Electric violins for quiet practice

Electric violins for quiet practice

I seen some old posts on this and just wondering if anyone has had any joy with playing electric fiddles, particularly budget ones? I find the brass mute kills all tone on my fiddle and the rubber mutes are still too loud. I can only play late night for various reasons!

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I sometimes use my old Skyinbow (which I got fourth hand for a bargain price) for “quiet” practice but the tone is still a bit off, I think. Better than the classical with a mute though.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

Beware electric fiddles that have an S shaped body. I tried one and it was so bendy it was impossible to tune!

I did a conversion of a very rubbishy violin by cutting away a large part of the body on either side and gluing in a vertical plywood “web” to turn the body into an I-beam section.
It worked and was nice and rigid. Not very inspiring to play but it was quiet and would do the job.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I have a Bridge Aquila that I find very nice for quiet practice. Quieter than an acoustic violin with a rubber mute, and much nicer tone than a metal one. They’re not super budget though.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I’ve played a Yamaha electric fiddle (from the “silent” series, YSV). Plugged into headphones, it worked well for silent practice. Barely audible in the room, reasonable fiddle sound in the headphones, with easy-to-adjust volume. But it sounds electric, not natural, and that doesn’t tickle my fancy. I prefer just putting a mute on my acoustic fiddle. Or rearranging my life to have a time and place for normal playing. Thirty years ago I’d happily forego a few hours sleep so I could play music. And a local chapel was equally happy to allow me entry at 11 pm in exchange for light janitorial chores. The chapel’s acoustics were wonderful, I wasn’t bothering a soul, and the unfettered playing time made me a happier, better musician.

New, the YSV is about $850 USD. (Their newer model, YEV 104) retails for just under $700 USD.) You might find a used one at a substantially lower price. Either way, a mute is a lot less expensive. If you gently squash a rubber mute down far enough on the bridge, it dampens the sound almost as much as a brass mute. I’d be hard pressed to spend the dosh on a fiddle just for practicing, unless I was also into jazz or rock and wanted a gigging e-fiddle. And then I’d probably go with something more robust, like NS Design or Zeta.

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Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I spent a lot of time this summer in a place where (relative) silence was golden.

I found I couldn’t dampen the sound of my fiddle sufficiently with any combination of mutes (I guess it just wants to be loud), but the Yamaha YEV (mentioned above by Gimpy) turned out to be just the thing— super quiet and felt reasonably close to a ‘real’ fiddle from a playability and weight standpoint.

Just be aware that you cannot connect a pair of headphones directly to the fiddle, as it only has a passive pickup installed. But since I was in a quiet environment I didn’t need that. Since you mentioned tone, this may not appeal to you. The sound unamplified is very thin (which was the whole idea).

Here is a semi-quantitative review of a bunch of silent fiddles which was useful for me in deciding to go this route.
https://youtu.be/K50aL9J0Xo4


Bottom line, I got in a lot of useful practice hours I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

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Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

i use a hollow body electric mandolin for at-home practice (a 1970-ies Japanese job, looks like a small Beattles electric guitar, cad$300 at a guitar swap meet). it’s max loudness is about 50% of my normal mandolin normal loudness. it has very low action and is very easy on the fingers, so good for practice. it also happens to record well acoustically (even thru a macbook built-in mike). (the magnetic pickup works, but the tone is nothing to write home about).

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I play electric violin as well as trad, am currently playing a Mark Wood signature Viper (5 string flying-V electric violin), but I’ve played most electric violins out there and sold many.

The real problem with any electric violin and trad is that electric instruments just don’t have the same feel or response as an acoustic. Now that’s not really a problem if you’re just memorising tunes, but as soon as you start working on tone, ornamentation, bowing or bow pressure, etc, it just doesn’t translate well to acoustic.

In your situation I’d personally stick with the mute if you can bear it. Maybe experiment more with different mutes, there are many different styles. I have to play trad-like things on electric occasionally (eg on a loud rock stage where feedback is a big issue), and it’s never ideal.

There is one electric I can think of that would work, the Australian made Spur semi-acoustic. It’s not silent, but it is a fair bit quieter than a regular fiddle. Great violins, probably too much to spend for what you’re after though.

In any case, I’d suggest not going any cheaper than the Yamaha electrics, which are great, if you do go down the electric route. And definitely try before you buy, as they really do respond quite differently to acoustics.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

Really helpful info there everyone! Thanks so much. Julian I think you hit the nail on the head there, a cheap (or even not so cheap) electric fiddle will probably only take me so far. helps to learn the tunes but still leaves a lot of work to be done in terms of everything else.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

Have you considered a mute violin? These were purpose-designed and built for quiet practice, and so retain a lot of the bow response of an acoustic. They’re relatively rare on the market, though.

Whatever means you use to reduce the volume, you’re going to seriously compromise the tone; you have to accept that.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I like my low-cost solution for quiet practice: an improvised mute consisting of two clothespins, pinching the bridge from either side. Here’s a photo of the type of clothespin I use; I cut one of them a little bit shorter, for clearance for the bow side.

https://www.photos-public-domain.com/2010/12/03/wooden-clothespin-closeup/

You can experiment with the exact placement to adjust the tone and volume. And if it doesn’t work for you, at least you didn’t spend a lot of money.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I thought I might try the ‘clothes peg’ thing on the my banjo - nah, no good, fail. Still there’s always the last resort of the lighter fluid and a box of matches 😉)

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

This is the one I purchased. Kinglos 4/4 Black Grid Colored Solid Wood Advanced 3-Band-EQ Electric/Silent Violin Kit with Ebony Fittings Full Size (SDDS1311). I travel a lot and wanted something I could play in a cabin on a cruise or a campground without disturbing my neighbors. It is loud enough to play without headphones, if you wish, and I do occasionally draw an audience in a campground but its not nearly as loud as an acoustic instrument. (You couldn’t play at a campfire without an amp.) I don’t use the shoulder rest or bow that came with the kit, but I like the way the violin plays and I find the tone pleasing enough. Two important points: firstly it is less likely to be damaged during travel, and secondly if it does get damaged, it is not expensive to replace.

Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

I used to have an early model of the Yamaha Silent series. In addition to being able to play quietly, one of the things that was really useful was that I could connect the violin directly to a music source such as my iPad with a slow downer installed, with an extra volume control. So you could play along recordings and hear yourself and the track clearly and adjust the volume of each independently.

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Re: Electric violins for quiet practice

Yes, the babe wants to sleep, dad wants to watch tv, kids has homework, I want to play my fiddle, and sometimes trying to get those notes correct can be very irritating to those who have to put up with it. So my option was a electric violin. It worked perfectly, I also took it when I traveled, then I could play in my hotel without bothering the neighbors. I could use the ear piece, but I don’t need to. Just using it to get the bowing down is great. Then if I plugged it in and used it as a electric fiddle I found that I’d just as soon use a mic, then I could balance my sound behind the lead voice or whomever.

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