Hello Effect Pedal listener, this is Wright. I am truly grateful for all the love that you awesome listeners have shown this podcast so far. If you enjoy the show, please leave a 5-star rating, or even a review, in your favorite podcast app. Ratings and reviews go a long way in helping new people find and enjoy Effect Pedal too. You hear this from a lot of podcasts, but it’s really true. So thanks again. Now on with the show.

(Harp sound)

Senior year of high school, I bought a Jimi Hendrix greatest hits CD, and like probably everyone after their first time listening to Jimi Hendrix, my little mind was blown. Around the same time, I got my first guitar – in my case, a Starfield Altair SJ Classic II – and like probably everyone after getting their first guitar, I started trying to learn Hendrix songs. And like probably everyone after getting their first guitar, I started buying effect pedals. My first one was inspired by Jimi Hendrix and that CD: I bought a wah-wah pedal. 

(Wah pedal sound)

(Start theme music)

My name is Wright Seneres and this is Effect Pedal. (Switch sound) This is a podcast and art project dedicated to guitar effect pedals. In the universe, (space sounds) there are countless numbers of these pedals, creating an infinite number of sounds. I’m going to focus on some historically important ones for this project.

For the uninitiated, an effect pedal is usually a small box, with some electronics that modify the sound of a musical instrument like an electric guitar. But beyond all that, effect pedals open up worlds of possibilities for guitar players. 

(End theme music)

The first modern wah pedal was built in 1966, but the idea surfaced years earlier. Country music legend Chet Atkins was said to have used a similar device in the 1950s that he designed himself. The concept itself was not new even then. Brass players moving a mute in and out of the bell of a trumpet or trombone to create a crying wah sound is known back to the 1920s at least. 

(Sad trombone sound)

Most accounts credit the Thomas Organ Company with building the first wah pedal as we know it, and it was an accident. Electronics engineers there trying to build a cheaper version of the Vox Super Beatle amplifier ("A Hard Day's Night chord sound) stumbled on the wah sounds during testing. Soon the effect was combined with an organ’s expression pedal, and guitarists like Eric Clapton and Frank Zappa added them to their arsenal. It was Zappa that turned Jimi Hendrix on to the wah pedal. 

(Wah pedal sounds)

The wah pedal also found its way into funk music, creating the wacka-wacka sound heard all over the 1970s, in numerous funk records and film soundtracks. That bow chicka wow wow thing? 

(Funk wah sounds)

You know what it is. See, what it is...is the sound of a wah pedal.

The physics of guitar tone are the same no matter what equipment you have. Take an electric guitar. You make metal strings vibrate (plucked strings sound), these vibrations are transformed into electrical signals (electric sounds), and these signals are turned into sound vibrations by an amplifier (plucked strings amplified sound). That’s a one-sentence summary of the physics of it. But the great guitar players? What they do is less a process of physics, and more a process of alchemy. Jimi Hendrix was the greatest of alchemists: he made the greatest gold from metal and wood.

(Bubbling, explosion, crackling sounds)

A critical part of his alchemy was the wah-wah pedal. He used a number of Vox wah pedals, which you can hear in action on many of his classic songs. Listen to the intro to “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and you will really notice the effect. 

(Voodoo Child intro)

Think of a wah pedal like a gas pedal: Step down on it all the way, it becomes a high-pass filter, which allows treble or high frequencies to pass through and filters...

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