Girish Mahajan (Editor)


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The EBow or ebow is a brand name of Heet Sound Products, of Los Angeles, California, for the original type of monophonic handheld electromagnetic string driver, invented by Greg Heet in 1969, first introduced in 1976, and patented in 1978. The name Ebow stands for "Electronic Bow" or Energy Bow) (often spelled E-bow in common usage). The EBow is a battery-powered electronic device for playing the electric guitar. The EBow uses a pickup – inductive string driver – feedback circuit, including a sensor coil, driver coil, and amplifier, to induce forced string vibrations. The Ebow is monophonic, and drives one string at a time, producing a sound reminiscent of using a bow on the strings.



In 1976, Heet Sound introduced the first EBow at the NAMM Show. It featured an internal, string vibration triggered automatic power switch, a chromium-plated ABS plastic shell, a red LED power indicator, and a police-style form fitted black leather holster, embossed with the Ebow logotype. In later years, five subsequent Ebow models were introduced, all of which consisted of internal variations of the original Ebow circuit and actuator coils, as well as color changes to the original plastic shell and Ebow logotype, both of which remained essentially unaltered since the introduction of the Ebow, with the exception of the addition of an external power switch on the back. The latest Ebow model is the "Plus Ebow", which is switchable between "standard mode" and "harmonic mode".

Since the 1990s, various manufacturers have introduced string drivers for guitar and bass, including hand held monophonic and polyphonic string drivers, as well as built-in and surface mounted types, commonly referred to as "Sustainers" or "Resonators", such as Fernandes Guitars (G-401), Sustainiac (Stealth Pro3), and "gooseneck" microphone stand mounted types (Vibesware Guitar Resonators ).

Function and Use

The EBow is used to produce a variety of sounds not usually playable on an electric guitar. These sounds are created by a string driver that gets its input signal by an internal pickup, which works like a guitar pickup. Its output signal is amplified and drives the other coil, which amplifies the string vibrations. With this feedback loop the player can create a continuous string vibration. Fading in and out by lowering and raising the EBow is also possible.

Harmonic mode

Starting with the current generation of EBow (PlusEBow, the 4th edition EBow), the user also gains an additional mode known as harmonic mode, which produces a higher harmonic sound instead of the fundamental note. This is achieved by reversing the signal phase to the driving coil, which damps the string's fundamental frequency and creates higher harmonics.

Style Range

Many different artists have used the EBow in a wide variety of musical styles. One of the first notable users was Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, who used the device on "Carpet Crawlers" from the band's 1974 album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Another early pioneer of EBow playing was Max Sunyer, who used it in a 1978 live album Iceberg en directe, recorded and released in Spain. It was used later on by Bill Nelson, who introduced it to Stuart Adamson of The Skids. Adamson went on to use it with Big Country, specifically in their song "In a Big Country".

The EBow is frequently used by Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien in studio and for live performances of songs such as "Talk Show Host" and "Nude" and "My Iron Lung", "Where I End and You Begin" and the live version of "Jigsaw Falling into Place".

It has also been used on Opeth's 2001 album Blackwater Park, to create ambient background melodies. Blondie has used it on several songs including "Fade Away and Radiate" and "Cautious Lip".

In the 1980s The Bongos used the EBow in the intro of their song "Numbers With Wings" and also in "River To River", "Miss Jean", "Glow", "Flew A Falcon" and "Sweet Blue Cage". Frontman Richard Barone continues to use an EBow on his subsequent solo recordings and much of his production work including his songs "Love is a Wind that Screams" and his cover of T.Rex's "The Visit". [1]

Besides its appearance in rock and jazz music, the EBow also made its way in the domain of contemporary art music, being used by John Cage in his harp piece A Postcard from Heaven (1982), Karlheinz Essl in Sequitur VIII (2008) for electric guitar and live-electronics, Elliott Sharp on SFERICS (1996), Arnold Dreyblatt in E-Bow Blues (1998) and David First in A Bet on Transcendence Favors the House (2008).

