Electric Violins?

August 1, 2005 at 03:02 AM · I'm thinking about buying an electric violin just to play around with for fun and with bands, mainly for rock music. Does anyone have any recommendations that wouldn't be very expensive? What are "silent" violins and is the 5th string on the 5 stringed violins the viola C string? And out of curiosity, what can you do about shoulder rests for the more oddly shaped instruments?

Replies (14)

August 1, 2005 at 05:14 AM · Is it ok to buy one from Ebay?

August 1, 2005 at 07:24 AM · You bet...five strings have the C string...or the E string from a violists perspective. A 'silent' violin is an electric since it has no sound box for the vibrations to resonate but rather pickups like an electric guitar would.

I have a Yamama silent violin and I enjoy it. I don't use it like you probably do, I use it to practice for hours at night so nobody will wake up.

And yes, it's okay to buy off of ebay...electric violins are different than acoustics. The sound can be described based on the kinds of pick-ups and amplification.

August 1, 2005 at 12:58 PM · I have recently bought a fender FV1 and im finding this really useful for rock/folk playing, its possibly not as quiet as the yamaha silents when not pluged in but i havent played one so im not sure. Anyway, the fender sounds pretty sweet played through a decent amp and it looks funky too. I paid around £300 for mine 2nd hand, so their pretty affordable aswell!

August 1, 2005 at 05:54 PM · So how can I tell if the pickup and amplication is good? Are there any "key words" I should be looking for? And would it be better to buy an electric violin or just buy an amp for the violin I have right now?

August 1, 2005 at 06:26 PM · I would say an amp and pickup for the one you have now. The sound is more real, no matter what setting the electric has.

I don't now what good pickups or amps are, but that's how I decided it would probably be okay to buy off of ebay.

August 1, 2005 at 07:42 PM · Hello,

If you're going to go the pickup route, there are several different kinds to check out.

There are replacement bridge piezo pickups, piezo clamp on or suspension type pickups (attached to the bridge) and a couple others that require either drilling a hole in your existing instrument (not recommended unless you really don't ever want to play it acoustically again).

I've tried several, the Fishman piezo bridge pickup, the Barcus Berry piezo bridge pickup and another piezo pickup (can't remember the name) that sticks on the backup of your instrument with sticky tack (a real pain to remove).

All of them were good for certain things. The Fishman altered the natural acoustic tone the least, The Barcus Berry was solidly constructed and had no noise at all and the other one was great as a second pickup in addition to close mic-ing the instrument.

If you're going to go the rock violin route and plan on playing gigs, invest in a dedicated electric instrument. I say this for a couple of reasons, the first being most people aren't aware of how very careful we are around our violins. All it takes is a bop from a mic stand or a guitar or anything for that matter to leave a mark or a crack that you'll kick yourself for forever. Not to mention the fact that your violin will hate you. And then there's the possibility of drinks, smoke and whatever other hazards of playing gigs there are.

Wait a minute, there's a bunch of threads in this forum about this. I would look them up. Also, check out fiddleforum.com, I think. There's a lot more e-violin people there.

Good luck!


August 3, 2005 at 01:55 AM · Watch Ebay and get a ZETA. If you're planning on playing this electric violin for a long time, ever do any recording with it, or just want something reliable...go with ZETA. I know that ZETA is a little bit more expensive, but the sound and playability is very obvious! I have 2, and I've never spent more than a grand on one.

As far as an amp goes - either get an electric guitar amp (100 watts or more) or for a more pure sound, get a keyboard amp. Roland makes great keyboard amps.

I'd also recommend an effects processor - something with multi-effects. I tour 120+ shows each year with the Korg Toneworks AX1500, and its been great! The sounds are fantastic and its very easy to learn and use.

