Join the ranks of guitarists who’re playing EBow guitar with every combination of guitar effects pedals, make, model and age of guitar and amplifier imaginable, as well as other instruments, such as autoharp and banjo. Reviews by guitar players using the Ebow Plus posted on Harmony Central show the many types of guitar music, playing styles and performance venues represented by pickers who’ve added the EBow to their collection of guitar accessories.
The Early EBow Years
EBow technology was invented by Gregory S. Heet of Southern California in 1969 after hearing the guitar sounds of Iron Butterfly and Jimi Hendrix. The first models were built into the guitar but in the mid 70’s the handheld version was developed and the device and its housing were patented in 1978.
EBow circuitry has evolved from auto on-off and less string sensitivity to the latest model’s greater response and two sustain modes of operation.
Jerry Garcia was an early user of the EBow, as well as players in English rock acts, such as Big Country and Genesis, using it to emulate the sound of bagpipes. As the EBow became more well-known, David Bowie and Queen used it, then Tom Petty, Blondie and Blue Oyster Cult adopted it in the U.S. The EBow’s popularity continues to grow and it’s used creatively by a wide variety of musicians in venues all over the world.
Learn How the EBow Works
The technology of the EBow is an ingeniously designed active feedback sustaining system consisting of a magnetic sensor that detects the magnetic field of a single string’s vibration, circuitry to amplify the resultant signal and feed it to an output coil that excites the string to a higher level, creating its sustain. Even if the string isn’t plucked to begin its sound, the EBow’s positive feedback system will stimulate the string to vibrate when placed near it.
The latest EBow Plus model offers both regular and Harmonic Mode, which is achieved by reversing the signal phase to the driving coil. This dampens the string’s fundamental frequency and creates higher harmonic levels for more tonal variation.
Use Ebow Guitar Playing Techniques
The EBow is a very different way of interacting with the guitar than picking or tapping. It’s power and sonic versatility is controlled totally ergonomically. It works with one string at a time while straddling the strings beside it, and you grip it in the picking hand while moving it over and along the strings to create the Ebow’s many sound variations.
Practice these basic movements to get a feel for playing with the EBow:
Slide it along the strings towards and away from the pickup for variations in volume and timbre.
“Fan” it close to and away from the string for swells and fades.
“Scan” it across the strings and tap it on the string for arpeggios and pizzicato passages.
Use other techniques, such as muting strings with your hand and picking while using the EBow.
There’s EBow lessons and tips on their website to help any level of guitar player get the sound of many instruments with diligent practice.
More and more, guitar players are reaching into their guitar cases and grabbing an EBow stashed underneath the picks and polish to embark on a new and exciting musical journey of creativity for them and their audience.
Free Music Apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch
Writing Music With Your Finger Using TonePad
TonePad is a fascinating and extremely easy to use music sequencer application. Writing music only requires a simple finger swipe across the on-screen matrix of small dots representing time from left to right, and pitch from top to bottom. The sequence plays continuously as changes are made, creating an almost minimalist feel to the real-time composition.
There is no control of TonePad’s synth tone. It’s a simple bell-like sound with delay that also adds to the application’s “Steve Reich meets Phillip Glass” atmosphere. In fact, that limitation puts the focus on writing an interesting sequence as supposed to sonic manipulation.
Sequences can be saved and loaded and the current sequence is automatically saved in case the user accidentally closes the application. TonePad is simply an amazing application and definitely worthy of a download.
Twanging on Steel Guitar
Fledgling pedal steel players looking to get their twang on need look no further than Steel Guitar. This free iPhone application does a reasonable job of simulating a host of slide guitars from a six-string lap steel all the way to a ten-string “Nashville” pedal steel. The user simply controls the slide with one thumb and strums or plucks the strings with their other thumb.
Steel Guitar provides good amount of tonal control featuring chorus and reverb effects along with a linear distortion control with four settings. By cranking up the reverb and its feedback setting, it was possible to get something close to the massive pedal steel sound of Yes guitarist, Steve Howe.
The iPhone’s accelerometer is effectively used as a volume pedal and can even be configured to bend strings. Additional settings control the fretboard dimensions, allowing for more of the guitar to appear on the iPhone screen which is necessary since the interface to scroll the fretboard is a bit difficult to use while playing. Steel Guitar is another highly recommended free App Store download.
Ukulele is a simple, yet elegant virtual instrument, featuring four strings that are strummed while eight buttons are used to switch between chords. The sound quality is bright and clear, even using the iPhone’s internal speaker.
User settings control which chords are mapped to the buttons allowing different chord sets to be used for different songs. Additional settings allow both the strings to be oriented in different ways, and the swapping of the chord buttons with a fretboard. Ukulele is another free App Store application just waiting to be downloaded.