What makes a good electric violin good?

January 29, 2019, 3:49 AM · I have seen a few posts on the forum came up about electric violin and silent violin lately. I am a newbie to the violin, and really like to learn a bit more about this instrument.

I read some article online and listen to some clips, but I was wondering, just what are the essential elements that makes a electric violin good?

In acoustic violin world, people value projection, tone and collectability. However, these criteria makes less sense in the electric world. For example, you can get a big amp and turn up the volume to get more "projection". There are software to adjust the bass or other effect to get a different tone. And for something to be as a "collectable", it is usually a limited production because the maker died 300 years ago. If I apply these criteria into the electric world, then are we looking for a good on-board electronics, good amp and a dead maker?

Replies (11)

January 29, 2019, 5:16 AM · I think it depends on the responsiveness of doing things and how much you can adjust certain things, and what there is actually to adjust
Edited: January 29, 2019, 6:23 AM · All good electrics have a piezo and any piezo will give you the same sound pretty much despite anything you do to it, so it all comes down to looks and build quality. You want it to be lightweight, sturdy, in proportion to a proper acoustic, and not so cheap that your cable falls right out of the shoddy jack.

Having your amp and reverb onboard I personally think is resoundingly stupid; the effects just make the instrument heavier than a sack of bricks and they sound awful. I'd rather have my amp and pedals on the ground where they belong.

January 29, 2019, 6:42 AM · Projection is not only volume but above all a timbre which cuts through the surrounding sounds to be heard at a distance. So the piezzo pickups have to be good enough to provide enough clean high frequencies that can be modeled by equalisation.

The only Electric violin I tried, decades ago, was a Zeta, with a stereo pickup under each string. The basic tone had enough shimmer and texture to be moulded in different ways, with none of the hollow "howling" I so often hear.

Edited: January 29, 2019, 7:19 AM · As I said in another thread, the keys to having your electric violin sound good are to (1) have an overpriced preamp that promises you "sound conditioning" but accomplishes nothing but equalization and gain boost, (2) buying a few stomp boxes, preferably including a loop pedal, and (3) wearing some kind of rakish hat while you play.

Beware the comparison of projection and volume. That'll bring out the loonies from every direction.

January 29, 2019, 7:37 AM · Thanks for the feedback. I am really tempted to give it a try one day (more for curiosity).

I just wondering, is the piezo pickup the norm for electric violin? I looked at some articles on the electric guitar, a lot of them seems to use the magnetic (Not entire sure, but I see six dots on the pickup). Is it something not common or not workable for violin?

Also, do electric violin player ever upgrade their pickup or on-board electronic stuff? I mean, do these violin (let's pick a common brand, say Yamaha) normally designed non-upgradable or if I were geek enough I can buy a nice frame/body and tweak the on-board electronic to my liking?

January 29, 2019, 8:51 AM · I don't think violin, non-guitar players typically have the ear or the know-how to change their hardware.

That Zeta with the pickup for each string sounds cool (another word for "expensive"), but you only really need one pickup if you know how to set up your EQ and other effects.
Also, there are no magnetic violin strings, so you can't use a coil pickup. It would also be a bit far away from the strings if you did have one.
January 29, 2019, 9:11 AM · Could someone post a couple YouTube links of GOOD electric violin videos please? I've searched but since I'm too new to know who to search for, I just find electric violin videos that, well, to be as kind as I can be, are not representative. This may be of interest to Sivrit as well? I wasn't sure that I should start an entire new thread on this since it does seem to be related.
January 29, 2019, 2:30 PM · What makes a good electric violin good?

A complete lack of amplification

Edited: January 30, 2019, 6:55 AM · Recently read another thread here about it where someone had posted a video and... wow, sound. The video was a comparison of a few different brands of electric violins, I assume cheap ones, because man, they *sounded* electric. As in, they sounded precisely like the sound was created with a buzz. It was like a caricature of violin sound, like you might find in a movie where they wanted it to sound fake and robotic, or like a "violin" sound on a crappy synthesizer. You know that low-grade buzz you can get out of a sound system? Like that, only playing tunes. Ouch.

After that I went searching for videos to see what the Shar-branded el cheapo sounded like. I found one of their videos demonstrating it (wasn't that impressed) and then immediately after watched one they had with the Yamaha Silent. Night and day! Even though the Yamaha isn't even top of the line.

From articles I've read, it seems it partly matters what you want to do with it, to judge the features that will make it good and good *for you*.

February 3, 2019, 9:33 AM · O.P.

Some things you need to understand about posting such a question here is that it is a forum people who value tradition and for an answer to such a question you have to cut through the noise of disdain and misinformation based on lack of experience. Fiddleforum.com might be better for instance if you are asking questions from people who use such things, or contact the electricviolinshop.com (I'm not affiliated).
Some things to bear in mind:
First of all it's a whole new area of creativity where you have to understand that with the electric there is not one definitive thing that you can point to and say 'this is the best', because everyone has different needs and different creative aspirations.
Secondly, most demonstrations are done to show the raw sound. This is probably not the sound you will be using, rather it's the blank canvas. A big part of owning an electric is that you can use effect pedals which change sound, shape tone etc. If you are listening to a demo like you would with an acoustic instrument then you might be put off.
Like I said, it's a blank canvas, so again it depends what you are looking for, but if you are working with effects you may want something that is fairly neutral and flat across all the strings but with a bit of oomph. If it's fairly full frequency then you can boost the eq areas you want.
If you want an electric violin to sound like an acoustic violin then get a pickup for your acoustic violin - or maybe a microphone. An electric violin is a different animal to an acoustic violin. However there may be some people who need an acoustic sound at a very high volume. In this case there are trade offs against feedback but there are some options such as electric violins with hollow cavities or impulse response processing.
A solid body electric violin is not designed to sound like an acoustic but will vary according to what pickup it has on it.
One thing electric violins have in common with acoustic violins is that a cheap one will sound rubbish. You wouldn't judge all violins by hearing an eBay VSO for a $100 bucks even though is looks similar to the uninitiated. Entry level decent is about $600 - 700 for an ok electric. If you are paying less then chances are you won't have a decent instrument. Preamp also matters - most of them you can't just plug in. Also, your amp matters. Some instruments have preamps built in and if it's a good one you are fine but you may want to consider if you want the choice externally. Some amps also have a decent preamp built in.
As for collectable value, it's not something you consider right now. In the future this may change. If an instrument is very good and not made anymore then it may sell for a good price.

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