Simple to start with a web camera and
skype a free program.
Live in another State, no problem.
You can have a one on one speaker
phone lesson in the comfort of your
Lessons in Person
Champion fiddlers Dale and Tobi
Morris teach fiddle, guitar and
mandolin topeople of all ages, from
toddlers to senior citizens.
Amplification Of The Violin
A very long time ago (probably best described as the "Bob Wills days"), the method "in vougue" for amplification was a "contact pick-up" (DeArmond) that simply laid on top of the violin. While it amplified well it did have a muting effect on the sound, due to it’s weight, causing it, in my opinion, to sound more like a "horn" rather than a violin or fiddle.
Even so, this was the best available for a long time until the 1960s when Barcus Berry Co. in California came out with a "built-in to the bridge" transducer-type pick-up. These were GREAT!!! The pick-up also was right in the center of the bridge and the resulting sound was very balanced .
This was to be short lived however. For some reason, Barcus-Berry, after many years, changed their design (1970s) and started putting the element in the bridge on the bass side instead of the very middle. This made the instrument very bassy and boxy sounding, in my opinion. After a while Barcus-Berry came out with yet another design and this one clipped onto the side of the bridge with two screws. This added weight to the bridge and once again caused a muted "horn" sound (much like the old DeArmond), in fact, in my opinion not as good as the latter. Finally, Barcus Berry went to one that could be stuck to the back of the bridge with contact cement. This was a real problem (glue always giving way just when you didn't need it to). Also the pick-up was heavy, once again causing a muting effect in sound. Finally Barcus-Berry went back to the pick-up in the bass side of the bridge. They never, for some reason went back to the very first design they had which in my opinion, as well as many others, was the very best.
In the 1980s Martin Guitar Co. started marketing a pick-up called "Fishman". This pick-up simply fit in the wing of the existing bridge of the violin. This was a problem however, in that the bridge must be relieved in this area of the bridge to allow the fitting of the pick-up. Sometimes, in cases where a bridge had been "stylized or customized" by the person who'd set the violin up, the pick-up wouldn't fit at all , too loose...... Providing the bridge was cut to accept the pick-up this pick-up certainly had it's advantages. Should one not like the fiddle they tried the pick-up on they simply took it out and put onto another fiddle since the recutting of a new violin bridge wasn't involved. There would be problems in the end however. Once the pick-up had been taken out a few times the spring steel it was made out of broke, ruining the pick-up ( see later writing, in which Fishman so graciously took care of this for me).
A company called Baggs came out with a pick-up, later on, very much like the original Barcus-Berry described above. The pick-up is right in the center of the bridge and gives a balanced sound, however, in my opinion very tubby or boxey.
A draw-back was, however, that since it is in the bridge, whenever the bridge is cut for a particular fiddle it must stay on THAT FIDDLE. Many fiddlers are like myself and play on several different fiddles.
THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS I went back to the Fishman transducer. THE BIGGEST REASON was, however, that after all is said and done, THE FISHMAN BEST AMPLIFIED THE TRUE SOUND OF MY FIDDLE.
Sounding like a fiddle and NOT LIKE a horn, has always been my objective. As I continue to play jobs around the country and people remark about my NATURAL fiddle sound I totally ATTRIBUTE it to the Fishman transducer.
NOW, something about the Fishman THAT HAS OCCURRED RECENTLY. As early stated, one problem I’d had with the Fishman was the spring breaking off of the pickup. I have one that this happened to. I had occasion to call Fishman, upon recommendation from my supplier, on another matter and the person in customer service asked me to return the pickup to them for repair or replacement. I was astounded! NO QUESTIONS as to where I got the pickup, how long I’d had it, NOTHING, only “send it back to us, that’s what we’re here for”!
Now I must add that there are pick-ups on the market that I haven't tried such as
"Piezo - Shadow", "Zeta", and a host of others.
GREAT NEWS CAME TO ME IN APRIL OF 2009!!!!
A gentlemen by the name of Mike Cross contacted me and told me that he had read, with interest, my reference to the amplification of the violin. He went on to say that he was WITH BARCUS-BERRY when they made their FIRST GENERATION PICK-UP! HE TOLD ME THAT HE WAS STILL MAKING THIS PICK-UP, HOWEVER IT IS NOT CALLED A BARCUS-BERRY!! It is his own brand.
The old pick-up, THE ONE I used for years, the one that countless other professional fiddlers used, IS STILL AVAILABLE! I have asked him how others could acquire one of these pick-ups and he told me that they are available, SPECIAL ORDER ONLY, IN SMALL QUANTITIES! His name is Mike Cross. He is in Kansas,
708 N. Birch
If you seek amplification of your instrument that will reproduce it's true sound, THIS IS THE PICK-UP.
In addition, and I think one of the most important things about this pick-up, it is ANTI-FEEDBACK!!
