Congratulations, you decided to get one of the Yamaha electric violins: the YEV or the SV-200! How do you decide which one is right for you? Let’s take a look at the different instruments:
The Yamaha YEV Electric Violin
The newest of Yamaha’s electric violins and a bestseller, this instrument won Best in Show at Winter NAMM in 2016. It’s not hard to see why between it’s Mobius-inspired design and practical features. Created specifically for performance, the lightweight YEV has a built-in piezo pickup with a ¼” passive output. This means the instrument doesn’t require a battery. You can get the YEV in two different natural wood finishes and as a four- or five-string model.
This instrument is perfect for someone looking for an electric violin priced under $1000 exclusively for performance.
The Yamaha SV-200 Silent Violin
The veteran of the group, the SV-200 Silent Violin has one major difference that sets it apart from the YEV: a headphone jack. This allows for “silent” practice in addition to its standard ¼” output for performance. It includes an onboard preamp which requires a 9-volt battery, EQ adjustments that work with professional audio equipment, and dual piezo pickups for a larger dynamic range and resolution. The SV-200 is available in 4 colors.
This instrument is perfect for someone who needs something for silent practice as well as performing.
Short answer: Yes. A preamplifier, or preamp, is key to getting a great tone out of an electric violin, viola or cello.
Long answer: We need to get technical.
The electric string instruments and pickups we stock at Johnson String Instrument all use variations of piezo electric sensors (piezo for short). Piezo pickups work differently than the magnetic pickups found on electric guitars; instead of sensing a string’s vibration, a piezo pickup senses an instrument’s vibration.
Piezos work best under pressure, which is why these pickup systems are usually found in or beneath the bridge of an instrument. As the instrument vibrates, the piezo generates an electrical signal that can be amplified. However, piezos have ultra high impedance outputs. In order to maximize the frequency response and tone of a piezo pickup, you must match it to an ultra high impedance input. This is what a preamp does: it buffers the impedance of your signal, making it fuller and stronger.
Why is this important? Most amplifiers and accessories on the market are designed for electric guitars and their impedance, not electric violin. Plugging a passive electric violin directly into an electric guitar amp will work, but the sound you get may not be what you were expecting.
Do I need to buy a preamp?
That depends on your setup. Many electric instruments already have on-board preamps that take care of this impedance mismatch. These instruments are what is called “active” and typically require batteries. “Passive” systems do not require batteries. An external preamp is highly recommended with these piezo systems. The chart below shows products we carry and which category they fall into:
These passive pickup systems all produce a very strong signal so a preamp is not mandatory. However, we highly recommend a preamp to maximize your instrument’s amplified tone.
The benefits of external preamps go beyond impedance matching; all have XLR outputs, allowing you to connect easily to a PA system. This is a major time saver when playing live. When you connect to a PA, you do not have to leave your tone up to the sound guy; most preamps feature tone-shaping EQ controls. Many preamps on the market also have boost functions, allowing you to boost your volume by a few decibels when you are ready for a solo or need help cutting through the mix.
NEXT: watch for our Preamp Buying Guide to find out which preamp is right for you.
Our annual Holiday Sale is back, and so is our Holiday Gift Guide! This year, we have a mix of exciting new products as well as old favorites for musicians of all levels and ages.
JSI EV-4 Companion Outfit in red, ON SALE $320.00
Our brand for electrics, this instrument is a great option for those getting started with electric violin. An outfit comes with the instrument in one of five colors, bow, case and headphones.
Yamaha YEV-104 Black Electric Violin , $595.00
Winner of Best in Show at the 2016 NAMM conference! This innovative instrument can be purchased with four or five strings in two different colors. The outfit includes the instrument, bow, case, cable and rosin.
We haven’t forgotten about you viola, cello and bass players! See all of our electric instruments currently on sale on our website.
Galaxy 300SL Comet Green Violin Case, ON SALE $337.00
A newer, lighter case makes a great gift! This JSI exclusive, both durable and light, is a great option. Available for violin, viola and cello in nine different colors!
Cordoba 20SM Soprano Ukulele, $149.00
Check out why the ukulele is such a great instrument in our blog post and give someone the gift of this versatile instrument this holiday season. There are four types to choose from: soprano, concert, baritone and tenor. May we also suggest this book to help them get started?
These books are great holiday gifts for young musicians! Some of our favorites are:
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, Illustrated by Marc Simont, $6.99
“It is Friday evening. The sky is getting darker and darker. Here and there, all around the city, one hundred and five people are getting ready to go to work. Some of them take showers, others bathe. Some shave or trim their mustaches, others put on dusting powder and a little jewelry. Then they all get into special black and white clothes and travel to midtown with their instruments. There, at 8:30, they will work together–playing beautiful music in an orchestra.” Intended for ages 4-8.
It’s time for another installment of Departments of JSI! This is a series that highlights the different people that work within our company. We’re able to run such a large business through the expertise of and collaboration between our different departments. Everyone has a skill that they utilize to accomplish everything from coordinating rental trips to selling instruments to repairing instruments to shipping things on time and safely. This series will help you get to know the variety of people and jobs that are done here at JSI.
The Front Staff are among the most visible departments in our company. If you’ve ever come in to our Newton location, you have probably talked to a member of our front staff. They handle everything from rentals to selling merchandise to fitting chin and shoulder rests. We asked them to answer some questions about themselves and their jobs:
Julie Metcalf: I am the Assistant Store Manager at JSI.
Amy Nolan: Store Manager
What is your favorite part of your job?
Justin: Finding the perfect instrument for a player, whether that be a first time student or a more advanced musician looking for a forever instrument. The process of pairing an instrument to a player is very rewarding.
