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How to Build Melodies
Over Chords and Root Notes

LATEST ARTICLE

Melody and Lead Sequences

January 24th | 2015
Full Article







From the Blog

1.24.2015

How to Build Melodic Lead Sequences Over Chords and Root Notes

How to Build Melodic Lead Sequences Over Chords and Root Notes

Chord progressions, by themselves, are a bit uninteresting.

It's therefore the primary role and job of most electric guitar players increase the distinctiveness of those progressions.

That's not to say guitar players don't cross into rhythm responsibilities as well, but its important that we have a functional understand of melody and note sequencing, even if we hold to a more rhythm-heavy playing style.

Here we'll learn how to build melodies and sequences over chords and progressions.

What do I do first?

We need to start by establishing some conventional chord progressions so we can come up with our examples.

This is fairly easy, since chord progressions (at least common ones) are consistent within genres.

Let's start with something in the key of E:

E|-----------
B|-----2--4--
G|--4--2--4--
D|--2--2--4--

A|--2--0--2--
E|--0--------




The tab is a basic E, A and B progression, with some major intervals thrown in to add a little flavor.

What happens now?
The First Step: Find your root note.
You're creating a brand new melody.

And though you don't always have to do it this way, for starters, it's a good idea to begin with your root note, or whatever key you're playing in.

In this case, it's the key of E.

Here's where E falls on the fretboard:

E|-----------|--------12--|--------------
B|-----------|-----5------|----------17--
G|--------9--|------------|--------------
D|-----------|--2---------|------14------
A|-----7-----|------------|--------------
E|--0--------|------------|--12----------


Each of these locations will give you an E to start with.

Pick one and move on to the second step.
The Second Step: Experiment with some intervals.
Once you've established a root note that you want to work from, there should be a few specific intervals that are instinctive and second nature to you.

If they aren't, now would be a great time to memorize them.
Major Second: Two Semitones (frets)

Minor Second: One Semitone
The term "semitone" is theory-speak, but on the guitar it can be thought of as jumping from one fret to the next. Jumping two frets is a whole tone, though can also be written as "two semitones."

So now we have the following components:

  1. Chord progression in the key of E.

  2. An E root note.

  3. Two intervals to begin improvising with.

Predictably, which interval you start with will determine whether you adhere to a major or minor sound. Since the chord progression is in a major key, it would be best to start with the major second interval.

Remember, melody should not be aimless.

When you're building a sequence on the guitar, you should think of it as telling a story, with highs, lows and dynamics.

In other words, you don't just want to string notes together blindly.

But start with something like this.

Let's focus on the E note at the ninth fret on the third string.

E|-----
B|-----
G|-----
D|--9--
A|-----
E|-----


If you want to add some low end, pick the open E right before you start on your higher note.

E|----------
B|----------
G|----------
D|-----/9~--
A|----------
E|--0-------




Good alternate picking technique would be to pick down through the low E, then come back up while sliding into the note at the ninth fret and add a little vibrato for good measure.

At this point, I'd like to give you options.

Because melody is going to come from your mind and your emotions, not instruction.

However, I can give you some directions to go in, as you explore how to build and construct the melodies you're hearing in your head. Getting them on the fretboard is easier if you have some places to start experimenting.

First, we'll use the major second to drop down to the seventh fret and then a simple bend before resolving on the E note at the seventh fret on the fifth string.

E|------------------------
B|------------------------
G|------------------------
D|-----/9~--7--6b7--6-----
A|---------------------7--
E|--0---------------------




Instead of just plagiarizing this (though it's fine if you do) note the following two things:

  1. We begin with the major second interval.

  2. We end by resolving on the root note (E).

Though this doesn't always have to be your pattern, it's a good way for beginners, or those who aren't used to improvising, to start putting some structure underneath their solos.

In simple terms, start with a palatable interval, based on the key you're playing in, then resolve on your root note.

What happens in between is up to you.

