~Beauty Still Intact~
The first time I saw an electric violin being played in an orchestra, I didn’t know what to think or how to act. At first, I was very riled! ‘Why do people always have to go and mess with a good thing?’ I thought. ‘Look at how ugly that thing is!’ ‘I bet it has problems with distortion and sound all the time.’ I was very critical. But still intrigued. So I began diving into the world of electric violins online and listening to music they afford. Many of the electrical instruments I viewed were quite striking, some breathtaking. These words are quite far from the above ‘ugly’ label I had given the violins at first sight. And I found the music was far from distorted and troubled. Unless the sound was a purposeful effect, which electric violins have the capability to do, unlike the traditional hollow bodied violin.
My love for the violin stems from my elementary school days when I began studying music in third grade. My teachers name was Mrs. Denney and she was a splendid violinist. I played violin for six years through my eighth grade year but, decided not to be a part of my High School orchestra because I thought I wouldn’t be a strong enough performer to keep up in what was then the state’s champions of High School orchestras. Looking back now, I wish I would have kept with it because I know I would have excelled. Since then, in my adult years of sporadic playing, I have played for family and friends on a few occasions and had one pupil, Cali.
The Violin’s Exquisite Beginnings
The violin first appeared in Europe’s musical realm in the early 1500s as a three-stringed instrument and traveled its way across the nations where Italy got ahold of its musical abilities and began the then ‘modern’ transformations of adding a fourth string, the E string, which sings the highest notes on the instrument. It’s most early beginnings can be traced back to the end of the 9th century where an instrument called the Rebec or Rabab was used to make sound by drawing a rosined bow across strings that produced a soft, muted sound. From then, came the Vielle which had five strings and a larger body. The Vielle most closely resembles a modern-day traditional violin. Most historians credit a man named Andrea Amati for producing the first violins. His name carried a legacy of violin makers with his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons who had apprentices that carried violin making into the late 1700s.
Origins of the electrical violin is of debate among historians. Some say Stuff Smith, a jazz and blues performer, was the violinist who first ‘electrified’ his sound by adding a magnetic pickup and amplifier to his violin circa 1930. Others say it was George D. Beauchamp who technically made the electric pickup to outfit Smith’s violin. The well-known musical supplier, Fender, began making electric violins in the 1950s and produces some of the most beautiful and resonant sounding instruments to this day. Other companies include NS Design, Stratton and Yamaha. Many genres manipulate the electric violin into their music including Rock, New Age, Alternative, Funk, Reggae and Neo-Classical. Below is a video of an electric string quartet. You can see by the cellist use of electric, magnetic sound waves are being used in all string instruments today.