Ebows: A Comprehensive Guide to E-Bows

Are you interested in learning a quick and ultra cool way of enhancing your music, pushing into new territory, and giving live performances an extra edge? For guitarists everywhere perhaps the answer lies in an Ebow. As far as guitar effects go, this device takes the cake as the most creative and hip tools around.

What is an Ebow?

An Ebow creates a small electro magnetic field around your guitar strings. (Sounds like science fiction, doesn't it?) When held closely to the strings it will vibrate the string for an infinite period of time. The result is a smooth bow like, almost violin sounding note which sounds incredible. After hearing the Ebow for the first time you will immediately begin to realize that this tool has been used in recordings by major artists for years. Artists like the smashing pumpkins, Radiohead, and U2 have extensively used the Ebow. Still can't imagine how it sounds, simply visit www.ebow.com to hear extensive samples of the effect. (review cont'd below)

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EBows in Popular Music:

Without question, the Ebow has been used in a multitude of musical genre's and popular recordings.� For example, the rock band 'Smashing Pumpkins' have extensively recorded and toured lived the with Ebow.� In albums such as Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Machina, and Adore, Billy Corgan and James Iha have both used the Ebow on tracks such as "Stand Inside Your Love", "Soma", "To Sleep", "To Forgive", and "In the Arms of Sleep", to name a few.�

Other alternative bands such as 'Radiohead', 'Nine Inch Nails', 'Soundgarden', 'Pearl Jam', 'U2', have experimented with the Ebow for recording and touring alike.� The legendary 'Metallica' track "Nothing Else Matters" even buzzes during the string sections of the song.

Even classic rock acts such as legendary 'Pink Floyd' have relied on the Ebow to create etheral, sweeping tracks.

How Does the Ebow Work?

The secret behind the EBow is its use of String Synthesis. The device, powered by a 9-volt battery, creates a focused feedback loop directed at a single string. This produces a powerful, infinite sustain, rich in harmonics for incredible sound.�

It's like amplifier feedback in a more compressed sense. As the EBow glides over the guitar pickup, usually the neck pickup, it creates a magnetic field between the EBow and the pickup.

The guitarist can play with a sense of feeling as he/she glides the EBow over the "hot spot," the area in which the EBow and the pickup interact with greatest intensity. Infinite sustain is also introduced into the equation since the EBow can make the string vibrate as long as the guitarist holds it there. The guitarist can make backwards-sounding solos, play blazing arpeggios, and sweep strings with more ease than when using a pick.

The EBow has two modes of play:

The regular or standard mode favors the fundamental tones while the harmonic mode causes the string to react with more upper harmonics. In the harmonic mode, the EBow adds harmonics to every note you play up to the higher registers, where it increases the EBow sustain range. In the standard mode, harmonics can be achieved by sustaining notes fingered near the nut, the first 5 frets or so, on the E, A, D and G strings.

As the EBow is moved away from the pickup and toward the bridge, the string tends to vibrate with more of its upper harmonics. Bends and vibrato help get the harmonics started and add color to the sound. For an even volume response when mixing EBow techniques, back away from the hot spot for sustain, get closer for spiccato, and always hold the EBow directly over the HotSpot for cross-string bowing effects (see next section). This will keep the volume of these techniques about the same and close to your picking volume.�

So how can using the Ebow add to your music?

There are virtually endless applications but most commonly a guitarist can use the Ebow to build intensity to songs and add layers of complexity which are often lacking with the standard guitar-bass-drums setup. Secondly, the Ebow can be used for flowing solo work which can add spice to an album or live performance.

But perhaps the most exciting usage of an Ebow lies in live performances. While guitarists usually are familiar with an Ebow, 99% of non-musicians are not. So when your guitarist picks up this weird looking device, holds it up to his strings, and a violin style solo starts coming out, all eyes are on him. Fans will likely come up to you after a show and ask specifically what in the world that weird thing was.

So as a live performance technique that can add valuable substance to your sound, the Ebow is a solid performer. While it must be used sparingly in order to prevent Ebow overkill, it absolutely turns heads at any show and also adds to the intensity of your songs. A+

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