I have long wanted an electric violin. A reader generously contributed this review of them when I asked about her setup and shopping experience.
What makes an electric violin come to life?
Like many instruments, within one category there are a ton of various brands. Sometimes you’re paying for the name, the history, the story. But sometimes you come across an electric violin that really speaks to you; that knows the sound you want to hear and the accessories it needs to get there.
Bells and Whistles
Let’s take the Yamaha for example. First of all Yamaha electric violins can be amplified through various add-ons. These include an acoustic amp, a midi device (using an audio to midi converter – approximately $150-$200 dollars), a PA system, CD player, metronome/tuner, synthesizer, equalizers, recording devices, etc. When using an acoustic amp, it comes with special effects to make your Yamaha sound like a guitar, or an acoustic violin, (if purchasing the sv200, 250, or 255). If you have a synthesizer that makes saxophone sounds, or a midi device that sounds like a sax, that will also do the trick.
Performance violins such as the sv 200, 250, 255 have dual piezo pickup, under the bridge and in the body, with treble and bass volume control. On top, the body is made of spruce, and flamed maple on the back. The sv 150 comes with a piezo pickup under the bridge, and has an extremely useful special effects control box with preloaded music, and 20 digital sound effects (such as reverb, distortion, and vibrato). This device takes an SD card that allows you to save your own practice, listen to it afterward, and learn from yourself.
All Yamahas can be powered with an additional power cord which is sold separately. The bodies themselves (depending on the model) may or may not have reverb or special effects on it, but that’s what the world of electronics is all about, just add something to it, and “poof” you’ve got your very own custom made high tech toy.
Now if you want to do even more special effects, you can attach pedals to the violins to make all kinds of amazing sounds! You’re in charge because you can mix and match sounds, and you can also save them through the pedals as you play (i.e. repeating or looping as it’s technically called). Believe it or not, this is an extremely helpful device to help you practice your electric violin.
The “Zeta” electric violin produces one of the most beautiful sounds, and is also midi compatible. The Zetas that Eileen Ivers, Laurie Anderson, Jean Luc Ponte all used were fantastic custom made specially for these artists’ personal specifications. These days however, it’s getting harder and harder to find because many of the stores either went out of business, or don’t have enough expertise to stand behind their product – not to mention the hefty price tags these violins carry. If you just have to have one though, I recommend the “Electricviolin” – Check them out on YouTube. The prices for Zetas’ range from approximately $900-$5,000 for industry standard violins.
Yamaha makes a great product. If you need to contact them for further information, they have one of the most helpful customer service teams I’ve come across. Go to their website, yamaha.com or call them at 1.888.926.2424. At the end of the day, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your electric violin, and you’ll be much more inclined to play if you’re happy with it, so do your research before making a purchase.
Do you have a suggestion as to the best pedal controlled unit to use with the yamaha sv 200 to provide reverb and the ability to loop or control sound quality?
I have to say, I have not explored my electric violin further since writing this article.
Learning the technology takes lots of trial and error, which takes time.
I would love if you could share what you learn! There are probably facebook groups dedicated to EXACTLY this topic. I would bet a hundred bucks. In fact….I’m gonna go join a group right now….and learn from other people’s trials and errors!