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The curse of amplification
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Svento
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September 22, 2012 - 10:38 am
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This is killing me.

I have some e-mail contacts here and there who've volounteered on winding me a pickup. My old electric has finally given up and it's beyond repairing, so the logical step would be to have my acoustic amplified, so I have something at all to play. Those guys who would make me the pickup hasn't gotten started yet, though we started discussing this years ago. The REBO pickup is very expensive but I did overweigh that, but it appeared that my fingerboard was to thin for a REBO to be mounted.

So I had a Plan B, Fender Rhodes piano coils. The impedance is extremely low, but with an overdrive pedal or some other preamp, that wouldn't be a problem. I had the electricity drawn inside the fiddle and the coils soldered together and connected to the tele jack, so far so good. But I can't manage to make the coils stick to the end of the fingerboard, and in the efforts I always manage to break the threads connecting the coils. I'm very bad at soldering so I need to pay someone to do it for me, but I don't know if there's any point in doing that, as it doesn't seem like I can make them stick to the fingerboard.

It's like a curse... We've been rehearsing acoustically for more than half a year and some members have dropped off and been replaced, tired of waiting for us to be able to rehearse seriously. The Fender Rhodes coils was the last idea and I can't get it work. I'm really getting tired now and I was so close to smashing the fiddle against the wall. One of these days I probably will...

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myguitarnow
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September 22, 2012 - 11:48 pm
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Well I've been on this forum for just a little over a year now and I'm still a bit confused on what you really want. I know you can get a Taylor made acoustic guitar pickup that is magnetic sorta like a humbucker for acoustic instruments that would probably fit into your violin just fine. It rocks! You've said over and over that you don't want or like the piezo style pickup. Why don't you just get a rockin' mic and put in front of your acoustic violin? I sure do hope you find what sound you are really going after. I've pretty much lived in recording studios and work with many different ways of recording. Don't beat your head against the wall! If what you want to do is play live and record let them figure out what sound that you are looking for.

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September 23, 2012 - 4:12 am
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I don't know how to get that guitar thing inside of my instrument. The bottom would need to be removed, a cable drawn under the fingerboard, plus the cable must be connected to the strings in some way. I'd actually like my instrument amplified that way - same basic idea as Michael Edinger's Stringamp and some old Norwegian electric guitars - but I should have thought of that before the instrument was glued together. I know a guy amplifying fiddles that way but he won't install his system on acoustic instruments, or rarely on instruments he hasn't built himself.

Any way, installing that system is a very complicated operation and miles beyond my skills.

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September 25, 2012 - 6:19 am
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myguitarnow said
Well I've been on this forum for just a little over a year now and I'm still a bit confused on what you really want. I know you can get a Taylor made acoustic guitar pickup that is magnetic sorta like a humbucker for acoustic instruments that would probably fit into your violin just fine. It rocks! You've said over and over that you don't want or like the piezo style pickup. Why don't you just get a rockin' mic and put in front of your acoustic violin? I sure do hope you find what sound you are really going after. I've pretty much lived in recording studios and work with many different ways of recording. Don't beat your head against the wall! If what you want to do is play live and record let them figure out what sound that you are looking for.

I've checked with a luthier now. Opening the top would cost me some $ 380. Removing fingerboard and routing out for the cable would be some 150 I guess, and the transformer some 230. Having the pieces soldered together some 75. All together the cost would be about 835 - somewhat on the expensive side but it might be worth it.

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September 25, 2012 - 12:09 pm
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Now I think I've understood the basic principle of that Taylor system and it's not stringcoil like I first thought. It seems to be something like old telephones, coils responding to metal membranes. It seems to be similar to that Schertler electrodynamic system, only Taylor is integrated while Schertler is mounted on the outside. The advantage with stringcoil systems like Stringamp is that they're not in touch with any vibrant part; the Taylor system probably affects the acoustic tone in the same way a piezo does.

It's a very interesting idea though. When I realized how old telephones worked, I started to think of that idea, as well as using it as a microphone.

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myguitarnow
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September 25, 2012 - 10:39 pm
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Right on... You would have to open the top of your violin and was thinking about that thick violin that you were making. Put the Taylor machine part sideways in the back of that fiddle sideways then those wires are in the middle of the the fiddle with 3 different places to put the small mounts around the inside of the fiddle. It will affect the acoustics a bit but when you use it for a live situation your violin will scream acoustic sound. Works for me with Taylor acoustic guitars and I know of a violinist that does the same thing with violins. He has done violin parts for many popular movie soundtracks and it sounds acoustic all the way.

