A whammy bar is a lever attached by a bridge or a tailpiece. It enables guitar players to vary the tension between the strings’ lengths to change the pitch and create a vibrato or pitch-bend effect. Did you know you could add one to your guitar? This brings us to our question: how do you add a whammy bar to a guitar?
To add a whammy bar to a guitar, place the end into the hole of the bridge. Screw it clockwise until it’s tight. It is not good to install a whammy bar on all guitars. Whammy bars are often attached to Locking Tremolo Bridge, Fender Stratocaster, and Ibanez Prestige Series guitars.
Keep reading to learn more about adding a whammy bar to your guitar and what guitars can have one added.
How to Add a Whammy Bar to a Guitar in Three Steps
Installing a whammy bar isn’t the hardest task, but it requires some technical knowledge. Here are the steps to correctly add a whammy bar to a guitar.
- Find the whammy bar hole. Most electric guitars have a spot designated for a whammy bar near the bridge. If your guitar already has a whammy bar hole, it is easy to put a whammy bar on it.
- Screw your bar into the whammy bar hole. After locating the hole, screw the whammy bar into it. However, ensure you don’t screw it in too tight, as doing so can negatively affect the bridge on your guitar.
- Check the Sound of Your Guitar: Now that the whammy bar is on your guitar, plug the guitar into an amp and start playing. If the whammy bar isn’t attached to the guitar correctly, the sound quality reflects this.
Not all electric guitars have a hole for your whammy bar. So, in these cases, the steps above won’t apply. But there is a way around this.
Can Any Guitar Have a Whammy Bar?
Simply put: all guitars can use whammy bars. But not all guitars are naturally built to include a whammy bar. To fix this, you must replace your guitar bridge with one supporting the feature.
If you want to replace the bridge, your whammy bar will work on electric, bass, and acoustic guitars. But most people prefer them for electric guitars. After all, when you combine whammy bars with the right distortion pedal, you can get some awesome sounds.
Of course, if you want to install a whammy bar on your non-whammy guitar, it requires some advanced technical skills. You’ll need to find a music store or artisan who can build guitar bridges.
Then, you’ll need to convince that builder to add a whammy bar to your guitar. They might not take the job due to its complexity or how it might ruin the sound. After all, not all bodies can support the sound a whammy bar brings.
Plus, you’ll need to have some pretty deep pockets. Replacing the bridge on a guitar is time-consuming, costing a lot of money.
Guitars That Work Well With Whammy Bars
Listed below are some guitars that work well with whammy bars.
1. Locking Tremolo Bridge
Guitars with a locking tremolo bridge work extremely well with whammy bars. A locking tremolo bridge comes in two forms: Floyd Rose bridge/tremolo system and Edge Zero bridge/tremolo system.
Each of these systems locks at the headstock and bridge of the guitar. There are small turning knobs that allow the guitar to be tweaked after the strings have been locked. Locked strings can’t be tuned by tuning machines on the headstock.
This allows the guitar to have heavier tremolo use and dive-bombing. This term refers to pushing the whammy bar far down and letting it rise slowly.
2. Fender Stratocaster
- Top material type: Polyurethane
- Back material type: Polyurethane
- The Stratocaster is ideal for beginning players and provides a comfortable playing feel
- Vintage-style tremolo bridge for classic pitch effects
- Three single-coil pickups for classic Strat tone
- Squier Frontman 10G amplifier included
- Free 3-month subscription to Fender Play
- Alder Body with gloss finish; Flame Maple top
- One player Series humbucking Bridge pickup; two player Series single-coil Stratocaster middle and neck pickups
- “Modern C”-Shaped neck profile
- 9. 5″-Radius Fingerboard
- 2-Point tremolo Bridge with bent-steel saddles
The Fender Stratocaster guitar always comes with a whammy bar in a traditional floating tremolo bridge. A Stratocaster series guitar can have two types of bridges: a two-point synchronized tremolo bridge or a six-screw vintage-style tremolo bridge.
3. Ibanez Prestige
- 5 Tremolo Springs: Five tremolo springs allow string vibration to be more efficiently transferred to the guitar body
- Non-Recessed Bridge Cavity: While the AZ series features a recessed bridge cavity for fluid and dynamic tremolo action, this model has a non-recessed bridge cavity. The direct contact between the bridge plate and the guitar body provides the better resonance and helps facilitate subtle nuances in playing dynamics
- Dyna-MIX 9 Switching System with Alter Switch: Dyna-MIX 9 offers nine sound variations, and can easily switch between humbucker and singlecoil modes with just the mini switch. One mode is even able to simulate a humbucker sound from the combination of the 2 singlecoil pickups
- Gotoh T1702B Tremolo Bridge: The T1702B tremolo bridge provides quick response and improved articulation. The 10.5mm string spacing allows for easy picking across strings and it’s snap-in construction makes it easy to load a tremolo arm. The tremolo block and saddles are made of brass, facilitating better overall resonance
- AZ Oval C S-Tech Wood Roasted Maple Neck: S-TECH special roasted treatment increases the wood’s stability, durability, water resistance, and tolerance of temperature changes. The neck is sealed with an oil finish which helps make it feel similar to a well-played guitar neck
- Features: The Ibanez RG652AHM RG Prestige is a 6-string electric guitar featuring a Birdseye Maple Fretboard and DiMarzio pickups
- Fretboard: The Birdseye Maple fretboard has a unique wood grain and features a well-balanced tonal character from low to high end
- Super Wizard 5pc Maple/Walnut Neck: The Super Wizard 5pc Maple/Walnut neck provides extra-smooth playing
- DiMarzio Pickups: A pair of high-output DiMarzio Air Norton and The Tone Zone pickups provides a huge sound with a broad dynamic range
- Edge Tremolo Bridge: The masterpiece Edge bridge offers exceptional tuning stability, precise intonation adjustment, and playing comfort
- Solidbody Electric Guitar with Mahogany Body
- Lo-Pro Edge Tremolo – Black
- 2 Humbucking Pickups
- Maple/Walnut Neck
- Ebony Fingerboard
The Ibanez Prestige is considered one of the more expensive guitar lines built for speed with modern guitar tones. It is recommended to look for an Ibanez Prestige guitar with an edge zero system if you will use a whammy bar often while playing this guitar.
Why is a Whammy Bar Used on Guitars?
The main reason a whammy bar is used on a guitar is to reduce or increase the amount of vibrato produced by the guitar. The whammy bar helps scale the music up or down with the music created by your guitar. A whammy bar also bends the strings on the guitar to reduce or increase tension. All of this adjusts the pitch and sound of the guitar.
Bending the guitar strings gives the whammy bar power to reduce or increase the vibration created by each guitar string. It helps create a unique, pleasant sound.
The whammy bar quickly changes the notes on the guitar. This might be simpler than switching to the next note. It’s also a great way to create that unique “wah” noise.
How Much Do Whammy Bars Cost?
Overall, whammy bars are useful tools that are extremely easy to install. All you need to install a whammy bar is a guitar with a whammy bar hole and a whammy bar. Whammy bars cost between $5 and $20, so you can find one that will fit your guitar and budget if you want to put one on your guitar.
However, before you put a whammy bar on your guitar, decide whether or not you will use it often. If you don’t use it often, it will likely get in the way while you play your guitar. If you use it often, it will likely become a useful tool for changing your music to suit your musical tastes better.