar would go badly out of tune. Floyd Rose then came up with a solution to this problem: the double-locking system. The double-locking system involves having the strings locked at the bridge and the nut, whilst having a flexible bridge that was held up by the tension of the strings.

With this new system guitarists could create a variety of extreme effects and techniques. Not all of the techniques outlined below have clear tabs as some are too intricate to notate:

Bar bends

Whammy bar bends consist of bending a note to a specified pitch. First the note is sounded then the bar is depressed to create a drop in pitch or raised to increase the pitch.

---------------w/bar---------------
E---------------------------------------
B---------------------------------------
G------7------(8)------(7)------(5)-----
D---------------------------------------
A---------------------------------------
E---------------------------------------

Note - the above example shows that fret 7 is sounded normally. Then the pitch is raised to that of fret 8 (a semitone higher) by raising the bar. The bar is then released back to the original pitch before being depressed to produce the pitch of fret 5 (a tone lower).

Tip - you can check if the pitch of your bends were accurate by playing the notes normally and listening carefully (as you would with a regular bend).

Dive bombs

Dive bombs are an extreme and dramatic effect created by a large depression of the whammy bar. Dive bombs are used by rock and heavy metal guitarists and therefore are done with a lot of distortion.

--------------Dive bomb
E----------------------------------------
B----------------------------------------
G----------------------------------------
D----------------------------------------
A----------------------------------------
E------0------(0)------------------------

Note - the brackets indicate that a new articulation has been applied to the note, there is no need to re-pick the open string.

Tip - don't force the bar to hard, it is possible to break the bridge with the whammy bar. Try depressing the bar at varied speeds, it doesn't have to be a fast depression of the bar.

Gargles

A gargle is where a note is sounded then whammy bar is tapped/flicked to create a 'gargling' sound. The gargling is distinct from vibrato, as it is more jagged and less smooth sounding.

-------Gargle ~~~~
E------------------------------------
B------------------------------------
G------7-----------------------------
D------------------------------------
A------------------------------------
E------------------------------------

Scoop and doop

A scoop is where the bar is depressed (an unspecified distance) before a note is sounded and released upon sounding. The doop consists of depressing the bar (an unspecified distance) just after a note is sounded.

-------Scoop -------doop
E-------------------------------
B-------------------------------
G------5------------7-----------
D-------------------------------
A-------------------------------
E-------------------------------

Note - the abbreviation w/bar and an arrow curving downwards can be used to notate a 'doop'. Also, arrows accompanied by the abbreviation w/bar can be used to illustrate more complicated motions that can not be defined by standard notation.