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September 26, 2012 - 6:04 am
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The least complicated solution would be finding a pickup that's mounted on the fingerboard. If I only change fingerboards I could actually mount a REBO. If I can't solve it that way I may be overweighing one electrodynamic solution or the other, but it will be a lot more expensive and time consuming. Metal membrane or amplified strings are probably better, but I should have thought about that at an earlier stage.

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Fiddlestix
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September 26, 2012 - 6:22 am
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Why not just buy another electric violin for about $ 800.00 and be done with it ?

dunno   My thought's are, when you get finished jazzing up your acoustical with all the stuff inside and out, it's not gonna sound right unless you use it as electric. You've ruined the original "meant to be" sound.

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September 26, 2012 - 12:15 pm
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Fiddlestix said
Why not just buy another electric violin for about $ 800.00 and be done with it ?

My thought's are, when you get finished jazzing up your acoustical with all the stuff inside and out, it's not gonna sound right unless you use it as electric. You've ruined the original "meant to be" sound.

Solidbody is my first choice for amplified playing. There's a one being built right now, but I have no idea how long that will take and I need to be amplified while waiting for that one. Of course, if electric violins were manufactured commercially, I wouldn't bother with this mess. I'm not paying 800 for a fancy broomstick. Besides, the major problem would be unsolved: amplifying it.

So now I need to find some emergency amplification for the acoustic one.There will probably be no added stuff inside the fiddle if I can find something that can be mounted on the fingerboard.

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October 9, 2012 - 8:22 am
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The FR coils don't work for some reason. The Dutch guy mailed me to say he's made a pickup and like I thought it's a guitar style one with one broad coil for all strings.

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October 20, 2012 - 10:08 am
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Seems like it finally works. Far from optimally but definitely acceptably. I had a guy make a dock for the coils to fix them into their right positions, then some other guy soldered it to the permanent cable inside the body of the fiddle. Today I glued it to the fingerboard

The coils are lying down so they're not sensible in the same direction as if they were standing. The sight of the field seems to have a wider angle, which in this case is not a good thing. First I had those swelling sounds which indicates that the pickup favors the plucked tones, so that the tone grows when the bow releases the string. So there was some trying before I found the right position for the pickup. Looking at the pickup now, it seems as if the coils pick directly upwards, but they don't. It's the sides of the fields that pick the strings, but the fields are so wide, so I had to place the coils right under the strings to get the sides of the fields right... Follow?

The coils are a bit weak so I have to turn up the amp quite a bit. I can't make it distort, but being acoustic, the sound is fat enough without distortion. I'll probably use an overdrive pedal any way for the preamp effect. The clean sound is very clear and amplifies the acoustic sound without adding anything. I don't think any piezo would sound as natural as these coils.

Still... This is very much a temporary solution. I have amplified sound good enough for a live gig or perhaps even a recording, but I'd like the sound a bit more hot. But I won't fight any more with this one, in the future I hope to have a solidbody for electric playing. But that one is still jigsaw pieces and until it's ready, I'll use this acoustic fiddle.

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January 10, 2013 - 1:11 pm
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A very interesting thing happened... No matter how I moved the pickup and turned it around, I couldn't get equal sound from all five strings. The problem was very noticeable on E and A. The problem couldn't be the coils, then there would be some correct position for each string somewhere, even if I wouldn't get sound from all five at once.

If it's not the coils, it must be something either with the magnets or the strings. I managed to turn the pole piece somewhat, so the angle would be the same in relation to these particular strings as the one magnetisizing D and G. I also changed the two thin strings from some low budget Internet brand to Prim - I've always thought that the Prims are slightly more sensitive to magnets than others. I don't think the turning of the pole had much to do with it, the secret was probably the strings.

Any way: I do have sound now! I can actually use this instrument amplified. The pickup is rather weak, so I need an overdrive pedal to pre-amplify the sound, but it works. It doesn't feed back much as long as I don't distort too much. I haven't figured out how to get clean sound either, for the pedal must be turned up quite a bit, so the sound is always a bit distorted. But that's no big deal any way, I've never used clean sound when playing amplified.

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