Mailbag: Violin Pickups and Acoustic Vs. Electric?

  1. Thom
  2. November 8, 2009 12:23 pm

The other day I was answering a question in my inbox, and I felt that many of these questions that you are asking can help other people universally! I got permission to re-post some of the most recent questions here. I would like to make you all aware of a privacy policy I just put up. I really don’t use your information for anything at all. WordPress requires an email address to post comments, but I don’t ever look at what the email addresses are, and certainly never give them to anyone else!

What the policy includes is some things I found I should put up – including how advertisements and affiliate websites may track what you click on. Mostly so that they can give credit ;). I may be adding more to the policy as I read more about what is important to put in them, as I didn’t want to just throw a bunch of mumbo jumbo that didn’t make sense or isn’t related.  The most important thing I wanted to include was that I wanted to make sure I could share more of your awesome questions with other readers! If any of you out there are experienced let me know what I should be adding!

And now on to the questions!

Question on pickups

A quick question,

With all the pickups out there how can I pick the right one? It has my head swimming. Do I go with Fish-man, L.R. Bags? I guess you get my point. Here is other issue: no teacher, no music store within about 50 miles. That’s why I came to you. I like the format of your lessons can’t wait to see it offered as a CD set I’ll be one of many to have it ( hint hint )
Thanks and blessings to you


Hello, Randy!

Though I haven’t had the opportunity to play extensively with too many pickups, L.R. Baggs does seem to be one of the most popular. Several violinists I have spoken to on the topic, including the late Johnny Frigo, use and swear by it. Overall a pickup such as the L.R. Baggs will require a new bridge and often times a fitting for a 1/4″ instrument jack (to be plugged into an amplifer). This means constantly having a wire and extra piece of hardware on your instrument. For a little bit cheaper of a price and from what I think is a great sound, you can get The Band from Headway Electronics. It is a piece that wraps around your instrument with Velcro and picks up sound from the body of your instrument. That means you can attach and detach it whenever you please! It sounds fantastic and very rarely ever gives feedback (as long as you are running a clean channel, no distortion pedals!)

Either one of these may require a pre-amp as well to add some strength to the tone and volume. You can get a Fishman PRO-EQ II Preamp/EQ for about $100 on Amazon, and it features 3 band equalizer, volume, and tone sliders.

I hope that helps!


Electric Versus. Acoustic?

Hi Thom,

You have great video lessons for violin and I’m glad to found your channel. I have no background in music. I’m planning to learn violin by my self using your video, but I want to buy a Yamaha sv150 because it won’t disturb other people, the other reason is I’m a bit shy if people heard my bad violin sound.

Suzuki violin book 1 said that student should listen to the recordings of the music they are currently studying for musical sensitivity purpose.

My question is, if the recorded sound was acoustic violin and I use a silent violin, is that would effecting my sensitivity? (you know, like “Is this the correct sound?” when i play it). how big diffrent between acoustic and silent violin?

You also mention to use an acoustic violin for beginner if I’m not mistaken.


Hello, Vivan!

Thank you! I am glad you are liking the videos and the site! The question of electric vs. acoustic is a popular one, and while you may be looking for different purposes an acoustic overall is a better place to start. You’ll want to look for a violin outfit (a violin outfit will include case and bow). Keep in mind that an electric will also require an amplifier if you ever want to perform for more than on person. Many electrics, such as the Yamaha, also do not come with a bow.

Learning on an instrument, the basics will be pretty much the same, but on major things such as tone production I feel you may suffer a little bit on an electric instrument versus an acoustic. While Yamaha is an awesome violin (I have the SV-200 myself), and the SV-150 you are looking at does come with all sorts of goodies, I also think that some of these goodies may be designed for slightly more advanced players. Also, you may be getting a much nicer sounding acoustic instrument for the same price. Pairing it up with a pickup such as The Band will allow you to amplify that same acoustic instrument. Plus, having other people hear you may just push you to work on tone that much more! 😉

While I do definitely lean towards an acoustic for beginners, I hope that I offered some good information to help you make a better informed decision. Let me know which one you end up picking!


Thanks for the great questions, you guys rock! If you like the idea of this “mailbag” please let me know in the comments below! Also feel free to add me on twitter or register with the site.


  1. Monisha says:
    Posted April 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Why do you suggest an acoustic violin for a beginner over a silent violin? I was thinking that I could get a silent violin to play, instead of an acoustic one because I want to practice a lot more compared to the amount I presently practice. My parents don’t like it when I play as often as I do already since they like a quiet house, and playing violin is noisy, and sometimes scary, so having a silent would fix that… But if you have a really good reason for getting an acoustic violin over a silent violin, then maybe I will reconsider. But I need advice as well if I were to pick a silent violin… what would be the best one at an affordable price? Thanks…

    • Hello Monisha!

      When starting a new instrument, most teachers will recommend starting on an acoustic. This is especially in the case of string instruments. There are a variety of reasons to factor in- cost, versatility, etc. However, the most important thing of all is tone. While there are exceptions, most electric instruments have very little variance in their tone and responsiveness to dynamics and technique (volume and personal effects- not to be confused with effects pedals). This may not be important to a beginning student, but as a teacher there are all sorts of roadblocks that this can cause.

      Many of the entry level electric instruments I have played ($350-$800) are often extremely heavy and uncomfortable to play. Their sound is also thin and tinny, with very little difference in volume. For the same price, you can get a very decent sounding acoustic instrument that will not only lend itself better to a learning beginner, but will also be a lot more fun to play! I hope that brief explanation helps!

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