December 12, 2023


Modern plectrums – whats happening to them these days? Unwieldy abstract trapezoidal blobs of plastic…or miniature magneto-synthesizers?

…or rather one of the stranger guitar playing innovations of the last 30 years, the ENERGY BOW or Ebow for short. The Ebow works by focusing a sympathetic oscillating magnetic field on a single string and causing it to vibrate. What makes the Ebow unique is that it relies upon techniques rather than upon presets -where it is positioned along the strings, how it is moved, whether it is tilted to one side or up on one end, how quickly it is slapped into place all contribute to the sound.

One key variable is its interplay with your pickup. The closer you bring the EBow to a magnetic pickup that is on, the louder and brighter the sound. This only happens very close to the pickup. This is called the playing area. You can vibrate the string anywhere along its length from the nut to the bridge, but the dramatic volume change occurs only very near a pickup that is on. Staying in this small playing area gives you lots of control over the tone and volume dynamics.

What makes the Ebow particularly interesting is the fact that it can re-produce sounds similar to synthesisers harmonicas, strings, slides, horns and more, all dependent on your positioning and handling of the device.

Listen to some Ebow samples HERE

In this sense there is still plenty of room for expressive, individual accenting and a certain margin of unpredictability and uncertainty – something that certainly has its place in electric guitar playing.

Here’s a video of UK band James playing “She’s a Star” – the guitarist playing the Fender Jaguar is using an ebow to create fluid, sustained, feedback like legato runs. In another of their songs called “Sound” the guitarist combines the Ebow with a slide to creates some interesting guitar lines.

Furthermore magnetic wierdness too with Robert Fripp’s string quintet – aweseom!


Well, That`s all folks,

Jake Edwards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *