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Acoustic x Electric [Sep. 28th, 2012|08:24 pm]


Hello everyone!

One question for all experienced violinists (and non-experienced as well): does any of you have an electric violin? If you do, do you think you made a good choice in acquiring one? Or was it a waste of money?

The reason why I'm asking this is because I've been really slacking off my violin practice, mostly because I'm... ashamed of practicing when there are people at my house. I'm still a beginner, so I need to practice the same piece for several times and the noise of the lessons may annoy other members of my family. I want to be able to put earphones and practice to my heart's content.
Still, electric violins are not exactly cheap (at least not around where I live), so I'd like to know if it's worth the price or if I should just stick to my old cheap violin.


[User Picture]From: mamapranayama
2012-09-29 12:22 am (UTC)
I must caution you on buying an electric violin from any place where you can't physically pick up the instrument and try it out first. I bought an electric off of Ebay for about $100.00 and when it was sent to me, it was a left-handed instrument (definitely not what I had ordered). It took some wrangling with their 'customer service' to have them pay to ship the darn thing back to them and send me the correct one. However, for what I paid, I think I got my money's worth. It's nice to be able to play the instrument with headphones on and I can play as loud as I like even while the kids are asleep. It may not be a high-quality instrument, but for practicing, it works just fine.
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[User Picture]From: chikyu_star
2012-09-29 12:26 am (UTC)
Oh, I don't think I have problems with that since I'm definitely planning to go to the store and check for the real thing before buying it (specially because there are so many different models and stuff)! But wow, $100? Even after getting it set to the right terms, it is cheaper than the cheapest models we can find around here. One simple electric violin with no remarkable brand can cost up to the equivalent of $400.

Thanks for the advice!
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[User Picture]From: mamapranayama
2012-09-29 12:51 am (UTC)
It's a cheap, unbranded instrument -- not at all the kind of quality you would find in any music shop and I would never perform with it, but it works well enough for me to practice on without making too much noise.
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[User Picture]From: kitessa
2012-09-29 12:48 am (UTC)
As I play in a band, I own two electric violins. If you do buy one for practice purposes, there are a couple of things you may need to know:

1. Not all electric violins have a jack for earphones. Just something to look out for :)
2. Electric violins are heavier than acoustic ones. Especially if you purchase a violin that has an individual pickup for each string. This has the potential to change your technique slightly.
3. Some electric violins are slightly bigger than an acoustic. Again, this can change your technique. One of my violins is a Fender (which was rubbish) and was drastically larger than an acoustic. It was damn difficult to play. The one I use most of all is my Yamaha, which has been touted as having the same physical dimensions as an acoustic violin. The body may be the same size, but I've noticed the neck is thicker (I need to bring my hand/elbow around more to reach the lower strings) and the bridge is more arched (thereby opening the width between the strings more - this makes playing 5ths a pain in the butt when you have stick fingers like me). Not to mention the weight of the thing.
4. This may sound weird and it's possibly just a personal thing, but I dislike practicing with earphones. I hated using them with my band, but since the other electric instruments would drown out the sounds from my amp, I had no option in order to hear myself. It feels really weird to have the sound coming directly into your ear, rather than underneath it. I also found that sometimes my intonation wasn't the best when using earphones, compared to having the sound come from the amp at my feet (or even better, from my acoustic!)
5. You won't be able to practice your tone or dynamics terribly accurately with earphones in an electric violin. Sure you get some range of expression, but not nearly as much as you do with an acoustic. I guess it depends on the make of electric, but the sound coming through the instruments to phones can sound pretty dry.

Whenever I've been playing my electric violin for a while and then go back to my acoustic, I almost throw my acoustic over my shoulder by accident when I raise it :) The difference in weight can be quite substantial. It won't be anything you can't manage, but it certainly feels very different.
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[User Picture]From: chikyu_star
2012-09-29 01:25 am (UTC)
Well, now you did give me something to think about.
1. The models I was looking for mostly came with jack for earphones, in these aspects I'm OK, I guess.
2, Wow, I always thought it was the opposite. I mean, some models don't even have the body, they're almost like a plank with strings in it. I was a bit worried that the shape of the body (or in this case, the lack of a body properly said) may affect my sense of position (I haven't been any further than the first position), but I never really stopped to think about the weight differences.
3. Another aspect I didn't think about. I thought that most, if not all electric violins varied very little in size. I had problems adjusting to the regular acoustic one, getting another violin with a different size may be problematic.
4. Well, this is something new. I *think* I won't have problems with this, but I do have a couple of concerns regarding how it will end up sounding like, specially considering that I have yet to improve my tuning.
5. Once again, room for thought. Dynamics is one of the things I wanted to practice more often, because I have zero to none while playing. I think that, for now, as long as I can actually notice the basic ones, like staccato and vibrato, I'm happy.

