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Silent Practice Violin
Help me decide the best approach to practicing at work
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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Poke
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February 7, 2014 - 3:55 pm
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Hi guys (and girls),

 

My name is Damon and I've been a member for a couple months now. I am 39 and am learning the violin. I have been playing for about a month, taking lessons once a week and loving it.

I became a fan of this site after seeing Fiddlerman review a Cecilio violin I bought on Amazon when I knew nothing. I was never really happy with that violin and decided I wanted a little better quality if I was going to have a go at this thing. So I sent that one back. After watching every single review Fiddlerman has ever done, I decided to go with the August Kohr K565 from FIddlershop. OMG I love my violin so much.

 

Anyway, since I am not yet a professional musician I have to actually work....uuugh...or at least pretend to work (as I am writing this at work right nowblink). Also, having two little kids means most of my practice time happens during my lunch break.

I have both a rubber and a heavy metal mute, but with my violin both are still too loud for indoors. You see it is an office environment and there are not a lot of options for practicing. I played sitting in the back of my car some, but that wasn't comfortable. A friend recommended going up on the roof, which I have been doing (very clichè I know), however it is super cold right now, and if it rains I'm out a practice session.

 

So I'm thinking of buying an electric violin for practice. The options are for me are basically the Cecilio version for $150 with a case and bow or a Yamaha SV-130 for $720 without a case or bow.

 

I'm a little hesitant about spending the money for the Yamaha, but I remember the quality of the other Cecilio I got and would definitely want to upgrade the bridge and strings. The bow would be useless because I have 2 nice ones already (one being a Fiddlerman CF Bow)

So if I spend another $100 on the Cecilio to improve it, will it make a decent practice violin, or is it worth it to go ahead a spend a little more to get something I know is good quality

 

Thanks for your input and remember - "Violinists Duet Better"

 

Damon

 

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Mad_Wed
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February 8, 2014 - 3:56 pm
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Hi, Damon!

Can't tell anything about both violins, but i'm saving for Yamaha sv-150 or sv-200 (not decided yet) right now. 

You have to decide, what particularly do You want from that instrument. If this is just a matter of silent practice then Cecilio can do that. If You want a better sound as a matter of future recordings or etc. then i think Yamaha would be a better choice. Well, at least from the reviews i liked the sound of it better (could be Pierre's PA system or effects thoughdunno). Also i think that Yamaha is a little lighter.

Hope that Pierre will say something about this - he tested both of them XD (lucky guy!drooling)

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Oliver
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February 8, 2014 - 4:39 pm
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@POKE

Curious............what would you do to the Cecilio to make it quieter than you were able to accomplish with the KOHR?

Electrics are "silent" because someone turned off the amp.  When I have wanted to play "silent" I also tried mutes in addition to turning off the amp.

It is not easy to get a violin "whisper" quiet but I guess that depends on your requirements  (And maybe your electric.  I would guess that a solid body is a quieter choice but not sure.)

 

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

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1stimestar
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February 8, 2014 - 9:41 pm
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Practice when the kids are asleep.  I know it sounds weird but they get used to it and it helps them sleep.  That's what my daughter told me anyways.  

 

Opportunity is often missed because it wears suspenders and looks like hard work.

 

Alaska, the Madness; Bloggity Stories of the North Country

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Fiddlerman
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February 9, 2014 - 7:16 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Naska and Oliver are right on the money.
The Cecilio is perfect for silent practice but don't expect that to sound dead silent or have any type of quality sound to it when playing silent. The sound is not bad at all when amplified but that is not what you want it for.
If you plan on performing later the Yamaha would be a better choice for several reasons, one of them being that you have the on-board reverb.

Have you tried pushing the heavy metal practice mute on the bridge a bit harder. I know it's scary but tapping it a bit makes the violin many times quieter. I used to use it at night in an apartment to get ready for big solos or in hotels where most people were sleeping and it did the job. I couldn't hold back either because the pressure was just as important for me on my preparation.

If you decide to go with the SV-130, we have a red one that I used on the demo which has a super slight ding on the scroll because I turned around and banged it (stupid me) without looking behind me. We can discount that for you. Besides that it's more or less new. At Yamaha they told me that they don't have touch up paint but to go to a hobby shop and match the color. The ding is a chip of paint about 2 mm big that came off and we could take some pictures for you. We can also give you a cheap shipping case for free and the instrument itself comes with a built in shoulder rest as they all do.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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DanielB
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February 9, 2014 - 10:04 am
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Both unplugged "solid body" electrics and heavily muted acoustics can go quiet enough to be useful for even late night practice.  So long as you don't expect either of those to really sound much like what you probably think of as a standard violin sound, they'll work fine.

