Author: Mark at Instrument Geek
The e bow guitar is a fantastic little gadget for instruments that use metal strings + pickups designed for the guitar (it works with other instruments as well though). You’ve definitely heard it be used before but might never have realized where the sound effect was coming from. Pretty much every guitarist in the industry has owned one at some point or has at least played with one. The tool works by forcing strings to vibrate in a crescendo-like way so that the sound gradually gets louder until it hits its peak. The sound is reminiscent of stringed instruments like the violin that are played using bows, which is the reason why it’s called the ebow. With that in mind, it produces a very interesting sound that’s still very unique. They’re easy to use but do take a little getting used to.
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They’re manufactured by Heet Sound and were first introduced at NAMM (the biggest music industry trade show) in 1976; according to them, their very first client was Jerry Garcia and he bought 3! Since then there have been small improvements done every now and then to the gadget, but there aren’t that many models to choose from. They might seem to be relatively expensive but it’s not without merit, they’re incredibly well built and seem to last forever. The only maintenance required is a change of batteries every once in a while.
Styles of music played with the e bow guitar
The e bow guitar produces a unique ambient sound that can be utilised for different styles of music. Genesis, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Dream theater, Paul Stanley (Kiss), Blondie, Pearl Jam, U2, A Flock of Seagulls, Cold Play, The Smashing Pumpkins, and many many more artists all utilized the guitar ebow some way in their music. The gadget might come off as gimmicky at first, but the bottom line is that the guitar ebow actually has a very cool use in music and is a standard tool used by many in the industry.