The EBow or ebow is a brand name of Heet Sound Products, of Los Angeles, California, for the original type of handheld string resonator, invented by Greg Heet in 1969, first marketed 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 resonator uses a pickup - inductive string driver - feedback circuit, including a sensor coil, driver coil, and amplifier, to induce forced string resonance. The Ebow brand resonator is monophonic, and drives only one string at a time, producing a sound reminiscent of using a bow on the strings.
Heet Sound Products, which produces the EBow, is one of only three manufacturers of string resonators worldwide.
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.
Function and usage
By varying the EBow's linear position on the string, the user can change the sound due to the changing string harmonic along different positions of a vibrating string. Fading in and out by lowering and raising the EBow is also possible.
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.
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 Picap. 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. Contemporary Christian performer Phil Keaggy (of Decca recording artist Glass Harp fame) is also a prolific user of the EBow, more notably in his 1978 instrumental release The Master and the Musician, which features many different sounds created with the EBow. 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". It has also been used on Opeth's 2001 album Blackwater Park, to create ambient background melodies. In the Pop field, Blondie has used it on several songs including "Fade Away and Radiate" and "Cautious Lip". In the 1980s power pop breakouts The Bongos reintroduced the EBow in the intro of their hit "Numbers With Wings" (RCA Records). Frontman Richard Barone continues to use an EBow on his subsequent solo recordings and much of his production work.
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 (released 1998) and David First in A Bet on Transcendence Favors the House (2008).
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) has persevered, and it features heavily on his 1995 album Thönk. He has even 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 dan bau. 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 Olga Neuwirth in Hooloomooloo (1997) and Karlheinz Essl in Sequitur XIII (2009) for extended piano and live-electronics.
Other notable uses
This is a partial list of only notable performers who have used an EBow in at least three of their songs.
- Richard Barone of The Bongos uses an EBow in the intro of the group's New Wave classic "Numbers With WIngs" (1983) and on all of his solo albums. Notable songs featuring EBow include "River To River", "Miss Jean", "Glow", "Flew A Falcon", and "Sweet Blue Cage".
- Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth uses an EBow in the songs "The Drapery Falls", "Dirge For November" and "Isolation Years"
- Broadway orchestrator William David Brohn used the EBow to extensive effect in the orchestrations for Wicked and Mary Poppins.
- David Gilmour uses an EBow in the song "Ebb and Flow" in the 2014 Pink Floyd album "The Endless River".
- Jonny Buckland from Coldplay uses it in the songs "Amsterdam", "Spies", "See You Soon" and recently, "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 started using an EBow during The Unforgettable Fire recording sessions. Live performances of him using the EBow can be heard on "With or Without You" and "The Unforgettable Fire".
- John Haughm of Agalloch uses an EBow on the songs Odal, "Limbs" "Sowilo Rune" and "Faustian Echoes".
- John Ellis (The Stranglers, Peter Hammill, The Vibrators, others) is a frequent user of the Ebow. 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 uses 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 from KISS uses an E-bow on his first solo album, Paul Stanley, in 1978.
- John Petrucci uses an EBow on the Dream Theater song "Space-Dye Vest" from the 1994 album Awake, also on the tracks "Finally Free", "The Ministry of Lost Souls".
- Eddie Vedder uses the EBow in the Pearl Jam songs "Wishlist", "Rearviewmirror", and "World Wide Suicide"
- Munaf Rayani of the Post-Rock band Explosions in the Sky uses 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 uses the EBow on Songs like "Hold on" for Ambience and manipulates the feedback in the intro of Boiler with it.
- Russell Lissack of Bloc Party uses an EBow on the songs "Song for Clay", "Uniform" and "Biko".
- Ed O'Brien of Radiohead uses an EBow on the songs "My Iron Lung", "Nude (song)", "Talk Show Host (song)" and "Where I End and You Begin". As well as in the live version of "Jigsaw Falling into Place".
- Peter Buck of R.E.M. used an EBow, most notably on the song "E-Bow the Letter", the lead single from the band's tenth album "New Adventures in Hi-Fi".
- Justin Vernon of Bon Iver uses an EBow on the song "Flume", the opening track from the album "For Emma, Forever Ago".
- The EBow FAQ
- Sound clips of the EBow
- Ebow website
- "Sounds of Silence" interview, Guitar World, September 1994. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
- Stefan Drees, Perspektivenwechsel. Tonraum-Deformationen durch Instrumentalklang-Verstimmungen bei Olga Neuwirth (2001)
- Karlheinz Essl, Sequitur XIII (2009)
- If Anyone Else Asks Me How I Make My Guitar Sound Like Bagpipes, I'll Flatten Them!