The Most Unique Guitar Accessories
One of the most interesting aspects of playing an electric guitar is that with the right set up it can make almost any type of sound.
For many people, all they need is a guitar, an amplifier, three chords and the truth to say everything they want to say musically. However, the scope to expand on that core to create new sounds, songs and even new genres is almost unlimited given the accessories for guitar that are now available.
However, whilst pedals, multi-effects processors and techniques such as pinch harmonics are all used by enterprising musicians to create a signature sound, some guitarists have either adapted or outright invented unique accessories to create the types of sounds impossible using fingers or a plectrum.
Here are some of the most unique guitar accessories and the stories behind them.
Invented by Greg Heet in 1969 and extensively used by Genesis lead guitarist Steve Hackett on the song Carpet Crawlers in 1974, the electronic/energy bow is designed to induce string vibrations in the way a violin bow does on a classical string instrument.
Typically, it is used to create ethereal sounds, and a lot of the most famous songs that use the instrument such as (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult, My Iron Lung by Radiohead and Champagne Supernova by Oasis use the sound sparingly.
However, because of the way the Ebow generates its feedback loop, it can provide an almost-infinite sustain, albeit for only one string.
It can also, much to the chagrin of Big Country guitarist Bruce Watson, be used to create a sound reminiscent of bagpipes, which can be heard in the bridge to In A Big Country.
Often, a strange guitar accessory is the result of an attempt to replicate a sound found in a studio production live without the benefits of multiple people or production.
This was a problem legendary bassist Tony Levin found himself in when he was recording the bass parts for Peter Gabriel’s Big Time in 1985. In the studio, drummer Jerry Marotta drummed on the strings, creating an intense sound that cannot easily be replicated with typical slap bass techniques.
The solution was both exceptionally simple in concept but surprisingly complex to develop and eventually took the form of the Funk Fingers.
They are two small drumsticks of unequal lengths that are strapped to your index and middle finger and create a unique percussive sound on the strings.
Tony Levin himself uses them on the later Peter Gabriel album Us, as well as on songs for King Crimson and Liquid Tension Experiment.
Often confused with more general vocoder technology, a talk box allows musicians to alter the sound of their guitar by talking or singing, typically by using a plastic tube attached to their mouth or connected to a microphone.
Initially invented in 1939 as the “Singing Guitar”, it has been used in a variety of different songs, arguably most famously in the Bon Jovi song Livin’ On A Prayer.
Peter Frampton would use it extensively, and it has found use in a variety of genres, including Tupac Shakur’s California Love and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic.