an ebow produces a magnetic field which vibrates the strings. it works best on steel and nickel strings. it will work on an acoustic guitar with said types of strings, but phosphor bronze ones don't work too well with it.
it will NOT work on nylon strings.
as stated above, it works best on an electric guitar near the pickup. i find single coil pickups to be a better fit for the ebow--humbuckers seem to have too much "drive".
i LOVE my ebow. definitely worth the $80 for the added texture it gives.
I'm still waiting for someone to explain *how* an ebow works.
For years the party line has been "it's an electromagnetic field". But as soon as you think about what that means, you realize that explanation falls a little short.
If an ebow was simply "an electromagnetic field" or "a vibrating electromagnetic field" then as soon as you held it near your electric guitar's pickups you'd get massive amounts of hum...a sound not unlike holding a wall wart near your pickups.
Anyone ever rip one apart to see what's inside? I'm really curious about the technology involved, but to date the folks at Heet aren't giving up any secrets.
The pickup senses the movement in the electromagnetic field (typical). Then, instead of having that be fed to a typical amplifier, it's fed to a magnetic field something-or-other...this is where I get lost, but let's say it's like a speaker. In fact, a speaker is fundamentally nothing more than a voice coil and a magnet -- the voice coil creates the field fluctuations, and the magnet responds to them. Here we have a string (magnetically responsive metal) which responds to field fluctuations -- again, pardon any inaccuracies, please. So the EBow senses the fluctuations within the field and then puts out fluctuations at those frequencies.
Nevertheless, it works like a big feedback loop, and it kinda sounds like one too.
It works brilliantly with an acoustic guitar, as well.
It's cheap. If you have the cash, get one. You'll love it.
The trick to using them with humbuckers is to just crack the volume knob slightly... very little is needed. Whats nice is that there is a switch on it that will capture more of the harmonics of a given note, rather than the main tones.
You can also actually let the body of the ebow rest directly against the pickup for a nice quick squeal-like sound.... I did this exact thing on this track, listen to the little solo part just past the 1/2 way point:
But more interesting is the internet's largest DIY sustainer thread. If any Gearslutz have any insight into DIY sustainers, you should join in. I'm a mere observer, knowing jack and squat about electronics.
BTW, I often use the E-Bow live and have it Velcro-ed on the lower part of the pickup of my Telecaster. Besides atmospheric stuff it's also great for rhythmic things à la pizzicato strings. I think that's what Joe Gore did on P.J Harvey's 'To bring you my love'.
I find it amazing that that the E-Bow has been around since the 70ies but still isn't that well-known. On practically every gig that I used one somebody came up to me after the show asking about it.
Can you give more detailed info about how this attached and where? A pic might be worth 999 words, give or take a few. Thanks.
Unfortunately I don't have a digital camera here right now. The idea is extremely simple: You stick a small strip of Velcro onto the side of the E-Bow and the 'opposite' piece of Velcro (make it somewhat bigger to prevent misses in the heat of the gig battle) unto the lower bout of the pickguard i.e somewhere that's doesn' t get into the way of the strumming hand. The E-Bow will be 'mounted' and switched on whenever there's a song coming up where I wanna feature it and so it's possible to grab it within the blink of an eye, I sometimes only need it for a short solo passage or some atmospheric background parts.
I constantly adjust the volume and tone knobs ony my Tele anyway and so it's not that difficult to simultaneously roll back the tone knob, lower the volume and grab the E-Bow.
There you go, a single pic would have been much easier......
They have to be steel strings, or have some steel content for the electromagnet to excite the string. For instance, "nickel" strings would actually be better called "nickel-steel" strings, because they're not pure nickel. They work fine. Bronze strings often have a steel core, so you can use it on your acoustic. Nylon strings don't have any steel in them, so they don't work. Pianos typically have steel strings. The bass strings are usually copper wound, but the core is steel, so it should work.