The inspirational journal of rising NYC jewelry designer, entrepreneur, violinist, and pastry chef, Yumi Chen.

NYC Jewelry Designer, Violinist, Pastry Chef, Small Business Owner, Free-Spirit, Positive Thinker!

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Posts Tagged ‘violin’

From the Lute to the Electric…

Monday, April 6th, 2009


I am a violinist. This may conjure up a variety of images and ideas such as large concert halls, string quartets, serious classical music, and fervent students. But it all changes when I plug my violin in to an amplifier. Suddenly I’m a rock star, I’m cool like a guitarist! I’ve recently been noticing a comeback in electrical stringed instruments. I say a “comeback” because the experimentation with these sounds and techniques began back in the Swing Era of the 1920s and 1930s.

Electric violins are popping up in more and more rock and metal bands lately, their fame rising particularly in the hands of Andrew Bird or Boyd Tinsley of the Dave Matthews Band. I think many musicians use their acoustic violin with an added pickup, which, once it’s connected to an amp, makes the instrument electric. I still play my Giovanni Cavani 1921 with a L.R. Baggs pickup attached to it.

So I’m clearly partial to the violin, but let’s not forget those other great stringed instruments: the banjo, the cello, the mandolin (never mind the guitar for now, that’s an obvious one). When these instruments go electric, they’re mostly still heard in bluegrass (then called ‘newgrass’ or ‘soulgrass’), or jazz music. Yet, you will never think of a banjo the same after you hear Bela Fleck work his magic on one. I think he has forever changed the very specific identity of that instrument. I also was just introduced to Sam Bush, who is equally genius on the electric mandolin. These men play their sweet, honky-tonk little instruments like they’re electric guitars or basses; it’s just mind-blowing to watch them manipulate their sounds.

The great thing about amplifying these classic instruments is the whole new world of possibilities it opens up to both the instruments and the musicians, and to music in general. Suddenly, there really are no limits. Like any art or science, music is ever evolving, and with innovations like these, who knows where it will go next!