Beginning Electric Violin – A Review of Equipment

Learning to play electric violin shares many similarities with studying acoustic violin, with a few important differences. The first is that almost every acoustic violin is shaped and tuned the same way. Electric violins, however, can come in many shapes and varieties, including 4-string, 5-string, 7-string, fretted, and some with the upper bout removed entirely to allow easier playing in the higher positions. And, in fact, your acoustic violin can be “converted” into an electric by attaching either a microphone or a piezo pickup to the body. Most other electric violins use a solid body, just like most electric guitars (such as the ubiquitous fender stratocaster). What follows is a review of electric violins and a discussion of some of the additional equipment you will likely require.

While there are many electric violins on the market by large volume manufacturers, most of these just don’t sound very good. Some of the better (and mostly handmade) electric violins are reviewed below. I made my selection from instruments that I have either played or owned.

In general, I am not a fan of mass produced instruments. But Yamaha makes some of the best. Part of the Yamaha silent series, the model SV-200 features a dual piezo pickup. This is supposed to improve the sensitivity of the instrument to the subtleties of your playing, especially dynamic (volume) range. Coming in at around $1000, this instrument is cheaper than the others I will review below. On playing the instrument, I thought it was indeed responsive, certainly more so than previous Yamaha instruments. The on-board pre-amp allows for some sound manipulation on the instrument itself rather than in a separate, detached unit. The down-side of this is that it increases the weight of the violin.

Another popular model is made by NS Designs. This company uses a proprietary piezo pickup that is designed to be very clean and sound more like an acoustic violin in its unprocessed state. I sampled a a 5-string model, and I thought that the neck was overly thick and the instrument rather heavy. Still, if you are looking for a clean sound, this might be a good choice.

Zeta has earned itself a lot of hype in part because Boyd Tinseley, of Dave Matthews Band, uses a Zeta instrument called (what else) the “Boyd Tinsley.” Zeta also uses a proprietary piezo pick-up that has a very characteristic sound. If you have ever heard Santana play guitar, then you probably recognize his distinctive sound that comes from the combination of his Paul Reed Smith guitar coupled with a Mesa Boogie amp. Most of the sound coming out of that amp, no matter how the sound is EQ’d sounds “Boogified” to me. Similarly, I felt playing on this instrument that my sound would get “Zeta’d” by the pick-up. And you either like this sound or you don’t. A big downside to this zeta model is that it is quite heavy.

Mark Wood, Another “boutique” maker of electric violins, recognized that trying to hold a 7-string fretted violin under the neck is quite difficult, due to the weight. Thus, he designed and patented a “flying v-shape” with a strap that fits around your torso and holds the violin up in a playing position. Though it can take some time to get used to, this design really does support the weight of the fiddle well. Make no mistake — adding frets to the violin is a big adjustment for the classical player. In fact, if you have ever played a mandolin, you probably realize how much the frets can change things. Sliding and vibrato techniques are very difficult on a fretted instrument. In my opinion, the frets are best for allowing guitar players and others familiar with fretted instruments to circumvent the usual requirement of pinpoint accuracy with finger placement which is necessary for playing in tune on the an acoustic violin. The 7-string fretted model, which is the flagship instrument in his line of electric violins, is priced at $3500. Mark Wood does not use proprietary piezo pickups. Rather, he uses either Barbera or Schatten pickups, which are mass produced piezo pickeps that are used in many different electric violins.

A former Zeta employee, John Jordan makes custom electric violins in almost every combination of material, strings and frets that you can imagine. Jordan started his own design studio when he became disillusioned by Zeta’s increasingly commercial attitude. Jordan handcrafts each instrument using his patented shape, which eliminates the peg-box and puts machined tuners near the bridge. This is designed to make the instrument lighter. Jordan is very much the true luthier of electric instruments. Many of his models, particularly the ones made of wood, are very attractive. Jordan uses a variety of pickups, including Zeta’s proprietary model. In addition, he likes the Barbera piezo pickup for a more “Stradivarius-like” sound, and recommends this pick-up for classical musicians. For rock, jazz and pop, he suggests using the darker, more “Guarneri-like” Ashworth piezo pick-up. Like most other electric violin makers, his 5-string unfretted is his most popular model. It seems to have a thinner neck than other electrics, which allows the classical 4-string acoustic player to make an easier transition to electric.

All of the violins described above are solid-body models. This means that the instrument has no hollow, resonating chamber and therefore produces little to no sound unless it is “plugged in.” However, another way to create an “electric violin” is to replace the bridge on an acoustic violin with a piezo pickup bridge-mount that can be plugged in just like a solid body. The downside to this is that these pickups can generate feedback. However, this option can sound quite nice and retains the customary shape and light weight of the acoustic violin. Common piezo models are the Fishman series and the L.R. Baggs. There are also several smaller “custom” companies that make these pickups, and it can be useful to try these if you don’t like the sound of the Fishman/Baggs. This setup shares all of the same disadvantages as any other violin fitted with a piezo pickup, as described below.