Resolving can be a musical process too. Instead of just landing on the E, you can climb up to it. For example:

E|------------------------------
B|------------------------------
G|------------------------------
D|-----/9~--7--6b7--6-----------
A|---------------------4--5--7--
E|--0---------------------------




We've strung two of our intervals together to climb up to our resolving note (at the seventh fret) forming a more dramatic finish to our sequence.

Want to add a little more intrigue?

Try applying some bending and sliding technique to the last three notes.

E|------------------------------
B|------------------------------
G|------------------------------
D|-----/9~--7--6b7--6-----------
A|---------------------4b5--/7--
E|--0---------------------------




The 4b5  indicates that you start at the fourth fret, then bend up to the fifth. It's a small variation, but makes a significant difference when it comes to the musical quality of your melody.

When we're soloing or building melody, bends and slides are valuable tools that can be used to add intensity and variation to what we're playing. It's part of what makes the guitar unique, when compared to instruments like the piano.

Piano players can't bend and distort notes like that. They can't slide up to a note either.

Though you don't want to overuse those tactics, their placement is crucial when it comes to a melodic development on the guitar.

Example in the Key of D

We've worked with the key of E for awhile, so let's change things up a bit and go with the key of D.

I won't give a chord progression this time because we've already covered that concept. If it helps, browse a few common chord progressions in the key of D.

D, G and A is a good (and likely familiar) option.

In this example we're going to use a finger-picking style where we play our root note repeatedly while incorporating a melody into the picking pattern.

To make things easier, we'll use the open D, which is the fourth string.

E|-----
B|-----
G|-----
D|--0--
A|-----
E|-----


Start with only the root note and the melody. Here's the tab and the clip:

E|------------------7---------|--------------------------
B|-----7-----10-----------10--|-----7-----------7--------
G|----------------------------|-----------9-----------7--
D|--0-----0------0-----0------|--0-----0-----0-----0-----
A|----------------------------|--------------------------
E|----------------------------|--------------------------




Take out all of those zeros and that's your melody. You can probably hear that this would sound nice, simply with a D chord being continuously played in the background.

Now, adding our arpeggio is fairly simple.

E|---------------------------7------------
B|--------7--------10-----------------10--
G|-----7--------7---------7--------7------
D|--0--------0---------0--------0---------
A|----------------------------------------
E|----------------------------------------


E|-----------------------------------
B|--------7--------------7-----------
G|-----7-----7-----9--------7-----7--
D|--0-----------0-----0--------0-----
A|-----------------------------------
E|-----------------------------------



The Method

Examples are easy to come up with, but what I'd encourage you to learn is the process and method behind these examples.

When you do, you'll be able to adjust for your own tendencies, learning style and playing ability.

Being able to apply this method to the context of your own playing is more important than memorizing the examples themselves.

To summarize that method for you, here's what we've used:

  1. Basic music theory (keys, chords and lead sequences).

  2. Major and minor intervals.

  3. Basic soloing technique.

  4. Alternate picking and arpeggiated chord progressions.

The examples I've given you serve to display how all these pieces can work together. If you know the pieces and how they fit, you can create your own melodies without limit.

Other Ways to Get Better

One of the single best ways that I've found to understand the concept of melody and song construction, is to simply learn other songs and play along with them.

Guitar Tricks has a ton of song lessons and they'll give you 14 days for free to check them out.

We've also got a lengthy list of ideal beginner guitar songs that are easy to get started with. 

Additionally, make a practice of listening to music and identifying melody. Whether it's from a vocal line, piano or guitar, listen and sing along with the melodies that you hear. The more comfortable you are hearing and repeating them, the easier it'll be to create them on your guitar.

Thoughts?

Do you have thoughts, additions or perhaps corrections to this material? We can all learn from each others experience.

Let us know what you think over at Facebook or Twitter.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of jareed

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.







1.19.2015

BBE Ben Wah Review and Buying Guide

BBE Ben Wah Review and Buying Guide

In the April 2009 issue of Guitar Player, the lesser-known BBE Sound Ben Wah pedal earned an editors' pick tag ahead of a number of other wah pedals.

