Bowing on Bass Guitar

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by [SD], Feb 25, 2004.

  1. [SD]


    Feb 24, 2004
    hi, i was wondering if its possible to get a nice bowing sound from a bass guitar, close to what a double bass bwoing sound is. I¡ve got a 5 string warwick nad a 4 string yamaha. i guess i could modify the yamaha bridge to make it more curved so i could bow all string but i don't anything about bowing , if its possible, which bow should i use, are bows expensive?...thanks! so many questions:S
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    aside from the lack of 'arch' in the string set up, your other biggest problem using a bow on electric bass is going to be the strings - electric bass strings just aren't designed for it... You might end up with some interesting effects, but just for safety's sake, I'd get the cheapest bow you can find, as you may well ruin it attempting it... ;)

    Might be better off getting an E-Bow and experimenting with the options that that opens up for your playing...


  3. what is an e-bow?
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    What Steve said. Plus, the rosin would ruin the strings.
  6. Wood = Basses

    Wood = Basses

    Jun 19, 2003
    jón þor birgisson (guitar player) of Sigur Rós, plays guitar with a cello bow. It sounds very nice, but it does not sound like most classical bowed instruments; sort of between a thin sounding string section and a Sitar.

    The bassist for Sigur Rós, Georg Holm (one of my favorite bassists), originally came up with the idea to play his bass with a bow. He said it sounded horrible, so the bow was given to Jón to try on his guitar, which sounded better.

    You could try it, you have nothing to lose (except money). If it does not work on rounds, try flatwounds. If that does not work, try NS design electric upright strings. The NS upright can accomodate a bow, but the strings might not fit. Or you could try other brands of electric upright and upright strings; The sky (and wallet) is the limit!

    (p.s If you want to hear a bowed guitar, buy ágætis byrjun by Sigur Ros, which can be found in any larger CD store (like Barnes and Noble's music section). Listen to the first full track, svefn-g-englar, and you will know when you hear it.)
  7. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    Georg uses an EBow on track 6 of ( ), btw.

    There were two threads on the topic of bowing a bass in the effects and Luthier's Corner forums. I think the consensus is that it's not feasible. I agree. I use an EBow, as do many bassists and guitarists, to great effect, Steve and Michael among them.
  8. ive listened to the samples on the site, it sounds cool.
    didnt know blackened was e-bowed!
  9. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    The Sigur Ros stuff is amazing - I've copped a couple of new sounds from listening to their records, though the essence of the sound seems to be more about distortion delay and reverb than about the bowing technique. With the patch I've set up, it doesn't matter how I strike the strings, I still get this huge wall of glorious noise! :D

  10. Wood = Basses

    Wood = Basses

    Jun 19, 2003
    Hey steve!

    I was reading an article about you last night in Bass Player, I didnt even know it was you (bad remembering and recalling names) until I looked at your website and saw your picture.
  11. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    there you go! Glad you saw the feature - I'm rather pleased with how it came out. If you liked it, please email BP and tell them... ;)

  12. NioeZero


    Sep 2, 2001
    A case of striking while the iron is cold, perhaps, but you might want to check out Jiraud basses. Pretty innovative design; I might have picked one up, but an NS Design CR4M got the best of my checkbook.
  13. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I thought I'd put in a good word for Jonathan Wilson who plays an instrument he calls a "guitar-viol" which is designed to be used with a bow. Interesting stuff!
  14. for the bowing curious...
    there are bows used by hammered dulcimer players that may work well for a bass. it's really hard to explain this device, but i think it might do the trick. yet again, it requires rosin and you'll rot your strings. it's a really cheap toy though, maybe five or ten bucks.
  15. at a point in my bands set, i open a song by playing the bass guitar with a double bass bow,i only really play the melody on the g string tho....

    .... thought someone might like to know :bag: