This led me to my next topic. Wah pedals are enjoying a new resurgence, so I decided to write an article on them. I wrote a somewhat comprehensive article on Wahs for Vintage Guitar Magazine several years ago, and with Alan Greenwoods kind permission, we are reprinting that article here. This saved me reinventing the wheel. The idea for this article came about when I purchased a box of effects pedals from the owner of a music store which closed in the late seventies.
Most were new old stock Electro-Harmonix with a few other brands mixed in. I spent several hours deciding which I found useful and thought others might profit from the information. This is a totally subjective evaluation, and I'm sure my opinions wouldn't be of value to a metal player or others of that ilk. I have searched diligently through the years for the Duane Allman, Dickey Betts type guitar sound. The violin type sustain of a Les Paul has always inspired me, and I've played a Les Paul flame top for most of my guitar playing career.
After playing through at least 50 different amps the last two years I arrived at the ever popular Fender Bassman. This amp is a dual rectifier amp and sounds delicious at all volumes with all types of guitars. I go in to detail here as this amp was my tone base for all testing. Another point I want to mention here is many acts I've heard and admired over the years were playing in large venues, football stadiums, large auditoriums, etc.
Those of us working in smaller venues, clubs etc. Achieving a singing sustain and fat tone in a small rehearsal space or a club is a different animal entirely.
I usually don"t run my amp over 3 or 4 in these situations, and mic it when playing larger venues. My amp only puts out 40 Watts or less and is sufficient for most playing situations. Since writing the above preamble several months ago some things have changed. First, I purchased a Fender Vibrolux reverb. It is equipped with Sovetek 's and puts out about 35 watts. Although it doesn't sound as good as my Bassman it's quite portable to take to jam sessions and when sitting in at a club.
It, of course, has built in reverb and is easy to carry and set up quickly. The other thing is, with a little help from my friends, and a lot of looking on my part, this article has gone from covering some dozen effects to covering dozens of effects. Presently I have three large drawers filled with various effects, seven Wah-Wah pedals, several very interesting articles dealing with the above, and apparently and endless chore!
I've come to realize I couldn't possibly review the multitude of effects gizmos gushing forth from the mid 60's to the onslaught of digital signal processing. I am going to cover as much ground as possible, and it is for that reason this article will be two or more parts. I conclude this introduction by saying I have switched back to all analog effects, and I feel I'm getting a much warmer and more musical tone from my guitar and amp by doing so. Granted there is a trade off in convenience.
Rack mounted gear is faster to hook up at the gig, and midi makes programming digital effects easy and versatile, ie. I don't want guitar tone like the guitar player I hear on every beer commercial! Interesting to note here my Phase 90 stopped working during a recording session at The Record Plant in Sausalito. I sent a roadie out to buy me a new one which turned out to be a block logo model. The difference in timbre was so great I ended up omitting the effect on the cut we were working on. It wasn't until a few years ago I found out about the difference between the script and block logo MXR products, but more on that in part two.
The CryBaby was the most common Wah of its day and, as I recall, it was quite adequate. I'm sure I wouldn't have kept using it if I found its quality inferior. It employed the infamous TDK inductor. I know that for a fact because I still own it and I checked. I made the Wah-Wah part one of my article because next to straight guitar tone Wah was the effect I used the most.
This article is recommended for more on the subject. The first Wah type sounds could be found on Country albums in the late 50's and early sixties. These were largely achieved by the player working the tone knob. The Fender volume pedal, popular with steel players of the day, may also have created a Wah type sound.
This pedal varied tone when moved left to right and volume when moved up and down. There was also the possibility of custom designed units. Vox was the first company to have commercial success with the Wah, though Ampeg was experimenting with the idea as early as Around '66 Plunkett was working on a circuit to replace the 3-position MRB, or voicing switch, with a less expensive potentiometer.
A fellow engineer, Les Kushner, suggested an oscillator design which Plunkett then modified and built. To test the idea, a guitar was plugged in and, as Plunkett describes "all of a sudden people came running in to see what was making this sound-they just freaked out on it.
Apparently Vox management saw lots of potential in this new gizmo, and it was subsequently introduced as the Clyde McCoy wah-wah pedal. Clyde was actually a trumpet player who had asked Vox for a device that could simulate the sound of a muted trumpet for use with a keyboard.
These early pedals were manufactured in Italy and have a picture of Clyde on the bottom. They were distributed in the U. Later variants featured Clyde's signature only. Most pedal gurus consider the Clyde series to be rather thin and cheesy-sounding when compared to later models. See below for more info on the great Clyde.
Vox also offered a non-signature model around this time that simply said "Wah" on the bottom plate; it was also made in Italy. The introduction of the Vox Crybaby pedal around came about because the U. Vox solved this by slapping the Crybaby name on the same model for the American market. The story goes that when Vox needed a new name for the pedal, they asked one of their distributors to describe the wah's sound.
The response was "it sounds like a baby crying. Most purists agree that this change degraded the sound of these pedals, but in the informal tests we conducted, our favorite because of its almost human vocal quality and vomiting sounds was an excellent sounding V The next major change occured when Vox came out with the King Wah, the first unit made completely in the United States. It should also be noted that by the late '60s there were probably 40 or 50 different manufactures making wah-wah pedals on both sides of the Atlantic.
Many of these devices offered extra sounds like fuzz, sirens, surf, tornado, and God knows what else. The early '70s saw companies such as Tychobrahe, Maestro, Foxx, and Morley getting into the wah-wah game.
As the late '70s approached, the wah effect was becoming unhip, and the number of manufacturers dropped accordingly. By the early '80s only Thomas Organ, Morley, and a few other companies manufactured wah pedals. Thompson for the above account of the inception of the wah, but take issue with several points he mentioned.
At this juncture I'm going to play my 'ace in the hole', Mr. George told me that Geoffrey had modified his '70s CryBaby to old Vox standards and it sounded remarkably better. I called Geoffrey and since then we have become friends via many telephone conversations.
Geoffrey is the "authorized vintage Vox wah repairman", and has done more research and has more information on vintage wahs than anyone I know! Geoffrey has been invaluable in the preparation of this part of my article, and I thank him. I thought the CryBaby was pretty good until I heard the difference in timbre and tonal sweep after Geoffrey reworked it.
I introduce Geoffrey here because I agree with what he had to say regarding the last part of the Guitar Player article quoted above. If Clydes are 'thin and cheesy sounding' then why are they commanding such a high price tag? I rest my case I also don't have much use for a "vomiting sound" when I'm playing, but I guess it's all subjective. I've had trouble dating the exact years of issue of the Clyde McCoy. If the GP article is accurate, the Vox Wah was manufactured in The Vox V replaced the Clyde in April, This apparently leaves one short year for the picture and signature model Clydes to have been on the market.
This makes the author question the accuracy of the inception date mentioned in the GP article. Geoffrey Teese Interview Q What, in your opinion, is the finest stock pedal? A The old Clyde McCoy. A The 1st series Maestro Boomerangs circa '68 or ' Q How do you know the 1st series? Q What makes the Clyde the one? A Just the resonance of the sound, like a sonic blender, almost. Q What's the difference electronically? They didn't really change until the TDK.
The inductors are only part of the puzzle, the second thing is the type of caps. Q What is the fasel inductor? A To the best of my knowledge fasel refers to the appearance and conjectured make up. A way of discerning them. According to Thomas they used one company to make all their inductors from to TDK was introduced in roughly and used up to the close of Thomas in