Guitar Player described it as having one of the "sweetest and most musical voices."

They reviewed several wah pedals in that issue and highlighted their favorites, including, Buddy Guy's Crybaby, Ernie Ball, George Lynch's Morley and a Carl Martin wah. The BBE wah caught my eye, primarily, because I've never heard of that particular company.

When I think about wah pedals I immediately default to Jim Dunlop and Morley, since they've mostly cornered the market.

But Guitar Player was right to give BBE an editors' pick award, because this wah pedal truly is a fantastic choice.

Does it make the editor's cut for Guitar Chalk as well?

Looks and Construction

As you'll read in Guitar Player's review, the Ben Wah comes in a red box that makes you think you're going to find some kind of bizarre flavor of cinnamon tea inside.

The emblem on the front is (allegedly) a Chinese character that means "ben."

It makes sense, so I'll take their word for it.

The base of the pedal is black, with a bit of rough texture, heavy enough to protect the interior and keep the pedal from moving too much. The BBE logo is stuck to the front of the pedal, adding a nice red accent from that angle.

Input and output knobs are positioned, predictably, at (roughly) the center of either side of the wah pedal, while an input for a 9V DC adapter sits behind the output knob on the left side of the base.

This does create a bit of an avoidable problem. When you have a cable plugged into the pedal, plugging in an adapter chord means you'll have to run that chord back behind the 1/4" cable, and could perhaps make it difficult to use angled jacks for either input.

It's a minor annoyance, but certainly not preferable.

The actual pedal (the "rocker") is made of bright chrome with a ridged grip covering the face of the chrome plate (to prevent slipping) and sporting the same Chinese emblem.

Comparable designs would include the Crybaby and some of the Vox classic wahs.

Sound and Tone

The sweep and contour of this wah is a real treat.

It's one of the smoothest wah tones that I've ever heard, with a nice swell into the "down" position, where your tone is bright but not too sharp or biting.

The wah has a vocal quality, but without any kind of obvious annunciation, giving it almost a subtle resonance that is very accommodating and intuitive to whatever style of music you might be playing.
"Sweetest and most musical voices." - Guitar Player Magazine
When you strum through muted strings, there's a nice "snap" that occurs when you push the pedal all the way forward, as well as a distinct deflation when you pull it back. Both extremes of the pedal are amicable to the ear and don't sound overbearing or too heavy on either side of the tonal spectrum.

There is also zero noise to deal with, which is surprising when you consider that this pedal uses what we'd consider vintage circuitry (albeit an updated variation).

You can stop strumming and continue to push the wah back and forth.

No noise.

That's a big plus for any wah pedal and it seems as though few in this price range can accomplish it.

Features

In terms of bells and whistles, only a couple are readily noticeable.

First, a bright blue LED indicator at the top of the pedal lets you know whether or not the wah is engaged, which I think should be standard on wah pedals, but what do I know.

Second, is a Harmony control on the right side of the wah pedal in front of the input jack that allows you to dial in a bit of tonal variation, creating either a more broad or narrow sweep. Even at the two extremes of this knob, the tonal difference is fairly subtle.

Inside, the pedal boasts a 1967 Class A Circuit and a Halo inductor, giving it a distinctly vintage flavor.

All of the guts are hand-wired, adding to the pedal's authenticity.

Price

On Amazon, the BBE wah retails for $103 and at the time of writing this column, had 17 third-party pricings that were all at least that much.

That to say, this pedal holds value fairly well.

American Musical has it for $150, as they're typically more expensive. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea why they have higher prices, but I avoid buying from them for that specific reason. As of writing this article, Musician's Friend didn't have the Ben Wah in stock.

If you do price comparisons, the BBE does well against Buddy Guy's and George Lynch's signature models, which retail around $200 and $150 respectively.

If you buy the BBE wah, $100 should be your target price point.

Final Verdict

Since I'm such a fan of switchless wah pedals (I've had a Steve Vai Bad Horsie since I was 16), the fact that this one requires that you engage it with a switch is a major detraction for me. However, that's a bit of a subjective and personal preference.

