Top 10 Wah Guitar Riffs

What are the best wah-riffs of all time? That's what UG readers voted on this week - see the results here.

Ultimate Guitar

This week we asked UG readers to nominate and vote for their favorite wah guitar riffs of all time. The wah pedal (which in many cases is probably the award-winning Cry Baby by Dunlop) is one of the most original and easily identified guitar effects in the world. Nothing sounds cooler, and few sounds transcend genres so easily as the wah pedal.

But who uses it best? See the results of our weekly poll right here, and let us know if you agree in the comments.

10. Joe Satriani "Surfing with the Alien"

The title track of Satriani's beloved second album is about the comic character the Silver Surfer, and is one of the most downloaded songs for "Guitar Hero" ever. One of Satriani's most popular solos, he recorded it through a wah, Tubedriver and Eventide 949s. When the latter effect broke down, they were never able to recreate the exact same sound again, thus tripling its legacy.

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9. Dire Straits "Money for Nothing"

Interesting entry at number 9 - this song is probably better known for its "innovative" video featuring computer animation which was a massive hit on MTV back in the day. Today it looks decidedly more dated, but it's a good nostalgia trip and the wah tone is iconic to some.

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8. Dream Theater "Home"

Is this a wah pedal, or a talk box? Either way, the sound is awesomely aggressive and a centrepiece of one of Dream Theater's best albums.

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7. Isaac Hayes "Shaft"

The funk genre adopted the wah pedal is if it were its own, and their marriage produced some of the most enjoyable mainstream music of the 20th century. Hayes' "Shaft" theme is a great example of the snappy sound that a good sharp wah effect can produce.

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6. Pearl Jam "Even Flow"

The band never felt that they nailed the recording of this song, the second single from their debut album. It was written by Stone Gossard, but lead guitarist McCready Said: "That's me pretending to be Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a feeble attempt at that ... I tried to steal everything I know from Stevie Ray Vaughan and put it into that song. A blatant rip-off."

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5. Alice in Chains "Man in a Box"

Another talk box example, but it sounds so close that you can't blame it for earning a spot in our top 10 wah guitar riffs. It's not often you can actually sing along to a guitar.

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4. Black Sabbath "N.I.B."

Geezer Butler opens this song with a bit of lovely wah on a big, rich bass sound. The song is about Lucifer, which obviously freaked a few parents out back in the 1970s, but the band swear it's about the devil turning into a good person. Honest, guv.

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3. Metallica "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

The intro is often mistaken for an electric guitar. But nay; it is late bassist Cliff Burton driving a bass guitar into a wah pedal. Proof that a bit of creativity can go a long way, even with the most simple musical tools.

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2. Rage Against the Machine "Bulls on Parade"

We've already covered how funk adopted the wah pedal to great effect, so when a rock band like RATM with their bevy funk root take it on, you know something special will happen. Here's the result.

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1. Jimi Hendrix "Voodoo Child"

If anything else came in first place, we'd have to scold you. Hendrix always deserved to win this, and probably introduced the whole idea of how awesome wah-pedals are to music fans. It wasn't actually released as a single until after his death, but it's one of his best-known songs - largely thanks to that iconic wah intro.

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Do you agree with the final results How would you change them? Let us know what you think in the comments.

120 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Bullshit! Rain When I die by Alice in Chains had more votes than their other song, Man in the Box.
    They should've put "Dirt" or "Rain When I Die" instead of "Man In The Box". I mean there's nothing bad about the riff, but it isn't a wah riff(and yes I know they already stated that).
    Why would you put a talkbox riff on here?
    I'm not sure about the Dream Theater one because I'm not gonna listen to that, but I'm almost positive now that Man in the Box features both talkbox and wah.
    "Because im not gonna listen to that" All credibility lost
    Dream Theater is an incredibly talented band, but the quality of their material isn't really on par with their skills. I've actually heard that song before, but I'm not gonna listen to the whole 13 minutes of it again just to hear what wah/talkbox part they're complaining about.
    I'm kind of surprised that the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren't up here. But hey, no loss on my part.
    What about Tales of brave ullysses by cream? That was pretty influential...
    My thoughts exactly Tales of Brave Ulysses was released a year before Voodoo Child and man does it have some heavy and great use of a wah pedal on a simple yet tasty lick.
    If you watch the documentary about the wah-pedal (Cry baby: the pedal that rocks the world) you will find out that Man in the box is indeed a wah riff and they put talkbox with it. Or you could just use your ****ing ears...
    great list. But I think Pearl Jam Even Flow deserved to be up higher!!! And Voodoo Child wins as we all predicted, obvious choice...
    I dunno, I was expecting Dazed and Confused. Hell, I would have taken it at second, but...
    No Civil War?! Slash has probably written more wah riffs than any other guitarist. The song Shine from Shakepit has a killer wah slide riff.
    Wow, and here I was thinking I was one of the only people that loved that album. Nice call, and Shine would be great for this list.
    No Mr Brownstone and no Dazed and Confused really? Other than those being omitted cant disagree, also surprised nothing from Frusciante
    Good list, I like AIC's "Dirt" more, that wah riff throughout the song gives it an awesome dark atmosphere. Another one I'll add that I didn't see in the nominations yesterday is "Fools Gold" by the Stone Roses. A lot of cool fills throughout the song that use a wah pedal... live versions sound even better.
    Definitely way too late to the party, but Peace Frog by The Doors is pretty tasty, even if it is just a G5 chord over and over. Was surprised to not even see it get a mention in the voting page.
    Seeing as no one else has said it (which is just criminal): Awesome to see Dire Straits on the list!
    To this day, they are still a very underrated band. Knopfler really knows how to rake.
    Oh snap I should have voted, Electric Funeral should have been up there. NIB is pretty cool though, but I would have thought if it's going to be anything Sabbath, surely 'Leci Funeral. Bah! One vote never made a difference.
    Surprisingly good list . But still a bunch of people will complain. They will be like "oh where is (insert underground rare song that only they know)?"
    Sepultura, Slash, Porcupine Tree, Hypocrisy are sooooo underground
    Where the hell is Electric Funeral by Sabbath??? There were so many mentions of it!!! If you are counting only thumbs up and not individual mentions to add up the votes then I'm sorry UG your list is flawed!
    Didn't Electric Funeral get a huge amount of votes as well? Oh well, still pretty glad that two of my nominations made the list, and it's a decent one, too.
    Yeah I noticed that too Electric Funeral had more votes than N.I.B so kinda bummed that it did not make the list
    not saying this deserves to be on the list, but the intro bass-wah effect in "Falling Into Grace" by the Chili Peppers is one of the coolest things I have ever heard
    ah man i was really hoping to see electric funeral.. electric funeral is what started it all metal for me
    I have a great sleeper Wah song that is worthy of this list: "Crack Hitler" Faith No More, Angeldust
    Not enough funk. Wanted to see RHCP pop up, but a good list nethertheless. Agreed with UG though, funk is where wah came into it's element
    Dnt know about "Money for Nothing" the entire song is a biiiiig solo... And There's no Wah in the main riff.... GREAT SONG though....