Yamaha silent violin - Would it be worth?

Edited: November 19, 2018, 10:52 AM · Hi everyone!

Last week, I saw a Yamaha "silent violin" (model 104) at my town's music shop. I couldn't try it at the moment, but I searched a bit of info about it on the internet. I'd like to ask you some questions, to see if any of you owns or has tried one and can shed some light on the issue for me:

(1) How does playing it with headphones on compare to playing with a heavy practice mute? Is using the silent violin with headphones on better than using the mute?

Added info: I usually play late at night, with a heavy lead mute for not disturbing my neighbours. I also tend to get headaches, and on these days I just can't stand the sound and loudness of the violin without muting it and plugging my left ear.

(2) I own a clavinova digital piano, and I use it with headphones at a low volume when I'm in the middle of a headache. Is that achievable with this kind of instrument?

(3) How does playing a silent violin differ from playing an acoustic violin? Does it spoil your technique?

Added info: If I got it, I would still be playing my acoustic violin at full volume at least for 1h per week, in my class time.

(4) Can you change the chinrest on these violins? I'm used to play with a centered one.

(5) I'm mostly interested on playing classical music. I don't need fancy effects, and don't plan to play strident rock violin sounds. My aim is to achieve a "solo Bach level". Provided my aforementioned circumpstances, do you think it can be worth for me, or is it better to stick with the mute and save that money for better purposes?

Thank you very much.

Replies (24)

Edited: November 19, 2018, 12:07 PM · Silent violins aren't silent. You can hear them perfectly well without headphones. Practice mutes work perfectly on them.
I've got a cheap and nasty one. I may buy a nicer one, a Hidersine maybe. The Yamaha are so expensive that they must be good. The chinrests work the same way, although a silent violin is thinner than an acoustic violin, so you may need to make sure the chinrest's screws can tighten up far enough.
I've given up playing mine. Obviously tone production is the thing that will change most.
November 19, 2018, 12:53 PM · Unless you want to play electric violin most of the time and explore myriads of sound effects and other exciting features, stay away. Sound production is 180 degrees from acoustic violin and will, over time, nefativelly affect your bowing technique.
November 19, 2018, 2:07 PM · What Rocky said! Not the best for developing proper technique.
November 19, 2018, 2:11 PM · What Rocky said.
Edited: November 19, 2018, 4:16 PM · I assume you're talking about the YSV-104, which is the most recent addition to the Yamaha silent violin line. (There is also the YEV-104, which is made for amplified performance.)

Re: the YSV-104, no, you can't change the chinrest. Some Yamaha silent violins will allow that, and some won't. Also, you can go to Yamaha's website, put in your earbuds, and hear the sound of that instrument for yourself. They have sound samples. The instrument is less responsive than an acoustic violin, so you probably will develop a heavier bowing technique, but that's true for acoustic violins with heavy practice mutes too. The YSV-104 is unique among Yamaha's silent violin offerings because it electronically simulates the sounds of an acoustic in a live room.

Like you, I prefer a center mounted chinrest, so the YSV-104 is off of my shopping list. (I do have a YEV-104, but to use it for "silent" practice requires additional hardware.)

Edited: November 19, 2018, 4:16 PM · Thank you very much. Andrew, Rocky, Roger and Lydia confirmed what I was suspecting without even trying it. I'm not interested in using pedals, loops and effects (at least in this moment). If sound production is so different, as then it's definitely not worth.

Mark: Yes, I was referring to the YSV104. I didn't specify it correctly. I may try it, but I wasn't very convinced about its usefulness when I posted. Having played digital pianos, I know they're not the real thing, but some of them are quite good. That's why I was curious about these violins and the technology behind them.

But if such a violin is bad for my poor bowing technique, and I'm told it thrice by respected members of this community who know better than me and give sensible advice in each of their posts, I think the answer is clear. Such a violin would only be useful either to play with effects and loops, or to practice fingerings at the expense of poorer bowing technique.

November 19, 2018, 6:14 PM · How does an electric violin negatively affect bowing technique?
November 19, 2018, 6:16 PM · Because on many electrics, they produce a decent sound regardless of how crooked you bow.
November 19, 2018, 6:56 PM · And you can 'heavy hand' an electric without ruining the tone, so you'll inevitably do that.
Edited: November 19, 2018, 7:54 PM · I have a YEV-104 which I don't use much at present. I'm not sure I'd buy it again, but I'd choose it over the 'silent violins', etc., because it's a bit more modern and designed to be more comparable and compatible with acoustics.

