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Electric/acoustic, beginner in apartment
Torn on which way to go and looking for advice
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Bella86
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June 12, 2017 - 3:05 pm
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I know that this is something that is frequently asked, but I believe that the answer is different depending on situations and goals. This is going to be a long post but I really need to get my thoughts out to get some input by more experienced people. I really feel so torn on what to do.

I really want to give learning to play the violin a go. My problem is that I, like many others, live in an apartment. There are 3 other apartments in the same building, I am mostly concerned about the one below me and next to me. The 3rd is below the one next to me so I believe that sound might not get through there quite as much. It is a building where sound does get through easily, at least this is what I think after hearing moaning in the bedroom below mine at night, very faint, but still hearing it. I never hear much else from anyone though, apart from the guy below me who is fond of slamming the front door, and screaming and yelling at sport with his friends some weekends. But I think people are just generally pretty quiet in this building on a daily basis. I know when I play music it is heard very well outside my front door.
Because of how my shifts are split at work, I'd be practicing early afternoon most days. Most people SHOULD be at work, but you never know. I am horribly self-conscious and wouldnt want to make a ton of noise. It feels rather embarassing too knowing people can hear me. I'd probably end up NOT practicing if I was too loud. I've also got cats, so playing an unmuted acoustic violin in an apartment where they can't get away does not feel like a good idea. I'm pretty sure it would be painful to them and possibly even damage their ears.


I am having a hard time deciding on acoustic or electric. I was afraid that using only electric to learn on would result in bad habits and damage my ability to adapt to an acoustic after maybe a couple of years if my living situation is different. Then I found a thread on FM forums where people said that it doesn't do harm, you'd just have to relearn some things and adapt to things as weight and bowing. So after that I thought I should just go with an electric then, and just switch over to acoustic when I'm able to.
But then I've been thinking about it some more. I love the warm clear sound of an acoustic violin. I love game- and moviemusic, some classical and I'd probably want to do covers of more modern music too. The original music of Taylor Davis is pretty much exactly the style of music I'd love to play.
I do want to play around with an electrical too, but always thought that that is something i'd get to later on after learning properly. From what I've heard and seen online, the muted acoustic and unplugged electrical has very similar thin, nasal sound, which I am not fond of. With the electrical, you can just amp or headphone it to get a better sound I could probably stand.
If I went for an acoustic, I would have to play with a heavy mute all the time at home, which I understand hinders your development with tone and intonation. I could POSSIBLY get some unmuted time in if I'd go down to my mothers house to torture her for a bit now and then. Maybe 1-2 hours every week. But would this be enough unmuted practice?
Even if it was, I think it would drive me insane to not be able to hear the real sound of a violin whenever I wanted to. And it could quite possibly make me loose motivation to play all together. Just like when using a real cheap violin with really bad sound on it's own, it's just not fun. Recording for fun and to hear mistakes and problems would be impossible too. Seem pointless to learn to play on something that I can't play however I want to, whenever I want to.This make me think that the electric is a better choice for me at this time.
But I doubt anyone would teach me on an electrical. Where I live I have very limited choices when it comes to lessons, possibly only 1 option. If I had an acoustic for lessons, and an electrical to practice on at home, how would that work? Maybe get an hour or two between weekly lessons on the acoustic, but the regular daily practice on the electrical?

I feel like I'm just rambling on but I'm just so confused and lost in making a decision. :/ It all just feel so hopeless and impossible and overwhelming.

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CharlieStrings
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June 12, 2017 - 10:29 pm
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My two cents are to just get the electric violin.  Any bad habits or intonation problems aside, at least you'll be playing!  Sounds like the acoustic is going to give you too much worry.  

Good luck.

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
June 13, 2017 - 4:42 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
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   @Bella86 - you hinted at something in your post - 

But I doubt anyone would teach me on an electrical. Where I live I have very limited choices when it comes to lessons, possibly only 1 option. If I had an acoustic for lessons, and an electrical to practice on at home, how would that work? Maybe get an hour or two between weekly lessons on the acoustic, but the regular daily practice on the electrical?