Unfortunately, I sometimes play in bands that, in my opinion, are MUCH LOUDER THAN THEY SHOULD BE.
FEEDBACK IS A HUGE PROBLEM. In the past I've had to use a less resonant instrument, also stuff the ff holes with foam rubber or even put tape over them, in order to keep feedback to a minimum.
A few nights ago I worked a job in Fort Worth with a group in which the piano player was EXTREMELY LOUD,
HE HAD HIS MONITOR FACING ME! The bass player in the band was also twice as loud as he should have been. Me and my fiddle were "boxed in", so to speak. If there was ever a time in which FEEDBACK would have kept me from playing, this would have been it. WITH THIS NEW PICKUP I was absolutely amazed that there was NO FEEBACK.
- Now for the fiddle itself. I have an opinion on how to choose the right fiddle for amplification. Below is some tips:
First of all, a really loud "boomy sounding fiddle" will not work well since it causes
the dreaded "feedback problems"due to all the "overtones".
The instrument for amplification must also be a very sound fiddle free from a lot of cracks or repairs to cracks, in other words most of the time we'll be playing our fiddle in very adverse conditions, i.e. places where temperature can vary very much in short spans of time.
The proper glue used in violin repair is of "animal nature" contracting and expanding with these changes. It can sound as if "every time you walk out on stage you're playing a different instrument, ONE THAT YOU'RE NOT
In many places we'll have to experience sudden temperature drops because of an air conditioner unit coming on. Other problems stem from stage lighting which causes rapid warming to the instrument.
In the past very cheap instruments were used for amplification because of this.
The problem in this however was that for whatever the tone of the instrument is, that's the sound of it amplified, just louder. Also cheaper instruments generally had wooden fittings rather than ebony and this made playability really horrible.
In the spring of this year I happened upon a sale of the instrument I'm sending you.
In the past thirty or forty years the west German's have exported to this country violins by the name of "Phreschner, Schroetter, Becker, Siedel " that were intended to be school instruments. They are heavily wooded and very rugged. While the sound is not what we'd consider "huge" the tone of the instruments is still decent.
These are the very best choice for amplifying. Providing you can find one they are for the most part very reasonably priced, most of the time, in fiddler's circles at least under $250. There are more instruments available with the labels of American importers such as Knilling, Ton-Clar, etc. that are basically the same West German instrument however when purchased through violin houses can be several hundred dollars more. These instruments are very sound and do not change every time someone should breathe on them. Also of great importance is they're of proper dimensions with proper fittings.
As far as amplifiers, this is another thing that has been very frustrating over the years. The very first amplifier I used was a very old Fender Twin (wish I still had it).
It did not have reverb however and I couldn't wait until the opportunity came to trade it in on one of the new reverb models. In fact, it was a new amplifier made by Peavy, called Vintage, and it looked like my old amp. I can say that I honestly never like the Peavy amplifier. Not only was the sound more "amplified sounding" it distorted during double stops. I then traded the Peavy off and acquired a current model Fender Twin Reverb, this was an okay amp I suppose however it did not have the sound of my old Fender. When I became the 17th member of The Sons of The Pioneers in the early 80's I acquired a Poly-Tone amp which had a very warm sound however the distortion problem was still there with double stops. Roy Lanham of The Pioneers acquired for me, on endorsement basis, a new amp that Leo Fender was marketing called "Music-Man". It is tube type and has one 15 inch EV speaker. I've tried all sorts of amps over the years, Kustom, Yamaha, Crate, Evans, Peavy, Ampeg, you name it. While great for guitars they are not, in my opinion good as fiddle amps. My suggestion, after all of this, is that you look for an older Fender or Music-Man amp, be sure they are tube-type. These are the best at reproducing the natural sound of the fiddle.
SOUND SYSTEMS AND "SOUND MEN".
Unfortunately we are "at the mercy" many times of the "sound man" whenever we should have a direct connection to the sound-system. Even though we've spent countless hours, trial and error, to achieve just the right pick-up, the right fiddle, the right amp, etc. we're drawn into a situation of which besides the sound coming direct from our amp, it now also comes through the PA system with the aid of a microphone in front of our amp. We have no idea what is "really" being sent to the audience as far as our sound, our volume, our tone, etc. The sound man is
AT THE CONTROL KNOBS!!
Invariably many sound men think that a "fiddle sound" is something "tinny" or "washed in reverb". AFTER ALL WE'VE DONE, AFTER ALL WE'VE BEEN THROUGH, ALAS.
In conclusion, the above is something we sometimes must simply "live with". It is something we, in most cases, cannot change.
I sincerely hope that my reflecting upon my experiences in the above will be of benefit to you.
As far the amp and pickup I now use, a few years back I purchased a Fender “re-issue 65 twin” that I am using. It is as near to what my old Fender sounded like if not BETTER.
The combination of this amp with MY FISHMAN transducer, HAS EVERYTHING to do with my sound.