(1) I probably tried headphone with it only briefly - I won't bother because the natural sound is better (volume and adjustments notwithstanding) and the headphones and cables would be unnecessary clutter. Using headphones won't make it sound like an acoustic, and introduce additional tonal losses from the pickup, electronics, and headphones.

It's a bit quieter than an acoustic with a heavy practice mute, and can also take a practice mute, which would make it even quieter. If you need quietest possible instrument, an electric will naturally be better than an acoustic.

Electrics also tend to be somewhat heavier than acoustics. The YEV is on the lighter side among them, but still noticeably heavier than a plain acoustic and even a touch heavier than my acoustic with a heavy metal mute (although I generally use an Artino, which is lighter).

(3) Every violin is different. Unless the electric is practically the same as your own acoustic, it will feel different, and you'll have some adjustment to do when switching from one to the other. Another advantage it has over an acoustic with a mute is that you can see over the bridge without the mute getting in the way. In this respect, it can be better for your technique than a muted acoustic. But either one will dampen the vibrations on the string, and will take some additional adjustment to get accustomed to playing on a plain acoustic again.

"Added info: If I got it, I would still be playing my acoustic violin at full volume at least for 1h per week, in my class time."

You should also prepare for that by playing the violin as you do in the class in your practice for some time.

(4) Yes, the YEV can take standard center-mounted chinrests and shoulder rests.

(5) You're probably better off sticking to the same violin you would use in other situations. The YEV, etc., can be fun toys, and quieter, but don't displace the acoustic, so you might as well stick with that and save the time and money.

November 20, 2018, 4:08 AM · I remember seeing a youtube video where someone compare the electric violin (not plug to an amp) against an acoustic violin with mute. I think the video was produced by a lady named Alison from the online violin tutor (?).

Based on the video, I think loudness wise they sound about the same, but I think you can check out that video hear it yourself.

I have very noise sensitive neighbours, so I only practise at home with a heavy metal mute (at any hour). The only time I can unmute my violin is during my group class, of which I usually wear ear-plug on my left ear.

November 20, 2018, 5:13 AM · Why would you buy an electric if you don't plan on using its full capabilities? The whole deal with electrics is the effects and loops and exotic sounds and whatnot.

In any case, I would not buy a Yamaha, or any electric with any amps or tone control built in...
I would keep my effects on the ground and choose a lightweight violin with just the pickup (like a Wood Stingray). That tiny preamp in the Yamaha blows, and weighs a tonne too.

Edited: November 20, 2018, 5:55 AM · The electrics are secondary: the "silence" is primary.
Edited: November 20, 2018, 6:29 AM · Why not just get a bridge pickup, put on the heavy practice mute, and plug in the pickup to an amp with a headphone jack? That's an instant set up comparable to the YSV and you can use your existing violin.
November 20, 2018, 11:31 AM · J. Ray: Thank you for your detailed answer. The electric violin was just a random idea that crossed my mind after seeing one at the shop. I thought asking here would be a good idea, and answers like yours confirm it. I'll stick with what I have, and will look into electrics if I want to specifically play "electric" someday (And I try to play without the mute a bit if I can, but I usually play late at almost midnight, and unfortunately it's not possible!).

Tom: Thank you for the information. I don't think it's worth to spend that money for an electric violin + amp in my situation. With that amount I can upgrade my cheap acoustic instrument which is worth around €300-350. That would probably be better.

Sivrit: I found the video. And, even if it's not exactly the model I was referring to, it's quite noticeable from the outside of the room. I also play with my left ear plugged. Oterwise I get a strong headache. And even doing that, some days I still get it. But it's still Thank you.

Cotton and Andrew: Andrew's answer is accurate. Silent practice is the main goal. The rest is optional.

Kevin Cheung: That's a smart idea that I may end up trying! Thank you.