I've spent plenty of time playing unplugged electric for practice.  It does work.

But consider that you may be limiting your learning experiences more than you need to or should, if that is the end of your solution.

I used to avoid playing the acoustic violin at night, since folks are trying to sleep and such.  But in recent months, I play it quite a bit at night.  When playing while people sleep, I work on playing softly and playing music that is more soothing than what I might work on in daytime or evening hours.  Violin should be able to go anywhere from almost a whisper to so loud as to seem almost supernatural.  LOL  You want all of that within your range of capabilities, and so you want to practice/play sometimes strong and powerful, sometimes soft and gentle.

With little kids, play lullabies and soft ballads while they sleep.  And consider learning some songs they know/recognize or can learn to sing along, for when they are awake.  It could be fun.

If you avoid playing around the kids because they are usually raising enough heck that it makes it harder to concentrate, I can tell you from some years of experience that it is *great* practice for someday when you are playing live gigs.  LOL  No matter how wild a gig may be, it will still not likely hold a candle to a couple small children running through the house.  You can learn to focus real good that way.

I would agree with 1stimestar, that it can actually help people sleep, and be comforting.  Especially if you give some thought to working on some songs/pieces that are particularly nice to sleep to, it might be something cool and memorable that you can do for your children.

Again, not saying that "silent" violins and mutes can't have their place.  But I don't think it is necessarily good to stop there.  Work on your soft-playing skills, and learning to soothe and lull with the sound of the instrument, too.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Poke
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February 9, 2014 - 11:43 pm
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Thanks to everyone for the great advice. Seriously, i picked up something good from each of you.

How and when we can find practice time seems like a good topic of discussion.

I'll try pushing down my mute but I think I'll take up Fiddlerman on his offer and get the Yamaha for work practice. I'd like to hear the violin, even if it is through headphones.

 

Thanks again,

Damon

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Mad_Wed
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February 10, 2014 - 2:45 pm
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Here's the volume test if someone didn't see it (those all are Yamahas though):

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
February 12, 2014 - 6:48 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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I just replied to your email Damon. Sorry for the delay.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Crazymotive
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March 3, 2014 - 4:20 pm
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I use a heavy metal practice mute and that really quiets the sound down to the point where someone can be sleeping in the next room and I won't disturb them.  I use it if I decide to practice in the wee hours of the morning. However, it seems you've tried that and it isn't sufficient. Not much else I can think of. Try a combo, using the mute and playing very softly, pianissimo or play over the fingerboard. gentle easy bow strokes with very light bow pressure.

 

Also what Fiddlerman suggested. Tap the mute down very gently so it is snug fitting on the bridge.  That attenuates the sound considerable than if the mute is just sitting lightly on the bridge.  When I use it that way the violin is very quiet yet still produces a nice clean tone. Just enough so I can hear what I sound like yet someone standing just outside my music room will barely hear anything.

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Poke
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March 6, 2014 - 7:10 pm
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Crazymotive said
I use a heavy metal practice mute and that really quiets the sound down to the point where someone can be sleeping in the next room and I won't disturb them. 

I'm telling you guys, when Fiddlerman says that the Kohr K565 is a powerhouse, he wasn't lying. Even pushing the mute way down further than I was comfortable with, the thing was still too loud, plus I don't like how the sound gets distorted with the mute on.

 

UPDATE: I did buy the Yamaha SV-130 (silent violin) from Fiddlershop. While I absolutely love my acoustic, I think everyone should own one of these.

It is still a little loud unplugged, but the sound is not distorted at all. Another cool thing is that I can play the audio CDs from my music books through it and play along with the songs.

Such a great tool for learning intonation!

 

 

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Crazymotive
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March 8, 2014 - 4:06 pm
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Well, if you are looking for near absolute silence when you play then even the best practice mute isn't going to do the trick.  The heavy metal mute is about the most effective mute I have tried in cases where the sound of an acoustic must be kept to a minimum. In my case the mute is adequate for my purposes since it reduces the sound levels to the point where I can easily practice in the middle of the night without disturbing anyone. So in my ase it is tolerable. if you are in an environment where the violin must be inaudible then its best to go the route you did and use a solid electric.

