There are few effect pairings as iconic as wah and fuzz. Ironically, these two pedals had somewhat accidental origins. The wah began as a pedal targeting trumpet players. The fuzz was born from a fizzed out circuit in a recording studio mishap. Yet together, they define and transcend eras of rock and roll history.
Knowing how to best deploy this duo, however, means having a grasp on their potential quirks and embracing an openness to experimenting to find your best sound. This week on TPS, Dan & Mick toyed around with some epic fuzz wah combos by swapping orders, position, and settings of both items to diagnose some common problems and offer up some pro tips for best uses.
If you’re new to wah or are looking to get more out of an old pedal, here are some core concepts to help guide your wah (re)discovery.
Where to Place Wah Relative to Fuzz in Your Signal Chain
With an Analog Man Sun Face NKT Red Dot on either side of a Dunlop Crybaby Wah, Dan & Mick listened in to see if there was a difference in placing the wah pre or post wah. What did they hear? As Dan summed up, even with the fuzz pedals dialed in to near exact settings, “there’s a massive difference in the fuzz being before or after the wah pedal. This all has to do with impedance.”
Let’s start with option number one: the fuzz before the wah. In this scenario, the fuzz is getting the pure, unobstructed signal from your guitar, which is then fed into the wah. From here, the wah shifts all those frequencies that are then brilliantly colored by the fuzz. This is arguably the more traditional setup.
Now onto option number two: wah first, fuzz second. Here the first thing your signal encounters is a frequency sweep as soon as the wah is activated and rocked and rolled. This roller coaster of an EQ signal then hits the wah and the fuzz is mixed in at, what might sound to most, as an unpleasant or inconsistent peaks and dips in drive. As Dan noted, it is also key to recall that the Crybaby is buffered, “so when you kick the wah on the lower output impedance is driving the fuzz and making it really brittle.” This insight is particularly relevant when using germanium-based fuzz circuits, which have a habit of misbehaving when placed on the other side of a buffer.
As always, there is no right or wrong but there is a need to experiment with your unique items of gear to find which order and combos sound best.
Where to Locate a Wah Pedal in the Physical Landscape of Your Rig
If wah and fuzz demand some consideration at the level of placement in the signal chain, they also need a pause when it comes to their physical placement in a pedal board.
For starters, depending on where and when you put your fuzz, chances are it will need to be somewhere in the neighborhood of the front of chain. Again, keep in mind buffers and plan accordingly. If buffers are an issue and you’re localizing your fuzz to certain types of sounds for particular songs, another pedalboard building strategy is to use a switching system like the Boss MS-3. This enables routing multiple effects into particular loops to avoid interference from others.
The wah too needs some practical consideration. While most your effects will need some level of access for foot-tap-ability, wah is a special case in that you’ll need room to rock and sweep in without accidentally disrupting other effects on your board. Added to that, wahs, like volume pedals, tend to be real estate hogs. So where might you put it? As Mick recommended, not on the board at all! If your wah does go near the front of the chain and/or is only used occasionally, toss it in your gig bag so it’s there when you need set it off the board. This will keep your pristine board clutter free, save on space, improve functionality, and likely result in a more ergonomic playing position with the wah offset at an angle.
Whether you’re in a Hendrix cover band and need a bit of a wah-fuzz gear refresh or are just embarking on the washy-crunchy adventure of these two effects, Riff City has the best selection of wah and fuzz pedals to get you going. Stop into see us in store or online for these and all your pedal board accessory needs.
TPS Rig Rundown:
Guitars:Fender American Vintage ’62 Stratocaster, Fender Custom Shop ’63 Telecaster.
Pedals: Dunlop GCB-95 Crybaby Original Wah, Fulltone Clyde Standard Wah, ProAnalog Devices SupaQuack Wah, LAA Custom The Italian Wah, Jam Pedals Wahcko+, Analog Man Sun Face NKT Red Dot, Dunlop Jimi Hendrix JHF1 Fuzz Face Distortion.
Amps: Marshall 1987x and Marshall 1960A cabinet with Celestion G12M Greenback speakers, Fender Super Reverb with 4×10 Jensen P10R speakers