Yamaha YSV104 Silent Violin Mini Review

November 22, 2018, 4:07 PM · A little under six months ago, I came back to the violin after a three-decade lay off. It's a very long story as to why I decided to walk away and one not without some hurt.

But I'm back now, and as I now share my home with my wife and partner of twenty years, I needed to find a way of practising without driving her crazy. She's very understanding and extremely supportive, but I could imagine all too well the horrors of listening to someone who still thinks he should be able to play the Mendelsohn flawlessly but can't.

It was immediately obvious that the "normal" violin I have was just too loud. So I took a gamble and decided to order the new Yamaha YSV104 Silent Violin.

I thought it might be worth posting my experiences here as there isn't much information about these instruments available online.

This is not an instrument intended for performance - it's strictly practice only. It does not have a resonant body (to keep it quiet), and the resonance is added back by a small box of electronics, so it's necessary to wear headphones when playing. The box has two modes - room and hall, designed to reproduce the acoustics of those types of spaces.

The first thing to say about the YSV104 Silent Violin is that it's not silent. Far from it. It is, however, *very* much quieter than my normal instrument, but a long way from silent. Out of the box, it made more sound than I wanted.

Fortunately, before I bought it, I checked with the supplier and it is possible to use the instrument with a mute. I felt the need to check this because the electronic pickup is in the bridge, and I was concerned that fitting a mute could damage the pickup, or alter the audio response of the box of electronics unacceptably.

So, I grabbed my super-duper artino practice mute and tried to fit it. No deal. The artino mute is metal, and its tines would not bend sufficiently for it to slide onto the bridge, which is quite a lot fatter than a normal one (the pickup has to go somewhere).

I then ordered one of the rubber-type ultimate mutes and that fits perfectly and takes the sound levels down a notch to a point where outside the room I practice in, the sound is almost inaudible.

The violin comes fitted with D'Addario Zyex strings, which Yamaha say are good for electric instruments. As I've no experience of other electric violins I can't really comment on that. What I can say is that in the headphones, they sound pretty good.

That said, the nut of the violin is quite high, meaning that there is quite a distance between the string and the fingerboard, and after a few months, I found that my fingertips had formed callouses - this is something I've never experienced before. The violin I passed grade 8 on
and played for two hours each day for 15 years requires much less force to stop the string.

I solved this problem by fitting the YSV104 with a set of low tension Zyex strings. This has had the nice side effect of making the entire sound of the instrument more pleasing. The new strings definitely sound better (to me) than the ones originally fitted.

Incidentally, the original strings lasted about five months of playing 1-2 hours per day. At that point, they seemed to go a bit dead and my fingers were black with some kind of residue after playing for a bit, so I replaced them.

I tend to play with the box set to hall - this compensates to some extent for playing with the mute. The electronics faithfully reproduces the kind of resonances one expects from a standard acoustic instrument, so playing an in-tune D on the A string causes the D string to "resonate" - at least, that's what you hear in the headphones.

The sound is actually very pleasing and the instrument plays much as a standard acoustic instrument does. It's enabled me to regain some of the skill and musicality I had as a young man, and my wife hasn't left me. Overall I'm incredibly pleased with it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quiet (but not silent) way of practising.

Replies (13)

November 22, 2018, 5:16 PM · I think buying a thousand peso electric for practising is silly. It's a waste, for one, and isn't actually the same as an acoustic in terms of response and technique and whatnot. By practising on an electric, you will reduce your ability to get a good sound out of an acoustic.

In any case, you're a bit too crazy about not being heard by others while you practise. Like me! I get it. It's a good idea not to bother your wife, but playing an silent violin is excessive. Putting a regular mute on your violin or practising in a closed room far away is more than enough.

Edited: November 23, 2018, 1:13 AM · Thanks for your opinions, Cotton.

If putting a mute on my acoustic violin would have solved the problem, I wouldn't have bought the silent violin. But despite trying several, including the extremely big Artino practice mute, nothing worked sufficiently well.

I think before calling me silly, you should walk a mile in my shoes first.

If there was no demand for such instruments, Yamaha wouldn't have spent time and money developing them, so despite the firmness of your opinions, you are clearly wrong.

And I'm also guessing you have never played such an instrument so your statements about response are nothing more than speculation and conjecture. They are also mistaken. But hey, why let evidence get in the way of your prejudices, right?

Edited: November 23, 2018, 2:31 AM · Surprisingly enough, two or three days ago I asked the forum about their opinions on these violins. Here it is:

https://www.violinist.com/discussion/thread.cfm?page=2271

This was the kind of response I was searching for, along with some other tips I got on my post, so thank you for your review.

I completely understand that a digital instrument is not the same as an acoustic one. But I must also say I'm a huge fan of high-end digital pianos/silent pianos, since they have provided me the option to practise at home when I arrive late, or whenever I'm in the middle of a migraine attack by putting headphones on at a low volume (of course, the latter is more of a distraction than a serious practise time). Thanks to that, I've been able to make some progress over my whole life.

