Posted by: worshipguitarguy | October 20, 2006

Mail Call: Using an Ebow in Worship

gunny.jpgWGG is paying tribute to R. Lee Ermey, or the “the Gunny” by creating our very own installment of “Mail Call”  Nope, we’re not reviewing some very cool high tech military thing… no sir, not here.  We’re looking at guitar stuff.  And instead of some cool letter sent into a TV show, we’ll be looking at a question left in one of the recent comments on this site.  And the question is an awesome one that came from a comment from Brian last week on my post about the Ebow.

So here it is:

Can you comment on general guidelines for using an ebow within song structure? Do you recommend that the lead guitarist use it from beginning to end? Only in the beginning as the song is building? When in the song do lead’s typically use the ebow?


Solid question.  I’ll start with the general “blah blah blah” disclaimer by saying:

An Ebow is a creative tool for guitarists, and there are no rules for using one, and you’re limited only by your own creativity, so don’t take anything I say seriously because my lawyer told me to put this whole thing in…  Ok, now that’s out of the way…

First of all, Ebows can be used in fast songs as a building element, for an example listen to the work Jack Parker does at the beginning of “We Win” (the live version) on the Passion: Everything Glorious CD. 

More often than not though, an Ebows place is in a slower song.  An Ebow changes the role of a lead guitarist slightly, because it is a pad effect instead of an accent effect.  Personally, I love using an ebow on top of another pad (i.e. a synth or a track), because it let’s you accent more than carry the pad part.  I’m not a big fan of using just an Ebow all the way through a song… I’ve heard some recordings that do it, but as I’ve said before, I love music that gives the feel of going somewhere, not staying at a constant level. 

A great example of a song that does this is Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” from the Arriving CD.  This song is a great template for how to use an Ebow on a slower song.  If you map out the flow of the song, it would look something like this: 

(To explain this graph, the beginning represents a soft, low dynamic, which continues building until it reaches a climax, usually at a bridge or a chorus, then the dynamic begins falling off again.) 

If you listen to the song, you’ll notice the first verse and chorus have the Ebow part in them, before the song switches to standard guitar parts at the start of the second verse.   This song is pretty common because it peaks at the “Name above all Names” bridge.  That’s usually where the guitar reaches it’s maximum intensity, before dropping off on the final chorus. 

If I was playing this song, following the general feel of the recorded version, I would use the Ebow on a lead in, then the first verse and chorus of the song.  From there, I’d transition into using a pick or fingerpicking depending on how much we’d build the song.  Finally, I could either continue playing like that, or I could switch back to the Ebow for the transition out of the song.  (Note: many times we use this song as a lead in to prayer, so switching back to the Ebow’s something I do alot of.)

A couple of tips for using an Ebow in a song.  First, switching between an Ebow and a pick can be a crazy transition.  That’s because obviously, you have to get an Ebow out of  your hand and a pick in it.  Then second, if you roll your tone knob down with the Ebow, you’ll have to roll it back up when you switch to a pick.  Because of all the changes you do in short order, I try to keep my pedalboard settings pretty consistent between the Ebow part and the strumming parts.  Second, to make the process of dropping the Ebow easier, alot of guitarists will tie it off to either a mic stand or their guitar strap.  That way you just drop it and you’re ready to go.  After dropping my Ebow, I’ll usually bring my hand right back across the tone knob to bring it up.  It’s a skill that’s definitely worth practicing before going live.

Also, the question of where to keep a pick is the other challenge.  Alot of guys keep it in their strumming hand while using the Ebow.  (I usually keep mine in my lips while playing, then grab it when I transition over.  I do take a lot of grief for it by people who see me play and yeah, you don’t want to touch my picks after I use an Ebow.)



  1. I’d love to see a site or a guide on a site that deals specifically with Ebow Techniques. Ive had one for about 2 years now, and have only used it slightly. I wish we could get some suggested effects along with some samples of its application.

    BTW…a volume pedal also makes ebow land a lot easier.

  2. Great point Jeff, in my hurry to get the post done, I forgot to mention that I’m riding my volume pedal constantly while playing my ebow…

  3. I use an ebow in some part of the worship service every week. I would second the constant use of the volume pedal. I also like to use some delay and a little chorus. My personal take is this gives the ebao a little more of a distinct tone and a little less like a keyboard pad. I think the ebow is an essential tool for a electric guitar player to have in the tool bag, for use in worship.

  4. isn’t an “eBLOW”? I’m kidding….I’m a drummer, what do I know?

  5. da da, ching… (As you drummers would do…) 😉

  6. I don’t have an ebow, but I can get a similar effect using my delay and volume pedals. I find it works well in slower songs, but not usually as a pad, since I can’t quite get that same sustain. When I finally get one we’ll see.

  7. A cool effect that I picked up on with an ebow is using a delay with a good bit of feedback with the mix level at about 40% and bending notes up to the next note in the scale. The delay causes a cool modulation effect.

    Another option is to already have your string already bent to one note BEFORE actually making a sound and then release the bend to the regular fretted note. Hopefully this makes sense.

    It takes practice to do the latter because you have to make sure the note of the bent string is correct before ever hearing it. After time & practice you will get used to feeling how much muscle you are using in the bend..

    A tremolo bar could be used as well but my les paul does not have one of course

    Good example

    Listen to “No One Like You” by Hillsong United on the United We Stand album

  8. I stumbled across your eBow article and I saw a lot of interesting questions, and so I thought maybe I could add my 2 cents. In our praise and worship band I use the eBow mostly in slow songs. I’ve only used it once or twice with a fast song.

    I agree with using delay with the eBow. For me it’s become almost a necessity. Yes, the eBow itself provides a lot of sustain, but when changing from note to note sometimes you get some unexpected gaps where you don’t want them. I use a dd3 delay. I run the effect level all the way up. I use about 340-350ms of delay depending on the songs tempo. My feedback usually has like 6-7 repeats. (If you use a dd3 it’s just to the right of 12 o’clock). The delay setting is on Long. I use the harmonic setting on my eBow as well. It provides a really cool swelling sound. As noted previously, you have to be really careful with the volume when using the eBow…even more so when using delay. However, I never change the volume on my guitar or with my volume pedal. This helps with being able to change between the eBow and picking. Rather I move the eBow further away from the pickup(always the top pickup on my Les Paul) to lower the volume, and closer to increase the volume. That helps a lot with making your eBow line a lot more dynamic.

    To get some even cooler sounds out of the eBow you may want to try:

    1) Boosting your guitar signal (I use a TS9) with the delay going too. This works best when using a tube amp (an Ac-15 in my case). I run the gain VERY low, just enough to get the initial signal, and I run the Master Volume VERY high. This overdrives the amp A TON, and sounds really cool. Michael Guy from Hillsong United gave me this tip on the amp settings and it’s been really helpful in getting a really cool sound that is really awesome sounding.

    2) You can also try using a light depth yet fast speed tremolo when coming out of your ebow part and fading the signal out using the eBow slide technique I referred to earlier. If you can do that while gradually slowing down the tremolo (I use my foot to do that) you’ll have a really cool yet still somewhat passive effect.

    Hopefully these ebow tips help you out, even if its just a little. Just be creative and work in the gift that God has given you…God Bless

    p.s. “No One Like You” that’s actually an effect you get when using delay with LOTS of feedback and a slide. You slide the note and it naturally modulates. Much like tuning string to string on your guitar. 340-350ms works good for this too.

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