A multi-disciplinary designer’s journey in field recording, sound design, and music.

Misusing the eBow

Posted: July 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, sound design
eBowing a tensioned cable on a fence gate. I mean, doesn't everyone spend their Sundays doing this?

eBowing a tensioned cable on a fence gate. I mean, doesn't everyone spend their Sundays doing this?

The eBow has been around for decades, and it does one thing only, albeit very well: It excites metal objects with a magnetic field. It’s meant to be used to get synth tones out of guitars, and used right, it can be beautiful.

“Used right” usually doesn’t apply when I get my hands on such things.

Having purchased an eBow this year, I didn’t sit and play my guitar with it. Instead, I switched it on and walked around the neighborhood looking for guitar-string-like objects that might make even more interesting noises.

I came upon a fence gate that had a tensioned cable secured with a turnbuckle (to keep the large door from warping). While I could barely hear the cable resonate, I could also hear the wood of the door vibrating. To my mind, that meant only one thing: contact microphones.

As you can see from the photo, I taped one contact mic to the turnbuckle, and another to the door. I didn’t want one on the cable to decrease its oscillation. I tracked each contact mic to a separate channel on my field recorder.

I recorded about 16 minutes of pretty interesting tones, but the audio levels were quite low. The hums and drones were nice, but I liked it even better when the cable would strike and vibrate against the eBow itself, adding a sound like metal being stretched and warped. It sounded like a much more aggressive Alan Lamb recording. Perhaps someday I can use it expressively as a layer in some transformative or warping sequence, and certainly chopping it up to microsample it will yield untold button sounds, clicks, wonks, vrrrmmms, and other sonic sweetness.

I layered some of the more dynamic, expressive parts into a short clip that you can check out below.


[Piezo contact microphones into Sound Devices 702]

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3 Comments on “Misusing the eBow”

  1. 1 Elias Heuninck said at 2:59 am on September 27th, 2009:

    Very nice use of the device. The sound is beautifully expressive. (Contact mics seems to be made well allso).

  2. 2 Noise Jockey » Blog Archive » Hydrophonic Cocktail said at 10:07 am on February 27th, 2010:

    [...] easily taped upside-down or held in odd positions like my other contact mics I’ve used in previous [...]

  3. 3 barryc said at 3:35 pm on September 14th, 2010:

    Any chance you’d put the audio up again? I’d love to hear the results.


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