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How to emulate whammy bar (tremolo bar) techniques in a DAW?

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At the moment I'm trying to improve the amount and quality of the articulations of my VSTI guitar sounds in my DAW.
There's a lot of great stuff you can do with the keyswitch buttons, the mod wheel, the pitch wheel and all the possible automations of course.

But one thing I haven 't found out yet. It's about how to emulate the techniques with the whammy/tremolo bar of electric guitars which can give some really awesome sounds >>> It's stuff like this I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAeD9-J8exk

According to my knowledge a whammy bar is a device on modern electric guitars that allows the player to give or take tension from the chords/strings of the guitar.
Different tension of the strings means that there is (at least) a pitch shift is going on - and as it seems (sounds) it 's a much different pitch shift than normal bendings and vibratos you perform with your own hands directly on the strings.

So what's the big secret of the whammy bar if you want to emulate this in your DAW - or is there something like a special VST plugin for this? 

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Honestly, your best bet would be to get a "whammy pedal" vst. They make whammy pedals that simulate whammy bar dives for guitars that don't have a tremolo arm.

It's as close as you'll probably get without legit whammy samples...Lol "Whammy samples"

Whatever you do though, don't over-use the whammy. Much like overusing the wah pedal, it is one of those unwritten guitarist codes.

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I pride myself on being able to sequence guitar like synth solos, and doing "fake whammys" is something I like doing. Whammy Bars basically just lower the pitch of your guitar. You can go up in pitch as well but going down in pitch is generally what its used for since you can go so much further down than up - About 12 semi-tones down is about right. In my experience, I prefer using the Pitch Bend Wheel - You CAN use legato (thats what I use for "hand bends) but Pitch bending allows for so much more control over what you're doing. Plus, if you're careful, you can use LFO on the pitch while you're using the Pitch Bend to create  descending vibrato, which is quite cool if done properly. If its not fast enough vibrato tho, you just end up fucking up your nice downward pitch bend so you gotta be careful. But yeah, the thing is, a LOT of people use harmonics when doing whammy dive bombs (going down about 7 semitones or more) cause it sounds cool... I have a synth with a formant shifting dial (In the Malstrom Graintable Synthesis Synthesizer in Reason) which emulates those harmonics. Sometimes I'll change the oscillator volume balances to help create a more interesting sound (with distortion, you can get weird effects from any sort of timbre changes).

Honestly? My biggest piece of advice to you is practice practice practice. I don't know of any VSTs that produce that magic sound you're looking for but I know you can do it if you just work at it. 

I'd also suggest you try transcribing some guitar parts that use a lot of whammy stuff - slow it down, get those little details so you can figure out how to sequence it realistically. 

I did this some time ago - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KoGiyzPYbvs - Its an 8-bit version of Eruption - I think its fairly accurate altho I did mess up the tapping section a tad with the amount of triplets compared to the original, but there are LOADS of whammy tricks in here I was able to recreate using the methods I mentioned earlier in the post. Hit me up if you want some more detailed info on it, maybe I could show you what i'm talking about since words only take you so far :P 


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As an addendum to the advice given above, I can offer some info that might help out you with this task - whammy bar affects all 6 (or 7/8) strings differently, e.g. if you lower the bar so that lower E is one tone down, the high E would be like 1/4-1/3 tone down (this probably also depends on the string gauge). Either way, when whammy bar is applied to a chord, it creates a dissonance between the notes, which is a very important characteristic of the whammy bar sound. The dissonance is very pronounced if you're using a distortion guitar sound. Just, if possible, try to apply pitchshifting before distortion in the plugin chain.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've tried some stuff with the whammy bar emulation stuff to get it as realistic as possible.

1) The tip with articulation setting is pretty good. The best results I've got with hammer-ons, tappings, fx guitar sounds and harmonics. Harmonics can be pretty nice to wham out longer notes into silence if don't have an aftertouch function at your midi keyboard (to control the velocity of the key after hitting it).

2) Use a vibrato/LFO on the guitar sound (at my sampler I can set that the vibrato/LFO of the guitar sound with a defined frequency begins 0,7 seconds after playing the note, for example - can also automate that stuff).

3) Bevor you do anything with the pitch wheel make a jump of at least 4 or 5 semitones (upwards or downwards) and keep holding both notes after playing them (don't have to hold the note at harmonics of course) - for example play c2 and jump to f2 (or to fis2 or a2, for example).
A jump from c2 to h2 (or "b2" at international rules) doesn't sound too nice as well - because after b comes c again (no distance of at least 4 or 5 semitones).
If you want to jump between different octaves some combinations sound differently nice (for example - never jump from c3 to e1 and hold the keys - doesn't sound good - but if ya do the jump from e1 to c3 it may sound fairly nice).

4) After doing the jump with hitting the second note/key >>> move the pitch wheel and you'll get some awesome rock guitar whammy sounds.

5) If ya want to have it even more realistic try some volume automations in a similar way the pitch wheel is going to get some tremolo effects like in the video link (there's a pitch AND a volume/tremolo stuff going on - I guess it should be called "pitch tremolo bar" over just "tremolo bar" - maybe the reason they 've found with "whammy bar" a completely different name which is not too long and complicated).  


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Your best bet these days is still to find an actual guitarist to record, but failing that you can get a reasonable approximation if you're using well-made guitar samples. Honestly I'm new to tracking "fake" guitar (a bit out of necessity as I don't have a real one anymore) so I wouldn't know how to emulate whammy beyond a pitch LFO.

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