Above, me playing my first guitar, an early 90s Fender Stratocaster Squier II.
This bloggo post is about guitar playing technique. In particular, my technique.
What is a waggle?
The technical name for the sound is vibrato, however the physical motion to get the sound has no name. So I call it by what it looks like; a waggle.
Waggle is easy enough to describe even to someone who doesn't play guitar.
Take your thumb and index finger and put them together to make a pinch. Keep the rest of your fingers loose.
Twist your wrist back and forth. You'll notice your pinky finger wags. That's the waggle.
The guitar player with the best waggle vibrato (to my ears) on the face of the Earth is B.B. King, seen here:
And he just happens to be playing with two other of my most favorite musicians in this video, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins. 🙂
Side note: Does Eric waggle? Nope. When he puts vibrato in a note he moves his entire wrist up and down. I vibrato like B.B. does with a wrist twist (the waggle).
I notice that 99% of guitar players - including well known professional ones - do vibrato absolutely wrong. The note is either pitching too fast or too slow. Only a rare select few actually get the right speed - and they're usually blues players.
When I first started messing around with vibrato I was doing it completely wrong. My pitching was fine but the method was just awful. I would literally dig my fingernail into the fingerboard to do it and continued to do so for years. It wasn't until I started playing guitars other than Stratocasters that I learned how to waggle properly.
A few extra sorta/kinda related comments by yours truly:
I truly don't understand what the deal is with guitarists that always ask for guitar tabs. As far as I'm concerned, if you the guitar player can't pick up something by ear and/or by physically looking at a video of someone playing the riff/solo/whatever, what possible good will tabs be? Is seeing the written note more understandable than physically hearing it? I just don't get it.
Every guitar player I've ever known that is 100% technically perfect has no soul to their playing, or the soul is someone else's.
So you've learned everything Eddie Van Halen has ever done. You know every note and nuance of his guitar playing style.
Does anyone give a crap that you sound and play just like Eddie?
Some guitarists say "I learned that guy's style to develop my own style". So you say "Okay, then. Let's hear it." And yep, it sounds great - but the style is nothing but a copy of someone else's.
The "been there, heard that" sound is not what will get you noticed.
I think the best compliments I've ever heard on my playing is "sounds like Rich" and not "sounds like [that guy]".
I sound absolutely nothing like B.B. King. All I ever wanted to do was get the vibrato waggle like he does. I think I mostly got it. 🙂
Style, as in playing style, is relative.
My rock/metal style is mostly Tony Iommi, and the sound of a few other players.
I mix/match the metal styles with the blues styles. They clash like a train wreck but it's my style, so screw it; I'll do what I want. 🙂 Tony, as many know, is actually a really decent blues player - so it's not a completely foreign concept.
Whenever I try to describe how I get my sound it messes with people's heads because it makes absolutely no sense to most.
But I'll give it a go and try to explain it. 🙂
My sound is literally one signal effects processor and one distortion pedal, that being an Alesis Quadraverb GT and a SansAMP GT2. That's all I use.
The way I make my guitar(s) sound depends on the song. If it's a rock/metal song, the guitars are 100% dry, i.e. no reverb. If it song is blues, I use a "room reverb" to emulate an amplifier in the middle of a semi-large room.
And I never use amplifiers. Ever. It's all "direct".
The one thing that no one seems to understand, save for sound engineers (and sometimes even they don't get it) is that people, meaning non-musicians, want guitars to sound fake.
I'll explain it better like this:
If you make your guitar sound exactly as it would in a club on a recording, it will sound like absolute crap. The listener is not at the club. They are listening to the song in the car or on a portable music player via headphones.
You should make every effort to make the guitar sound perfect for the car and/or for headphones. If "real" is what you're gunning for, you will fail miserably.
You want the real deal, go to a concert. But if you want what people actually like to hear, process.
I've told the same advice to many others. Make it sound fake on purpose. People are so used to it that they think the fake stuff is the real stuff. Stop thinking like a musician; go for what FM radio sounds like instead. It's all fake. Get used to it.
Emulate, don't replicate. Your playing style will cover the rest.