If you're not worried about that, there are almost zero downsides to this wah pedal.

Fantastic, vintage tone to go with a more-than-reasonable price tag and solid construction will suit just about any style of guitar player in a variety of musical genres.

BBE Ben Wah Review and Buying Guide
Amazon Prices | Product Homepage | Amazon Reviews

Want Guitar Chalk to review your product?

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Our reviews are complete, thorough and genuinely written in a long-form and conversational manner.

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You can read more about our reviews here.

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.







1.16.2015

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)

Buying an acoustic guitar isn't only about getting the "best" that money can buy. Unless, of course, you can afford the best.

If only cash grew on trees.

Unfortunately, it does not. And I know that most of my readers and the guitar playing community at large, aren't in a tax bracket that allows them to drop tons of money on a new acoustic.

I'm certainly not.

That means we're looking for the best acoustic guitar for the money, instead of simply the best acoustic guitar. Because the best guitars are easy to find. Just go to Amazon and search by price, high to low.

You'll get some guitars that cost nearly five figures.

But we all want to shop reasonably (most of us anyway), which is why we're not dropping ten grand on a new acoustic.

How about $800?

$900?

Less than $1000 is a good place to settle.

Therefore, we need to combine the following elements to categorize the "best" acoustic guitars available right now:

  1. Price

  2. Sound Quality

  3. Features

  4. Reputation

A lot of buyers get nervous here. How do you know if you're getting these things?

This post is intended to answer that question in full and not just to get people clicking through affiliate links. To be fair, there are affiliate links in this post (Amazon), but I'm not fluffing up guitars without thought or cause.

Those who follow this blog regularly know for certain we don't do that.

Instead, the goal is to help take the guesswork out of guitar shopping or at least give you some direction when buying. If you click through and buy something, then it's a win-win.

Every instrument in this list is well worth the retail cost. So we'll tell you why and then let you do the work from there to find an ideal acoustic for you and your situation.

Enjoy, and happy guitar hunting.

Yamaha NCX1200R Classical

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
I'd like to include a classical guitar in this list because they bring history, tradition and versatility to the acoustic genre. But more importantly, the NCX1200R deserves inclusion because of its less-than-$1000 price tag, sound quality and modern features.

Despite the modern touches, its tone is distinctly classical.

When you hear the NCX1200R resonate, you wouldn't think about a cutaway or Yamaha's built-in  electronics.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The sound is crisp, full and distinctly natural, even when plugged in.

Typical classical guitar specs like a wider fretboard and nylon strings are, of course, included.

You've got solid wood construction on the top, back and sides of the guitar, all of which help your tone considerably.

A hard shell case is complimentary.
Amazon Prices | NCX1200R Homepage | Reviews

Takamine Pro Series 2 P2DC

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)

The P2DC from Takamine is worthy of mention for a solid Spruce top, CT4B II preamp and three band EQ.

This particular model has a distinctly warm tone that leans toward the low end of the sound spectrum. So when compared to something like a Taylor 214ce, it will have more bass, which could be preferred depending on your playing style.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
Here's a sample of what it sounds like.

Other features include an onboard tuner, standard X-Bracing interior construction and D'Addario strings. The only complaint would be laminate wood on the back and sides of the guitar. Solid wood is better because laminate uses thinner strips of high quality wood over several pieces of cheap wood.

In simpler terms, all-solid construction means a significant improvement in the guitar's tone.

And for anything above $900, you should have at least a solid top and sides.

Yet the P2DC is a great-sounding guitar with features that make up for the laminate construction involved.
Amazon Prices | P2DC Homepage

Breedlove Stage Dreadnought

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
Breedlove's take on the dreadnaught design gives you a distinct blend of lows and mid range as it projects through a room.

The tone is low, but not as "full" as the Takamine models.

At $600 retail the price tag is inviting, especially since this model serves up some of the same features we've seen in other, more expensive guitars. An L.R. Baggs electronics system, four band EQ, solid Spruce top and included foamshell case are all worthy of mention.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
Again you've got laminate sides and back which are not ideal.