I have never tried an electric violin, and I'm not completely sure it would be comparable to a silent piano, both in terms of realistic simulation (the clavinova I own is quite accurate in reproducing the resonance of the strings and harmonic table and has realistic pedal effects) and in terms of external volume (in the piano you just hear the keys going up and down. The violin will probably be louder).

I still want to try a silent violin when I get the opportunity, to satisfy my initial curiosity. But I'll probably stick with a mute and save the money it costs to get a violin upgrade from my current cheap acoustic.

November 23, 2018, 2:51 AM · Miguel, thanks for pointing out your post - I hadn't seen it.

Please don't listen to the confident opinions of people who've never tried one of these instruments. They are guessing and wrong.

I would never advocate only playing a silent violin, but you will still gain as much from practising on one as you will from an acoustic. I regularly use both my violins and I'm not transferring bad habits from one to the other. What I am doing is listening to the sound I make and working to improve it no matter the instrument.

This isn't really a digital instrument (my day job is software engineering so I get a bit pedantic about this kind of thing). It's very much a violin - it has strings that you stop, so it won't correct your tuning. The strings are bowed, so they vibrate exactly the same way in response to the movement of the bow as does a standard violin.

The pickup in the bridge is essentially a microphone. What the electronics do is colour the sound detected by the pickup, so that it sounds like a violin with a resonant body. It's not playing for you.

The principal difference between a silent violin and an acoustic one is that silent violins do not have a resonant body, which is where the majority of the sound comes from. So no resonant body, less sound.

You are correct that's not actually silent (I have a digital piano too so I know what you mean), but it is MUCH quieter than an acoustic violin with a mute. I don't have a sound pressure meter to give you a scientific measurement of this, but subjectively I can tell you this: if I put the biggest fattest Artino practice mute I own on my acoustic violin and start playing, my wife finds an excuse to go shopping. If I use the YSV104, she's quite content to sit in the next room and get on with her work.

November 23, 2018, 3:27 AM · I called it a digital instrument to differentiate it from a regular violin. My day job has nothing to do with science, and I'm more of an "arts person", so I'm almost completely ignoramous in science-related issues... and therefore not pedantic with technical and concrete scientifical terminology. So feel free to correct me.

You are correct that's not actually silent (I have a digital piano too so I know what you mean), but it is MUCH quieter than an acoustic violin with a mute.

If I use the YSV104, she's quite content to sit in the next room and get on with her work.

This is exactly what I expect from it, and what would lead me to buy one, even if it's as expensive as my current beginner outfit (with improved bow).

Let me ask you another question I asked on my other post: can you change the chinrest to a centered and taller one? Even if I'm not tall, my neck is long, and feel more comfortable with a centered and higher chinrest, along with a wolf forte-secondo shoulder rest.

November 23, 2018, 4:18 AM · I'm surprised and shocked that the nut is high.
November 23, 2018, 5:28 AM · Hi Miguel

The chinrest cannot be changed, unfortunately. The chin rest is part of a moulded plastic body into which the lead for the output to the box of electronics plugs.

Fortunately for me, it's very similar indeed to the one on my regular violin so there are no ergonomic differences between the two.

Hi Andrew

Actually, looking more closely, the nut isn't massively high, but the geometry of the fingerboard, nut and bridge mean that there is quite a distance between the string and the fingerboard, so to stop the note requires the finger to depress the string more than I'm used to.

November 23, 2018, 5:46 AM · Bad intonation is the worst result of an overhigh nut.
Play a second harmonic, then stop the string - you'll get an augmented fourth instead of a perfect one.
Edited: November 23, 2018, 6:16 AM · I have played an electric. I briefly owned the Yamaha and a Wood Stingray in the past and used them both extensively while I had them.
November 23, 2018, 7:34 AM · Cotton Mather: "I think buying a thousand peso electric for practising is silly"

Cotton Mather: "I briefly owned the Yamaha"

I'll leave you to come to the only logical conclusion from those statements

November 23, 2018, 2:14 PM · A lot of modern players will need to learn how to work with amplification. (I know the violin in question is not a true electric for performance but I think it still gives you the electric feel). So, one of the criticisms of working with an electric is that it will somehow ruin your acoustic playing (I disagree). Funnily enough, I have seen classically trained violinist playing an electric as if they are trying to project to the back of Carnegie Hall and it doesn't sound too pretty! Even a microphone takes a different approach. I think we can and should be adaptable. Keyboard players don't seem to get the same grief about playing piano and a synth or organ - maybe they do from classical pianists! Guitarists can happily go from nylon string to steel or even electric. The violin world is a bit more sensitive when it comes to deviations from the norm.
November 23, 2018, 3:25 PM · The logical conclusion is that I was primarily looking to perform on those instruments. When I practise, I just shut the door...
November 23, 2018, 4:31 PM · Still digging I see, Cotton. What on earth possessed you to buy an instrument specifically and only designed for practice? Yamaha describes the YSV104 as "a refined practice instrument"

Glad shutting the door works for you. It doesn't for me in my house.


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