march 2009

Keeley''s Crybaby mod, the Mello Wah, offers up a variety of useful tones

Dunlop Eddie Van Halen Signature Wah
The wah pedal holds the distinction of being both one of the most useful pedals you can have on your pedal board and the most obnoxious. Let it be known from this day forward that every funky song does not need to include “wacka-wacka” sounds from the ‘Shaft’ theme song. It just doesn’t, so please stop it or risk being taken out back by The Wah Police. If you can’t afford a Michael Schenker CD, one will be appointed to you.

Keeley Electronics has created a wah mod righteous enough to please persnickety studio cats and gonzo live performers. They have unveiled The Mello Wah, named after studio guitarist Ney Mello. They got hold of a Dunlop Crybaby and tricked it out with bells, whistles, lights and best of all luscious tones.

Switches & Knobs
Added switches and knobs can give some guitarists an anxiety attack, but the Mello Wah is very straightforward. Keeley has only added two switches, one knob and an LED. The inductor switch, located at the toe of the pedal, allows you to toggle between warmer vintage-voiced sounds to the right and a higher-voiced cutting tone to the left.

The knob located on the right side of the unit is a midrange/volume control which allows you to dial in more volume and midrange. Rolling it way back counter clock wise gives you a stock setting while rotating it clock wise gives you the midrange and volume goodies. The toggle switch next to the knob is a three-way bass and resonance booster. The center position gives you the stock sound. The rear position offers the kind of sweep capacitor sounds found in Dunlop’s Jimi Hendrix and Zakk Wylde wahs, while the forward position enables the deep and the low.

The Sound
I took this bad boy to a few different gigs and jam sessions. Using my trusty Performance Frankenstein Strat, I plugged into a ’65 Fender Pro Reverb, a ’82 Marshall JCM 800 and a 50 watt Ceriatone Overtone Special. The stock settings sounded terrific, but as I made little adjustments with the toe switch, I could hear myself pierce through the loud band mix or warm up during softer dynamics. I preferred the vintage right position but as I manipulated the right side toggle switch, I got all kinds of over the top “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” sounds. It never got ridiculous and never wimpy. It reacted wonderfully to my distortion pedals and I like how the midrange/volume knob allowed me to give it more gas. Santana fans will dig the notched “Europa” tones you can squeeze out of it. Another stroke of genius was adding a blue “On” LED placed in the back left corner of the heel. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left my wah on by accident and couldn’t figure out why my guitar sounded funny.

The Final Mojo
I like this wah a lot. True bypass! I appreciate that when I rolled the midrange/volume knob all the way back, I didn’t get a big volume boost. There’s no screech either. For recording, you don’t always need a crazy wah. Sometimes you need a smooth mellow wah tone that doesn’t make noise and this thing works well. If you play in various musical situations and don’t want to carry a bag o’ wahs, The Keeley Mello Wah is the wah for you.
Buy if...
you want a wah with tonal and volume flexibility.
Skip if...
you hate to tweak.

MSRP $269 - Mod $179 - Keeley Electronics -

Goldbug''s handcrafted Hombre & Lenore spare to attention to detail

Another head-turning company that we ran into at NAMM, Goldbug is known for making exquisite handcrafted ornamental hardware for guitars and other fretted instruments. The company’s new guitars, the Lenore and the Hombre (prototype shown), showcase the kind of attention to detail you’re used to seeing in fine jewelry.

The Hombre is described as a Spencer 56–50 Carbine Guitar that celebrates the heritage of the 19th century. It features a Derringer replica and holster, real cartridge control knobs and switch-tip, solid sterling silver hardware, original design “Tru-Tap” pickups, thematic inlays and a hand-rubbed antique rifle stock finish. The fifty-six instruments being made come in a custom military firearms shipping crate. MSRP $11,900.

The Lenore commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe with solid sterling silver hardware, thematic inlays, original design “Tru-Tap” pickups and a hand-rubbed antique violin finish. The forty instruments being made come in a custom “Double-Gun” case. MSRP $12,900.

Quartal Harmony

A look at quartal harmony, comprised of chords constructed by stacking fourths

from Jody Fisher's Mastering Jazz Guitar Chord/Melody
In conventional harmony, we use chords that are constructed primarily from stacking 3rds. In quartal harmony, chords are constructed by stacking 4ths.

Chords built with 4ths have a sort of rootless character, making them rather ambiguous in regard to key centers. They have no standardized names so we will name them with the lowest note of the chord. If the bass is F, and there are a total of three notes a 4th apart, we will call the chord “F quartal 3.” If there are four notes in the stack, we will call it “F quartal 4,” and so on. Quartal chords can be used to harmonize melodies which would ordinarily be harmonized with a minor chord.



Quartal chords can also be used to create tension in a progression.


The previous examples used pure (perfect) 4ths. It is possible to employ what we call diatonic 4ths as well. When harmonizing a major scale in 4ths we need to make adjustments to the chords to stay within the bounds of the diatonic key. In the example below we are building quartal 3 chords in C. Notice that when we come to the seventh degree of the scale we use a Bb to make an augmented 4th instead of a Bb, which would make a “pure” perfect 4th. We make this adjustment to stay in key since there is no Bb in the C scale. At times you might find it preferable to use chords built from “diatonic” 4ths. It’s really a matter of taste, so experiment.

The following chart shows the chord shapes for the quartal chords in C, and what happens when we invert these shapes.