Julie: The most exciting thing we do in the storefront is rentals! All kinds of people, young and old, come in each day looking to play an instrument for the first time. It is magical to share with them my joy and enthusiasm for music. I take care to help them select the right instrument and set them up with evrything they need to get started. Rental customers come in each day with many different needs: maybe the player grew and needs a bigger size, or there’s an open seam on a rental cello, or a violinist has a broken E string. It’s rewarding to be able to help people on their musical journeys.
Amy: Helping everyone from kids to adults find joy in music!
What does a typical day look like for you?
Justin: A typical day can include setting up each guitar to a tight specification to ensure proper playability, intonation, and quality. Working with customers to find them the perfect guitar, mandolin, or ukulele. Scheduling and/or visiting a school program to service students’ instruments to ensure that they are practicing on the highest quality rental instruments possible.
Julie: I work in the storefront every day, assisting customers who come in the door. I do a little bit of everything: helping people find sheet music, advising them on strings, fitting chinrests and shoulder rests, and showing accessories like cases and music stands.
Amy: Everything from renting instruments to new players and helping advancing players select higher quality instruments to working with local teachers to make sure they have everything they need for their students. I enjoy working with staff at all levels of the company to ensure great levels of customer service and a love of music all around.
What is your main instrument?
Justin: I have played violin since the age of 7 and started playing guitar in middle school. I have always been a jack of all trades and “master” of none. Anything with strings I can probably play it. But if you were to force me to pick one, I suppose it would have to be guitar as that is what my degree is in.
Julie: Violin. I have played many different styles of music on violin and viola. I mostly play fiddle for contra and square dances in the Boston area. I also play jawharp, and I am learning banjo and guitar.
Did you go to school for music?
Justin: I went to the University of Maine and double majored in music education and classical guitar performance.
Julie: I went to Berklee College of Music, where I studied violin performance.
Amy: Yes, University of Southern Maine, studying piano and cello.
Were you a Johnson renter growing up?
Amy: I was! I had only been playing for a couple of years when I switched to a JSI rental cello and had a great time. Later on my family used the rental equity to purchase a cello once I could play a full-size, and I still play that instrument!
You want to start experimenting with electric violin, but you either don’t want a second instrument or need something budget-friendly. What’s your best option? Electrify your acoustic by installing a pickup! Now for the harder question: which pickup should you choose? Like finding the right electric violin or amplifier, there are different factors to consider. First let’s take a look at different pickups options that are available:
This is one of our favorite pickups at Johnson String. Designed by Ned Steinberger of NS Design fame in collaboration with David Gage, the sound quality is fantastic. Even though the pickup element sits under the bridge, your instrument’s acoustic tone will not be affected. However it can only be installed by a luthier, so it is not easy to remove.
Players looking for a pickup that is easily installed and removed don’t need to look any further than The Band. This instant-fit pickup wraps around the body of your instrument using Velcro, making it easy to take off when you don’t need it. The Band produces a strong, lively tone suitable for a variety of styles from fiddle to classical.
If you are looking to transform your violin into an “electric-acoustic,” then a replacement bridge like the LR Baggs violin pickup is a great option. Featuring a transducer embedded in a Despiau Superior bridge blank, this pickup will effortlessly capture your instrument’s inherent dynamics. However, this also means the pickup requires professional installation to fit your instrument. The LR Baggs was our pickup of choice when creating our JSI Performer-Acoustic Violin.
The next step in selecting a pickup is to consider your needs. If you need to be amplified on a regular basis and do not mind leaving a pickup on your violin, the Realist or LR Baggs are great options. If you need a little more flexibility or only need to amplify your violin once in a while, the Band may be the one for you. It is difficult to make a wrong choice with any of these options as each produces a great sound that can always be tailored with a little EQ.
Finally, all of the pickups mentioned in this post are “plug and play.” This means that once installed, you can plug straight into an amp or PA system and start rocking and rolling. While preamps are not required with any of these pickups, they are highly recommended. Look for my next post to find out why!
Instrument insurance is an important part of caring for your instrument. Professionals use it regardless of their genre and music shops have it to protect their inventory. Whether you recently bought an instrument or own one that isn’t already insured, we highly recommend purchasing a policy to help protect your investment.
It’s exactly what it sounds like: an insurance policy with specific coverage for your instrument(s). It usually takes the form of either:
A rider on your current renter’s or homeowner’s policy, or
A separate policy through a company that specializes in insuring musical instruments
Any insurance policy is about financial protection should damage or theft occur in the future and instrument insurance is no different. It is designed to protect you against things like theft, accidental damage, and devaluation. Always check with the insurance provider about specific coverage questions, but most companies will cover common problems that can happen with musical instruments.
Rider: This something you can add to a preexisting renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy. This is a great option if you are not a professional musician but still want protection for your instrument. Be sure to ask about the kind of coverage a rider has with your current insurance company before adding anything.
Separate Policy: If you use your instrument professionally, this is what you will need. The main companies used by most musicians and shops in no particular order are:
The benefit of these companies is that they understand the specific nuances of musical instruments and their value. It’s also a good option if you have multiple instruments, a lot of equipment, or travel frequently.
You will need a couple of things before you start looking:
A list of items you need to insure. Many companies will insure everything from instruments to electrical and recording equipment, sheet music, and cases but always ask the company what is and is not covered first.
Up-to-date appraisals for all of your instruments and bows.
Once you have this information, start shopping! Talk to the companies you are considering about any concerns and ask what they specifically cover in their policies. Make sure to compare deductibles as well as rates. For example, if you have a $1,500 instrument and the deductible is $1,000, that policy may not be your best option. Get quotes from everyone you are thinking of using, decide what will work best for you, and enjoy the piece of mind that comes with knowing your instruments are protected.