But at this price point, having laminate used with at least some parts of the guitar is to be expected and doesn't detract as much from the guitar's value.
Amazon Pricing | Stage Dreadnaught Homepage

Ibanez JSA5 Joe Satriani

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
Joe Satriani actually plays an acoustic model called the JSA20, which is also available from a number of major retailers. The JSA5 is the affordable version of the JSA20, coming in around $700, while the JSA20 usually tops $1200.

Despite not having all of the more expensive features, the JSA5 is a great acoustic guitar in its own right.

Like many guitars in this price range, you get a solid top with laminate back and sides. In the JSA5 the top is made of Spruce while the back and sides are both mahogany.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
Other notable features include a Fishman preamp, Sonicore pickup with an oboard tuner, Grover tuning heads, a deep cutaway and D'Addario coated strings.

The vintage sunburst is also a nice touch.

Satriani and Ibanez designed the guitar to be friendly for players who are used to playing electrics, so the neck does play fast. The Mahogany wood on the back and sides give this guitar a slightly warmer tone, resonating and sustaining well, even on the higher frets.

You might notice some buzzing here and there, but that can usually be fixed with minor adjustments.
Amazon Prices | JSA5 Homepage

Epiphone DR-500MCE Dreadnought

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The DR-500MCE has solid wood on the front, back and sides, which is rare for a guitar in this price range.

Other notable features include the eSonic-2 stereo preamp with an onboard tuner, Grover tuning heads, a dovetail neck joint and a limited lifetime warranty from Epiphone. The preamp has EQ, master volume and anti-feedback controls.

The guitar has both a bridge and neck pickup system, the Shadow Nanomag and Shadow Nanoflex, which can be controlled via the preamp. You can even meld between the two pickups.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
Getting all this at $600 is astonishing.

Especially when you consider the wood quality (Spruce and Mahogany), you're getting a lot of features here that are typically reserved for guitars around the $1000 mark.

This is why Epiphone is one of the top guitar manufacturers in the world. They give great value at affordable prices.
Amazon Prices | 500MCE Homepage | Amazon Reviews

Seagull S6 Original QI

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The QI stands for quantum electronics, which is an optional feature in the S6 Original.

You can get the exact same guitar without the pickup system for only $419 retail.

For those of you not interested in plugging in your acoustic, that's the one you'd want to go with. I prefer the electronics version to be included so readers know they have the option. But that's strictly a matter of preference, since avoiding it will save more than $100 on the cost of the guitar.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The top is solid cedar while the back and sides are made of a laminate cherry.

With a cedar top, the tone is particularly warm and "heavy" with good linear projection, ideal for microphone recording or smaller venues.

The small headstock is designed intentionally to help the guitar stay in tune.

While it's not exactly loaded with features, the Seagull S6 Original does well with the basics and gives you a nice price cut in the process.
Amazon Prices | S6 Original Homepage | Amazon Reviews | Guitar Chalk Full Review

Taylor 214CE Grand Auditorium

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The 214ce series from Taylor uses a solid Spruce top and layered Rosewood for the back and sides.

Layered Rosewood means you've got a laminate design with a strip of Rosewood (the high quality wood) on the outside and inside with poplar (or a low quality wood) in the middle. It's a slight improvement over the typical laminate design, but laminate nonetheless.

The Venetian cutaway looks great with the Grand Auditorium outline. You also get an EST electronics system, Elixir strings and a Taylor carrying bag.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
This model features a forward-shifted bracing pattern, which projects well, giving the guitar a lot of resonance and volume, even when it's not plugged in.

Taylor guitars tend to sound more chimey, partly because they ship with Elixir strings.

If you're looking for a guitar with more low end, this one might be a bad fit, stylistically. But that's a preference issue and not a problem with the guitar itself.
Amazon Prices | 214ce Homepage | Amazon Reviews

Martin GPCPA5K - HPL Koa

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The GPCPA5K retails for about $800 which is great when you consider the high cost of Martin guitars.