Check out my blogs for more electric violin information. Also, visit my website and you can hear the ZETA's in action: www.rosschristopher.com

-Ross Christopher


August 11, 2005 at 07:06 PM · I would tend to shy away from from most of the electric violins you see on ebay, you get what you pay for. The Fender and Yamaha SV would be an ok place to start, but the ZETA violins are worth paying a little extra for if you can afford to go that route. Most of the time you can find one or two new ZETA's listed on ebay, and quite often they go for much less than they normally would from a local dealer, so keep an eye out. I have a 4 string Strados that I have had for about 8 years now, and love it. I also have a custom 5 string Strados Acoustic on order, which I expect to see sometime in September. From what I understand, the 5 strings only take a short time to get familiar with and are very versatile.

ALL of the electric violins are only as good as the preamp or amplifier you play through. I suggest a good acoustic amplifier like SWR, Roland, or Trace. Having an amplifier serves two main purposes. Firstly, the amp allows you to taylor your sound and has the "preamp" built-in, as well as providing some effects(reverb/delay). Secondly, and most obvious, if gives you something to monitor your sound at home as well as on stage. Sometime playing with a full band means you need a bit more stage volume than what the general stage monitors or soundman will provide. Many fiddlers just prefer to use a preamp/DI box, like the LR Baggs Para acoustic DI, or Fishman ProEQ, an just run straight to the mixer and just use the stage monitors. The second way is actually more common and most widely accepted for live sound, but it is purely a personal choice. My feeling is to leave the stage monitor mix as simple and uncluttered as possible and leave that space open for the vocals, again personal choice.

Your cheapest and best solution(in my opinion of course), would be to just get the built-in bridge pickup for your existing acoustic instrument, like the LR Baggs(1st choice) or the Schatten, or Barcus Berry( NOT the screw on type). This arrangement will alter the acoustic sound slightly, but not too adversly, because they are made from standard maple bridges. With this type of acoustic electric setup, you will need a preamp such as I mentioned before, to boost the signal and "shape" the sound, but this is the cheapest and best sounding solution by far.

If you just want to experiment and want something to practice with, then the cheaper electrics will suffice, including the cheapo ebay stuff. If this something you are serious about and plan to use alot, then my advice is to spend a bit more and get something you will truly be happy with and actually WANT to play.

September 25, 2007 at 01:26 PM · I make acoustic 5-string violins and either use the L.R. Baggs pickup that is made into the brige or the Fishman that slips nto the wing of the bridge. If you drill a hole into the top of the violin as someone else suggested you will be asking for trouble! The acoustic 5-string I made for David Blackmon strated out with a Fishman but then David ask me to change it out for an L.R.Baggs. David prefers the L.R. Baggs over the Fishman but I think we may be about to change it for something else.

September 26, 2007 at 02:40 AM · There seems to be a preference here for LR Baggs bridge pickups. What about Barbera bridges?

September 26, 2007 at 02:24 PM · I've tried Barbera, Zeta, Alverez, Barcus Berry and LR Baggs. The Barcus Berry is pretty good, but the Baggs is the best so far. I don't like the others at all.

September 26, 2007 at 08:02 PM · I think there are four good reasons to consider a "true" electric, vs a pickup:

1: Gives you the option of using a 5-string. For some applications, this can be incredibly useful. I have yet to hear an acoustic 5-string with a low "C" worth playing, but a few electrics have excellent low "C"'s.

2: Quiet practice without a mute/tinny sound. Not 100% acoustic-y, but much more satisfying than a mute.

3: Durability on gigs, as Ross mentioned. I'd like to find a good elec 5-string made out of 100% composite.

4: Even the best acoustic pickup probably alters the acoustic tone slightly.

Of course, no electric is going to really sound like an acoustic, either, but what can you do?

September 26, 2007 at 07:51 PM · Rick,

On the tune that plays when one clicks on your webpage, just before the break there are some very low sustained notes. Is that the Zeta all the way down there on the low B?

If so, that's pretty cool. Not a lot of fullness, but incredibly resonant. It sits in the track very nicely and adds a nice gothic /pagan flavor. I likes it!

September 27, 2007 at 03:31 AM · For an electric violin made out of composite materials, check out Bridge Instruments. They make 4- and 5-string violins using carbon fiber and kevlar for the body.

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