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For maximum thrills, its hard to beat an electric violin at full throttle. Christian Garricktest-drives some of the most innovative models and discovers if they sound as wild as they look
Bridge Violins Aquila Electric four-string model
F-Trad-5 Fidelius five-string Violin

For many, pitting classic violins against electric violins is like comparing fine dining with street food - both are tasty but very dissimilar. Fortunately for us fiddle players each type shares the same core fundamentals of fingerboard, bridge and strings.

Electric violins have been around for almost 100 years - even longer than the guitar variety. Indeed, we’ve been amplifying our violins throughout the history of jazz, popular and rock music in one way or another ever since Stuff Smith began experimenting with National pickup systems in the 1930s.

A pure electric violin depends on an electric current to radiate sound, whereas an electro-acoustic instrument is a hybrid, retaining the traditional sound chamber of classic violins and working both plugged in or unplugged. Step back further still and you can fit a standard violin with a microphone for extra volume. I find there is a use for each variant in professional life, depending on the musical setting. In this article we’ll focus primarily on the full electric type.

A culture around the electric violin has sprung up quite suddenly in the past 25 years. Now it’s a global phenomenon. The trend for electric violins seems to have mushroomed in tandem with the growth of the internet and now there is a huge scene of electric violinists, many of whom are online performing pop and rock covers. To supply such demand, incredible things are happening in the electric violin making universe. Witness the distinctive flying-V shaped Viper violin by Mark Wood, the fully MIDI synth-ready violins from Zeta, the exotic creations by mavericks like Australia’s David Guscott, and perhaps the most quintessential of futuristic violins - the 3DVarius, a 3D-printed premium electric violin from France. But with so much choice, selecting an instrument might seem an impossible task. My advice is to try out as many as you possibly can, either at a specialist music store like Moseley Violins in the UK and Electric Violin Shop in the US, or ask teachers, friends and colleagues if you can try theirs.

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About The Strad

We conclude our investigation of Stradivari’s moulds and examine some radical teaching methods. Vadim Gluzman, Philip Dukes and Matthew Barley are interviewed and there’s our annual Accessories supplement, featuring carbon fibre bows, wolf eliminators, mutes and lots more.