  If cost is not an issue ( within reason of course ) and you have it in your mind to get some lessons ( also an added cost ) - why not consider getting both ?   Out of the overall expenditure you would incur, a cheap EV would represent maybe around 20% of the overall cost of the instruments, and that's not counting the cost of lessons...

 Maybe get a reasonable "intermediate" acoustic (say around $400) and an EV at around $100....   Oh and get a heavy metal mute anyway for times you would feel happy to play the acoustic in your apartment...

  Good luck with whatever you choose to do ! thumbs-up

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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stet
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June 15, 2017 - 7:16 pm
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Bella86 said
"I really want to give learning to play the violin a go. My problem is that I, like many others, live in an apartment....
I've also got cats, so playing an unmuted acoustic violin in an apartment where they can't get away does not feel like a good idea. I'm pretty sure it would be painful to them and possibly even damage their ears.....
I am having a hard time deciding on acoustic or electric. I was afraid that using only electric to learn on would result in bad habits and damage my ability to adapt to an acoustic after maybe a couple of years if my living situation is different. ...
But then I've been thinking about it some more. I love the warm clear sound of an acoustic violin....
If I went for an acoustic, I would have to play with a heavy mute all the time at home.....could POSSIBLY get some unmuted time in if I'd go down to my mothers house to torture her for a bit now and then. Maybe 1-2 hours every week. ...
This make me think that the electric is a better choice for me at this time...
But I doubt anyone would teach me on an electrical. Where I live I have very limited choices when it comes to lessons, possibly only 1 option..."
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Don't worry about the cats, violin sound isn't painfull to cat's ears, so nothing is going to happen to them unless of course if you start playing drumsdrummer right next to their ears.

An electric violin will not damage your ability to play an acoustic, I own two violins, electric and acoustic, I started with the electric and now I use both, many people do the same.

Someone who really likes so much to play the acoustic violin, I believe he/she will manage to find a way to do it.

If the violin teacher of a music school doen't want to accept your electric violin, talk directly to the owner of the music school, who is also the businessman. The rule says that businessmen don't want to loose customers who knock on their doors. Even if you live in a small place and there is only one violin teacher, I don't believe that it's a problem, teachers like every other professionals usually don't say no to some extra money.

If you live in an apartment and want to play without disturbing neighbours and family, buying an electric violin is an one-way street. I had to deal with the same issue in the past, I wanted to play without disturbing my family, that's why I decided to buy the electric violin first and a little later I bought my acoustic.
Although both violins have their own interesting sound, the acoustic is the classic real thing.

But what I did about the loud sound of my acoustic violin? I don't use mutes, Instead of mutes I use ear-plugs, I put them in my ears and the result is absolutely the same, the sound of my acoustic is not that loud anymore. LOL LOL
Now, seriously, if it is for more quiet practice, the electric is the only way in my opinion.smile

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BillyG
Brora, North-east Scotland
June 16, 2017 - 3:53 am
Member Since: March 22, 2014
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stet said
........But what I did about the loud sound of my acoustic violin? I don't use mutes, Instead of mutes I use ear-plugs, I put them in my ears and the result is absolutely the same, the sound of my acoustic is not that loud anymore. LOL LOL.... 

Ha !  I like your style @stet thumbs-up

I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh - guntohead.JPG

Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)

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Charles
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June 16, 2017 - 8:46 am
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To get the strong decrease in volume that's possible with some electrics, you have to get a solid-body one. By their nature, those have no tone worth speaking of. Any tone involved in those comes from the electronics. You can affect the tone a little by how you play, but not nearly as much as you can on an acoustic instrument. (@Fiddlerman, you have a better quality electric - if I'm wrong about that, please correct me.)

From everything you say, you want an acoustic, of as good a quality as you can afford. Speaking from experience, don't get one that's cheap and not set up, because you'll lose any money you saved by buying off Amazon or wherever in having a luthier do the work that's needed to turn it into a decent instrument.  I recommend Fiddlerman's stuff, but he's not the only decent, honest shop. Just make sure a professional setup is part of the price.  (I do recommend avoiding Kennedy Violins. I've heard several stories of bad experiences with them.)

