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Our exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of today's best-known violinists, including Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne Akiko Meyers, Maxim Vengerov, and others.


Electric 5 string vs. 4 string

Instruments: Pros and cons of a 5 string electric violin vs. 4 strings

From Jeffrey Schmitt
Posted April 1, 2005 at 07:03 AM

Thinking about getting my daughter an electric violin for her 16th birthday. It's partly so she can practice without bothering us but also to expand her horizons and free her up a bit on stage when she's fiddling (she feels trapped to the mike now). She plays classical and bluegrass fiddle and loves traditional players as well as more contemporary violinists like Bond, Yellow Card (yeah I know they don't compare) and others.

The question: Is it worth getting a 5 string electric or just stick with 4 strings? How much adjustement is there between going from 4 strings to 5? (That is, if she practices a classical piece on the 5 string electric will it mess her up to transition over to the 4 string acoustic violin.) Does the extended range come in handy very often? Any other pros or cons?

Thanks in advance.

From Alex Yau
Posted on April 2, 2005 at 02:36 AM
Jeffrey,
A 5-string electric can be very helpful as for range, but in my experience, is also significantly heavier than their 4-string counterparts. My personal taste would be to stick to a 4 string, but everyone has their different preferences!

Alex

From Jenni Thompson
Posted on April 2, 2005 at 05:23 AM
If she likes lower instruments like viola and cello, I'd say definitely go for the 5 string. If not... she can probably do without. :)

I'm 18 and looking into getting an electric, mostly to record songs I'm composing that I'd to like a "different" sound. An electric that is 4 strings can be a difference of $200 compared to 5, but after I tried a 5 string, I just couldn't imagine getting one without that lovely, deep C string. To get an electric that's only 4 wouldn't be worth it to me. But I think if she is only going to have one to play around with and practice on with headphones, five strings aren't at all necessary, and it won't be found lacking. Also, "heavy" would never be a word I'd use for any electric violins I've tried. The five string electrics I've played on were considerably lighter than my four string regular violin. I can't imagine, with all the small shapes electric violins come in now, that your daughter would find them heavy. Take care!

From DJ Cheek
Posted on April 3, 2005 at 02:33 AM
Jenni,

If you like the "lovely, deep C string", then ditch the violin and become a violist.

Also, what was that Heifetz thing about???

From Jessica Parsons
Posted on April 4, 2005 at 03:19 AM
Jeffery,
I recently purchased a Ned Steinburger 5-string violin, because I was asked to do some work with local bands. I too was debating between a 4-string and 5-string. I experimented with both, but decided I liked the range the 5-string had to offer, and I loved the deep, rich tones of the C string. Beware though...it's quite a bit different than playing a standard violin. I'm not sure if this applies to all electric 5-string models, but my fingerboard is quite a bit wider, because there needs to be extra room for the additional string. Also, the strings are spaced slightly closer together. I've realized that I can't relate the 5-string and my regular violin, because there are so many differences between the two. I have to see them as two completely different instruments. I am very happy with the dicision I made of getting the 5-string instead of the 4-string, but the 5-string is used only for genres other than classical. Good luck with your search! -Jess