Electric violins can look pretty bizarre.
But there is nothing unusual about the sound.
A good electric violin produces a beautiful sound. It is every bit as usable, playable and enjoyable as an acoustic violin.
But how do they pull that off?
How does an electric violin work exactly? How does it make such a beautiful sound, without the use of a resonant chamber?
Keep reading to find out exactly how electric violins function, plus everything else you need to know about these instruments.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Does An Electric Violin Work?
- 1.1 What Is An Electric Violin?
- 1.2 How An Electric Violin Works
- 1.3 Difference Between Electric And Acoustic Violins
- 1.4 Multiple Types Of Electric Violin
- 1.5 Reasons To Choose An Electric Violin
- 2 How Electric Violins Work: Final Thoughts
How Does An Electric Violin Work?
In short, electric violins can use magnetic, piezoelectric, or electrodynamic amplifiers.
A violin with a magnetic amplifier requires the use of violin strings with a ferromagnetic core. There are several models of single-core amplifiers on the market, although violins have a very small space for magnets due to the smaller size of the resonator box.
One of the more non-specific amplification systems uses the violin strings themselves as a linear amplifier element. The only limitation is that the strings must be made of electrically conductive material.
Let’s go more into details, beginning with a closer look at the instrument itself. This is important in order to fully understand how an electric violin functions.
What Is An Electric Violin?
An electric violin is a violin that has a built-in sound amplifier. It refers to an instrument that has a resonator box made of solid material (wood, etc.) in which an electric amplifier is installed.
The electric violin is also called “amplified violin” or “electroacoustic violin”. You’ll also see the term silent violin. Read our article “What Is A Silent Violin?” for more.
Solid-body electric violins usually have a non-traditional, minimalist design in order to reduce the weight of the instrument. Recently, materials such as Kevlar, glass, and carbon fiber are being used in the manufacturing process.
They are often seen as “experimental” instruments. They are far less common than electric guitars or basses.
There are many variations of the standard design, such as thresholds, additional strings, string tuning mechanisms, or “baritone” strings that sound an octave lower than normal strings.
Acoustic violins with five strings are also becoming more common. Therefore, it is not uncommon for electric violins to have five, six, seven, or more strings.
How An Electric Violin Works
A common concern with electric violins is the way they work and just how different they are from traditional violins. Violinists worry that they just can’t match the sound and playability of a standard violin.
But that just isn’t true.
It is true, however, that electric violins differ considerably from acoustic violins.
In fact, as you may expect, an electric model has many similarities with other electric instruments, like the electric guitar.
Both produce a very faint sound on their strings. This is normal, considering they don’t work as an acoustic violin would.
When you use a classical violin, the hollow body amplifies the vibration that occurs in the strings and that the fingerboard receives. This causes the sound to bounce back very quickly and be transmitted into the sound you can hear.
In the case of electric violins, and just like with electric guitars, the body is hollow. It does not amplify the vibrations of the strings, meaning they are barely audible.
Instead, the pickups capture the slight sound that the strings emit. It is then sent in the form of electromagnetic signals to the amplifier, which reproduces the sound. The use of pedals can add the sound, distortions, effects, or reverbs that you want.
Difference Between Electric And Acoustic Violins
A quality electric violin will perform at the same level as a classical one. They can play countless musical pieces and have unquestionable sound quality.
But unlike classical violins, they come in a variety of styles and colors. Although derived from the classical structure of the instrument, electric violins have certain differences.
First of all are the aesthetics. The designs and colors are very varied. You will find pink violins, white violins, black violins, and many more.
Because it has an electronic signal, the electric violin does not need a soundboard. The reverberation, effects, or distortions are done electronically, as in the case of an electric guitar. This allows manufacturers to play with designs and create very particular violins.
In this category, we will also find silent violins, which are designed so you can practice whenever you want without disturbing anyone. They are made to emit very little sound. With the door of your room closed, practically no sound makes it out.
Another difference is that electric violins can have 5, 6, or 7 strings. The extra strings are usually a low C string with 5 strings, a low C and a high B or high B for 6, and a low C, low F, and high B for 7.
In addition, the design of the electric violin is usually determined by the luthier in question. That is, they do not pursue a standard structure. If you start looking into this instrument, you will find many different models, colors, and sizes.
Multiple Types Of Electric Violin
This instrument has a peculiarity: it has two subcategories. They are classified into silent violins and concert violins. The difference between the two lies in the sound.
The Silent Violin
This type of violin is ideal for those who need to practice the violin, but do not want to disturb family or friends. It is great for beginners, students, or hobbyists.
Its most distinctive feature is that it has enough volume for you to hear it while you practice and nothing more than this. In addition, the instrument has an electronic output. This means you can connect headphones, so you can hear yourself much better while playing.
The Concert Violin
This is a violin that is ideal for concerts or places with more space and acoustics. Unlike the silent ones, concert violins are characterized by a much more powerful sound.
The rest of the specifications are usually the same as the silent violin, but with a higher price. Of the two types of electric violins that exist, this is the one meant for violinists with a medium or professional level.
Reasons To Choose An Electric Violin
By the time you decide to take the plunge and learn to play the violin, you may find yourself a bit undecided as to which type to choose. There are many good reasons to go with an electric model.
If you want to practice at any time, even at nighttime, you can do this either with a silent electric violin or with a concert electric violin by connecting headphones. Either way, you get to keep practicing without worrying about disturbing others.
At the entry level (beginner, student, amateur) you will not notice much of a difference. You will find classical and electric violins for $100, $500, $1,000, or $5,000, all with very good features. So let’s move on to the next point.
Greater Range Of Choice In Terms Of Aesthetics
If you are looking for fun, minimalism, design, color, extravagance, etc., then electric violins are your thing. This is perhaps the biggest selling point for this type of violin.
Higher levels of creativity in terms of aesthetics and sound are guaranteed with the range of models, brands, materials, and designs on the market.
For example, there are glass electric violins. That is something you definitely won’t see with traditional violins.
How Electric Violins Work: Final Thoughts
Electric violins work in the same way an electric guitar works. They use electronic pickups to capture the slight sound produced by the vibrating strings and transmit it to an amplifier that makes it audible to everyone.
This differs from a traditional violin in that those have hollow bodies, and their hollow resonant chambers work to amplify the vibration of the strings.
In other words, electric violins replacer the resonant chambers with an electronic pickup. This means that electric violins are every bit as good as their acoustic counterparts. They’re just different. It is basically very similar to the differences between an electric and an acoustic guitar.