The Digitech Whammy Pedal is the effect made famous by Rage Against the Machine guitarist, Tom Morello. If you’ve ever heard the solo to ‘Killing in the Name of’, you’ll know exactly what this pedal does!
If not, then the clue is in the name. The whammy pedal acts like a whammy bar, by lowering (or raising) the pitch of the strings. Only difference is that this is an effects pedal, and not something physically loosening or tightening your strings.
The effect is also used by:
- Dimebag Darrel (main riff to Pantera’s ‘Becoming’ and others)
- Joe Satriani (‘Cool #9’ and others)
- Jack White (Bass line to the White Stripe’s ‘Seven Nation Army’)
- Steve Vai (‘Building the Church’ and others)
…and those are just a few examples!
The Fifth Generation
To original Digitech Whammy pedal came out in 1989, and then was discontinued in 1993. It essentially combines the functions of both an octave pedal- adding a second pitch in harmony with your guitar- and a pitch-shifts. At the time, this was the only effects pedal with this functionality, but it wasn’t hugely popular.
It took guitarists such as Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave) to really boost the popularity of this device.
Since then, there have been several generations of the pedal, each trying to improve on, as well as recreate, the sound of the original. That isn’t to say that the original pedal was somehow superior. The sound it produced could be glitchy, there was no true-bypass, and there was no polyphony.
If something is ‘polyphonic’ then it contains multiple notes at once. For example, a song where the bass is playing something different to the guitar line is polyphonic.
Poly = many
Phono = sound
This is different to ‘monophonic’, which refers to only one sound at a time. The original digitech whammy pedal was monophonic, which meant it struggled to pitch-shift ever note correctly in chords. the first pedals could only produce one note along with your original sound.
So, the new 5th generation pedal has two modes. It can be run in only monophonic mode- the same as the original pedal- or you can use it in polyphonic mode. Polyphonic mode allows you to transpose entire chords. For example, you could play an open A chord, hit the pedal down, and end up with a chord one octave lower.
It would be as if you’d detuned every string!
The new pedal also has a true bypass function. This means that the dry signal (the one without effects) is completely untouched by the pedal. It’s literally just in and then out. This is really important, because if your guitar signal is sent through too much wiring, it can dull the tone.
True bypass allows you to completely turn off the pedal and it will be as if it isn’t there.
There is also a ‘drop tune‘ version of this pedal, which adjusts the tuning of your guitar. Well, it doesn’t literally change the tuning, but it uses the new polyphonic ability to change the sound of each string. This gives the effect that you’ve changed the tuning of your guitar.
I can see this coming in very useful if you have songs in a set that are in different tunings. Although I would personally still be incline to just have more than one guitar, or retune…
…but then I’m not so much of an effects person. Especially if that effect can be created by hand.
- Classic Whammy Sound
- Chordal Whammyv-01 Pitch Shifting
- True Bypass
- 10 Whammyv-01, 9 Harmony and 2 Detune Settings
- Standard 9V DC power (included)
- Next generation pitch shifting algorithms
- Rugged metal chassis
- MIDI input
- Sample rate: 44.1 khz
These are the different settings to change the pitch of your notes.
- 2 octaves up
- One octave up
- 5th up
- 4th up
- 2nd down
- 4th down
- 5th Down
- One octave down
- 2 octaves down
- ‘Dive Bomb’- three octaves down
These options add a note that harmonizes with your original notes (controlled by the pedal).
- Octave below or above
- 5th to a 4th below
- 4th to a 3rd below
- 5th to a 7th above
- 5th to a 6th above
- 4th to a 5th above
- 3rd to a 4th above
- Minor to Major 3rd above
- 2nd to a 3rd above
So, as you can see, there are plenty of options available to keep you busy!
What We liked…
With any effects pedal like this that I use, speed can be an issue. There is a slight delay between when you play a note and when the note sounds. This is due to the processing time in the pedal. What it means is that when you play super fast, you can sometimes be slightly ahead of the sound.
This feels just weird, and can be frustrating.
BUT this pedal doesn’t have that. I mean, obviously there is some latency, due to physics, but it isn’t very noticeable. The processor can also keep up and harmonize with notes that are flying by every second.
The only thing is that the notes produced by the pedal tend to ‘slur’ when you’re going really fast.
The original mode still has the old glitches, but I think this was added on purpose. Many guitarists see the glitches of the original pedal as a feature, more than a bug. It would make sense, then, that even the 5th generation of this pedal recreates the original so faithfully.
However, the polyphonic mode has no glitches at all. Best of all: you can bend chords, or even create chords using the harmony mode. The possibilities are huge!
The true bypass function is also a great feature. This means you can put the pedal first in your signal chain, and it won’t degrade your tone too much. The problem is due to the resistance than each pedal adds. Putting a pedal with high resistance first will kill your signal before it reaches your other pedals or amp.
So, pedals that tend to have higher resistance should go towards the end of your effects chain. This is because, by that time, the signal has been amplified a little by each pedal (or it can be, with volume controls). That’s the theory, anyway…
It also doesn’t seem to sound as ‘digital’ as previous pedals. This can either be a good thing, or a bad thing. It depends if you want to sound weird and digital, or warm and natural. Either can be good, in the right context.
What We didn’t like…
This pedal is smaller than it looks. SERIOUSLY! It may not look like it from the picture, but you can accidentally knock the controls with your foot when using the pedal. This isn’t a big thing, unless you have fairly big shoes, however…
Also, it might take a while to get used to. There are ample effects on this pedal, and- although it comes with instructions- there is a brief period of learning what everything does.
Conclusions on the Digitech Whammy pedal
Well, if you’re looking for a pitch-shift and/or an octave pedal, why not go for the original (and best)?
I don’t mean the original version of this pedal, as there have been a number of improvements. The fifth generation whammy pedal is definitely the best one to date!