Like some Taylor's in this price range, you've got a solid Spruce top with laminate back and sides.

This model comes with Fishman F1 analog electronics, which is one of the more desirable and sophisticated acoustic pickup systems in existence. Typically found in much more expensive guitars, this Fishman preamp has an LED readout, a full band EQ, built-in compressor, tuner and anti-feedback system.

It's easily this guitar's most attractive and valuable feature.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The tone is full and warm, with a lot of bass and low-end coming from the interior of the guitar. At the same time, resonance is clear and projects with good definition, even from the lower frets and strings.

Props to Martin for providing a fantastic acoustic at such an affordable price.
Amazon Prices | CPCPA5K Homepage | Amazon Reviews

Taylor 114ce 100 Series Grand Auditorium

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
The 114ce from Taylor is the younger brother of the 214ce, retailing $200 less. A big part of that lower cost is the fact that the 114ce uses Sapele for the back and sides instead of Rosewood like the 214.

Aside from that distinction, the two guitars share many of the same features.

The EST electronics system, venetian cutaway and Elixir strings are all here. You've even got the same Sitka Spruce top.

Best Acoustic Guitars for the Money: 2015 Edition (under $1000)
If you continue to compare this guitar to the 214, you'll notice a slight difference in tone (likely due to the Sapele wood on the back and sides) but not enough to discourage those who aren't looking for something to be disappointed in.

Both guitars sound a little brighter with the light Elixir strings.

This one makes you think that the 214 could be a little cheaper, since they're so similar.
Amazon Prices | 114CE Home Page | Amazon Reviews | Guitar Chalk Full Review

Other Buying Resources?

We published similar posts in 2014 and 2013, which have been quite popular over the last couple of years.

There are plenty of great guitars in those posts as well, though I will say, the research and editing has improved to this point and this list is more up-to-date.

I continue to maintain my stance that Amazon is one of the best places to purchase guitars and related gear. The links in this post are Amazon affiliate links and are used to support the website. If you want to support us and buy a guitar, just click through the link and make your purchase (doesn't matter what you buy) within 24 hours.

You get what you were going to buy anyway, and Guitar Chalk is supported.

Win-win.

If you're looking for more help with buying acoustic guitars or other gear, I'd recommend giving Guitar Trick's free trial a shot. They have a lot of gear resources for prospective buyers and plenty of great lessons as well.

What do you think about the list?

Have thoughts about the inclusions or exclusions on this list? Head on over to our Facebook page and we'll discuss.

We're on Twitter and Google Plus as well.

Cheers.

Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of discopalace

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
touch with him here, or via Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.







1.12.2015

Digitech Whammy 5 Review and Buying Guide

Digitech Whammy 5 Review and Buying Guide

First, if you're not familiar with what exactly you get when you buy the Digitech Whammy 5, I'll point out that this pedal is far more than just a glorified whammy bar.

The sounds and features go far beyond what a whammy bar (even in a Floyd Rose Tremolo system) is capable of.

Yet many of these features and functions lack practical useability.

And it's not cheap.

So yes, you get plenty of features, which account for the high cost ($200 retail), but whether or not those features are going to benefit you will depend largely on your playing style and whether or not the multiple harmony and octave modes appeal to you.

In other words, this pedal is a narrow stylistic sell.

But is that enough to make it a "bad purchase?"

Not at all.

And we'll tell you why.

The Features

First, the unit is extremely sturdy in its construction. The chassis is metal and the expression pedal feels solid without the slightest bit of shakiness.

The pedal also features true bypass.

Good start Digitech.

The fifth generation of this pedal features 10 different whammy settings, which are essentially pitch shifting modes. There are five octave modes (one, two and three octaves) and five interval modes, all of which can be seen is this screenshot from the user's manual:

Digitech Whammy 5 Review and Buying Guide
 Similarly, there are nine harmony presets on the left side of the pedal.

Digitech Whammy 5 Review and Buying Guide
If you want to actually hear what all this sounds like, here's a good quality demo from the Fuzzville music store (thanks guys) that covers most of these modes.



