What do I need to do to play my electric bass guitar with a bow?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by scottos150, Oct 24, 2004.

  1. What stings do I need, and what type of bow? thank you so much.
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    "What do I need to do to play my electric bass guitar with a bow? "

    A compelling reason.
  3. mazaremba


    Apr 15, 2004
    From the sounds of it, you sound like you don't have much knowledge about bows, I imagine you play eletric only?

    Speaking from experince, because yes, we all love Jimmy Page, I strongly discourage you from even trying this. But I'll give you the details.

    Round strings, which are typical for eletric will cut up your bow like mad. This means that the hairs will fly all over the place and you'll lose them rather quickly. If you use anything get a set of flatwound bass strings.

    For a bow, Jimmy Page used a french style. I used a german style (not to much differnce, german has a larger frog and is held different, but hey let's face it, you won't be holding it...you will be beating it!) A nice quality bow will cost you over $100, but for this purpose a cheap fiberglass will do the job. I would expect around $50-70, but don't quote me on that price.

    Let me advise you not to do this again, while the sound results are interesting, it will not be worth the overall price. After playing it on an eletric, you'll have to have it rehaired rather quickly, a nice cheap one is going to cost $45. (At least it does in Chicago.)
  4. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    here's a pic of Keith Rowe:
  5. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    On upright bass, the strings are raised high above the body, the bridge and fingerboard are arched and the body sides are cut out to allow the bow to clear.

    This means when bowing bass guitar if you want to actually play MUSIC rather than just make noises, you can only really play on the lowest and highest strings (E and G on a 4-string) and you'll need to bow up on the neck. With the bass on a strap, the angle for bowing is all wrong too, which makes it even more of a challenge :D

    You'll need a $50 fiberglass bow and a $5 cake of rosin.

    Good luck! :bag:
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    NOT to be confused with a cake and resin - or you'll get into this kind of territory :


  7. I would say use a cello bow. I think they are cheaper than a bass bow, and probably better suited to electric bass. I think Page used a cello bow. Also, you will need to raise the middle two strings somewhat if you intend to play single notes.
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    There has been at least a bit of discussion over at the plank tank about using an ebow on a EBG.

    I think the general consensus after some experimentation was/is that whatever it is that the ebow does to make a guitar string sing, it doesn't do well enough to make a bass string do the same.

    As for me, I have had some success bowing with my electric bass, although I have found it all but impossible to hit anything with reasonable consistency from anywhere greater than 15-20 yards.
  9. bdengler


    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    It's hard to believe that our beloved bass relates back to the lute, which the Spanish began to bow in the 1400's. The specific lutes, with raised bridges, morphed into a viol, etc., as the instrument crossed Europe. Viol's are fretted instruments that you can bow.There's one outfit in Denmark that makes fretted electric bass viol da gambas at www.ruby-gamba.com.

    One of the solutions that you may wish to consider are the "hybrid" or crossover basses, such at Zeta's crossover bass, which has a 34 inch string length like a bass guitar, but the strings sit on a short, violin-type bridge. Zeta's bass purportedly can be used to bow and "pluck", but keep in mind, it would be a fretless instrument. I believe KYDD, BSX bass also make short scale basses.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I've seen Steve Lawson and Michael Manring use the EBow very successfully on bass guitar - support our resident pros!! ;)
  11. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    Anybody remember the Gizmotron?? ;)


    I always thought it was a cool idea, although it didn't work that well in practice. I am still tempted to try something like putting a rosined felt wheel on my Dremel tool extension-- on second thought, maybe I'll just take my EUB ;)
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I saw 10CC play in Brighton in the 1970s, at about the time that "I'm not in Love" was at #1 in the charts. It worked very well and the sound was incredible - everybody was just standing there open-mouthed at how good it was!

    This was in the days before digital and when you could only buy mono synths or mellotrons - it was definitely a unique sound that I haven't heard the like of, since!! :)
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I liked those guys! Great tunes.