Kirk Hammett Explains Why He Uses Wah Pedal So Much: ’I Don’t Care What Anyone Says’

Since Metallica are currently promoting their new album “72 Seasons,” it was only a matter of time before someone would ask Kirk Hammett about his wah pedal use. And that’s exactly what Guitar World did in a recently published interview excerpt. According to Kirk, the effect gives him more expressive power. He explained:

“The wah enables me to mirror the inner voice in my head and in my heart. That’s what I’m hearing. All these manipulated notes and tones, because that’s what the human voice is like.”

“We cycle through all these different tones and frequencies when we speak. When I step on that wah pedal and hear that click… Well, I’m hearing that clicking in my brain and in my heart at the same time.”

And, to no surprise, Hammett also added that he “can’t think of anybody who uses the wah pedal as much as I do.” On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to really care what other people think about that, explaining:

“I don’t care what anyone fuckin’ says. If I feel like stepping on the wah pedal, I step on the fuckin’ wah pedal, because it brings me closer to what I’m hearing internally. And that’s the whole point of gear – to help bring the thing you hear internally out into the external world.”

There’s been a lot of commotion surrounding Metallica’s new material, starting with the release of the album’s first single “Lux Æterna” late last year. In particular, many guitar-focused music lovers complained about Kirk’s lead parts on “72 Seasons.” While complaints vary, we could say that the consensus is on these lead parts being a little repetitive, uninspired, and just not fitting their respective songs.

Metallica: Lux Æterna (Official Music Video)

Hammett addressed some of these complaints in a recent interview. However, he focused on some of the critiques about how, supposedly, his solos weren’t virtuosic enough. Regarding the “Lux Æterna” solo, Kirk said:

“Yeah, my fucking friends down the street could probably play a better solo than ‘Lux Æterna’ – but what’s the point. For me, what’s appropriate is playing for the song and playing in the moment.”

He also added:

“I was just laughing the whole time. I could string together like six or seven three-octave arpeggios in 16th notes, sit there every day and practice it and go, ‘Hey, look what I can do!’ but where am I gonna put it? That won’t work in any Metallica song!“

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“Arpeggios? Come on! In a guitar solo, mapped out like a lot of people do, four or five chords with a different arpeggio over each one? It sounds like an exercise. I don’t want to listen to exercises and warm-ups every time I hear a song.” 

As he further adds, there was no point to push the sweep-picking parts in there, saying:

“Sweeping to me is a weird thing to begin with because sweeping’s incredibly easy but it sounds incredibly hard. That’s cool once or twice, but I mean, why do it? When it first came out in the late ’70s, by the early ’80s everyone was doing it. By not doing it, you stood out.”

Another thing Kirk addressed was the issue of his minor pentatonic scale use. But as he explained, he did that on purpose:

“I know my modes, Hungarian scales, symmetrical scales, I know all that shit. Is it appropriate? Maybe earlier in our time, but not now. What’s more appropriate is coming up with melodies that are more like vocal melodies. And guess what? The best scale for mimicking vocal melodies is the pentatonic.”

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“It’s actually harder to say stuff with pentatonics because you don’t have that many notes. It’s easier to play modal. I will challenge anyone on that.”

“I love from the heart playing, and I’ve heard real technical playing that’s from the heart. Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Yngwie – they all play from the heart, but for a lot of guys it’s just like sports or the Olympics.“

“Music is to reflect beauty, creativity, feeling, life. There is a place and there’s an audience for all that stuff, but I feel there comes a time when people just get tired of that.“

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“Today, you know, people are doing really interesting stuff with technique. Technique is reaching new boundaries and I love that, but I have to stress it’s important to play for the song. If you do that, your music will have that much more integrity and lasting power.”

Guitar YouTuber Bradley Hall, whose alternative take to the “Lux Æterna” solo went viral, addressed this particular Kirk’s interview. In fact, it was most likely the sweep-filled lead part that he proposed that Kirk addressed in the interview. But Hall clarified the issue:

“People are not mocking him and his solos because they’re not hard to play. People are mocking him because the solos sound lazy and completely throwaway.”

Metallica “Lux Æterna” Live on the Howard Stern Show

“This is the most common deflection that people use when they’re criticizing their playing. It’s not about who can play the most complicated solo, he’s missing the point, the point of the criticism.”

“I think most people understood what I was trying to do with this video. But some missed the point, of course, including Kirk, I guess. It was not to try and one-up him… That’s cringe. Like, who cares?”

“The idea of the video was just to try and show what could have been done if you just paid a bit more attention to what’s going on in the backing. You know, like follow the riff and the rhythms and chords and all that stuff. You know, things that you should do when a good memorable solo.”

Metallica: Lux Æterna (Los Angeles, CA - December 16, 2022) (MetOnTour Edit)

“Kirk’s original solo — I can kind of see what he was going for. He just wanted sort of a raw off-the-wall unhinged kind of sound. But that’s not that sort of song. That solo would sound more in place in like a really thrashy sort of Slayer song.”

Photo: Carlos Rodríguez/Andes (Kirk Hammett 2016), Massimo Barbieri (Cry Baby wah-wah)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.