I like to build stuff and I think the main reason I like to build stuff is that I like to understand how things work at a very low level of detail and building something really forces you to figure this out. In the past I’ve built guitars, I’ve built a mechanical pocketwatch, I’ve built computers, and I’ve even designed a very simple CPU from scratch, though that was just a paper design. On my bucket list is still to build a car and I’ve identified how that’s going to happen: http://www.factoryfive.com/kits/33-hot-rod. But for that I need more time, less job, and more garage space than I currently have. Someday.
In the meantime, as I wait for my guitar bodies to exit paint and clear coat stages, I was looking around for something to build and I stumbled on this kit: a wah pedal! What’s a wah pedal? It’s an effects pedal for guitars.
Sidebar: How many pieces of music can you name which make use of a theremin? I can think of three: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys, (which actually has a cello / theremin duet!), and Vai Vedrai, from the Cirque Du Soleil Alegria soundtrack. I don’t know why I just thought of this but I did. A friend of mine recently suggested that the inside of my head looks just like this.
Anyway, there are many quintessential pieces of music in which the guitarist uses a wah pedal but here are a couple of the best.
In this first one, listen to the guitar solo, the “wah” portion of which starts at 2:49. I don’t think any more explanation is needed as to what a wah pedal does or how if affects the music 😉
EDIT: The link I originally supplied was to the studio version of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4”, which has a most excellent (to quote the bard) and perhaps even iconic guitar solo performed using a wah pedal. However that video was taken down for copyright infringement so I have had to find another version of this piece. The version I have chosen is a live version and is used with permission but the wah portion of the solo is slightly less obvious and if you don’t know the original piece, is harder to hear. Nonetheless, you can hear the transition from clean to wah around 4:35 of the piece linked below.
Terry Kath, founding member of the band Chicago plays this live solo.
This second example is another canonical use of the wah pedal, listen closely at the 4:00 minute mark.
By the way, watching Eric Clapton play solos is amazing and I wish I had one of him doing the wah solo. He often will close his eyes and play for minutes at a time with his eyes shut. It’s remarkable.
Anyway, back to the kit and some photos 😉
I ordered the kit, it came promptly, I put it together in 2 nights taking roughly 2 hours per night. The instructions are excellent, all the parts were in the kit case, and it worked out of the gate. There is a lot of soldering required so if you want to build this kit, you should be comfortable soldering basic electronics, but it is nothing too wild or extreme.
Here is a shot of the pedal enclosure after I assembled the big parts but before any wiring was started or any components were soldered. You can see input and output jacks, the passthru/On Off foot switch at the top, and the potentiometer with gearing that controls the “wah” sound effect. The terminal blocks are both grounded and non-grounded opportunities to connect wires and components together.
Here is a partially wired interior shot, before the components were soldered. The directions helpfully describe doing the wiring first and the components second.
Finally, here is the finished interior. Notice my awesome soldering skills 😉
Here is a shot of the finished product, alongside a pen for scale. Notice the footswitch underneath the pedal – this is a passthru on/off switch.
The product works as advertised, it was fun to build (I like soldering), and seems very robust to being stomped on. I’ll probably consider looking at more of the kits available at the amplifiedparts.com web site. Any questions?
Tags: chicago, Clapton, factory five, soldering, theremin, wah pedal
The theme from Midsomer Murders is another song that uses the theremin to great effect (great show too!)
Nice work on the wah pedal, nice soldering indeed! Funny, I was just complaining to the guitar player in my “band” about how before we can start playing he always has to dick around for 10+ minutes with the dozen or so effect pedals he has (he has them all mounted inside an accordion case for easy transport). To add insult to injury, his latest pedal purchase is called Trio and it basically makes bass and drums redundant!!! (though I have to admit it’s pretty darn cool). I’m thinking of getting an effect pedal for my bass just to fight back … maybe you can build me one?!?!?