Mode and frequency control always plays an important role in ultrasonic guided wave applications. In this paper, theoretical understanding of guided wave excitations of axisymmetric sources on plate structures is established. It is shown that a wave number spectrum can be used to investigate the guided wave excitations of an axisymmetric source. The wave number spectrum is calculated from a Hankel transform of the axial source loading profile. On the basis of the theoretical understanding, phased annular array transducers are developed as a powerful tool for guided wave mode and frequency control. By applying appropriate time delays to phase the multiple elements of an annular array transducer, guided wave mode and frequency tuning can be achieved fully electronically. The phased annular array transducers have been successfully used for various applications. Example applications presented in this paper include phased annular arrays for guided wave beamforming and a novel ultrasonic vibration modal analysis technique for damage detection.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.