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Thomann's Cool Online Guides: Wah Pedals

4. Filter Design

As mentioned in the introduction,
WahA general term for a device which modulates the sound of an instrument or voice to produce an effect that sounds like 'wah, wah' (sometimes described as a crying effect). The commonest devices are the wah mute, which is placed on the bell of a trumpet or other brass instrument and moved to produce the wah effect, and the wah-wah pedal, which applies the effect (via a rocking foot motion) to an instrument sound (typically electric guitar).
wah
pedals are not designed to sound like ideal
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filters
, but instead to offer more interesting and ‘quirky’ musical characteristics. The
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
type used is called a ‘band pass filter’. Some pedals, such as the Vox,
BoostIn audio mixing this refers to increasing the gain or amplitude of an audio signal. Usually employed in equalisation.
boost
signals around a unique centre frequency, whereas others have a more complex frequency response. For example, the Crybaby actually has two distinct
BoostIn audio mixing this refers to increasing the gain or amplitude of an audio signal. Usually employed in equalisation.
boost
RegionA region is usually a section of MIDI or audio first defined by recording or imported length, which can be copied, edited or deleted non-destructively as part of the editing process in a DAW.
regions
which are swept in parallel. A reliable source claims that this was more of a fortunate accident than design, but hey – it sounded great!

There are 3 main factors which give rise to any
WahA general term for a device which modulates the sound of an instrument or voice to produce an effect that sounds like 'wah, wah' (sometimes described as a crying effect). The commonest devices are the wah mute, which is placed on the bell of a trumpet or other brass instrument and moved to produce the wah effect, and the wah-wah pedal, which applies the effect (via a rocking foot motion) to an instrument sound (typically electric guitar).
wah
filter’s characteristic sound:

  • FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
    Filter
    bandwidth
  • Q-factor (sometimes called ‘resonance’ or ‘intensity’)
  • Sweep range

An understanding of these terms will be useful when we take a look at some more modern
WahA general term for a device which modulates the sound of an instrument or voice to produce an effect that sounds like 'wah, wah' (sometimes described as a crying effect). The commonest devices are the wah mute, which is placed on the bell of a trumpet or other brass instrument and moved to produce the wah effect, and the wah-wah pedal, which applies the effect (via a rocking foot motion) to an instrument sound (typically electric guitar).
wah
designs later.

The
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
‘bandwidth’ (sometimes called the ‘passband’) is defined as the range of frequencies boosted, in this case between f1 and f2, where the output power of the
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
is half the power at the
PeakThe highest point of an audio waveform, or one of the highest points of an audio waveform.
peak
– which itself is always at the centre frequency.

The ‘Q-factor’ is a measure of the filter’s steepness. As the Q increases, so does the steepness of the
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
. The Q of this type of
FilterA circuit used to remove or accentuate frequencies in a sound source. Common types are found on mixing consoles equalisation, synthesizers and dedicated processors such as graphic equalisers.
filter
is defined as the ratio of the centre frequency to the difference between the frequencies where the signal is attenuated by 50% (-3dB) – that is, the ‘bandwidth’ in the diagram.

Q = centre frequency /
BandwidthThe range of frequencies passed by a bandpass filter (the difference between the upper and lower cut-off frequencies).
bandwidth
[f2-f1]

So it can be seen that the higher the Q, the smaller the
BandwidthThe range of frequencies passed by a bandpass filter (the difference between the upper and lower cut-off frequencies).
bandwidth
. In other words, high Q is more intense, as it boosts a narrower range of frequencies and leaves the sound subjectively thinner.

The ‘sweep range’ simply determines how low and how high the pedal
ActionThe feel of an instrument, usually relating to the physical effort required to create and/or strike a note. On keyboards, it refers to the pressure required to press the keys - pianos often have heavier actions than electronic keyboards - while on stringed instruments it refers to the distance between the strings and the fingerboard.
action
can take you. Some models concentrate on the lower ranges, some focus on the higher ranges, and there are others that allow for user adjustment.

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