On this day in 1956, experimental guitar builder Leo Fender was granted the patent for what we know today as the “whammy bar” – or, the “Tremolo Device for Stringed Instruments” (wrongly named since it is a actually a vibrato device).
The bar was released with Fender’s Stratocaster, a guitar Leo had invented a few years prior. Since the early 1930s, numerous vibrato systems for guitar had been developed. They bar is used to add vibrato to the sound by changing the tension of the strings at the bridge of the electric guitar. You are able to create a change in the pitch, create vibrato and create a portamento/pitch bend effect with the device.
Famous musicians who are known for their whammy bar skills include Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Dimebag Darrell, and Richie Blackmore.
If you’d like to purchase an original 1956 Fender whammy bar, they are selling online for more than $600 these days.