Electric violin with USB interfaces

April 21, 2020, 2:06 AM · First of all, I'm not sure how much electric violins or recording techniques are discussed on this forum, so apologies if this is off-topic.

I'm an amateur violinist with a couple of years of experience with acoustic violin. Even before COVID-19 happened I was kind of limited in where and when I could play my violin due to neighbors, and now that I'm locked out of my practice places I can only play with a mute. As you may imagine, this does not particularly motivate me to play all that much. In addition, I enjoy recording music on my own, but the only place where I can do that is at the public library where I can maybe book the studio once every two months, and now it is closed as well and will likely remain closed until the autumn.

So I'm looking at electric violins. I've played guitar for many years and use one of those Line 6 toneport doohickeys that produces a pretty nice dry signal for recording and also provides a good sound for playing with VSTs in real time with headphones - it's so good that I haven't had to use my real amp ever since I moved into an apartment building. Do you people have any experience in home recording electric violin using USB audio interfaces and VSTs (without amplifiers and mics), and how good can I expect the results to be? What sort of VSTs (ie. Guitar Rig) could be used for this?

My interest is mostly in a clean sound without distortion, so I assume I could probably just hook the violin into Guitar Rig and get something passable. I intend to layer several recordings on top of each other to produce fake symphony kind of sound. As this is entirely non-professional I can tamper my expectations quite a bit.

Replies (7)

April 21, 2020, 7:04 AM · I have been using Digitech JML2 JamMan; would this work for your plans?
April 21, 2020, 7:50 AM · For creating layers there are loopers like Erin suggested (my daughter, a cellist, enjoys her Electro-Harmonix Model 720, but the Digitech JamMan looks fine too). Or you can build your layers in DAW software. I suggest just plugging your electric violin into a preamp/interface like the Presonus USB 96. It comes with nice DAW software that's easy to use and there are a lot of YouTube videos to get you started. In my view the looper is more of a performance item, whereas if you are trying to make recordings -- even simple amateur stuff -- the interface/DAW approach will give you far more control.
April 21, 2020, 11:09 AM · I'll be doing the layering in the DAW (currently Reaper). My question is mainly getting the violin signal into my computer without amplification or microphones and then amplifying the signal with VSTs in real time.

I looked into the PreSonus device, and it looked like it was doing most of what I already do with my Toneport, expect all the videos I checked seemed to use external amplifiers and microphones as opposed to direct signal from the instrument. The device was also marked with one of those fake CE markings (Chinese Export) which always worried me a bit about electronics.

Edited: April 21, 2020, 6:43 PM · I don't see why you could't plug your violin right into the PreSonus device. I don't think these interface/preamp devices have impedance or line-level issues, but I'll try it tonight and let you know. I'm not sure what you're wanting to do with VSTs. If you're hoping to use Reaper on your laptop to basically serve as a multi-effects pedal for your violin, that's something I'm interested in doing too so we should keep this thread active. I'm told latency can be an issue but the new USB interfaces are supposed to minimize that. Focusrite has an interface that's pretty good too and not much more expensive, the Scarlett 2i2. That's got a "CE" tag on it as well. Dang, so does my laptop. I guess I'm screwed; all my stuff is cheap Chinese crap.

[Note: VST ("Virtual Studio Technology") is just a term invented by Steinberg for modules (virtual instruments and effects) that plug into a DAW ("Digital Audio Workstation" -- music mixing+editing software) using a particular interface protocol (which I think was originally proprietary to Steinberg but I don't know if it still is). "Steinberg" is a company that was an early pioneer in DAW/VST software with their Cubase product. The OP knows all this. I have defined the jargon for the benefit of other readers.]

April 21, 2020, 7:08 PM · Paul, thank you for helping me thru the jargon jungle; since I got interested in JamKazam, I have been lost in new acronyms and terminology.
Edited: April 22, 2020, 12:44 AM · I'd love to hear what sort latency you get. With my guitar the latency is minimal, and since the hardware and software will likely be almost the same I'm expecting it won't be too much to play with.

Yes, the terms can get pretty complicated. I'm not an audio engineer myself and some of this stuff goes beyond my head as well.

The thing about the CE markings is to remember that there are real and fake markings. The fake ones have the middle "arm" of the letter "E" be equally long to the bottom and top ones, while the real marking has the middle arm a bit shorter. Also, the CE marking itself requires no passing of any kind of testing. It simply states that the manufacturer claims their product to follow the safety guidelines in the European Union, and if it doesn't and something happens, well, then the manufacturer is in trouble. So any product can be marked with CE, but the "Chinese Export" symbol is done without any responsibilities.

April 22, 2020, 5:52 AM · Yamaha makes excellent electric violins in a wide range of prices. The output impedance should be the same as an electric guitar's output, so plugging into any device you currently use for your guitar should be fine. Latency shouldn't be an issue any more than it is with a guitar.

Regarding which VSTs to use, that's up to you -- experiment with what you've already got before buying anything new.

If you want a looper pedal the Boss Loop Station RC3 is an amazing (and fairly complicated) pedal with lots of storage space so you can save what you've done one day and build on it another day. And the electric violin should plug directly into it without a need for a pre-amp.

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