Ask the Expert – getting a cello sound from a bass guitar

Tiffany Reynolds asked this fascinating question:

“I know this is going to sound weird but I’m serious. I play bass but sometimes you want the bowed sound of a cello or an upright bass during quiet passages of a song. I want to take up cello but sometimes you can’t switch back and forth … in the two seconds it would take to just press a button.

My question is … is there a pedal out there that can make it sound like you are bowing a cello or violin? Or anything you can think of?  I’ve heard of the ebow … “

Andy replies:

I don’t really know of a pedal that’s designed to give you a bowed sound, but yes an ebow would do something similar as it’s basically a hand held powered magnet that simulates the sound of a bow by vibrating the string without you having to touch it. You could also try using a volume pedal. Basically play a note nice and loud with the volume pedal in the completely ‘off’ position and then increase the volume straight afterwards. This technique masks the attacking sound of a finger plucking a string.

This clip will giv eyou an idea of the sound an ebow can help you create.

Both will be interesting sounds but neither in truth will sound exactly like a bow, for that you need…a bow – which you could try, the only problem being that the wax on most bows messes up guitar and bass strings pretty darn quickly…

But, experiment you might well find a new sound that works for you.