Thanks for raising those points!
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[User Picture]From: kitessa
2012-09-29 02:34 am (UTC)
It's a very individual thing. You may find it works for you perfectly! I'd certainly give it a go, though :)
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[User Picture]From: trouvera
2012-09-29 01:39 pm (UTC)
2. Electric violins are heavier than acoustic ones. Especially if you purchase a violin that has an individual pickup for each string. This has the potential to change your technique slightly.

I think it's less about the overall weight, but its distribution. On an acoustic most of the weight of the fiddle is in the fingerboard and scroll, on an electric it's in the battery nest and pick-up, which are usually under the chin rest, tail piece and near the bridge.

FWIW, as a teacher I wouldn't recommend learning from the ground up on a completely electric instrument, especially if you plan to eventually play/perform on an acoustic. As Kitessa noted above, the size/scale can be different which of course impacts tuning.

Also tone production and listening is very different between an electric and an acoustic. While tone is always effected by equipment, on an acoustic you're talking about fiddle, bow, and strings at a basic level. It's pretty easy to suss out if a tonal issue is you or the equipment. On an electric you have those basic elements but also have to factor in the cords, amp, or earphones, and possibly battery strength. It sounds like it's tone you want/need to be working on, so the electric may be less of a solution than you think.
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[User Picture]From: chikyu_star
2012-09-29 02:13 pm (UTC)
While I'm don't have as a goal perform or anything (I'm mostly learning how to play it as a hobby), I think it's important not to depend on an electric setting to sharpen the tuning, so what you said there is pretty valuable information for me. I'm glad to know that there are not only physical differences between the acoustic and electric, but that this can end up affecting all the rest.
One of my concerns of buying an electric violin at such an early stage was that I was going to end up acquiring bad habits in the electric and end up getting used to it while playing the acoustic (like Kitessa almost sending her acoustic one flying over her shoulders when she is about to play it - which, actually, is the smallest of my concerns), like doing wrong bowing or something like this.

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[User Picture]From: ldygrinningsoul
2012-10-01 12:15 am (UTC)
There are some good thoughts in this thread. I have a Yamaha silent - I got it for about $700 on Ebay about 10 years ago and had no issues buying it that way. Before I bought it, I watched to see how other violinists (in plugged in projects) were amplifying themselves, and went to a Sam Ash to play all their electric violins. I think my electric is the same or lighter than my acoustic, but some of them are more substantial.
Even though it is solid bodied, it isn't ENTIRELY silent - you could probably just buy a good mute if that's your main interest. There are different properties for hard bodied vs hollow bodied instruments - hard bodied instruments don't have any resonance, and I think it might be hard to learn to play a "real" violin well if you only practiced on a solid bodied one.
As far as actually using it - I can put it through all kinds of guitar pedals and amplify it easily, but if you're not careful it sounds like an electronic instrument rather than a violin, so if I want it to sound like a violin, a lot of times I'd rather mic an acoustic if I'm sure the venue can support it.
My electric HAS phone jacks, but I find it hard to play with other musicians with them in - maybe that's just me? I need monitors, but I need to hear everyone else too.
Anyway, bad electric violins are really crappy, and I don't think you should buy something that will sound bad no matter who plays it - it will just be frustrating and waste your money. If you just want to practice, I'd vote to start with a mute and if you decide you want an electric, go play everything in your local store, because the weight and the properties of the high and low notes vary a lot. You'll also have to play it through different amps and learn about EQ, which is another skill set entirely :)
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[User Picture]From: evil_winky
2012-10-04 10:58 am (UTC)
I don't own an electric violin, but I played one. They are fun to "fiddle" with and definitely jazz things up. I wouldn't recommend it for daily practice when learning the instrument. You'll have a better sense of bow control and sound production if you practice on a traditional violin.

I'll also say that, when you practice, you should be playing things a lot! That is what practice is about: mastery. Part of practicing can be playing the same 2 notes 100 times. But it that is what you need to do to be better, then that's what you have to do. Don't feel ashamed about it. I did for awhile until my mom was like, "I like when you repeat things when you practice, it's soothing!" So, see? If you're concerned, perhaps you can discuss good times to practice or increments that work for everyone.

Good luck!
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[User Picture]From: endless_flames
2012-10-06 02:21 pm (UTC)
I'm playing electric Yamaha for 2 years and feeling very happy of it. THe violing was bought when my ex-boyfriend became uproarious that he'd drive me from home if I wouldn't stop playing violin=) So, I bought Silent Yamaha SV-120, Red.
I've found it fantastic. At first - you can train in hearphones. Secondly - you can deal with phonogram in hearphones (the violin has a special jack). Guys here have written that el-violins are heavier than acoustic. In my case - Yamaha weighs less than acoustic violin. One more remark about the sound when connected: it's bright, voiced and clear.
Of course. it is not noiseless at all - all the same your trainings will be heard. But they'll look like whisper.
So, I suppose Silent Yamaha worth its money.

P.S.: sorry for grammar, English is not my native language
P.P.S.: if you need more information we can talk by skype, and also I can record some samples of my violin sound for you
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