If you watched the video, you'll see there are also two detune setting, shallow and deep. Predictably, shallow is less of a break from the original pitch, while deep is a more audibly noticeable change in tune.

The pedal also comes with its own 9-V adapter and a MIDI controller input.

Popularity

When reviewing guitar pedals, I believe popularity and who already uses a given pedal does matter.

Amazon reviews are worth a look, but what's even more impressive is the list of professionals that use the Digitech Whammy.

Here are just a few:
You can checkout the full list of "notables" on the Digitech Whammy 5 homepage.

But the point is that this pedal certainly has developed a solid reputation, with few people having anything negative to say about it. Even so, I stand by my statement that you should understand exactly what you're getting before you drop $200 on the Whammy 5.

Yes it's popular, and yes it can make a lot of interesting sounds. But I would make the case that you've got to have your wits about you and be a well-established guitarist before you can really get the most out of what it's offering you.

If you're confident in your own playing and that the detuning and harmonizing effects will benefit your style, then it's more likely that this pedal will be a good fit for you.

Sound Quality

There's no doubt that the Digitech Whammy sounds fantastic.

The octaves and intervals all sound accurate, while the expression pedal produces a balanced transition between notes and a laser-like jump when quickly skipping octaves. Adding distortion doesn't deter from the integrity of the effects, and actually seems to compliment most of the sounds quite well.

You can hear the distinct swells being used by Tom Morello in the "Like a Stone" music video.



Since Morello plays the solo primarily on the sixth and fifth strings (the low E and A), he's likely using the three octave or "Dive Bomb" setting to get such high swells. It's easy to hear as he hits each note and then shifts the pitch with the Whammy's expression pedal.

The "deep" detuning mode sounds a little off to me, but is more a matter of taste than a problem with the sound quality.

Overall, sound quality for this pedal is top notch, as one would expect when you consider those who have endorsed and used it.

How do I know if it's "right for me?"

Though not exclusive, this pedal is more friendly to the lead guitarists among us, since it's primarily designed for soloing and melodic lines as opposed to chords and strumming.

That's not to say it can't find a home on a non-shredder's pedalboard (Morello and Edge are certainly not shredders), but those who can really take advantage of its features will be playing lead in some capacity.

What could also make it a good buy for you is if you want to explore some unconventional sounds with your guitar. As Morello once said, "Ignoring the tradition of the instrument..." can result in a lot of interesting sounds, and this pedal certainly does that.

With a "dive bomb" mode that allows you to pitch shift through three octaves, you know that you're going to get some bizarre and unfamiliar effects out of your rig.

If the bizarre and unconventional gets you excited, the Digitech Whammy 5 is getting warmer.

Who is it not for?

On the other hand, if you're primarily a rhythm player who just wants to add some new sounds to your rig, this might be overkill.

Again, it's not a whammy bar substitute, nor is it a viable alternative or replacement for a wah pedal.

The casual guitarist who hasn't really developed their style yet, or who doesn't quite understand what this pedal is for, should hold off.

Price

The $200 retail is due to a large number of features, notoriety in the broader guitar-playing community and the simple fact that it's one of the larger pedals in existence that isn't considered a multi-effects board.

For the number of different features you get, along with the expression (wah wah style) pedal, $200 isn't a bad price point.

It's certainly not cheap, but Digitech didn't overprice this, and they certainly could have.

Used options can dip as low as $120, while avoiding three figures is probably out of the question, even for older models. These pedals hold their value well since they've enjoyed such a good reputation, dating back to much older models.

Overall

The Whammy 5 is one of the gold standards when it comes to pitch shifting.

While it might not be for every guitar player out there, that shouldn't take away from the obvious value that this pedal delivers for those who can make use of it.

Lots of features, excellent sound quality and an undeniably reasonable price make this a must for the editor's choice badge.

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About Robert Kittleberger

Robert is the founder and editor of Guitar Chalk and Guitar Bargain. You can get in
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