Electric Violin

My considerate girlfriend

Caz is such a sweetie that she's kind enough to not interrupt my AC/DC with her violin playing. Read On...

Violin, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

When I was a little kid, I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. I desperately wanted to learn to play the violin, but mom had other ideas. She told me that first I had to learn piano as that was “useful” (or something like that) and then I could learn to play the violin. At the age of about eight, I was given the opportunity at school to learn an instrument, so I chose violin. I went to the selections, and that evening (to my mothers’ dismay) I left school holding a violin. And that was that, I learnt to play the violin and I never did get round to learning piano! Besides, my hands aren’t big enough to span an octave! I played the violin regularly for many years. For one reason or another, I didn’t get on particularly well with playing classical music and going through the traditional music grades. So shortly before I was due to take my grade 6, I decided that I’d had enough of music exams, so I gave up playing classically. I carried on playing my violin for enjoyment until I went to university (September 1999) and since then, I haven’t really had the time, opportunity or environment in which to play it.

A couple of months ago, my violin finally made it from my mothers’ house to our house, and on occasions I get my violin out and play away. The only problem is; I am incredibly rusty! My arms and fingers no longer seem to work at the same speed that my brain does! I know the cure for this, and that’s practice. And lots of it! Unfortunately, because we live in a terraced house and I am so rusty, I am a little embarrassed about playing! I am also conscious of the fact that the sound from a musical instrument carries a long way. So I am somewhat restricted on the hours that I am able to play (what a considerate neighbour I am!)
One day I was randomly surfing eBay, and I started looking at electric violins. Now I had always thought that electric violins were horrendously expensive (IRO £500) and way out of my price range to just have as a “toy”. Looking at eBay, I started to think differently. The cheapest ones were going on “buy it now” auctions for less than £60. WOW, I can afford this! So a week or so later, I am the proud (?) owner of an electric violin. I didn’t get the cheapest one, but I didn’t spend much money on it either (£90 delivered on eBay). It came with a case, bow, headphones, pre-amp, lead, shoulder rest, rosin, the works!

So why did I want an electric violin? What’s the point in me buying a toy like this when I’m not really playing any more? Well, the addition of the pre-amp means that this violin is essentially silent! So I can plug my headphones in and play away to myself. There is a little bit of sound from the violin even with the headphones plugged in, but that’s to be expected. You can’t have a string vibrating without it emitting some sort of sound. But I can plug my headphones in and play away to myself as loudly as I like without bothering the neighbours.
I’d only had a play with one electric violin before, and that was for all of about 5 minutes, 10 years ago! Needless to say I had completely forgotten what an electric violin was. I have no idea how I was expecting it to sound when I first plugged it in, but it certainly didn’t sound the way I was expecting it to. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds good, but just not how I was expecting it to sound.

 Yamaha Silent Violin, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Well I’ve now had the electric violin for a couple of months, and things have changed somewhat.
Firstly, I was told that it really wasn’t advisable to play the violin through headphones – the sound just wasn’t good enough. Plug them into some speakers and just keep the volume turned down.
Secondly, whilst the electric violin that I bought of eBay was an absolute bargain, I just wasn’t gelling with it. I have very small hands (I’m 5’ 7” and I can wear kids sized gloves!) and short arms so I really prefer a light violin. And the one off eBay just wasn’t working for me, the neck of the violin was just too big. However, by some stroke of luck I have been “given” an elderly Yamaha Silent violin.
Now the Silent Violins are not particularly cheap and are well known for producing a good sound and for being good quality. And what can I say but WOW! The sound that comes from this instrument is absolutely awesome.
This proves that in some situations you really do get what you pay for. The Yamaha Silent Violin feels like a proper violin and sounds like one too. The cheaper one bought off eBay feels (IMO) like a toy in comparison and the sound is no where near the same league as that of the Yamaha.

So has buying an electric violin served is purpose? Well I am still very rusty, but my arms and fingers are beginning to work at the same speed as my brain. And I don’t sound anywhere near as bad as I did a couple of months ago. So the electric violin has served its purpose, it’s given me the opportunity to practice without disturbing the people I live with/near. However, if I were to buy one again in the future, I would want to try one before buying and I would certainly go for one with a good reputation.