What all electric violins share is the need for an electronic pickup to transmit your playing to a unit capable of sound manipulation, such as a pre-amp or rack unit, and ultimately to another unit capable of sound production. The two major types of pick-ups in use in today’s plugged-in instruments are piezo and electromagnetic. Piezo pickups are used almost exclusively for electric violins. They have certain characteristics that some players find less than ideal. While a bow change on an acoustic violin can be completely silent to the listener, the piezo pickup will always transmit bow changes and bow noise. The reason for this is that they use sensitivity to pressure as their primary means of reproducing sound, and bow pressure is always variable. Also, piezo pick-ups have a tendency to sound fuzzy. Many different piezo pick-ups exist on the market, and some electric violin companies use their own proprietary models. The other type of pickup in use for electric violins is the electro-magnetic pickup. This is the pickup found in most guitars, and is considered the ideal form of sound transmission. While it is possible to build this type of pickup into an electric violin, it requires rather extensive modifications to the electric violin’s internal design and is rarely used. Perhaps in the future this type of pickup will become more available.

En route to reaching our ears, the electric violin’s signal usually is passed through a unit (or more often several units) capable of sound manipulation. Many of the same devices used by electric guitar players may also be used for the violin. For instance, reverb and delay units by Lexicon can provide warmth and depth of sound, while distortion boxes can allow the violin sound to approximate that of the guitar (a la Jimmy Hendrix playing America at Woodstock). There are literally hundreds of different devices, including foot pedals, that can manipulate the sound. Below is one of Lexicon’s top of the line reverb rack units. Computers are also increasingly used for sound manipulation and may eventually replace bulky sound manipulation boxes.

For electric violins employing a pickup, a pre-amp is necessary to intensify the signal from your violin, and to allow you to EQ the sound. One popular example of a pre-amp is the L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic DI. Some electric violins also have on-board pre-amps.

Further sound manipulation and signal intensification occurs when the signal is passed through an amplifier. Because most amps work best with mid and low frequency tones, it can be difficult to find a good amp for the electric violin, and even then it is usually necessary to spend a lot of time playing with the EQ. A popular amplifier for electric violin is the Fishman Loudbox 100. An important consideration when choosing an amplifier is that each leaves its own imprint on your sound. Thus, trying before buying is particularly important with amps.

For a more true reproduction of your sound, a PA system with speakers can also be used. The sound can still be EQ’d with a personal PA system and it is possible to preserve the acoustic sound.

Finally, the signal, after passing through the different sound manipulation devices, is broadcast to our ears by speakers. Often, these are built into the amp. You can also add additional speakers to create a stereo effect.

If you are looking to more or less duplicate your acoustic sound, playing electric violin may not be very satisfying to you. But for participating in a band, it allows the player to adjust their volume to match the other instruments, and to alter the sound to fit in better with a rock or pop style of music.

That being said, electric violin usually requires a potentially rather expensive foray into electronic equipment, which can be a lot of fun but also difficult since the sound you are searching for may take a lot of time to find, and may require testing a lot of different gear. Finding “your” sound can be a long journey. Some of the more interesting things you can do is to play on a 5-string, which adds a “c string,” below your “g-string,” or employ an octave pedal, which can drop your pitch an entire octave. Or you can play with distortion or a wah-wah pedal. And, while excellent technique is vital for classical music, electric violin can be more forgiving.

In the end, going electric can allow the violinist to participate in groups where ordinary acoustic violin simply cannot match the volume of the other instruments. In addition, the almost endless ability to manipulate the sound allows the electric violinist to go where no acoustic player has gone before.

GRP Has Become the Popular Material For Construction

GRP or glass reinforced plastic has been quite popular in the recent days. The GRP is a plastic material that has been strengthened by the use of glass fibers. Some times, they are also referred to as the fiberglass. They are used for the construction of variety of applications. Due to their reliability and durability, they are adopted in the field of construction.

In the recent days the GRP is found in several strong pieces of construction like bridges, roofs, hand rails as well as cycle shelters. It is also used in the telecommunications industry for the visual appearance of the antennas and other equipments. Apart from this, they are also used in the construction of the storage tanks, piping and house building. This is because GRP does not crack, rot or split up. It is also resistant to moisture. Unlike wood, steel or aluminum these are strong, durable as well as eco-friendly.

They are quite light in weight, much lighter than steel. They are also resistant to any kind of weather. The cycle shelters which are made of GRP are electromagnetic transparent as well as transparent to radio waves and microwaves.

GRP is available in different colors and variety of surface texture. They serve better purpose and better standards than timber. The installation of the GRP products like the cycle shelters or roofs does not take much time. They can be easily molded, manufactured and painted according to the requirements of the user. Moreover, they are also quite cheap compared to any other materials and its maintenance is also quite easy.

