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Will Ray's Bottom Feeder: Cry Baby Wah Guitar

Will Ray's Bottom Feeder: Cry Baby Wah Guitar
The builder of the Cry Baby guitar left its electronic guts exposed, like “a badge of courage,” says Bottom Feeder Will Ray. The circuit board, coil of wire, and 9V battery propel the theremin.

A common stompbox gets a weird upgrade.

I must admit I’m a bit of a sucker for oddball guitars. When I saw this baby on eBay, I had to do a double take. Was this actually a working guitar made out of a Cry Baby Wah pedal? And did it really have a built-in theremin? What mad scientist built this thing?

As I examined the pictures carefully, everything to make a guitar seemed to be there. It had a neck bolted to the pedal chassis, a T-style pickup, a volume control, an S-type bridge, and an output jack. Plus, don’t forget the built-in theremin! The builder also left all the electronics totally exposed and visible from the front, like a badge of courage.

With a neck anchored by a metal plate and a bridge held in place by sheet metal screws and a shop-formed steel protrusion, this weirdo guitar is solidly constructed.

The auction had a “Buy-It-Now” of $129.99 with only $10.97 shipping. But it also said, “Or Best Offer,” so I thought about it and sent an offer of $105. A few hours later I received a notice from eBay that the seller had accepted my offer. Cool!
Bottom Feeder Tip #112: When making an offer, try not to lowball it too much or you might insult the seller, in which case he might not even respond.

A photo of the guitar on eBay inspired a double take—and an “Or Best Offer” posting inspired a savings of $25
off the initial asking price.

I received the guitar a few days later. The action was a tad high, but the S-style bridge allowed me to lower the action with plenty of room to spare. I also raised the pickup a bit closer to the strings. I was pleasantly surprised with how well this guitar was built. The neck felt solidly anchored to the wah pedal via a metal plate. The bridge felt solid because it was bolted to a metal protrusion using heavy-duty sheet metal screws. Usually these mad-scientist creations use whatever spare parts are laying around the workbench, but this guitar looked like the builder knew a lot about not only guitar construction, but also about machine shops. And the intonation, which I feared would be squirrelly, was spot on. The theremin had a switch to activate it, tripping a little yellow sensor, and its own output, too. A 9V battery, a small coil of wire, and a tiny circuit board got it kicking. In general, this was a well-thought-out guitar seemingly built by an experienced guitar maker. It was a joy to behold.

Thanks to its S-style bridge, it was easy to lower the action on the guitar after it arrived, getting the strings closer to
its single-coil T-style pickup.

So how did the guitar sound plugged in? Surprisingly good, considering all the metal on the body. Hey—it’s a wah pedal with a neck. Check out my sound sample. I have to say, though, it’s a difficult guitar to play. My right hand had trouble doing any kind of precision picking. There was very little real estate for my picking hand to anchor itself on. The action for the left hand is nice and low, and it’s easy to make chords on the fretboard. And the theremin? In a word: terrible. Listen to my sound sample and judge for yourself. It’s really whiney, high-pitched, and obnoxious sounding, and totally unusable. But I wasn’t expecting much from the theremin anyway.

So is it a keeper? Yeah, for now. Whenever I show it to someone, it always gets a wow, followed by a laugh.