Electric violins have always been controversial instruments. What many don’t realise however is just how versatile they really are.

These exciting instruments offer a huge range of options that simply aren’t available on an acoustic instrument. If you want to experiment with sounds, explore new genres and have fun with loop pedals and different effects, then the electric violin is definitely the right choice for you.

Your heart may lie with traditional Irish music but perhaps you’re tempted by the electrifying fusions and exploration that an electric violin has to offer? Electric violins don’t typically feature as often as acoustic instruments in traditional Irish music, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break the mould. 

Eileen Ivers, for example, one of the greatest fiddle players in the world, plays Irish music using her famous blue electric violin. If this trailblazer can do it, why can’t you?


Exciting New Sounds

You won’t achieve the same sound on an electric violin as you would on an acoustic violin. But then again, if that’s what you wanted, you’d simply buy an acoustic violin. 

You can hear the difference between the two in the video below. While this comedy duo is poking fun at the stereotypical performance differences between the two styles, it’s actually quite a good demonstration of the difference between an acoustic and electric violin:

That being said, electric instruments offer huge scope for experimenting with sound. They are perfect for any dance, electronica, pop or rock enthusiasts out there. You can use them with loop pedals and other special effects, dousing them in reverb or turning up the distortion to really rock out. 

Electric violins offer a range of creative features for any violinist who is looking to expand their range. Have a listen to some of the exciting things Eileen Ivers gets up to with loop pedals and other effects:

One thing to keep in mind when buying an electric violin is that you’ll want an instrument with a good quality sensor. As with any instrument purchase, avoid models that are too cheap or deals that seem too good to be true. The sound will suffer if the instrument is of poor quality. 

Unique Volume Control

Volume is also never an issue – in either direction. 

You can amplify your electric violin by simply plugging into a speaker. Alternatively, if you really want to learn to play the violin, but you’re worried about noise complaints, you can buy an electric violin and use headphones to practice silently. Your neighbours will thank you!

Electric violins are much quieter than a muted acoustic during silent practice and some will even produce no sound at all. Many acoustic players with no intention of ever performing on an electric violin will still invest one as a useful practice aid. 

Being able to practice fingering, difficult musical passages or bowing without waking sleeping babies or neighbours is an invaluable advantage.

Eileen Ivers performs on her iconic blue electric violins

Easy to Play

It’s easier to produce a good sound on an electric violin. They typically require less heavy bowing as the strings react in a different way to those on an acoustic violin. You can also tweak the sounds on an electric violin using EQ dials. 

It’s important to remember however that if you intend to keep up your acoustic playing, you should practice on both instruments to maintain good technique. Your bowing technique can suffer if you don’t return to your acoustic instrument occasionally to practice. 

Electrifying Aesthetics

Classical violins will always have the same traditional appearance. Much of their visual appearance is linked to the function of the instrument and contributes to the sound the instrument produces. 

With electric violins however, the rules go out the window. The important structural elements of the acoustic violin can disappear and you can really have some fun with the design!

Of course, if you prefer the more traditional look and feel of the acoustic violin, you can opt for an electric model that copies this look. Alternatively, you can go wild and opt for an instrument with various cutouts on the body, in a range of colours and designs:

Electric violin body with cutout shape

McNeela Electric Violins

As with all instruments, the cost of electric violins can vary wildly. If you’re in the market for a budget friendly option however, I highly recommend our new McNeela Electric Violin

The contemporary cutout body comes in black or white. It’s ideal for any level of player and will serve you well as either a performance instrument or a practice aid. 

You can plug your headphones or headphone amp directly into the pickup, or use the lineout jack to connect to a speaker and crank up the volume. There’s also a mic input for recording or live performance. You can easily control the volume and tone from the EQ dials.

The cutout body comes with an attractive high gloss finish so it looks as good as it sounds!

McNeela Electro Acoustic Violins

If you’re not ready to go fully electric just yet, electro-acoustic violins offer the best of both worlds. 

These traditional violins simply come with an added pickup built in to the body of the instrument allowing you to plug in and play. So you have all the advantages of a classic acoustic instrument, with the added benefits of an electric violin.

One of my best selling instruments is the McNeela Premier Violin which comes with the option of an added pickup. The audio jack output makes it perfect for gigging musicians or those looking to have a little fun and let their creativity shine!


[Images: Jeff MayerMichael Stokes, Raquel G. Cabañas, CC BY 2.0]

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