A guitar sustainer is a device installed on your instrument or held over the strings, and it manages to create intense, extended sustain when you play. It’s like the feedback created by standing in front of a loud amplifier, but continuous and controllable.
Guitar sustainers work by using magnetic fields to interact with the strings, providing continuous vibrations and unlimited sustain.
Endless sustain produces some fun effects that distract people from your horrible technique.
“That guitarist is making a crazy sound,” they will say, “this leads me to believe she is a genius!”
Like Nigel Tufnel says, “you can go and have and bite, and you’d still be hearing that.”
What is a guitar sustainer? Keep reading to learn more about guitar sustainers and how to pick one that is suitable for your style of play.
The eBow is a hand-held guitar sustainer that musicians use to make beautiful, extended melodies.
The eBow is older than most guitar sustainers, and it has a unique appearance.
This device is also known as the “electronic bow,” used by some great guitarists, including David Gilmour and Dave Navarro.
To use an eBow, you simply place it on the desired string and move your hand around the string as you play.
The eBow creates a focused feedback loop on a single string.
It takes some practice to use this tool effectively, but it’s worth it when you experience the new sounds it can create.
The Sustainiac is a popular guitar sustainer that uses electromagnetic technology to provide endless sustain. It must be wired in the neck position of your guitar, and if you don’t feel confident doing this work yourself, you should get help from a professional.
Some guitars come with a Sustainiac installed. Check out Schecter and Ibanez (especially the Joe Satriani models).
The Sustainiac circuit works by amplifying and processing the pickup signal. The Sustainiac String Driver Transducer (“driver”) converts the amplified note into vibrational energy.
The note will sustain until you decide to stop it or deplete the battery.
A sustainer modifies the pickup signal rather than generating a processed signal instead of other effects. A sustainer affects string vibration, and the sustain is not impacted by the amplifier.
The Sustainiac is placed where a typical neck pickup would be, and the control board is wired in the control cavity. When the Sustainiac is activated, it amplifies the bridge pickup signal before sending it to the driver.
The driver creates an electromagnetic field around the strings, making them vibrate. Because the strings are so close to the driver, they constantly move and create infinite sustain.
Sustainiacs process sounds differently than regular pickups. Regular pickups capture the string’s vibrations, and Sustainiacs create vibrations instead.
When a sustainer is off, it acts as a standard neck pickup.
The Fernandes Sustainer is a system that produces customizable sustain similar to the Sustainiac. Fernandes makes guitars with the sustainer built-in and ready to go.
The bridge pickup, the sustainer circuit board, and the neck driver work together to produce magnetic energy. This energy results in string vibrations that sustain for as long as desired.
Natural Mode: The note plays as long as the string vibrates.
Harmonic Mode: The note rises to the 5th natural harmonic note.
Mix Mode: Mixes the Natural and Harmonic Modes to create a harmonic feedback effect.
The sustainer driver is installed in the neck pickup position. The device works by taking the signal from the bridge pickup, amplifying and maintaining it, and then feeding it to the driver in the neck position.
This works as an electromagnet to move the strings. Sort of a pickup in reverse. As long as the battery lasts, the note lasts.
The feedback is independent of volume and distance from any speakers.
Turning the sustainer on automatically switches your guitar to the bridge pickup. When the Fernandes is turned off, the guitar will return to neck position.
The Fernandes Sustainer is a circuit board installed in the control cavity.
A battery is needed for power, so shove that into the control cavity.
Sound Stone is a sustainer from newcomer Merkaba Electronics in Austin. It is an external device that functions like the eBow, but the real benefit is the price. It’s less than half the cost of the eBow.
This is a compact unit with grooves showing you where to rest the surface on the strings. The vibrations will immediately create sustain. This is a simple rectangular device that is easy to use with a bit of practice.
The Sound Stone is the most accessible sustainer for beginners since you don’t need to spend a lot or install anything on your instrument.
Finding the right guitar sustainer can seem daunting, with so many options available. However, you can find the perfect accessory to match your style and preferences with some research and guidance.
Whether you’re looking for something simple and subtle or complex and rich, there’s sure to be a guitar sustainer that’s perfect for you.