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This article was originally published in issue #4
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The original Digitech Whammy is now seen as a classic among pedal collectors. And now there's a brand new version capable of some astonishing tricks. Jamie Humphries gets ready to play with all things pitchy and bendy..
Digitech first introduced the whammy pedal in the early 90’s. It offered ridiculous pitch bending capabilities from a wah style pedal, also worked as a harmony pedal and even included a 'dive bomb' setting - ideal for use with fixed bridge guitars. As well as this, the pedal also included chorusing, or 'detune' as it's described on the casing. The pedal gained huge popularity with the release of the first Rage Against the Machine album, with Tom Morello using the Digitech to create his ground breaking soundscapes. Many artists followed, including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Jonny Greenwood and Matt Bellamy. I have an original Digitech Whammy myself, bought it in 1992 for £80 brand new! I’ve been offered some pretty silly money for it in the past, which shows you both how good and sought-after the original was.
Digitech have released several versions of this pedal since, but with some of the new features on the Whammy DT, I think this one is by far the best yet.
If you already know the Whammy, the left side is going to look very familiar, with all of the regular Whammy settings enabling you to pitch up or down by certain intervals, and everything in between. This side of the pedal also includes the harmoniser sections and once again different intervals are set depending on the position of the pedal, plus all the micro tonal intervals in between, if that’s what you’re into. The pedal also includes detune, either deep or shallow, which is basically chorusing. The intensity of the chorus depends on how far down the pedal is pressed. Also included is the dive bomb setting,
so even fixed bridge guitarists can drop those strings till they wobble!
It's the right side of the pedal that includes the new features - and this is where the fun really starts! This side includes the drop tune section, which drops your guitar down in semi tones, or raises it as if you were using a capo. This section also features a momentary switch that when depressed cuts you straight back to your dry original sound, and then back to the processed sound when released. This newer version of the unit also includes an addition input for a footswitch, plus MIDI.
At first I have to say I was slightly intimidated by the amount of settings on this pedal, but its layout is very intuitive and I was able to negotiate my way around pretty quickly. The quality of the whammy, harmony and chorus is top quality, with minimal tracking noise, even when playing chords. After overcoming the desire to bend your notes up and down stupid amounts, if you dig deeper there are some very inspiring and musical applications that go beyond what is usually associated with this pedal. But yes, I guess we all have to play the 'Killing in the Name Of' solo to get it out of our systems!
But it's the drop tune section that really floored me. Take two guitars to a gig to cover songs in Eb? Not any more! Just select the dial to a semi tone lower and your standard tune guitar is ready to rock any tune a semitone down. It doesn’t stop there; drop D or C, or even lower, are all possible and with such good tracking youd be able to use this confidently and convincingly on a gig. Use the momentary switch to jump back to standard pitch during a song, and then back down! Need a capo? No more fiddling around trying to put it on and then re-tune, as the pitch can also be raised!
Other applications I enjoyed were using a harmony from the left side of the pedal, at the same time as using the capo setting on the right side in the detune mode. Hours of fun, and plenty of inspiration for unusual rhythm parts. Make a point of checking out our video as this new Digitech is something really special!
I have to say that I really enjoyed this pedal; yes it’s bulky and it’s not cheap, but look at what it does! I shall be adding this to my arsenal of effects as soon as I can. Go check it out, you won’t be disappointed! Despite the price we've given it the highest rating our grumpy editor has so far let us award. It's really that good!