Alternative Use

Although the EBow is most commonly played on the electric guitar, because of its ease of use and the responsiveness obtainable from the pickup, many artists have experimented with the EBow on other types of guitars and string instruments to various effect. While the EBow is not normally used with the electric bass guitar, which has heavier strings, Michael Manring (who uses light bass strings) uses it on his 1995 album Thönk. He has also been known to use two at once. Another instrument that the EBow is sometimes used on is the steel-string acoustic guitar. For example, guitarist David Gilmour of Pink Floyd used one on his Gibson J-200 acoustic in their 1994 song "Take It Back". Generally an acoustic guitar gives a limited response for varying reasons, including the density and spacing of the guitar strings. But despite these limitations, using an EBow on an acoustic guitar gives a rich, flute- and clarinet-like tone with a slow-swelling response.

Steve Rothery of Marillion has used the Ebow in a number of tracks, including on the 1985 UK Number One album Misplaced Childhood, the song "The King of Sunset Town" and the ending part of "Seasons End", both from the 1989 Seasons End album, and also throughout the song "You're Gone" from the 2004 Marbles album.

Composer Luciano Chessa employs EBows regularly in his music for solo Vietnamese đàn bầu. Furthermore, an EBow can also be utilised on a grand piano (with depressed sustain pedal) to create sustained sinusoidal sounds as it was used by Cor Fuhler in De Lamp, de Knijper en het Molentje (1991), Olga Neuwirth in Hooloomooloo (1997) and Karlheinz Essl in Sequitur XIII (2009) for extended piano and live-electronics.

Other notable users

This is a partial list of only notable performers who have used an EBow in at least three of their songs and who were not mentioned in the text above.

  • Broadway orchestrator William David Brohn used the EBow to extensive effect in the orchestrations for the musicals Wicked and Mary Poppins.
  • Jonny Buckland from Coldplay used it in the songs "Amsterdam", "Spies", "See You Soon", and "Oceans".
  • Billy Corgan and James Iha of The Smashing Pumpkins used EBows on the songs "Thru the Eyes of Ruby", "Sinfony", "Soma", "Drown", "Perfect", "Daphne Descends", "Stand Inside Your Love", "Speed Kills" as well as in many live versions of songs.
  • The Edge of U2 used an EBow on the studio and live versions of "The Unforgettable Fire". During the Joshua Tree and Lovetown tours, he used it on their hit song "With or Without You", replacing the Infinite Guitar used on the original studio recording. He has also used guitars with "sustainer" pickups and effects in live performances.
  • Paul Reynolds, formerly of A Flock of Seagulls, used it extensively with A Flock of Seagulls, most noticeably on "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)".
  • Rob Dean of Japan used it on Quiet Life and Gentlemen Take Polaroids.
  • John Haughm of Agalloch used an EBow on the songs "Odal", "Limbs" "Sowilo Rune", and "Faustian Echoes".
  • Guitarist John Ellis has used the EBow frequently. Some of his performances include the extensive EBow-aided guitar parts on the Judge Smith album Curly's Airships and on his own 2013 album Sly Guitar.
  • Vinnie Moore used an EBow in the songs "Rain", "The Maze", "In the Healing Garden", "Fear and Trepidation", "Over My Head", and "Into the Sunset" in the studios and during live performances.
  • Paul Stanley of KISS used an E-bow on his first solo album, Paul Stanley, in 1978.
  • John Petrucci used an EBow on the Dream Theater song "Space-Dye Vest" from the album Awake. He has also used it on the tracks "Finally Free", "Disappear", and "The Ministry of Lost Souls".
  • Eddie Vedder used the EBow in the Pearl Jam songs "Wishlist", "Rearviewmirror", and "World Wide Suicide".
  • Munaf Rayani of the post-rock band Explosions in the Sky used the EBow in various songs, including "The Moon Is Down" and "Be Comfortable, Creature".
  • Stuart Adamson of Big Country used the Ebow for various tracks on the albums The Crossing, Steeltown, The Seer and Peace in Our Time. The Ebow was a major contributor to the band's sound being labelled with the bagpipe tag, much to the frustration of guitarist Bruce Watson.
  • Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit used the EBow on songs like "Hold on" for ambience and manipulated the feedback in the intro of "Boiler" with it.
  • Russell Lissack of Bloc Party used an EBow on the songs "Song for Clay", "Uniform" and "Biko".
  • Peter Buck of R.E.M. used an EBow on several songs, including "Walk Unafraid" from the album Up, and "E-Bow the Letter" from the album New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
  • Georg Hólm of Sigur Rós used an EBow in various songs, including "Untitled #6" from the ( ) album.
  • References

    EBow Wikipedia

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