Bow Playing

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by x4x, Sep 9, 2004.

  1. x4x


    May 10, 2003

    I'm thinking of trying to play my bass with a (cello) bow

    So far, i heard that flatwounds and cello bows with LOADS of rosin should do the trick

    But what about the effects?

    I'm looking to create a sigur-ros like sound but on the bass.
    So i'm thinking reverb and delay

    or just reverb? or just delay?

    or something else?

    any tips are welcome

    thank you

  2. You'll have a hard time bowing an electric, since there's close to no curvature in the fretboard.
  3. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    the om is correct - the flat fretboard of the EB makes it difficult to bow - muting will probably be an issue.

    Anyway, it sounds like a neat thing to try. I've heard it's hard on the bows (just what I've heard).

    And I'd try to do it, initially, with no effects such as reverb or delay just to see if I could get a good "clean" tone.

    Good luck.
  4. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Not only is there not enough curvature in the fretboard/bridge to bow single strings effectively, but how are you going to hold the instrument and/or bow without the bow going in weird directions?

    If you want a fake cello effect, a volume pedal, a compressor and some mild reverb can help you mimic the attack, sustain and resonance characteristics of a bowed cello.

    If you really want an authentic cello effect, I'd recommend skipping the effects and buying a cheap cello.
  5. Sonorous


    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
  6. josh_m


    May 5, 2004
    Davie, Fl
    You have to keep in mind also, a cheap bow will make an amazing cello sound like garbage, who knows what it will make an instrument it isn't made for sound like.
  7. I think that's actually putting it mildly. I can say with confidence that it is impossible to bow an electric bass effectively. You physically can't get at the middle strings without hitting the outer strings. That being said You could still try to use it for some sort of weird effect. Try bouncing the bow on the strings. You'll just never be able to play individual notes. If you really want your bass to sound like it's being bowed, you could get an ebow. I've never tried one, but they sound pretty cool when used effectively. Unfortunately they don't make one for bass, so supposedly it's kind of tough to use.
  8. you could always try playing four note chords and skip the whole muting issue... or you could try playing the whole line on the bottom string, where the cutaway of the body would give you plenty of room.
    one of my friends uses abow on his electric in his band, i'll ask him how he does it.
    why use a cello bow? why not a bass bow?
    just some random thoughts
  9. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    I've tried this [bass bow] and it doesn't work, the radius is a big problem but you can still get to the E and G easy enough, but the the action on a BG is just to low so you have to play lightly, the problem with this is that FW BG strings don't bow easily and you will have to dig in which pushes the strings in to the FB. Answer, a Double bass or EUB is what you need.:p
  10. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    A cello bow is probably significantly smaller and easier to maneouver on an electric bass.
    Try an ebow, and search the Michael Manring/Steve Lawson forum. Lots of ebow discussions.
  11. josh_m


    May 5, 2004
    Davie, Fl
    Another thing I just thought of is you may warp the bow from over tightening, with the bow tightened the amount needed for a DB the hair would be touching the stick. Also action is a big deal (as was previously mentioned,) with the low action of a BG I don't think the notes would sing like they do on a cello or DB. My suggestion if you really want to try this is get a 1/2 or 3/4 violin bow with black hair and use a VERY dark bass rosin. The reason I suggest such a small bow is the cello bow would be hard to hold at that angle, it's too long, a 3/4 violin bow will be short enough to hold fairly comfortable. The black hair and dark bas rosin will help it bite into the strings. You will get rosin on the strings (making them sticky) and on the bass. On a DB the stickyness is over looked a lot because pizzicato playing is done higher up then bowed playing. If you try this good luck and have fun with your "stick of truth."

    Edit: A very small (think 1/4 size) German bass bow may also work well because of the design of the frog.
  12. andrewd


    Sep 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    i broke my violin bow bowing my 6 string. it was a pretty crappy bow, though.

    i found it easiest to bow directly over the fretboard, but that B string is really difficult
  13. cello bows are generally longer but thinner than bass bows, so i doubt it would be easier to maneouver, and you'll have to put a lot more effort into it, since the amount of string/hair contact will be substantially less...
    yeah, try an ebow, they look like fun
  14. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I read that there's a method of 'bowing' a string inwhich a small, rotating, rosened wheel is used. I'd guess the wheel is maybe made of felt or something. There's some kind of instrument that uses these -- maybe it was on one of those old player piano-style 'orchestra in a box' jukeboxes or something? I know I've read about this somewhere... Or is that how a 'hurdy-gurdy' works or something?

    You could try it out with an adjustable-speed dremmel tool.

  15. Is it how an e-bow works?
  16. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    The bass player (whose name I forget) in the 60s band called “The Nice” used a bow on his bass. Great band to check out as they were considered to be the first progressive rock band ever! After the broke up the keyboardist went on to form Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
  17. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    No! The "E" in e-bow stands for 'Electronic'. It puts out some kind of alternating magnetic field that excites the string.

    I don't know how well a regular guitar ebow works on bass. I've used them (played with them) before on guitar, and they don't have the control of a rosened bow - it's a pretty slow attack; the note has to build up.

    How about those things they make for guitar that look like a pickup, but really make the strings feedback like crazy? A guitarist freind of mine had one once, and it was pretty cool. I wonder if something like that would work on bass? I'm sure that it's the same theory of operation as the ebow, but I think the ebow puts out sort of random pulses, and this other thing actually feeds the string back to itself.

    Hey - now that I think about it, I guess that kind of thing works like reverb springs: magnetic 'inducer' or whatever in one place, and a similar 'pickup' in another.

    Hmm... I'd STILL try the cordless drill with a rosened buffer-wheel pad. It could be your claim to fame. If you have long hair, be careful (oh-man, I can just picture it! made me laugh out-loud).

  18. appler

    appler Guest

    Cello is the string instrument we all wish we played. Get a cheap, used one and a cello pickup and learn to play it. You'll be happy you did. I don't have a cello but I play one sometimes in my school orchestra and a little bit on a recording my band did and it's a lot of fun.
  19. No, the ebow uses feedback just like a sustainer does. The trick is to tap a note just before bringing the ebow into position, otherwise there will be nothing for it to feed back and the note will build slowly. An ebow will be hard to use if you have a P-bass neck pickup. You want either a J-style or a humbucker. Something straight.