The GRP components are coated with gel in their moulds to give a semi gloss or a high gloss color. This reduces the need to further paint them. These gel coatings make them much more resistant in the corrosive environments than even the most durable paints. They come in various finishes, textures and thus various surface appearances can be achieved with the help of GRP. Since they are flexible in nature, they can be easily molded and manufactured in several kinds of designs.

As the use of GRP in the construction industry has become popular, with the progress of time, a new good quality of the GRP is being discovered every day. The structures that do not require heavy materials for its construction can blindly opt for GRP. However, if it is arranged in a particular direction, it can serve as a strong material for construction of any structures including the cycle shelters.

The “Bridge Job” Strategy – Making Money While You’re in Career Transition

If you’re out of work now, what part-time or flexible work can you do to fill the gap until you land the job you want? If you’re fully-employed but concerned about losing your job, what sort of opportunities could you pursue to earn additional income, should the need arise? The “Bridge Job Strategy” is a pragmatic approach to carry you through a difficult employment or financial period. Here are some interim options, where you can find work and earn money while continuing to search for the job you really want:

Part-time or temporary job (retail stores, restaurants, business services, administrative, etc.). Try to find a position in a field you genuinely like. If you enjoy shopping or love the products of a particular store, consider working in retail. If you have a passion for cooking or are knowledgeable about food, you might want to be a prep chef at a favorite restaurant. If you have connections at business service organizations and can add value to their operations, try working at a company where your managerial contributions would be valued. Contact several temp agencies, or go visit businesses in which you have an interest.

Teaching or substitute teaching (public or private schools, colleges and universities, technical or vocational programs, etc.). The education that helped get you started in your career is still valuable. If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, you’ve no doubt gained skills to enhance your credibility. These qualifications are often valued by schools and colleges. Experienced professionals are sought after to teach classes and bring a real-world perspective to their students. Contact the administration office of your local school system or the employment office of universities and vocational programs in your area.

Consulting or contract assignments (business operations, computer/technology, creative/advertising, etc). Even before the economy and job market went sour, the work world had changed. A growing percentage of the workforce had already moved into flexible assignments as consultants or contractors. If you have a background in one of the fields that naturally lend themselves to this work style, try to get consulting or contract work. It can be interesting, challenging work, and it can also be lucrative. In some cases, these consulting or contract assignments turn into full-time job offers, after the company gets to know you. Contact outsourcing and contract employment firms in the fields that interest you.

Work for family or friends (retail stores, services, small manufacturing operations, and every other type of business). Do you have relatives or friends who own or run businesses? Would you be comfortable working with them? In tough times, it is important to put your pride aside and ask for help. But in this case, the help would be mutual. Your friend or relative would be the lucky recipient of your services, and you would be gainfully employed, working for someone you already know and like. Contact every friend, relative, or acquaintance who owns or runs a business, and ask about their needs and challenges.

Home-based work (administrative, sales, computer work, creative assignments, bookkeeping, personal services, etc.). With the advent of the Internet and computer technology, it is easier than ever to do real work from home. Some of this work can be enjoyable and lucrative. There is no longer a stigma about working from home, and in fact, you may find that the flexible, independent lifestyle suits you. From copy writing to doing proposals to preparing tax returns, there’s no limit to the options. Ask yourself what skills you have, and offer your services to appropriate companies and families in your area. Contact everyone in your network to offer your services, and ask for referrals after your work has been satisfactorily completed.

Odd jobs (handyman, construction, painting, sewing, moving and hauling, yard work, plowing, etc.). Are you handy around the house? Do you own special equipment or tools? Do you have trade skills that you could offer to other people in your town? There is always a need for reliable, professional help in these disciplines. If you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, you can earn good money providing these much-needed services to organizations and individuals.

One of my senior executive clients worked in a retail store for many months after he was laid-off. The money wasn’t great, but it was enough to help pay his family’s bills. Having this part-time job also gave my client a sense of pride, because he was doing what he could to provide for his family, and he was making a contribution in the world of work. He also enjoyed meeting new people and even doing a bit of networking with customers.

The retail job gave my client the flexibility he needed to continue searching for the job he really wanted. A key point to understand is that my client never confused the means with the ends. He kept his focus on finding the “real job,” and he eventually secured an excellent opportunity with more responsibility and higher compensation than he’d had at his last professional job.

In this case, my client’s positive attitude allowed him to reach his goal through a two-step plan. By taking a part-time, flexible job, he did what he needed to do to ultimately get the position he really wanted.

This fellow didn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed working in a position that was “beneath him.” He saw the “Bridge Job Strategy” as a practical necessity, and it worked very well for him. In fact, when he reflects back on his temporary job at the store, he smiles and describes it as a great learning experience!