• Do you have a quantity of instruments that you can pick from to try to accomodate specific sonic desires? The next violin I’m looking for I’d like to be able to approximate that Grapelli like sound [smoother jazzier but nice bite when desired] rather than say a Bluegrass fiddle sound [brighter] or an orchestral sounding instrument [mellower sweeter].
The StringAmp™, why and how?
The StringAmp™ pickup system was initially made for the violin family, and a few other stringed instruments.
Centuries of development have achieved such rich sound and power of expression from the acoustic violin, viola, cello and bass, so naturally players will ask the world from the pickup system’s musical quality.
For this reason, the StringAmp™ is completely different by principle from any other “pickup” principle.
The StringAmp™ is an active electromagnetic system. It senses the spatial movement of each string individually, translating it into an accurate electrical signal, exactly as you are playing it. This accuracy brings out every detail of your musical expression, and your favourite acoustic instrument´s quality will really make a difference.
The bronze/steel stringed acoustic guitar with a StringAmp™ pickup is a true revelation, no other system has this depth, detail, clarity and purity of sound.
What would it cost approximately for a decent 5 string violin fitted with your pickup system, complete package?
Please refer to Ordering & prices. If you want me to be more specific, please let me know by email.
Who needs the StringAmp™?
Not everybody, I’m sure. But in Art, nothing but the best will do.
The sound of a good acoustic violin is so musically rewarding, to the player as well as the listener. Great acoustic violins, old as well as modern, are expensive, reflecting the quality of workmanship and care that went into making it. But taken care of they will last as long as the Stradivarius and other great instrumentmakers instruments, and be a lasting investment in art and beauty, developing with use and age in tone and expression.
How are the 5 string violins made?
The five string violins are new handmade acoustic five string violins, specially built for this purpose, with a longer peg box and a slightly wider ebony finger board, to accomodate the extra string , for easy playing. Because of this, the fifth string feels like a completely natural extension – very easy to get used to given a little time.
I have played these myself for many years, and my fingers are pretty big.
The instruments stay well in tune and are durable. The low string is a 3/4 size viola C string tuned to either C or D.
Playing acoustic (unplugged), the lowest notes are surprisingly strong, even without the benefit of a viola sized body. And the electric sound is nothing short of fantastic- the lows are so full they sound almost like a cello!
Why are electric violins so terribly bad, it hurts to listen?
I do understand why some lovers of violin sound really hate electric violins. This system will change the bad reputation of electric violins. Those Professional violin makers who have tried it agree that It really sounds like wood.
This is a high quality system that will not make a travesty of violin sound… If you are really interested, you should go listen to the recordings, that will tell you more than all my words!
And the musicians love it, without exception they say it´s the single most valuable item after their instrument.
StringAmp™ users often volunteer to be ambassadors of the system, and I can refer you to some that will answer your questions about StringAmp™ issues by email. I have asked them to answer exactly how they feel themselves, to avoid any hype.
Will the 5 string violin sound good enough acoustically to play and/or record as an acoustic without the pickup if I choose to, for example in acoustic settings etc.?
Answer: in short, YES!
Violins are individuals concerning their acoustic sound, and so are the people playing them. A better class of violins are assembled from selected and matched woods, and optimised by a skilled instrument maker, ensuring that it will play better and improve more with age than its counterpart that received less loving attention, even if they were made from identical materials.
The five string acoustics/electric StringAmp™ instruments, specially built from the start for this , will play fine , practising with other acoustic instruments, playing nightly by the campfire, or recording acoustically in a studio. And the strings are very well balanced, too. In short, they are good acoustic instruments. The fundamental of the low C string of a classical full size viola is not very loud, even if it is built for this lower range.
Lower notes are usually made by bigger instruments, right? But fortunately the human ear will work magic with this, read on:
A full size viola relies on the human ear´s substituting a phantom fundamental even if only the second and third harmonics are powerful, so if the fundamental, say a low “D” on the C string is fairly weak, the ear still “hears” it, or in reality, the brain syntethises it.
Cello´s and acoustic guitars are the same, they are made with a very powerful body resonance at double that of the low string.
Sorry for the lecture, but this is fascinating stuff, to me.
Which kind of transmitter do you recommend? Do you supply these too?