November 20, 2018, 3:13 PM · As somebody who spends a lot of time playing acoustic, electric and electro-acoustic I really don't agree that it will have a negative affect on your bowing technique or that electrics sound good no matter your angle etc. I find an amplified violin quite raw and unforgiving - you can't really hide imperfections in your bowing. I suspect some here are imagining an electric with tons of reverb which is a different matter. Without that you are pretty naked. Of course if you have a volume control you don't have to work so hard for projection, but projection isn't everything. Amplification can actually allow you more subtle nuances that would be lost otherwise. I guess I would advise a beginner to learn on an acoustic but it depends. If you have an acoustic and an electric and you end up practicing more because you have an electric/silent violin, it is probably more beneficial than not. I don't think it would ruin your playing - might make you more versatile though!
November 23, 2018, 2:37 AM · I own a YSV104 and wrote a review on it: https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=2284

Reading these threads, it's amazing the number of people who make confident assertions about them when they've obviously never tried the instruments in question. "What Rocky said" indeed!

No two violins, whether electric or acoustic play the same, so there is always an adaption to the individual instrument. In the same way that learning to play in tune on an out of tune violin improves your technique, so does playing a variety of instruments.

I doubt very much that anyone planning on buying a silent violin would choose this as their only instrument. Its use is for practice - so you wouldn't take it to your lesson or your orchestra's rehearsal or any performance. If you're like me, you don't play it when you're alone in the house.

So I play both my violins regularly - and both help me practice and learn. They are not so significantly different so that I have to radically alter my playing style - but by playing both, by reacting to the nuances of each instrument, my playing has improved overall.

November 23, 2018, 4:29 AM · I have a strange thought about this another day.

If manufacturer wants to silent the silent violin further, he can have a build in amp and chipset on the violin that generates the reverse wave pattern real time, effectively doing a noise cancellation.

When we bow and the strings vibrate, the electronic pick up the vibration. On one hand it amplifies it and output to our headset. On the other hand it calculates reverse wave pattern and output it to the amp. As a result, the amp output the pattern interfere with the wave from the string and offset the sound.

Of course, it is just a thought. Maybe too much wine.

November 24, 2018, 3:33 PM ·
Miguel Pitti,

If you somehow can arrange more times where you can practice without mute it would be really good.

I once had a pupil who practiced at home with a heavy metal mute. Then when she arrived at the violin lesson and played without the mute the sound was so different from what she was used to. It made it difficult to practice quality of tone.

Regarding electric violin: That can be a great and/or fun variation to the acoustic violin, but not a replacement when you practice if the acoustic violin is what you really want to play.

You do need to practice on the instrument you want to play. In case you want to play both on an acoustic violin and on an electric violin you better practice on both instruments.

Edited: November 24, 2018, 4:10 PM · Lars Peter Schultz: At this time the only moment I can play without any kind of mute is at my weekly hour of lesson. I haven't had many problems with it so far. Maybe it's because I'm still at a beginner stage of learning, in which I'm perfectioning 3rd position and vibrato before learning a new position and have just started learning double stops.

The double stops are what made me think of muting and intonation, and ask here if an electric could be a solution. A heavily muted violin lets you learn fingering on simple monophonic music, but when you're playing double stops, it's very different.

Since I posted this question, I've found on the internet an expensive and somehow strange mute which promises a similar muting effect but with better sound and lots of harmonics. If this is true, this can be the solution I am searching for (still knowing that the best way of playing is unmuted).

The mute I referred to is this --> https://wmutes.com/violin-mutes/practice-mute-violin

I'm not really interested in electric violin. All I want as an amateur is to achieve during my lifetime a level which lets me play solo Bach pieces. Anything else is welcome of course. But the main reason I started playing (along with curiosity) was Bach.

Thank you for your advice.

November 24, 2018, 4:41 PM · Well, I don't know anything about the mute on your link, looks good though according to the text.

Anyway, wish you many great hours with the solo Bach pieces when you get to them. Practicing on these pieces is a very rewarding activity. The quality of the music is so inspiring.

November 25, 2018, 3:36 AM · Bach pieces are incredibly rich. I can enjoy them at the piano, and they’re at the same time the main reason why I play the violin (as I said) and why I don’t practice as often as I should (I find playing Bach so rewarding that I end up playing the piano and learning my way through a suite instead of practicing scales with the violin... which is necessary but way less enjoyable).

Regarding the mute, I will probably try it, since I’ve got nothing really important to lose here. It’s just as expensive as a new set of strings. If it’s worth it, I’ll post a mini review here for the vcom community general knowledge. They seem to be a fairly new product in the market.

Thank you again, Lars.

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