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I have recently been working on one of these electric violins from Yamaha and it is so lovely that I am tempted to buy one for myself. I have always preferred acoustic violins and violas and have occasionally attached a band pick-up onto one of mine to play through an amp but that is a far as I have gone with amplifying violins. The Yamaha electric that was brought to me was needing a complete overhaul and set up which has now been done, giving me time to play with the instrument and plug it in to a variety of amps and effect pedals to test it fully. I don't want to give it back! It really is that much fun...
I have had this thing cranked up with distortion, chorused, reverb'd and I have plugged it into a Line6 DL4 modeller and had it bouncing delightful echos off of my walls..... it is a very versatile and fun instrument.
Yamaha make decent instruments especially at the higher end of the price scale. This electric violin is just that, a quality build and not comparable with a £90 Stagg. Yamaha have tried to keep some of the best features of the acoustic violin whilst morphing the instrument into something completely different.
The basic and traditional curvy shape has been kept (which I prefer to some electric fiddles that can be all manner of shapes ) and the chin rest and fingerboard look and feel very similar to an acoustic. The fingerboard is "treated" to make it feel like a standard ebony keyboard found on a typical acoustic violin and I have to say it is very good. Whatever Yamaha have put on the fingerboard works well.
The maple neck of the violin is also traditional in its shaping and gradient of the wood and it also has the traditional scroll and pegs set up. The hardware fixtures are all listed as being ebony which is an excellent wood and very strong. This violin gives more than a nod to the instrument that we are all familiar with.
However this is where this ends. Acoustic violins have hollow bodies made from maple and thin ribs with a top plate and base. This is a solid body which is cut out. The hollow body of an acoustic fiddle is not needed here where the vibrations of the bridge will be enough for the sound to reach the pick ups, whereas in an acoustic instrument you really need the space inside the instrument for the sound to move.
The body of this is spruce which is usually only found on the top plate of a violin. The cut out is very attractive and makes the violin light and easy to move about with and hold without getting neck strain.
Along the body you will find an EQ switch for high end equalisation, a headphone out and line out sockets. A standard guitar lead will fit into these jacks as will a fat headphone connector. I recommend the best quality guitar lead you can afford for an electric violin.
This can be played through any amp or silently through headphones if you are learning and are worried about the neighbours. The most fun that I had with this was sticking it through the Line6 DL4 and a Marshall 30w amp which gave the violin some otherworldly sounds and a deep resonance that you could feel to your toes.
As with semi-acoustic guitars, this violin is powered by a DC9V battery tucked on the back with a cover attached securely by screws.
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I don't know what strings were originally on this instrument but I took them off anyway because I am a hideous string snob. I prefer Dominant strings for their depth and similarity to gut strings. Dominants have a warmth about them that can make any violin sound better. So Dominants were put on this when I set it up and a new bridge was fitted (although the one on it looked perfectly fine being standard maple construction). I put a Baroque style bridge in this to give it another layer of visual quirk. Now I don't suppose string quality matters as much in an electric violin compared to an acoustic (where it is crucial ) especially if the violin is to be whacked through an amp or some effects pedals. But being a string snob I had to put good ones on it.
The Yamaha write up for this instrument speaks of the electric violin having "greater expression, playability and a tone that is natural and pure". The former I would agree with because it is just so versatile. As for tone, the instrument is beautiful and completely different to what I am used to so cannot in my opinion be compared in a simple framework of acoustic vs electric. They are two very different beasts each with their own attributes and functions.
The sound quality is rich and resonant and as loud as you want it to be through an amp. There are no feedback squeals or squeaks and the range of sounds is dynamic and fascinating. The quality is such that it could be played live and compete with any electric guitar or band out there. The best thing is that no matter what effects you add to it, it still sounds like a violin.
The Yamaha SV-200 Silent violin has a two pickup configuration which gives a far better dynamic range of sound. If you look under the bridge you will see the pickups on the E string side and one on the lower G. This gives great control over the upper harmonics and picks up a far wider range of vibrations from the bridge. The wiring is soldered and has an excellent build quality and if you take the back battery cover off, the workmanship can also be seen there. The connectors look strong and well set which will also minimise any unwanted sounds and feedback.
Overall the sound is very pure and has a richness that reminds me of a viola. This like all violins can be tuned differently to the standard fifths tuning of GDAE if so wished. Sometimes I like to tune the two lower strings as drone strings and keep the top two for melody. The violin is a very fun and adaptable instrument, and this is no exception.
Dual Piezo Pickups & EQ
Studio Quality Preamp
Electric & Silent Violin (HEADPHONES OR AMP)
Lightweight solid spruce cut away body
Available in a variety of colours: cardinal red, ocean blue, black, brown
Well built instrument with no feedback noticed
Fast and smooth playability
Size 4/4 (full size)
Frame :Molded Plastic
Tuning Pegs: Ebony & 1 fine tuner for E string
Bridge: Maple (Good quality Aubert)
Sensor: 2 Piezo pickups
In/Out Jacks: Headphone Out, Line Out
Electric Controls: Volume, EQ Mode Switch, EQ Control
Power supply: 1 x 9 volt battery
Battery Life: Manganese: 5 hrs (approx.), Alkaline: 12 hrs (approx.)
Weight 620g (1lb, 6 oz)
Conclusion: A fantastic instrument with a huge scope. Expect to pay around £900 for this online.