Then, sans mute, play it anyway.  You're probably envisioning your neighbors getting together with pitchforks and torches and storming your apartment. They won't do that. Or laying in a puddle outside your doorstep, sobbing "Please, stop!". They won't do that, either.  Far more likely (once you get a few songs under your belt) is they'll run into you in the parking lot (or maybe even get brave enough to knock on your door) and ask "Could I come over to listen sometime? It's so pretty, and I'd love to hear it without the walls in the way."

 

However, if that takes far more courage than you can drum up (I won't give up on encouraging you to move past the fear, but that's for another day), there's another sound option to the mute. It's a fair amount of work, but it can be done medium cheaply. Build you a sound booth.

The basic idea is to surround yourself with sound-deadening material. Fortunately, lots of stuff that can be had pretty cheaply (much of it free) will deaden sound fairly well. The main idea to remember is to reflect the sound towards other things that absorb sound, not towards things that reflect or transmit it. Smooth things are your enemy for deadening sound.  Drapes, towels, egg cartons (the bumpy part) all work quite well. Just make sure you don't smooth them out. The pleats in drapes make them much more effective at absorbing sound. Do similar things with towels. (The fuzz on the towels is good for high-pitched sounds.)

Build a cage large enough for you to stand or sit in (your preference) with room to bow. If there were one direction you were ok with sound going out, you could leave one side open and put the music there, but I'm assuming you don't want any sound getting out (lest there be pitchforks 🙂 ) so you'll need enough room for the music, too. Just body heat will make it get warm in there pretty quick (all this stuff makes pretty good heat insulation, too), so use LED lights - they'll put out the least heat. (Unless you want to memorize all the music first and play in the dark. That will cut down the size requirements, too. 🙂 )

If you're not crafty with furniture-like projects, you may want to get a friend to help. You have two options for building this. Lightweight, which will be much easier to move around (and move from apartment to apartment), but which will put limits on what you can use (egg cartons will be about it), or heavyweight (2x4s), which will let you hang pretty much anything you want on it, in multiple layers, but will require some good design work or you'll never be able to move it anywhere else. Since you're really, really paranoid about sound getting out, I'd recommend the stouter version.

Fair warning - all instruments (including voices) sound somewhat dead in one of these. They use fancy versions of them (they're officially called anechoic chambers, I believe) for recording, when they want the sound coming from the instrument and absolutely nothing else.  However, while you'll lose the echoes from the walls, it will NOT distort the sound coming from the instrument the way a mute will.

Or take the easy way out and go through the week of hell playing it unprotected and dreading pitchforks, and when your neighbors DON'T try to kill you, realize it's not actually all that bad if they hear you and start enjoying it. 🙂  But get an acoustic either way. From everything you've said, you're not going to be at all happy with a solid-body electric.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 19, 2017 - 10:07 am
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 12425

As Charles wrote, the solid body electric violin would be the most quiet option.

Another great option would be an acoustic violin with a hard metal mute such as this one.

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

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Bella86
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June 19, 2017 - 3:29 pm
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Thank you for your replies. I love the earplugs idea, it made me laugh out loud @stet 😀
I've been thinking more about it and I think I'm coming to realise that my fears are pretty exaggerated. I think I make the sound traveling through walls out to be MUCH louder than it would actually be.
I am swedish, so my neighbours are more likely to give me the evil eye and complain to my landlord than to me directly. And as much as I hate actively giving people reasons to dislike me, it's not really my problem if they won't talk to me about it. If they have a problem with me making a bit of noise an hour during the day, I'll find out one way or another. And then I'd just have to adapt to it. If I really want to play, I'd find a way. 

I think I will be renting an acoustic and get some lessons and just try it. (if I can get over my fear of trying new things as I usually quit before I try :/) If hell break loose I'll make changes. I just wish that there were some better known brands to rent (or buy) in this country. It's mostly the chinese brand Arirang which I can find NO info on whatsoever. But it'll do until I know if I really want to get into it. And until my wallet is a bit thicker. 😛

Thanks again for your input, it really does help to put my mind at ease.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 20, 2017 - 3:02 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 12425

Good idea. Good luck and let us know how things are going.

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

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Charles
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June 20, 2017 - 8:05 pm
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Talk to teachers - they frequently rent violins themselves, and are at least likelier than most to know what decent ones are available and from who.

And congratulations on your choice of options. 🙂

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