 

As far as distortion from the mute  goes I haven't found it to be an issue. In fact I was impressed with how clean and distortion free the tone of my violin is with the mute on. While it does take away most of the richness that comes from the full body of the instrument vibrating and resonating to its fullest the tone is remarkably clean and pure.

 

Then again I suppose its different. No two violins are the same and results will vary from one to the next.

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Mozart
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March 10, 2014 - 5:22 am
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This thread's quite mature, but I'll chime in anyway!

I bought my Cecilio electric so that I could practise to my heart's content without disturbing the peace.

It was a bit louder than I expected. Ok, it's quiet, but certainly not 'silent'. So I put a heavy metal mute on it, and now it's exactly how I want it.

My only complaint was the action, which seemed way too high. It was painful to pressthe strings down. So I cut the feet off the bridge, and now it's perfect.

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Fiddlerman
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March 10, 2014 - 6:07 pm
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Do you care to elaborate on how you cut the feet off the bridge? I don't want others doing the same thing to discover that they took off too much. :-(

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Mozart
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March 11, 2014 - 7:02 am
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"Do you care to elaborate on how you cut the feet off the bridge? I don't want others doing the same thing to discover that they took off too much. :-("

 

Ok. I should probably point out that I'm an amateur guitar luthier.

I built my first classical guitar 15 yrs ago and have taken on a number of similar projects over the years. I always gift whatever I make (free of charge of course). So I'm pretty well kitted out with all sorts of wood-worky tools.

I removed the bridge from the violin. Sat it flat and used a leather lined clamp to hold it in down.

Then I carefully used a fine tooth saw (razor saw) to cut the feet off. But I probably could have used a chisel as well.

Finally, I used some sand paper to level the bottom of the bridge.

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DanielB
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March 11, 2014 - 11:10 am
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Mozart heads into kind of an interesting area here..

Electric violins are *usually* kitted out with a standard traditional violin bridge.  However, the traditional design evolved to transmit the most power to an acoustic top, to get volume/projection.

 

1.)That may not actually be what would sound best with something like a piezo pickup.

2.) It is not going to make a "silent practice violin" actually be as quiet as possible.

 

There are a couple reasons I can think of why one wouldn't usually cut the feet off the bridge of an acoustic violin.  The main ones are that you'd likely lose volume, since it couldn't transmit vibration to the top as well, and the remaining legs might manage to poke damage the spruce top if they didn't have their feet.  But those aren't really an issue with electrics.

One could probably make "silent practice violin" quieter by doing another thing one wouldn't usually want to do with an acoustic violin.  Pad the feet (or legs, in Mozart's current example) with rubber, cork or dense foam to further reduce the amount of vibration transmitted to the top.

 

For some odd reason, electric violin design has been kept pretty close to the sound principles used for acoustic instruments.  Considering even cheap piezo elements are pretty sensitive, I am not sure that has been a good move.  Volume is not hard to get on electric instruments.  With acoustic instruments you have to optimize vibration of the top (or other radiating surface) of the instrument.  That is not desirable if you want the instrument to be quieter for practice, or if you want to minimize the instrument's acoustic characteristics to deliver a more consistent sound to the input of an amplifier when you actually want volume.

Just some thoughts on the matter.

"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman

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Fiddlerman
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March 11, 2014 - 4:07 pm
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Mozart said

I removed the bridge from the violin. Sat it flat and used a leather lined clamp to hold it in down.

Then I carefully used a fine tooth saw (razor saw) to cut the feet off. But I probably could have used a chisel as well.

Finally, I used some sand paper to level the bottom of the bridge.

The point I was wanting to make was that you must have measured the height before cutting. Did you use a straight edge over the fingerboard for a reference of how much to remove?

We use a razor sharp knife instead of a saw and sandpaper here.

 

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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Mozart
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March 12, 2014 - 10:50 pm
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Fiddlerman said

The point I was wanting to make was that you must have measured the height before cutting. Did you use a straight edge over the fingerboard for a reference of how much to remove?

We use a razor sharp knife instead of a saw and sandpaper here.

 

Sorry, I didn't realise you were trying to make a point. I just took your question at face value and answered it literally.

I didn't use a straightedge - just trial and error. Lucky for me it worked out ok. I also had a spare bridge for backup.

Other than the high action, this violin is an absolute gem. Certainly one of the better purchases I've made. It's given me hours of entertainment so far - and I haven't had to p**s anybody off in the process of playing it :)

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