Electric Violin

Status: Abandoned

Updates

October 2, 2013

I messed up in some of the routing and had a way better idea for an electric violin which will be featured here soon. No parts will go to waste and I can even salvage the wood. This will be mostly dealt with on a milling machine because I'm getting lazy in old age. More soon.

March 30, 2010

I got some parts! Some small Grover tuners, top-mounted ferrules (instead of a tailpiece), a bit of bright blue stain from Stewart-MacDonald. It’s a bit sad to spend money on something as absurd as this instrument, but I figure worst case they can be used on something else.

I’ve never really played a violin but they sound pretty cool and they’re portable. They’re also thoroughly under-represented in most classes of tasteless music, usually due to the fairly uniform sound it attempts to produce in nearly any genre.

This is entirely unacceptable. Anywho, I found a 2¾” x 2¾” x 24” piece of nicely grained cherry in the clearance bin at Langevin & Forest and figure it would make a pretty dope violin, so long as nearly all concern for the acoustical properties of the instrument were thrown out the window. It is looking to be constructed almost entirely of this piece, as it is large enough to cover the entire scale length plus a few inches on either end for tuners (on the headstock end) and some sort of chin support, so as to be playable in a way that will make the player look like they know what they’re doing. Because cherry is a fairly wussy brand of wood, it will need a reinforcing bar to keep it from bending. This will likely be a solid ½” x ½” piece of steel embedded in a routed cavity in the back of the instrument. The nut is looking to be just a small chunk of whatever is the hardest wood I can find around the house.

If you weren’t aware, violins (though maybe not all or even most) employ some nice thumb-adjustable tuners on the tailpiece to make up for the sheisty arrangement of 1:1 wooden pegs with handles on them at the other end. This sucks since they probably cost a lot. An additional problem that seems unrelated but which shares a common solution is that violins are probably wildly hard to learn. Solution: Make it a six-string and use guitar tuners. This is also part of the justification for a slightly increased radius of 1.8”. I really don’t want the fingerboard to cover a full 180°. Also, it has to be somewhat flat to work well with a guitar pickup (and a compound radius wouldn’t be able to help that). Rather than make one, I decided to use a pair of Seymour Duncan active humbuckers (Blackout) I have lying around.

It will likely sound pretty crappy, and it may be difficult at time to correctly attribute this specifically to the instrument or my playing abilities, so there will undoubtedly be a DSP onboard. I’m unsure of the degree of processing that will be necessary but it will likely be either a PIC32, which has the built in ethernet controller so as to be the only violin on the block with an IP address, or a Freescale DSP56xxx, which is just a lot more capable. The PIC is a much more robust controller with much better peripheral set (as well as 32-bit for reduced rounding error propagation), but it is lacking in processing power. Eh, there’s time to try out both, and the two are quite far from mutually exclusive. The DSP must do basic modeling of some of the properties of a a hollow body as well as intrducing a number of more interesting effects. The TI PCM3060 is the natural choice for a codec, since it’ll do 24-bit at up to 192kHz (which I can’t even afford to process) and I have a few on hand.

Recap — Differences between this and a real violin:

Construction so far has been somewhat slow due to that pesky school thing that keeps popping its head up. The goal has been to use as few power tools as possible (so far: 0) though I smell the need to use a router and drill press at a number of points in the future. It started out with a hatchet to remove the bulk of the wood around the neck, with some finer detail work done with the ever-handy box cutter. The radius of the fingerboard is being done with the inside of an appropriately sized PVC pipe.

Violin carving

After an hour or so on March 9th, 2010. I swear it’s come a long way since.

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