In many places you will need to supply the transmitter and receiver as frequency band allocation and legislation differs between countries. Good makes are Soundcraft, Samson, Nady, Sennheiser, AKG, Beyer there are many more, and all make “body pack” transmitters made for an electret microphone (lavalier) input signal. Choose a “true diversity” receiver for most reliable reception. Because of different input connectors to the transmitter I will need to know which make you prefer, and maybe the details of the model. (I like the Soundcraft for good sound at a reasonable price, at least around here).
What is the difference between the beltpack/wireless and the studio version?
Both can be used with a cable. The sound of the studio preamp is a bit more refined, making it the first choice of studio musicians for recording studio work, or intimate club concerts and for close listening, as the design is not constrained by the limitations of size, weight and power consumption imposed by the beltpack/ wireless option – BUT if you are tempted by the freedom of wireless, and especially if you mainly do concert work, go for it. In such settings the difference is completely drowned out anyway, by the ambient sound. An option to consider is to get one preamp of each type, as the instrument will fit both.
Do you have a quantity of instruments that you can pick from to try to accomodate specific sonic desires?
The next violin I’m looking for I’d like to be able to approximate that Grapelli like sound [smoother jazzier but nice bite when desired] rather than say a Bluegrass fiddle sound [brighter] or an orchestral sounding instrument [mellower sweeter].
Being a violin player, although no more professional, I can try to select a violin for your purpose. I understand the characteristics of the instrument, as you describe them (mellow jazz with fangs, strident bluegrass, sweet classic-type sound).
As the maker of electrical instruments for Svend Asmussen (contemporary with grapelli, and made a duo recording with him as well) through many years, I know the sound ideals you are after … you should be able to hear the sound you like on his recordings “fit as a fiddle” or any other of him from the last 25 years. Around here, there´s a following of younger musicians that want to sound about the same, so I get this request from time to time. Now 86, he just finished a new CD, “still fiddling”.
Asmussens electric violin is not a masterbuilt violin, it´s just a decent violin as used by better student players, selected for his sound.
The Grapelli sound is right up my alley.
How loud should I set my monitoring system with this pickup?
It´s really very individual, but there is also this to consider, no matter which pickup system you are using. It makes a difference how high you crank up the level for your personal monitoring, because if the sound level is low, you tend to play bit sharp, bowing harder and more strident – and if you set it too high, you will tend towards playing *flat*, so setting *your* level of listening makes a BIG difference. In figures, start out around 85 dB sound pressure level, or set as low as comfortable and ensure the safety of your hearing. Consider using a in-ear monitoring system.
Why is the StringAmp™ so expensive compared to the other stuff?
StringAmp™ is not for everybody. Like a good hand made violin, new or old, a really good electric system is also expensive, reflecting the work and components that went into making it.. There is still a need for truly good things.
For the best result, the StringAmp™ deserves a good acoustic instrument. It also needs a professional instrument maker to fit it to the instrument. But for a professional musician performer, this is an investment, to gain and maintain a reputation for an excellent musical sound.
It is my firm conviction that one never regrets buying the best possible quality, once you have overcome the sacrifice.
Comparing to acoustic violins, there are useless bargain fiddles and priceless old italian master violins, and you decide what will serve you best for the purpose between those extremes.
The life of the StringAmp™ system will probably outlast the violin, so far going 28 years and counting, making the expense a worthwhile long time investment. Users through the last twenty years have enjoyed the ability to upgrade the system as it improves, just by changing to the latest the preamp.
A well known violin player on the California coast showed me his luggable rack of preamps and equalizers, compressors and effects machines, that he had bought to interface and sweeten his 100$US piezoo bridge pickup. Price altogether around 5000$US. But he wasn’t really happy with his sound.
How are the StringAmp™ instruments usually set up?
Acoustically, I select an instrument made for modern classical music, with a mellow, full and clear sound, then select the strings type and gauge according to the particular sound ideal of the user. A medium string is brighter, and an orchestra gauge (heavier) makes a mellower sound with lots of punch.
The height of the strings is set at 3/16-1/8″ (5-3mm max above the fingerboard.
The bridge of the violin should be carved accordingly, from a selected blank, and the individual strings are equalised for a gutsier sound and less stridency, more “brown”, unless the brighter bluegrass sound is desired.