Lesson 10 - Using the Vibrato Arm to Spice Up Your Playing

A vibrato system on a guitar makes it possible to vibrate whole chords, drasticly change pitch of the strings making the guitar sound like a motocycle, while slightly and swiftly pressing the lever can help to add an unusual accent to a played note.

vibrato arm (whammy bar) - picture 1
vibrato arm (whammy bar) - picture 2

The vibrato arm is also often called a whammy bar as well as incorrecly a tremolo bar (it has nothing to do with any tremolo).

Not all electric guitars have a vibrato system. It depends on a specific model of the guitar. For example most Les Paul and Fender Telecaster guitars do not have it.

Also, whammy bars are very good for performing regular string vibrato, vibrating natural harmonics that is not possible to do with a finger, and make it easy to vibrate bent strings.

Basic vibrato arm tricks are dip and dive.


To perform a dip, take any note or a power chord and while the string(s) ring lightly and quickly push and release the lever.

video examples


Dives performed similar to the dips, but you should press the lever much deeply making the strings dramatically reduce their pitch.

On some guitars dips and dives can also be performed in inverted lever position so in time of pushing on it the strings will raise their pitch instead of lowering (this works only with two way "floating" bridges like Floyd Rose)

With a two way floating bridge you can also lift the pitch in a usual whammy bar position by pulling up the lever.

Tablature Notation for Whammy Bar Tricks:

In text-based guitar tabs the dip and dive have the following notation:

\n/ - dip
\n  - dive

/n\ - inverted dip

/n  - return

 n/ - whammy bar up

"n" is a number of semitones to change pitch to.

They also can be marked as a text within a tab such as: dive w/bar, dip w/bar and etc...

It's not that important to play exactly how it's written in a tab, be free to play how you feel it, what sounds well is good.

In guitar magazines and books dip and dive marked as:

whammy bar dip - tablature notation
Inverted Dip
whammy bar inverted dip - tablature notation
whammy bar dive - tablature notation
Dive and Return
whammy bar dive and return - tablature notation

The little number near the line or a V-lik shape indicates how low or high the pitch should be changed with a vibrato arm. (The same thing as "n" character in text-based tablatures)

Also it can be just a line without a number.

whammy bar dive and return - tablature notation

In this case an author means "just dive" doesn't matter exactly how deep.