print banner
 

Electric Violin Project

This is a project to create an electric violin from a standard violin body and the best violin pickup I could find at the time. I got a lot of the initial "big ticket" and essential items a number of years ago; but opted to use the pickup on my acoustic violin for a time. When switching bridges finally drove me crazy enough, I came back to the project. The physical base of the instrument is an unfinished "white" violin I bought on eBay. It would have made a decent very cheap student instrument, but other than that it was a typical Violin Shaped Object (VSO)

I bought the best pickup I could find, a Zeta RetroPak, which I was lucky enough to get after they were discontinued, when Shar Music was clearing their stock

I kept this project on the back burner for a long time because I was afraid to damage the expensive pickup and the beautiful VSO (Violin Shaped Object). I used the pickup on and off on my traditional acoustic violin. Finally when I tired of constantly switching bridges and wanted my acoustic back, and wanted to make full use of the pickup, I started doing what I originally planed to do, make an electric violin. I do have a Yamaha Silent Violin from a few years ago, but the Zeta pickup is a much better system.

When I began really working on it, I first thought about tuning pegs, and figured that I wanted worm gear tuning pegs instead of traditional tuning pegs. I ran across Eric Jensen's website, and e-mailed him to ask him what tuners he used, and he replied and told me that he used "Gotoh mini guitar tuners sold by Warmoth Guitar Products.." And I went with another mini guitar tuner from Warmoth.

I used a Dremel to expand the holes the tuners would go into on the peg box to fit the worm gear turners. I used the standing bit, which was just the right size to let the tuners through but not the washer. On the top "peg slot" I did both holes, and made the opposite where the tuner would be a little larger using a cutter bit; this was done so that washer could fit through because the space at the top of the peg box was too tight to fit in the shaft for the tuner.

Now that I had already taken the Dremel to the violin body, I was less nervous about doing drastic things to it, so I decide that the preamp should be inside the violin and it should have a power switch and power indicator LED. Out of the box the violin uses either the volume or the "no connect switch" from one or more cables to turn it on or off, and I figured that adding a switch and indicator LED would make a lot sense. Also, while in disuse, while I moving and such, the 9 volt leaked, and so I also needed to replace the battery clip on the preamp anyway, so it since I need to do a little soldering anyway might as well move the whole thing from a belt to inside the instrument and add a few bells and whistles. I do, however, need to be able to get at the switch, jacks, volume control and be able to see the LED I"ll be adding. That means, it was time to drill some holes. I started by marking out where I wanted them to be.

I then got out a very large and powerful drill, and found it was too powerful and I had a smashed a larger whole in my violin body than I"d planed. After a moment of panic, I re-planed some things " and realized that it was a blessing in disguise. If I had drilled one of the holes where I had planned to, then I would have drilled through a corner block on the violin.

To make sure all the holes were large enough, I fit the components through the holes. Then, I placed the fingerboard and tailpiece in place to see if everything would fit on without problem and start thinking about color.

The original thought was electric blue paint, but good airbrush/automotive paint is expensive, I"m not very good with spray paint and I was told by a number of people that it would be best to take it to an automotive body shop (which would be rather expensive). So, I went to the home improvement store and found a very pretty cherry stain. Removing all the pieces, I sanded with a medium sand paper and then again with very fine sandpaper. And then put on the first coat of stain. I had previously put a protective polyurethane on to keep oil from my fingers from getting into the wood, but this appeared to be a mistake because even after the sanding the first coat of stain there were places that didn"t take the stain.

The next day, I put on the second coat, but was more liberal with stain, and I"m happy with the final color.

The next step is to seal it with a couple of good coats of very high gloss polyurethane. Then, after the body is done, I need to cut notches into the nut for the stings, and glue on the fingerboard. Lastly, do a little soldering to connect the new battery clip, power switch, indicator LED and to solder the cable from the pickup to back of the connector on the preamp.

More to come on this project. Images have been taken along the way, and hopefully will make it on to this page also.