Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Amplifying a violin

Occasionally people ask how I rig my acoustic violin for the stage. I AM NO FREAKIN' EXPERT, but I can describe my set up along with some of the joys & difficulties I've come across...

I use a Fischman v-100 pickup. This was fitted at Beverley Music Center & they did a brilliant job. It fits into a specially crafted slot in my bridge - by the E string. It sounds great, is very discreet & easily detaches. (I will take a picture of my violin & post it soon)

Beware !!!

I used to have an awful Barcus Berry pickup that attached to the wood using a sticky pad. This quickly degraded, made a mess of my violin & sounded horrible. One man in a guitar shop in Brighton suggested I drill a hole into the body of my violin. You should never have to do this. Run for your own & your violin's life.

DI box

When playing in bands, I've often plugged straight into the PA / mixer system via an active DI box. Although this means less equipment to buy & lug around, it is not my favourite method. You really have to rely on the extraordinary talent of the soundman to sweeten the sound using reverb, equalisation & general witchcraft. It can sound quite dry & scratchy otherwise. Top tip here, don't ever piss the soundman off & always buy him / her a drink.

Acoustic Amp / Electric Amp
My favourite method by far is plugging straight into an acoustic guitar amp. There are lots on the market, some rather expensive, but I've still found some cheaper ones to be ok. You can get some really meaty, interesting sounds out of an electric guitar amp if you're not fussed about re-creating a natural sound. They're not strictly designed for the V-100 pickup though (mis-matching impedance). If I have the option, the acoustic amp will always win.

Something I'd like to try is a Fischman acoustic pre-amp. This is designed to work with my particular pickup (matching impedance). On a practical note, you can sweeten your pickup sound beforehand by tinkerring with the EQ, then plug into a DI going straight to the mixing desk. I wonder if this would be a nicer option than lugging an amp around? One of the beauties of the violin, after all, is its gypsy, light-travelling nature.

For further reading I've found a very good site here -

Good luck & let me know how it goes,

Lu x

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