Tech Tip:What Are Some Alternative Playing Techniques Using An Ebow With A Guitar?

Ebows are best known for providing infinite sustain and simulating feedback at any volume. For standard Ebow techniques, see the instructions and demo tape that are included with it, as well as Ebow's website:


Many volume effects are available. To fade in a note, start the tone with the Ebow contacting the string a short distance away from the pickup, and gradually slide it closer; fadeouts can be accomplished by sliding the Ebow further away from the pickup. Increasing or decreasing the pressure of the Ebow on the string can also control volume changes.


Use the Ebow with a slide for an ethereal, Theremin-like effect. Steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons uses an Ebow on his pedal steel.


Finger a chord and arpeggiate by moving the Ebow rapidly over different strings.


Use two Ebows at once - one for a drone, one for melodic lines.


Experiment with different Ebow attacks. For example, slapping the Ebow lightly on the strings creates a sound similar to hitting the strings with a violin bow.


Grasp the Ebow with your 4th and 5th fingers, hold it over a string for a drone, and fingerpick with the thumb and other three fingers.


Bend strings with your left hand and follow the sideways motion of the string with the Ebow as you keep the Ebow in contact with the support strings.


Hold the Ebow backwards, facing the bridge pickup rather than the neck pickup. On some guitars, this changes the tonal quality.

Experiment with a variety of tone control settings and hold the Ebow over various pickups.


Ebows can be used on steel-stringed acoustic instruments as well. John Cage wrote a piece using ten Ebowed harps.


Hearty thanks to innovative new-music guitarist and Ebow expert Ted Killian for his contributions and assistance with this week's tip. Musician's Friend has lots of Ebows currently in stock, and a huge selection of guitars. Visit our Website for a look at our selection.