So there you are, sitting in from of your digital recorder, trying to work out an overdub. Problem is, you keep going back to the same stock phrases. The same thing happens at practice when, while running through your band’s newest song, you suddenly realize you’re falling back on all your old, familiar tricks.
We all fall into creative ruts once in a while, and while opinions on the cause may vary, everyone seems to agree that nothing breaks you out of a funk like a cool new toy. And while that ’68 Strat in the store window could certainly get you excited again, the right effect could actually improve or expand your playing style, and it wouldn’t cost you nearly as much.
Enter the ZVex Seek Wah. The brainchild of a lunatic genius named Zachary Vex and manufactured in Minneapolis by his company, Z. Vex, the Seek Wah ($300 – $350) is part tremolo, part wah-wah, part analog sequencer and part something entirely new. To get an idea of what it does, think of what a wah-wah pedal sound like when you’re not rocking it back and forth. If the pedal is left in a high position, the sound is shrill and pinched, while in a low position, it’s muffled. Now imagine eight wah-wah pedals laid out in a circle, with your signal passing from one to the next, looping around and around. That, in short, is the sound of the Seek Wah.
Packed into a two-by-four-inch housing, the Seek Wah has eight tiny knobs with which you dial in a setting for each of the eight wah filters. A tempo knob lets you set the rate at which the signal loops through the filter, and a three-way toggle switch lets you choose whether the signal loops through a sequence of four, six or eight filters.
Thanks to this high level of control, you can instantly create mind-bendingly complex and shimmering vibratos, slow echo-like pulses or all varieties of time tremolo. The looping creates a rhythm of tonal peaks and valleys, something that makes the Seek Wah particularly useful and inspiring for songwriters. Allowing the Seek Wah to set the rhythm can create polyrhythms you might not have thought of on your own, let alone been able to execute.
One of the Seek Wah’s unique quirks is that all the rotary knobs work counter-intuitively: turning to the right “closes” the filter up, deadening the sound, and turning to the left “opens” it, giving you that classic wah bite. A row of flashing LEDs under the filter knobs gives a visual picture of the sequence, and the relative brightness of each one is a reflection of that particular filter setting.
We found the Seek Wah was best suited to simple playing and sustained chords; fast picking and strumming tend to get lost, especially when the unit’s tempo is set high. Although the “backward” controls took some getting used to, it was easy to design a specific rhythm with the unit, as if it were a drum machine. By setting the Seek Wah for a sequence of four wah filters, we created a standard backbeat by setting the first and third wah controls at three o’clock and the second and fourth at eight o’clock. This was apparently what Z. Vex had in mind when they provided the Seek Wah with the three-way sequence switch. The six-filter setting works well with songs that are in ¾ or 6/8, and the eight-filter setting is good for all variations of 4/4.
The Seek Wah runs on a single 9-volt battery and, like all Z. Vex effects, is entirely hand-made and works as a true bypass when not activated. The unit comes in a colorfully hand-painted housing, adding one more level of individuality to this most-unique effect. Musician’s Friend: New Products
The End Line
In a perfect world, the Seek Wah’s already numerous knobs would have as additional companions controllers for effect blend and output level. These would make it more flexible in live situations. But near-perfect is entirely close enough, and even with its steep price tag, the Seek Wah is a must-have. http://www.stevesmusiccenter.com.
ZVex Seek Wah
Originally published on: Nov 24, 2008 @ 04:37