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Electric violin....there I said it, but don't tell my dh

(17 Posts)
schilke Sat 26-Apr-14 15:51:45

Ds2 plays the violin and is doing grade 7 this term. He'll be 14 in a couple of months and he doesn't want anything for his birthday apart from an electric violin. I think he sees himself as the next David Garrett smile Dh (musician) is of the opinion that this is music blasphemy! Ds2 can't ask his violin teacher because she'd have a heart attack and not speak to him again.

So, what I'd like to know is....a) this is for fun, so would be doing his regular violin practice on his proper violin, so surely an electric violin for fun couldn't damage his normal violin playing could it? b) can anyone recommend an electric violin?

It's the only thing he wants for his birthday!

SugarMiceInTheRain Sat 26-Apr-14 15:58:06

Think it's a shame that your DH and the teacher are so against the idea of the electric violin. When I was doing Grades 6-8, my teacher played classical violin professionally as well as the electric violin, so it can be done.

Bluestocking Sat 26-Apr-14 16:01:35

What a fab present! You don't say where you are so this may not be at all convenient/relevant but there is a fantastic specialist violin shop in Moseley in South Birmingham - Moseley Violins. They specialise in violectras but do have electric violins (and violas, cellos and double basses) as well.

claraschu Sat 26-Apr-14 16:05:11

I think you can get a pickup to attach to his bridge, or have it installed under the fingerboard if you decide not to buy a new instrument. You should go to a good shop and talk to someone who knows all about the options. (Sorry that I don't know anything.)

My son is a very serious cellist, and he has learned SO much from playing on all his guitars and from fooling around improvising and playing jazz / pop / playing bass lines to go with his classical music. If I were your son's teacher, I would think that this is a great idea, as it frees people, makes music fun in a new way, is cool, and teaches about harmony in a very organic way.

Both my husband and I are string players, by the way, and have seen how much our son's playing has improved because he has experimented with many kinds of music.

schilke Sat 26-Apr-14 16:05:12

I think dh is pretending to be against it - he's just too scared to ask the violin teacher, who is lovely, but traditional. Dh also thinks it might draw him away from his regular practice, but I see it as something that will encourage ds2 to practise more - an instrument to tinker around on.

claraschu Sat 26-Apr-14 16:08:47

I also think it's too bad that your DH and the teacher aren't encouraging this, as it is almost guaranteed to make your son even more excited about playing, and to teach him more about harmony than any theory class would.

claraschu Sat 26-Apr-14 16:09:36

sorry x-post

schilke Sat 26-Apr-14 16:11:48

Claraschu - thank you. That is how I see it for ds2. He is a lovely player, but lacks self confidence. He likes rigid playing rules, but at the same time I find him watching YouTube videos of busking electric violinists (who look so free) so, I was hoping it would help to relax him when he's playing. He needs to relax a little when he's playing as he looks so tense due to the confidence issue. He is a little too hung up on the odd wrong note. Dh tells him musicians make mistakes all the time and sometimes you just have to be good at bluffing it!

schilke Sat 26-Apr-14 16:14:18

Bluestocking - thanks for the shop suggestion. We're in Surrey, but I'll have a browse of their website.

claraschu Sat 26-Apr-14 16:23:38

All classically trained musicians work on relaxation, and spend most of their lives trying to find emotional intensity without physical tension, so your son is in good company.

Many classically trained players (myself often included) sneer at any kind of electric instrument, as it produces sound in a "canned" way, so you never get the same personal communication that is possible with acoustic instruments. But I have seen first hand how the fun and freedom my son gets from improvising and not worrying about details has turned him into a much better and more interesting cellist.

FastLoris Sat 26-Apr-14 21:06:29

Many classically trained players (myself often included) sneer at any kind of electric instrument, as it produces sound in a "canned" way, so you never get the same personal communication that is possible with acoustic instruments.

Anyone who's ever heard Joe Pass play the guitar or Herbie Hancock play the Fender Rhodes can tell you that's cobblers.

An electric violin produces sound by making a string vibrate with a bow just like an acoustic one. You have all the same control over bow attack, angle, vibrato etc. The amplification simply replaces the role of the resonating chamber. If you play it softly it can be every bit as personal as an acoustic violin.

I actually find the electric guitar more expressive and moving than the acoustic one, because it has more sustain and thus a better sense of line.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sat 26-Apr-14 22:08:48

No harm in having an electric fiddle, as long as it doesn't replace normal playing. I have a quite nice traditional violin... and a cheap-as-chips-but-looks-awesome electric (purely electric) for using at certain gigs, with a standard acoustic guitar amp (violin amps are stupidly pricey and this works okay). I would caution that the electric instruments are usually heavier as they have a solid frame, and that as usual if you buy a cheap thing it won't stay in tune very well. However, even with a cheapo fiddle it sounds pretty good if you adjust the pre-amp settings correctly and run it with delay/reverb - anything else just makes it sound like a cheap guitar. You may need 9 volt batteries in stock. ;-)

claraschu Sun 27-Apr-14 08:11:42

FastLoris I am trying to explain the teacher's probable point of view.

I agree with you about the electric guitar.

If you are part of the world of classically trained violinists, you would know the kind of angst and finesse that goes into setting up your instrument, finding the right strings, adjusting the sound post, etc, and that is not even mentioning the differences between instruments. People spend millions on acoustic violins because of the quality of the sound you can get from certain instruments.

The teacher will be thinking that the student won't develop the kind of ear that enjoys these differences if everything is amplified. I can understand and sympathise with the teacher, but if you read my other posts, I am also saying that for the OP's son, an electric violin would be great fun, and he would learn a lot from it.

Sorry, I am ranting, I know.

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 27-Apr-14 14:02:05

It will likely encourage a different aspect of musicality - e.g. improvisational skills, performance technique (performing not just standing there playing), things like that. New repertoire - I use mine for gypsy-punk, celtic rock and jazz.

schilke Sun 27-Apr-14 14:16:46

Ooh improvisation that would be good. Ds2 is funny - he'll sit down and work out tunes on the piano, trumpet, clarinet... any instrument that's lying around, but he doesn't do it for the violin. It would be good if the electric violin helped him to do this.

Dh is now in favour. I think he always was, but was being a snob! I asked ds2 again what he'd like for his birthday and the reply was the same. Any recommendations for cheaper electric violins would be good. That recommended shop had lovely instruments, but the prices were shock

schilke Sun 27-Apr-14 15:18:18

Actually there are some cheaper ones on that website. I didn't look closely enough. I was too busy looking at the really expensive ones!

JulieMichelleRobinson Sun 27-Apr-14 23:05:48

I got mine from here:

It's a Harley Benton, not the cheapest model but it's purely electric. Think it's the 900, with zebra stripes. It does me okay, though I had to figure out that I can only use wire strings on it because the slots aren't big enough for my lush Pirastro Olivs (I tried using my old strings from the good fiddle) and the pegs have a tendency to slip but I play quite... ummm... harshly... and it can be remedied as usual by rosining them or, frankly, getting new pegs.

Is it a good quality instrument? Nope. Does it sound okay? Yes. Most of my friends, when they play electric, use electro-acoustic instruments so they can hear themselves, but... cool factor? I mean, it has zebra stripes.

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