Monday, May 23, 2011

Plugging in and Making Noise!

 Written by Amy Tobin

Now you have your electric violin. The question is, what do you do with it?
The good news is, once you've plugged in, the world is definitely your oyster!
Do you want to play cleanly and clearly, with a smooth sound a little bit of reverb? You can do that.
Do you want to turn it up loud and start shredding like your favorite electric guitarist? You can do that, too! Really, when it comes to the kinds of sounds you can create when you are plugged in, the only limitation is your imagination!

Now that you are plugged in, there are a few essentials that I would suggest for you.
I have played electric, with many different types of groups from reggae to heavy metal, and have made many fun discoveries along the way. Here I am going to give you a list of a few items that you might have some fun with while you discover just what an electric violin can do!

1. A D.I. Box is the first thing you should get! Without question, it is the most important item any electric violinist can own. Groups with violins in them, while being much more prevalent today than, say, 10 years ago, are still the exception. Most of the time, the person running the sound board at any given venue does not have a clue as to how to eq ("equalize" or adjust) the sound of the violin properly. This, luckily, is also changing, but it is a slow process! Most of them assume that the violin, because it has more of a treble timbre (or tone), should be eq'd to go along with that. They turn all the dials to 12:00 (the natural, unadjusted sound) and turn the higher frequencies up and the lower ones down. In fact, that is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing! Then, because the sound is so harsh and tinny, they turn the volume waaay down.

Well, this is why taking control of your sound is an absolute necessity! A really good D.I. Box (which is short for direct input) will allow you to eq your instrument yourself, as well as giving you control over some of your volume. The best D.I. Box that I have found is the L.R. Baggs Para-Acoustic D.I.
It allows for a lot of individualization with sound, as well as being able to boost the volume when needed. The multitude of adjustments is also helpful if you are having problems with feedback. It is easier to identify that particular frequency and cut it back. It is an absolutely indispensable part of my tool box!

L.R. Baggs Para Acoustic D.I.
2.   The next essential item to have, at least if you want to get down and funky, is a Wah pedal! Yes, you heard me, you need a Wah pedal. For those of you who don't know what this is, it is a guitar pedal that is used to make the "wah wah" sound with the guitar. A bit of using the word to define it, but it is, after all, an onomatopoeia! Now, with Wah pedals, make sure you get one that cuts down on the treble tones a little bit. In fact, Mark Wood, who is a famous all-out rock violinist, makes a Wah pedal specifically for electric violins! Way to go, Mark! Let's hope that more manufacturers will follow in your footsteps!
Mark Wood Wah Pedal
Believe me, you will have a lot of fun discovering what a Wah pedal can do! Absolutely a must!

3. Another thing that you need to have on your pedal board is either a reverb or a delay pedal. Now, these two items do two completely different things. A reverb pedal will give you a sort of echoey kind of sound (think of the sound you hear playing inside a large church, for instance), and a delay pedal will delay the notes you play, for a specified amount of time, and then play them again. This one is your call. I have always preferred a straight up reverb pedal, but, if you set the delay time really short on a delay pedal, you can get almost the same effect. Boss makes great pedals for these two!

4. Now, if you are really adventurous, you can get yourself an overdrive or distortion pedal! The overdrive pedal will give you some of the distorted electric guitar sound, but it is generally a bit warmer sounding than your standard distortion pedal. If you are going to be playing lots of Blues music, the overdrive pedal would probably be best, but if you are sitting in with your favorite metal band, you might like the distortion pedal.

With those boxes and pedals on the table, the rest is up to you. I would say, however, that you should really let yourself be open to discovery. Basically, if an electric guitar can use it / do it, so can an electric violin! There are things like pitch-shifters, octave pedals, looping pedals (these are A LOT of fun!), volume boosters, etc. Take your electric in to your local guitar shop, plug in, and blow them all away while you try out some pedals!



P. S. There are a lot of multi-effect pedals out there that are sort of 'all-in-one' types of pedals. I have not yet found one of these that really works all that well for electric violins. There are some fairly inexpensive ones, however, so if you really want to experiment with a lot of effects, feel free to grab one of these and take it home! You'll never know if you like it until you do!

Alright all you forward thinking, futuristic, trend-setting violinists.........lead the way!

2 comments:

  1. If instead of an electric violin, I'm playing an acoustic violin with a pickup, are pedals still necessary? or can I just use DI box?

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  2. Pedals are never necessary. But yes you must have a DI.

    ReplyDelete