Acoustic EBow: Insane, or Merely Crazy?

EBow on a Dobro? Oh, yeah!

If you’ve screwed around much with an EBow—you know, that battery-powered plastic thingie that you slide against your guitar strings to magnetically invoke infinite sustain—you may have also noticed that it works on steel-string acoustic guitar, especially on the unwound first and second strings. It’s hardly an earth-shaking tone— just a thin whine, really— though you can sometimes use it to good effect, compressed and processed within a mix.

But when I got my first Dobro last year (okay, I was a little slow getting around to it) the technique really came alive for me, and I’ve been using it on tons of tracks ever since.

The Dobro’s metal cones amplify the tone and emphasize its eerie resonance, and the technique sounds fab when playing with a tone bar (FWIW, I dig the wooden-handled Shubb GS). It’s probably the closest you can come to making a guitar sound like a Theremin. Which, of course, should be one of the ultimate goals of any guitarist.

Here’s an example excerpt, along with regular acoustic guitar and some other instruments:

Acoustic EBow Demo

I think it sounds coolest drenched in weird delay and/or reverb.

Any other EBowniacs out there? Got any tips, tricks, or trenchant observations? Let’s hear ’em!

13 comments to Acoustic EBow: Insane, or Merely Crazy?

  • DohminSemper

    Wow It sounds really cool, I want to get one but I always ending getting so many stuff I haven’t ever used, and promised my self to stop 😛

  • joe

    I’m not sure if you’re referring to the EBow or the Dobro. EBows are cheaper. 🙂

  • el reclusa

    Maybe look around for a used one? I see ’em time to time for less than the price of most pedals, and with a little practice, the sheer variety of useful applications of an e-bow are worth the price of admission, IMHO…ebowed banjo? Yes please! Ebowed mbira? Mmmm-hmmmm.

    Now that I think about it, Dobros are much more expensive than ebows, but also have that “what did I do before I had this?” useful factor…

  • el reclusa

    …or, you could go the DiY route for an ebow on the cheap:

    There are several “how-to” ebow videos on the interwebs…I think I wanna try making one that would work on multiple strings now!

  • joe

    Yeah, and I was planning a tutorial or two. 🙂

  • el reclusa

    That would be pretty awesome, Joe!

    It’s funny how, once you get started, even if you’re completely mechanically uninclined, how doable so many things really are…for me, it started with building a simple plate reverb, and now…now it’s a mess of tools, bits and pieces in the basement, a lot of sawdust, iron filings, solder globs and random junk, and a handful of pretty cool devices…

    • joe

      So true! Until we try doing things for ourselves, we really have no inkling of our infinite capacity for making a disgusting mess and squandering cash on money-sucking hobbies doing cool, creative things.

  • Love the ebow!
    What a creepy sound you’ve got.. Cool

  • Kevco

    Really nice sounding track. It blows me away that you just got your first Dobro! I’ve been a Jerrry Douglas fan for decades and got sucked into resonators a long time ago. I just got done putting a DiMarzio P90 in the only one I currently own, a short scale round neck that has a nice fretboard. I’ve been thinking of getting a square neck for awhile now and putting a Fernandes sustainer kit on it for playing lap style. The only challenge is finding a way to mount a bridge pickup, which the sustainer needs to generate feedback. Pickup real estate is pretty limited on Dobro’s! But yeah, this post was another strong nudge to get cracking on it!

  • happydog1960

    I’ve been using an E-bow since the 1980s, and I love ’em. When I use it onstage people always wonder what is going on.

  • SamX

    @happydog1960 I get the same reaction but I don’t use an Ebow . It just the normal reaction whenever I get on a stage and play . However, it’s the looks I get when I’m leaving the stage that sticks with me !

  • Oinkus

    Ok Joe, the crowd is chanting for the Tutorial !

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