We all know about djent by now – the metal genre named after a specific guitar tone that sounds like ‘djent djent djent’ – but you need only to look at the wah wah pedal to know that guitarists have long been hip to the joys of onomatopoeia. We also talk about ‘jangle,’ ‘crunch,’ ‘chug’ and ‘chunk,’ all words that sound like the things they’re describing. But I think we should go further. I think there should be an onomatopoeia for every sound a guitar makes. So here are a few suggestions.
It’s the sound of a wah wah being used to hover loosely around a specific frequency rather than rocked back and forth to its extremes. It’s almost impossible to make this kind of sound without also making the appropriate mouth shapes. Joe Satriani is the master of this. Check out the video for “Summer Song” for proof, especially throughout the solo that starts at 1:55. (Here’s Satch’s signature Vox wah).
The pickslide deserves its own name. Sure, ‘pickslide’ is how you achieve the sound, but it’s not what the sound is. If that was how we were going to name guitar stuff, you might as well call the wah wah the ‘foot move’ pedal, or call fingertapping …finger …tapping. Oh. Okay, well I guess we need to come up with a new name for fingertapping too. In the meantime, there are some great kiwws in “Rocket” by Def Leppard.
A downtuned open string, hit at a strategic time, and maybe picked a little too hard or with too light a string gauge for the tuning, so the note kind of drifts into tune after starting a little bit sharp. LIke at :05 in Mastodon’s “Oblivion.” “Dude, that riff’s kinda killer but it’d be really killer if you threw in a goong.
“Wakka,” “Wikka,” “Chikka,” “Kooka”
You can achieve a pretty wide range of sounds from a muted clean guitar and a wah wah pedal, but most of them hinge on a “Ka” sound at the end. You can hear a whole smorgasbord of them, a grand buffet of muted clean wah work, in Trey Spruance’s playing during the intro of Faith No More’s “Evidence.”
Got any more?