March 5, 2001 5:49 AM   Subscribe

E-Bow A nifty electric guitar effect that replaces the pick. Ignore the visuals. Instead, give it a listen.
posted by plinth (17 comments total)
Now that brings back memories: I had an ebow about 20 years ago. Thought it would turn me into Robert Fripp. I liked it, but it was difficult to master; it felt like trying to play "Chopsticks" with a Theramin.
posted by lileks at 6:09 AM on March 5, 2001

Ah, don't forget R.E.M.'s song, "E-bow The Letter".
posted by hijinx at 6:16 AM on March 5, 2001

as lileks mentioned, the E-bow has been around for decades. it's a real beeyatch to learn -- takes a very steady hand to do it right. i have one (and got pretty good with it at one time) but never use it; it's in the closet along with my Mutron Bi-Phase and MXR Envelope Follower. Cool sounds, limited usefulness.
posted by cfj at 6:32 AM on March 5, 2001

Guitar wonktastic.

In related news, the Brook Infinite Guitar used by The Edge in "With Or Without You" was basically an attempt to implement the Ebow effect within the pickup itself. (After all, the Ebow's basically an inverted pickup -- the dynamo to the pickup's motor -- turning electromagnetic energy into kinetic energy.)

I'd rather stick with my Cry Baby, though.
posted by holgate at 6:49 AM on March 5, 2001

Probably the most noted use of the E-bow was by the Scottish band Big Country. They were big back in the 80's, when anthemic rock (U2, The Alarm) was the rage. They used it for a bagpipe-ish sound.
posted by gimli at 6:51 AM on March 5, 2001

You know, I still can't get mine to make my guitar sound like the cello-toned beast that appears on the tape that comes with the Ebow. They're still interesting, but I find 'em a little too difficult for rawk-action shenanigans. But then, I'm more basic chord chunk than frippertronics, meself.

Actually, a much more interesting doohickey for guitarists is the Third Hand Capo. It's a normal capo, except it selectively mutes strings. It can do the equivalent of fretting a chord, leaving you free to noodle around wankily. (If you're me, that is.)
posted by captainfez at 8:52 AM on March 5, 2001

i guess it all depends on the type of music you make. i saw archer prewitt of the sea and cake use one last week and it was a beautiful thing... hey cfj, wanna get rid of those closet clutterers?
posted by afro at 9:12 AM on March 5, 2001

Big Black made excellect use of the E-bow as well. Anybody have a Harmonic Percolator?
posted by thirteen at 9:38 AM on March 5, 2001

Archer Prewitt is a genius! You all should check out his solo records.
posted by josh at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2001

Effects just keep getting better and cheaper. I had read some reviews of the DigiTech RP200, and could not believe that it did what they claimed for less than $200. So a month or so ago I tried one out and was completely blown away. By then the price was down to $140 and they couldn't keep them on the shelves, so I got it. It's great, especially if you're on a tight budget. There are better products out there, but I've never seen anything close to this much bang for the buck.
posted by gimli at 9:59 AM on March 5, 2001

"Archer Prewitt is a genius! You all should check out his solo records."

Yes he is and yes you should.

Also, Big Country was great. Which statement may or may not have completely discredited my Archer Prewitt suggestion.
posted by jennyb at 10:00 AM on March 5, 2001

Along with Albini, my favorite effects maniacs include Helios Creed, Paul Leary, Andy Gill, and Adrian Belew (who has been known to use a vibrator to get an E-bowlike effect.)
posted by gimli at 10:25 AM on March 5, 2001

i used to own a Sears Silvertone electric geetar (the kind with the amplifier built into the case) that would put an E-bow to shame in a controlled feedback contest. any note would sustain endlessly. the thing was possessed. i had to cut off its headstock and and drive a stake through the bridge pickup to make it stop.
posted by cfj at 12:50 PM on March 5, 2001

I do believe John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants used an E-Bow in the making of the '92 album Apollo 18. Specifically on the track The Statue Got Me High.

Not earth-shattering, but a) it allows me to bring up TMBG, and b) it's my first post.
posted by toddshot at 5:37 PM on March 5, 2001

Doesn't Bowie's "heroes" feature a prolonged bit of E-Bowed guitar? Isn't that quite famous? There have been a load of attempts to make infinate sustain devices. There was one that was several little brushes attached to the bridge of the guitar (there exists a photo of noted comedy person Peter Cook holding a Strat with said device). There was an article about these things years ago in "The Guitar Magazine". If they have a website I can't find it.
The best solution seemed to be the sustainiac but I think you can only get that on a fernandes guitar. Though I could very easily be wrong about that.
posted by davidgentle at 8:44 PM on March 5, 2001

Doesn't Bowie's "heroes" feature a prolonged bit of E-Bowed guitar? Isn't that quite famous?

It's a classic bit of Frippery, but not an Ebow, which he's never used professionally: "simply a Les Paul, Marshall cabinet and a way of working." (He was mentioned in a C4 programme on prog rock last weekend: strange to hear him speak with such a rural West Country burr.)

But anyway: Ebow effects depend on pickup strength: that's why they're better off used with a Les Paul/SG than yer classic Strat.
posted by holgate at 3:01 AM on March 6, 2001

Following up on holgate's Fripp link, I found this great site on looping. Cool.
posted by rodii at 5:07 PM on March 6, 2001

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