The Dive Bomb Guitar Technique

by Leslie McClintock

To "dive-bomb," you must have a guitar with a tremolo system installed.

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A tremolo bar is an attachment for electric guitars that moves the bridge back and forth, so the player can loosen or tighten the strings and raise or lower their pitch by pulling up on or pushing down on a lever. The "dive-bomb" technique refers to simulating the sound of a falling bomb, or a diving propeller plane, by pressing down on the tremolo bar and lowering the string's pitch, sometimes until the strings are completely slack.

Simulating a Diving Plane

Position yourself in front of an amplifier or monitor, so your guitar will pick up vibrations from the amp and create a feedback loop on one of the low strings. Strike a note and let it sustain. You should hear the feedback build up. Slowly lower the tremolo bar. You may want to let the strings go completely slack, and slap around at them to create a chaotic, low sound.

Simulating a Falling Bomb

Hit a "harmonic" by lightly touching a string with your finger directly over a fret, without depressing the string, and striking the string with your pick hand. Not all harmonics are equally easy to hit, but the 12th fret, 7th fret and 5th frets work well. You should get a bell-like or whistle-like tone. Use the tremolo bar to lower the pitch, simulating the whistling sound of a falling bomb. Yank up on the tremolo bar as well, to suddenly raise the pitch of the note.

Sound Considerations

These techniques work best with an overdriven amplifier playing very loud, or with a distortion effect. For the falling bomb effect, try boosting the treble frequencies, or using an effects processor with an edgy sound.


A famous example of the dive-bomber effect is the end of "Eruption," the guitar solo by guitarist Eddie Van Halen, off the album "Van Halen." Another famous example is the Jimi Hendrix performance of "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, where Hendrix used an overdriven Fender Stratocaster and tremolo bar to simulate the sounds of an air strike.

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