It's actually a beautiful-looking fiddle, in two models, each with either four or five strings. The violin has always been a model of symmetry and perfect dimensions, both physical and tonal. So there's a certain deep appeal to the fact that the frame of this electric violin is based on mathematically and aesthetically interesting Möbius strip -- an infinite loop, made of wood. Specifically, the instrument includes six kinds of wood: the solid center body is made from maple, mahogany, and spruce, and the frame is constructed of walnut. The maple neck is capped with a solid rosewood fingerboard and ebony tuning pegs. Both models are available with a natural wood body, or in a modern gloss black finish.
The idea of the new Yamaha Electric Violin is that it's more affordable, at a price less than $1,000. Yamaha will have them available for shipment in May.
I had a sneak peek at the instrument Wednesday, at a NAMM Show preview. (By the way, I'll be back at NAMM Friday morning, if you are there, email me so I can try to stop by and say hello!)
Though the fiddles weren't plugged in, I was able to try it out for the feel of it -- it feels exactly like a normal violin, if maybe a little lighter. It's a spare frame, but it easily accommodates a shoulder rest, which is something I do use. It also fits in a standard violin case, and most fittings can be changed according to the player's preference. It works with any violin bow. When plugged in, the fiddle uses a passive pickup, which sends the signal directly from the string through the wood, into the pickup and into the amp.
Violinist Caroline Campbell was on hand Wednesday to take the fiddle for a true test drive. Campbell has high credibility in both the classical and popular music world, having played as a soloist for orchestras such as Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and for pop stars such Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart, and Seal. She also plays frequently with Chris Botti. Most of the time, she plays on her 1771 Gagliano, with a pickup under the bridge, but she has been enjoying the new Yamaha.
"It feels nice, and I like the look of it," she said. "The visual aspect is part of the performance...It would be easier to take this instrument into a crossover setting than, say, a bright pink, plastic electric violin." Below, Campbell takes the new Electric Violin for a spin, with a little mashup that goes from classical to pop, with a little bit of Carmen, Czardas, Paganini 24, Ysaÿe and Michael Jackson.
One last thing to say, Campbell was demonstrating this instrument at a show in which many -- MANY -- merchants will be showing their new instruments. The NAMM Show -- NAMM standing for the National Association of Music Merchants -- is expected to attract some 100,000 attendees from 137 countries and territories over the next four days, with 1,600-plus exhibiting companies (a record), representing 5,100-plus brands. In other words, it's BIG. A number of the new instruments seems geared toward allowing a musician to create music by pushing buttons or even just touching a surface, the idea being that having to acquire skill on an instrument is a barrier to being able to create music and be a musician.
Well, maybe. But I found that watching a person dance around while pushing a button that allows synthetic sound to pour out -- it was curious, but not captivating. Naturally, I'm biased. But I think those present would agree: the show that had people smiling, watching, stopping what they were doing -- was the one with the violinist.
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